Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reports of the death of the right have been greatly exaggerated

Apologies for the continued Jonathan Rauch fan-girlishness, but I can't resist linking to his superb review of Richard Posner's new book on the financial crisis. I haven't read the book yet, but I suspect my views on it will be similar to Rauch's second to last paragraph. That is, perhaps vigorous government intervention might have prevented the financial crisis. But given the lack of consensus among smart people regarding what happened and why, it's unlikely that government could have formulated an effective response. Very likely aggressive government intervention would have made things worse.

In other Posner-related news, I've read with interest his blog posts on the decline of conservatism. Though I recognize saying so is borderline blasphemy in my circles, I'm... underwhelmed. First, there's his laundry list of contempo conservative policy positions with which he disagrees. There seems to be no unifying principle explaining why these are extremist rather than sensible; I admit I'm especially confused because I agree with some on that list strongly and others not at all.

Second, I fear he's not comparing apples to apples. I dislike the anti-intellectualism that Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber as much as he does. At my fellowship program, we're fond of discussing a theory of the tri-partite structure of social change according to which 1) academics and intellectuals develop theories; 2)think tank types refine and develop ways to apply these theories; and 3)grassroots and activist types then communicate these theories to the general public. Buckley and Rand worked at Level One of the structure, whereas Wurzelbacher and Sarah Palin work at Level 3. It's not terribly surprising that the first level types find the third level types sort of icky. He ought to be comparing Hayek and Friedman to, say, Vernon Smith or Tyler Cowen or Robert Barro, not Sarah Palin. Once one starts comparing academics of yesteryear to those of day, the movement's future starts looking more rosy.

I rather like his co-blogger Gary Becker's remarks, although he does seem to be describing libertarianism rather than conservatism.

But popular politicians and grassroots activists like Wurzelbacher generally aren't great intellectuals and weren't t

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