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Sunday, April 07, 2013

David Stockman: the Next Ron Paul

David Stockman has a lot of credibility with many people on the Right, gained primarily as a member of the Reagan administration, from which he was fired and which he proceeded to savage.

He has a new book out which says we are doomed. that is, we are doomed unless we adopt his prescriptions. These include:

Put the dollar back on the gold standard. Move to a form of “narrow banking.” Amend the Constitution to provide for single six-year terms for all members of Congress and the president; outlaw most private political spending; forbid former holders of federal office from lobbying; and balance the federal budget on a two- year cycle.

Oh, and no more macroeconomic management. Abolish subsidies. Abolish Medicare and Medicaid. Abolish the income tax, replacing it with a tax on spending. Eliminate “much of the federal government.” Slash the defense budget and stop policing the world. Impose -- get this -- a one-time wealth tax of 30 percent to pay down the national debt once and for all.

OK. How many people think that his is either good policy or politically possible? Please raise your hands. And for those who would like to return to the gold standard, please read a little history and don't skip  the part about financial crises and panics when the whole world was on the gold standard.

It really doesn’t do this view justice to call it utopian. It’s so flamboyantly impossible, it’s unhinged. Like Paul, Stockman is self-sufficient in his pessimism. Yes, he smiles, we’re doomed - - and if you should ever doubt it, here’s what it would take to save us.

This is the sort of things that happen when there's a revolution. No, I mean a real revolution with guns and firing squads and the violent take-over of Congress, the White House and shuttering the Supreme Court.

The scope of the critique, while crazy, is undeniably impressive. It has a kind of logical integrity. Everything is worked out and all the connections explained. Stockman has been reading his economic history and his Austrian economics. Crucially, a lot of what he says really does make sense. In understanding the crash, for instance, the Austrian school’s emphasis on the role of the credit cycle looks right. Most of Stockman’s observations about Washington’s self-replicating morbidity are accurate.

Frustration arises mainly from the way this mode of analysis resists reform at the margin -- the only kind of reform that can actually happen. This relieves Stockman, just as it relieves Paul, of the need to engage in government as we know it. Instead, they can contentedly contemplate our destruction from a great height....

I find the moralizing off-putting, too. Personally, I don’t feel I deserve a conflagration to cleanse me of all the over- borrowing you have done. The punitive dimension found in many all-encompassing social theories is much to the fore in Stockman’s worldview. At this point, a lesser reviewer would refer to the author’s time at Harvard’s divinity school -- another stage in his intellectual evolution. It’s tempting, but I’m honor-bound to mention that he says he was just hiding from the draft.
I haven't read Stockman's book because I'm not paid to review it and I don't read books about theories that are impossible to implement unless someone gets killed and we end America's experiment in freedom.  But I have heard enough about it to put it in the same category with articles, videos newsletters and other books that tell you how to survive either the economic or the zombie apocalypse.  They are out there because panic sells, and sells big.  It's possible, but at my age I suspect that I'll just have to make the best of it.

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