I subscribe to a number of brilliant people on Substack. Among them, Jonah Goldberg (formerly of National Review, now of The Dispatch, via their conduit, Substack).
For years I’ve enjoyed his every-Friday G-File email, which is a topical stream-of-consciousness thing which will leave you more educated and smarter then when you started reading it. So, completely the opposite of a CBC article or story on TV. I first came for the wit and insights, and his even-handed and objective political analyses, and then stayed for the verbiage employed therein (I learn new words every Friday, many of them German). I also tend to have to look up various historical references every Friday. I enjoy this. I’m a nerd.
Here’s a small part of today’s (I told you they were large, right?), which was entitled “The Newest Deal.” It’s about Joe Biden’s apparent quest to out-do FDR’s New Deal and every other President’s version of it, all combined into a giant new deal to out-do all the new deals — and all of it unhinged from serious principle or philosophical seriousness.
This is from about half way down…
… If you were that alien watching the growth of government, you’d see the line go up and down here or there. But if you zoomed out then you’d never see it retreat completely to pre-spike levels. It’s a step ladder, a series of plateaus, and then the ascent resumes. In the moment it can be hard to see, what with our incredibly stupid arguments about how a cut in the rate of growth is an actual cut. But again, if you step back, you can see how far down this road we’ve come. “[T]he United States in the 1920s,” writes William Leuchtenburg, “had almost no institutional structure to which Europeans would accord the term ‘the State.’ Beyond the post office, most people had very little interaction with or dependence on ‘the government in Washington.’” That seems like another world, because it is.
Joe Biden’s trillion-here, trillion-there approach is as ad hoc as FDR’s in many ways. You look at some of the outlays in his proposals—a hundred billion for this, a hundred billion for that—and it becomes clear that the important thing is just to spend a hundred billion, or $2.4 trillion; what the money actually goes to is an afterthought.
Similarly, his conception of “infrastructure” is very New Deal-y. “So many people said, ‘Oh, the $400 billion that are being proposed for the home care workers or the home care sector, that’s not really infrastructure,’” White House economist Cecelia Rouse argues. “Well, I beg to differ. I can’t go to work, if I don’t have someone who’s taking care of my parents or my children.”
I can’t go to work without pants either, that doesn’t mean the government should launch a pants-buying program.
I have problems with a lot of the people on both sides of the aisle who throw around the term “socialism” without knowing what socialism is—and isn’t. But at some point, if everything is “infrastructure”—which Biden basically defines as anything that makes your life easier—than we’re going to stumble into precisely that. It may still be “democratic,” but the range of stuff you’ll be allowed to vote for will be quite Deweyan. That was Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s hope. In 1947, he wrote in Partisan Review, “There seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.” All it would take is the empowerment of the “politician-manager-intellectual type—the New Dealer,” to make it happen.
We’re on our way. …
P.S. Who else do I follow on Substack? More brilliant people. Not “conservatives;” but rather, brilliant people.
- …and others. Start with those.
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