you want to see the face of pure evil, cast your eyes on a
recent column in National Review Online by resident
financial guru Larry Kudlow, "Taking
Back the Market By Force." The market is down,
he moans, and it isn't really about corporate corruption
and the Bush administration's anti-free
market policies: these, we are told, are "only partly
to blame." So, what's the problem? Not enough war!
ongoing "war on terrorism" isn't big enough, and
too many Americans think
we aren't winning. "There has been a big drop in
the American spirit," according to Kudlow, and the only
way to uplift it is to embark on some "decisive
follow-through" an invasion not only of Iraq, but potentially
of the entire Middle East. Kudlow praises Bush's recent speech
on the Mideast, and suggests that the principles touted by
the President free markets, democracy, and the rule of law
be imposed at gunpoint throughout the region:
wasn't only speaking to Iraq, Iran, and Syria, but also to
Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Egypt. But these are just more
words in this global and just war on terror. The president
must now execute and follow-through in support of these fine
If he'll only forget the American national interest, and unequivocally
take up Israel's cause in deeds as well as words, then we'd
be on our way to Nirvana, but that is only the beginning of
the Kudlow Plan. It is even more important, Kudlow thinks,
to launch an immediate attack on Iraq, because, well
just because it's there: "Americans," he
grandly declaims, "have never liked loose ends."
So for that reason, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians must
die in order to satisfy the American antipathy for "loose
normal times, no one outside an insane asylum would even dare
to suggest such a warped rationale for war. In the post-9/11
era, such outbursts of homicidal madness are routinely emitted
by our leading pundits. Indeed, our warhawks seem to be in
a friendly competition to see who can come up with the most
outrageously immoral arguments. The winner of the Bloodlust
Award, up until recently, has been Max Boot, without question.
Who, after all, could top his argument that we
didn't suffer enough casualties in the Afghan phase of
the current war? The same sort of monstrous moral inversion,
however, is the theme of Kudlow's piece, which essentially
says that war will bring us renewed prosperity:
shock therapy of decisive war will elevate the stock market
by a couple-thousand points. We will know that our businesses
will stay open, that our families will be safe, and that our
future will be unlimited. The world will be righted in this
life-and-death struggle to preserve our values and our civilization.
But to do all this, we must act."
of course, is precisely
what the Marxists say: that capitalism feeds on human
destruction, and top-hatted capitalists are the merchants
of death, human vultures who live off the pain and suffering
of others. Both Kudlow and the commies are wrong.
their mutual ignorance of how markets work and, perhaps
in Kudlow's case, on account of a deep cynicism and real malevolence
the warhawks of the Right and the anti-capitalist dunderheads
of the anti-war Left have the same analysis: Kudlow and the
Commies merely represent different sides of the same coin
of doubtful value. For the economic assumptions of both camps
are equally false, based as they are on a profound misconception
of what capitalism is and how free markets function. As Ludwig
von Mises, the founder of the "Austrian"
or pure free-market school of economics, put it:
prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or plague
brings. The earthquake means good business for construction
workers, and cholera improves the business of physicians,
pharmacists, and undertakers; but no one has for that reason
yet sought to celebrate earthquakes and cholera as stimulators
of the productive forces in the general interest."
Mises was not expressing anti-capitalist sentiments by recognizing
that war, like all human activity, is governed by the invariable
laws of the market, and that some will profit from the spilling
of human blood. The existence of what we might call the Undertakers
Lobby should hardly come as a shock to conservative and libertarian
critics of Big Government and isn't Kudlow just too perfect
as their official spokesman? We, the Merchants
of Death, recommend "shock therapy" for a benumbed
nation just what we all need in the aftermath of 9/11. Shock
us, torture us, jolt us into prosperity! If the Marquis
de Sade had founded a school of economics, instead of
writing all those obsessively long and quite boring pornographic
novels, this is the doctrine he would have enunciated.
Kudlow Doctrine is dead wrong, and profoundly anti-capitalist.
For war sets the stage for the eventual strangling of free
markets. High taxes, more systematic government regulations,
and the massive physical destruction of capital, including
especially human capital these are the conditions for
the eradication of market mechanisms and their replacement
by the machinery of the State. The war spirit also gives added
impetus to the arguments of our latter-day Mensheviks,
the Blairites, Clintonites, and various and sundry other Third-Wayers
who argue that war
means the era of Big Government is back.
all his talk of exporting the idea of "free markets"
to the Arab world, it seems that Kudlow doesn't understand
how economic freedom is being threatened right here on the
home front. Worse, he doesn't seem to understand or care
that the "shock therapy" he recommends could send
world markets crashing, as Bill Powell speculates in his Fortune
a War With Iraq Will Change the World."
Powell makes the argument that the markets live in fear of
Gulf War II and its possible consequences. He points out that
consumer confidence "fell off a cliff" during the
first attack on Iraq, and convincingly argues that the same
pattern is likely to hold this time around. He also brings
up the question of cost: with Japan and the Saudis, not to
mention the Europeans, failing to write generous checks, record
federal deficits make a tax hike inevitable.
mother of all economic nightmares," Powell writes, "revolves
around oil." While pro-American members of OPEC could
easily make up for the withdrawal of Iraqi oil from the market
during the fighting, at that point there may not be any pro-Americans
left anywhere in the Arab world especially if Ariel Sharon
has anything to say about it. As Powell puts it:
oil-driven disaster would probably come only if a wider war
involving Israel prompts an Arab embargo, something angry
populations might demand and quaking Gulf governments would
accede to. Six months of oil at $50 a barrel would stick the
U.S. economy with the equivalent of a huge tax increase. As
Mark Zandi, chief economist at economy.com, points out, a
mere $10 increase in the price of oil shaves a full percentage
point off of GDP. Another oil shock may not be likely, but
to dismiss it out of hand would not, as President Bush's father
used to say, be prudent. For that and other reasons George
W. Bush needs to do as his father did in 1991 and make sure
the Israelis stay out of it when Saddam's remaining Scuds
take flight. But in this environment, and with Ariel Sharon
as Prime Minister, will they?"
would argue that Israel need not be directly involved to spark
a Mideast conflagration. US military action against Iraq would
strengthen the hand of groups like Hamas and Al Qaeda immeasurably,
and the conflict would quickly become region-wide, possibly
leading to a revolutionary ultra-Islamist upsurge against
the pro-American monarchies of the Gulf, as well as in Jordan
and quite possibly Egypt. Even solidly secular Turkey would
be shaken to its foundations: for this chain of events would
re-ignite their long-simmering war against the Kurds, emboldening
rebel factions to seize their chance for independence. The
possibility of "oil shock," however, is not the
only looming danger depressing the American economy. There
are deeper problems
faint rumblings you hear a falling
dollar, the recent
vote to increase the limit on the national debt, the stock
around post-9/11 lows may be the fore-shocks of a coming
economic earthquake, if
James Pinkerton is right. While everyone is fixated on
dishonest accounting practices and other forms of corporate
crookery, the real problem, he avers, is the rapidly weakening
dollar. The President can get up on his bully pulpit and scold
corporate rip-off artists to much applause, but the paying
customers have already walked out of the theater. As Pinkerton
it's too late to avoid substantial damage, because foreigners
have reached a negative judgment about the U.S. economy
a judgment that has already eroded the value of our money
and could even cause a crash in our stock market."
the course of capital flight from the US, Pinkerton argues
that Americans have good reason to be worried. He cites a
recent Goldman Sachs study that predicts a further decline,
by 8 percent,over the next year, and still the dollar will
fall. If it falls far enough, fast enough, the result could
the rotten state of corporate America, such a further dollar-decline
might be inevitable, and yet the Goldmanites note a greater
danger if our money loses too much too soon. Their report
recalls a brief interlude of dollar deterioration, from 1985
to 1988, when the dollar fell by about a third. During those
years, the decline in the dollar destabilized financial markets
in the United States, and this destabilization was 'the trigger
mechanism that helped to generate the 1987 stock market crash.'
Remember Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial
Average fell 508 points 22.6 percent?"
could happen again, says Pinkerton, although the Goldmanites
don't seem to think so. But George Soros, the
man who broke the Bank of England, now tells us he "wouldn't
be surprised" if the dollar sinks by as much as 30 percent
in a period of a few years. As Pinkerton trenchantly points
since a one-third drop in the dollar helped trigger the '87
crash, a dollar-watching doomsayer could predict another Black
Day for the market sometime soon. In today's numbers, such
a fall would clip off about 2,000 points from the Dow. That
would be ruinous to many investors, but it's not so hard to
imagine because it's happened before."
soon, eh? Maybe that's why Kudlow and his fellow neocons are
in such a hurry to drag us into a Middle East war: they want
to start it before anyone realizes that we'll have to mortgage
the future economic health of this country well into the next
century in order to pay off mountains of debt. Such are the
dubious rewards of Empire.
W. Bush and his neocon
amen corner think they are going to launch a war of "liberation"
against Iraq, and even the entire Arab world, but they may
face yet another Pearl Harbor, not a new terrorist strike
but a sneak attack coming from a completely different direction.
Let Bush "lecture Wall Street" all he wants, writes
he should also keep in mind that the world market is watching,
too, looking for signs that he is focused on the economy,
stupid. And that means keeping the dollar strong, dammit."
on the economy he is not. Instead, we are mired down
in this endless "war on terrorism." Resources and
energy that might have gone into productive uses are instead
re-directed and malinvested in a parasitic and essentially
useless bureaucracy. Even bankrupt Amtrak, which was slated
for privatization (or a much-deserved death), has been
saved in the name of "national security."
is the centralizing, State-empowering dynamic that has propelled
the growth of Big Government in America. Two world wars and
a third one served "cold" were enough to bloat the
federal Leviathan far beyond the Founders' worst fears. "War
is the health of the State," as Randolph
Bourne famously put it, and an affliction on the private
sector. This is a lesson many conservatives will have to re-learn.
forefathers on the Right knew it, the much-maligned "isolationists"
of liberal lore, who dared ask: why defeat national socialism
in the trenches, and let another form of national socialism
win on the home front? While the ideological implications
of the "Homeland Security" campaign can easily be
overdrawn, it should be clear to many conservatives that a
perpetual "war on terrorism" entails a radical assault
on personal as well as economic liberty. Will these two pillars
of conservative principle be demolished and replaced by the
odious Kudlow Doctrine perpetual war for permanent prosperity?
odd mixture of Sadean economics, Christian Zionism, and world-saving
neo-Wilsonianism that National Review and the Weekly
Standard are peddling seems too exotic for its own good.
Certainly it seems far too kooky for mainstream conservatives.
That 's why I'm pleased to report that my recent
series of columns on why we need to turn
toward the Left and leave the Right to the neocons
may have been premature, to say the least. The launching of
a new fortnightly magazine by Pat Buchanan and Taki,
American Conservative, couldn't have come at a better
time. At last the hegemony of the neocons is broken, and the
guff handed out by Kudlow and his ilk won't go unchallenged
for much longer.
I've been challenging them here, in this space, for some time:
but I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that
reinforcements are on the way.
the Kudlow Doctrine better living through mass murder
is, by far, the worst product of the conservative movement's
degeneration into little more than a pack of bloodthirsty
monsters. Kudlow wins the Bloodlust Award hands down. His
scheme is far uglier, morally, than anything Max Boot has
come up with. Beside Kudlow's "let's kill our way out
of the recession" scenario, National Review editor
Lowry's proposal to "nuke Mecca" seems innocently
from the laughable economics of Kudlow-ism, even if he was
right, and Mises was wrong even if, somehow, the laws of
the market, and of nature itself, could be repealed in wartime,
by special dispensation from a Higher Authority and war
did bring us prosperity, still it would be the
wrong course to take. Indeed, one could argue that the crime
would be even greater, insofar as the motive was purely mercenary.
By this standard, what Kudlow is proposing amounts to an expression
of pure evil.
moral meaning of the Kudlow Doctrine is all too plain: these
guys will stoop to anything in order to drag us into
a permanent war on a global scale. If Christian
Zionism and fairy tales of the "end times" don't
work, try anthrax
conspiracy stories blaming Saddam. If that doesn't
work, then tell them a Middle East war will usher in a new
era of prosperity. Lie, cheat, smear your enemies, and spread
the poisonous "memes"
of the War Party far and wide. What a rotten bunch! Thank
God for Pat Buchanan, the heroic Taki, and the indefatigable
McConnell. The cavalry has arrived, or, at least, they're
on their way. The Old Right is back and not a moment too
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