SCHOLASTICISM

Posted in Rants on September 1st, 2009 by Ed

So Mike now contributes to The Atlantic, and thus in an indirect way he works with or possibly even for Megan McArdle. McArdle is one of the few people who can claim to be a Professional Blogger. This is her job. This is essentially the only job she has ever had (you can read about her lavish, tax-dollar-funded upbringing on AlterNet, paying special attention to the fact that her only employment aside from Expert Economist on The Internet was working for her dad's friends). There are some days on which I think being a professional blogger would be the greatest of all worlds, but if it entailed becoming Megan McArdle I'd rather work at White Castle.

Being a professional Libertarian Economist has to be, if not the most depressing job on Earth, ranked only slightly behind the person at the animal shelter who euthanizes dogs for eight hours per day. The Libertarian Economist has only one task when he or she awakens: defend the ideology. Defend it against partisan attacks, reason, and facts. They are all the enemy. They are not unlike those soulless, bottom-feeding lawyers hired by food processors, oil companies, and other large industrial concerns to concoct arguments like, "But can you prove that the benzene we dumped in the reservoir made you sick?" The job is simple and repetitive. Take fact X which is quite obviously caused by Y (i.e., smoking causes lung cancer or pollution damages the environment). Recognize that admitting causality between Y and X contradicts the sacred dogma of the Free Market. Then set about arguing with all of one's might that Y does not in fact cause X. That's it. Wake up the next day and do it again. This is the process that produces shit like "Are Guns at Protests Really Dangerous?", the follow-up stupidity of "The Power of the Gun," rambling nonsense opposing universal health care which boils down to the Econ 101-level argument that "government will kill the market incentives for innovation!", or the unspeakably asinine and transparently dishonest charade of pretending to be an undecided voter throughout the 2004 race before endorsing Bush with a lengthy, verbatim recitation of his campaign's talking points.

How does one argue in the face of evidence and logic? One tactic is to bray like an ass using every cheap rhetorical tactic available – appeals to emotion, xenophobia, etc. – like Beck, Hannity, and their allies. This works for 80% of the population. The remaining 20% have too much education and too much class pretension to listen to moronic drivel like that. They need a Libertarian Economist to dress it up for the Ivy League set, employing mind-bending contortions of logic, acceptance of the impossible or the merely implausible as viable alternatives to reality, and using many big, academic-sounding words (usually incorrectly) to give the exercise in bullshitting the veneer of intellectualism and legitimacy.

This excellent comment highlighted by my Instaputz colleague makes the best analogy: it is like medieval scholasticism, the arcane system in which great thinkers and intellectuals were forced to use their talents to concoct justifications for the fiat rule of the elite. Can you imagine anything more soul-crushing? Maybe when the Vatican employed such people to paste together a scriptural way to argue that certain people didn't really have souls, they weren't really talking about the Aztecs and or Africans. Perhaps they had Libertarian Economists in mind, in which case they might actually have a point. The shallowness and complete lack of shame necessary to operate in this line of work can't be overstated. I cannot imagine how it must feel to know that you have whored yourself out so completely, masquerading as a journalist or commentator but really doing nothing more than churning out one identical press release after another to the demands of a paying client.

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