BLIND SPOT

Posted in Quick Hits on October 9th, 2013 by Ed

One of the most impressive aspects of modern conservatism is how completely a-historical the movement and its ideology have become. Most humans tend to remember things that happened in the past; some even learn from the experience. American conservatives, conversely, not only prove staggeringly ignorant of historical details but they also have a habit of proposing ideas that have failed spectacularly in the past as though they are new and untested.

Let's deregulate capitalism and let the free market govern us! We tried that during the Industrial Revolution; try Googling "robber barons." Let's engage in regime change and nation-building! We won the Vietnam War, didn't we? Tax cuts produce runaway economic growth! Except for when they don't. And now we're hearing the backbenchers who are morons even by the standards of House Republicans proposing that defaulting on debt obligations really won't be such a big deal. As shocking as this will be for a group of people with the long-term memory of goldfish, we tried that once as well. It ended up being expensive. Really, really expensive.

It would be overly optimistic to think that the nation, or at least a small group of people with considerable political power, could analyze a historical event, draw conclusions about its consequences, and perhaps learn something useful from it. You know, the kind of things we ask high school students to do with a history textbook. You may claim that the GOP remembers this incident but simply does not care or they welcome its destructive consequences. I am more pessimistic. If the over-under on the number of House Republicans who have heard of and can explain something about the 1979 default was set at 50, I'd take the under. All in.