Tag "conservatives"

Cliff May:

We now know that Islamists believe their religion forbids them to cooperate with infidels — until they have reached the limit of their ability to endure the hardships the infidel is inflicting on them.* In other words: Imagine an al-Qaeda member who would like to give his interrogators information, who does not want continue fighting, who would prefer not to see more innocent people slaughtered. He would need his interrogators to press him hard so he can feel that he has met his religious obligations — only then could he cooperate.

You see, we weren’t doing anything bad for these people by torturing them, we were actually doing them a favor.

Why does this sound so familiar to me?

I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good a positive good. [...]

I might well challenge a comparison between them and the more direct, simple, and patriarchal mode by which the labor of the African race is, among us, commanded by the European. I may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse.

All we need now is for someone to slap the “positive good” label on torture.

[h/t Sullivan]

Read More

As always, Yglesias cuts to the heart of it:

In terms of either common sense, or pretty elementary social psychology, this is pretty easy to understand. People like to be following a clear model, and they like to be able to say they’re following a clear model. People also like to be doing what other people are doing. And people really don’t like to be annoyed by subordinates who complain that the status quo is mistaken, but who don’t have a clear solution to the problem to offer. What’s more, the world of high finance is pretty homogeneous—lots of men, lots of people from a small number of schools—which further encourages groupthink.

At the same time, the conventions of free market economics say that the scenario that unfolded is impossible. If a bunch of banks were making a systematic error—overlooking the fact that their historical data was a finite set that neglected a possibility that was clearly possible in theory, and that therefore the banks’ risk profiles were out of whack with their claims—then the market should have corrected that. Either the market magic of the bond rating system should have corrected it, or else a dissenter should have been able to raise massive funds from investors by starting his own firm making different bets. Much as the banks’ models said that systematic house price declines were impossible, even though they are, the politically hegemonic theory of economics said that systematic market failure was impossible. And it said that even though the phenomenon of herd behavior is extremely well-known both as a matter of social science research inside and outside the world of economics and as a matter of commonplace folk psychology.

The big conceptual shoe that hasn’t dropped, as far as I’m concerned, in the financial crisis is that that entire line of economic theorizing hasn’t yet taken the hit in prestige that it deserves. I’ll link again to my review of Animal Spirits and just say that I hope in the future the basic facts about irrationality won’t just be something that “everyone knows” but also something that we actually take seriously when thinking about big policy issues.

This is also something that I’ve been surprised with.  It is beyond my comprehension to look at the situation as it unfolded and determine that something other than a market failure occurred.  But this clearly hasn’t sunk in for those in the ideological woods of conservatism.  Whether it’s my boomer co-worker, blaming the CRA, ACORN, and illegal immigrants, or my friend-of-a-friend Austrian school disciple, who penned a 500-word email explaining how the Federal Reserve caused the disaster by participating in expansionary monetary policy, there’s is something truly wrong here.

This is what happens when someone’s core philosophical beliefs are completely and utterly destroyed before their own eyes, and it’s nearly unbearable to watch, as these fanatics struggle to come to grips with the new reality, and employ the most circuitous logic to clutch to their failed belief system.

The market failed, and irrationality ruled the day.  Deal with it.

Read More