"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Aug 30, 2011

A Pig Hunting Pigs

Any time a person yields to the masochistic urge to read Matthew Yglesias, she or he would do well to picture Yglesias nestling himself into a thousand dollar smoking chair with a mint and fruit flavored boat drink clutched tightly in his legacy fattened fingers, expensive tablet in lap, arching his brow. As he sits there, imagine him muttering, "How can I make sure my friends will remember that they used to say, 'Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias said'...", and failing to conjure for himself an appropriate mental rescue from the moral predicament of being both less intelligent and well respected than Klein and yet the less venal and monstrously casual with considerations of justice and human feeling, of the pair of grasping sycophants, he keys into electronic life the expensive tablet merited to himself by virtue of being born a rich man's son.

Knowing he cannot equal Klein's mercenary facility with numbers, or his friend's capacity to transform the suffering of ordinary folk into data points in defense of the status quo, he starts instead to tap his thoughts out in another direction. It's at this point that he writes something like this:

"I’ve gotten some pushback from folks who say that it’s wrong of me to focus attention on Ron Paul’s desire to make abortion illegal when there are so many others issues out there."

And this, because:

"...according to Ron Paul, [abortion] 'is the most important issue of our age'...”.

Before we take ourselves too far down Matty's gold brick road, we should settle an issue with the map: Ron Paul is a sideshow.

Let's stick a knife in Lady Probability's knotted skein, and tearing her threads to wind blown snippets, entertain the notion that Ron Paul will be elected to the Presidency in November of the year of the next and last most important election ever, a year only more noteworthy this time around for the other national sideshow - the one where idiot white paranoiacs have their spoiled interloper colonization of Mayan time spat back at them by a universe that will go on long after we've slagged the only planet we know for certain carries any life.

Let's toy with the notion for a bit: "Ron Paul is elected to the White House."


Nothing will change.

Because Ron Paul is, as better sorts have already noted, incapable of altering the operation of the machine. That he even wants to run that machine, if only in donor funded theory, should quell any notion that he has a plan or the power base sufficient to substantively or even incrementally change how it's run. How it is run is changed by the refusal to obey it. And by actively damaging it. Often. At any available juncture between it and the population it rules. Until it fails to function at all.

Ron Paul isn't about that.

Yggles either doesn't know that Ron Paul would have little power to change the system, or he doesn't care. Neither do the libertarians or conservatives who have signed on to the "Love Revolution" this time around. Either from a risible naivete or a calculated ignorance, Ron Paul supporters and Ron Paul critics alike, including Mr. Matthew Yglesias, simply assume that he is both viable enough to be elected to the supreme command of the imperial expeditionary forces and empowered by his magical wisdom, and the impossibly turned blind eyes of those who actually own the country, to transform the empire into its better self by virtue of his transformational occupancy of the Oval Office. They do this, one imagines, for a host of reasons: because they still believe that the extraction and protection racket's stated raisons d'etre - welfare, safety, education, progress and the safeguarding of human goodness - are its actual ones; because they are gatekeepers who don't want voters to realize that voting is a complete waste of time; or, because they might even honestly believe that the answer to the scourge/vital right of abortion will finally be provided by the election of a singular candidate, or by the prevention of that election.

Matthew Yglesias, I think it's safe to conclude, is not worried about the actual election of Ron Paul to the Presidency. When Yglesias writes that Ron Paul has a "desire to send the world economy into a new depression with tight money policies" he is signaling his faith in the system to which he (like Ron Paul and every other candidate for elective office) has pledged his fealty, and from which he draws his salary, and the validity of his legacy education. He is letting his readers in on the fact that he, like them, knows the score. The smart people aren't going to allow a Ron Paul Presidency. Because he would be bad for their business.


Ron Paul will not be elected to the Presidency.

Why, then, worry Paul's well-known and rather consistent position with regard to the state's regulation of a woman's uterus? 

Thankfully, we have Matty Yglesias. Mr. Yglesias is kind enough to tell us why, and since he is not the truly reprehensible Ezra Klein, he is even a bit forthright about it:

"I respect that a great many people are frustrated with drug policy in the United States and are doubly frustrated by the fact that President Obama hasn’t stopped DEA raids on 'medical' marijuana dispensaries in states that have used this route to create de facto decriminalization. The fact is, however, that most anti-drug laws and most drug law enforcement happens on the state level, and the President Paul won’t be able to repeal federal drug legislation without backing from Congress, which won’t happen."

Matty respects that people don't like drug policy. He respects their opinions so much he places the medical in medical marijuana in scare quotes. He respects them so much he's going to prevaricate a bit, and pretend that most drug policy comes from the States. He's going to do this, of course, by ignoring federal guidelines, federal funding, federal prosecution, and in case we forget for ourselves, the fact that nearly half of all enforcement dollars are spent directly by the Feds, even if the enforcement happens "on the state level."*

But, he doesn't want them to lose sight of the broader picture, here. That's why, tablet in hand and despite the fact that he's no Ezra Klein, Yglesias needs to remind liberals and progressives - especially those voters who rightly wonder at the grotesque failures of the Drug War - about Ron Paul's abortion problem.

And what it comes down to, for liberals like Yglesias, but also for any number of party endorsed conservatives, is legitimacy.

The problem with Ron Paul isn't that he will ever win the Presidency. With the exception of a half dozen paleo-conservatives, Ann Coulter when she is three sheets to the wind, Pat Buchanan when he's not working hard to convince the executives at MSNBC to void his contract, or that stoner dude who forgot to the clean the opium out of his bong before he packed in some kind bud, there are few people who actually believe Ron Paul will ever be President.

Ron Paul's appeal doesn't come from viability.

Ron Paul's appeal comes from his willingness to address the State's legitimacy problem. Ron Paul's appeal owes itself to a growing doubt about the state's legitimacy.

It's not that he thinks the project of government is a waste of time. He's right at home with the minarchists and lean government conservatives who haven't thought their core convictions through to their logical conclusions. Like Congressman Paul, they fail to make the connection between an efficient state reduced to policing, war and arbitration functions and the fortunes of the class which actually manages that state as a shared ownership venture. As long as the federal State, and the several States, are obligated by public discontent and unrest to dispense a portion of the Commons back towards the people who actually produce not only wealth but the Commons, the State is prevented from triaging whole segments of the population, in anticipation of the twin and rapidly approaching disasters, for the ruling class, which have been produced by the capitalist distribution of labor, goods and resources: pollution and food supply collapse, and Peak Oil. Furthermore, a state which has some recognized obligation to provide for its captive population is a state which will degrade and ultimately collapse under the weight of the emerging  feedback loop between food supply collapse, and Peak Oil - the surplus oil population.

Ron Paul is not going to address these problems. He has neither the worldview nor the understanding of the crisis of capitalism which would equip him to use an imaginary Presidency to prevent the disastrous culmination of capitalist production and distribution. Assuming his election to the actual Presidency, the office he will have won will give him tremendous power to assassinate, bomb, invade and appoint to positions of power those men and women who will execute his authority to assassinate, bomb and invade. He will have no power, no coalition and no effective authority to reduce spending of any note, to prevent Congress from forcing his budgetary hand, or to restore the gold standard.**

And for Matty Yglesias, and the rest of the bumper crop of warbling progressives and professional liberals, this is the real problem.

Ron Paul, on the point of the power of the office he would assume, is saying as loudly and as often as he can that he would not use it.

Ron Paul's problem is that by assuming the mantle of the Presidency and thereupon refusing the exercise of its one set of actual powers, Ron Paul would threaten the legitimacy of their use, altogether. It would actually be better, for critics of Paul, if he were an anarchist. Nobody listens to those raving dreamers. Alas, for our progressive friends, Ron Paul believes in government, just like them. And that makes him far more dangerous.

He's sharing their stall and he's drawing away customers.

That's what he does every time he turns fairly run of the mill paleo-conservative protectionist and isolationist platitudes into modern idiom. Whether he is addressing the abuses, failures and consequences of the drug war, or drawing attention to the catastrophes wrought by seventy years of ceaseless intervention in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, the Caribbean and wherever the US has projected its martial might, he gives credence to the simplest of ideas: the use of power is almost invariably worse than the refusal to use it.

And if Ron Paul, just by being Ron Paul on a permanent and quixotic campaign for an office he cannot and will never win, can call into question the legitimacy of power itself, well, then it's up to people with large audiences to remind those stupid pot-smokers and youth voters tempted by his siren song that Ron Paul is lacking in...

...legitimacy. You know, because for all his rhetoric about meddling and power, he's just one more wealthy white dude who wants to get all up in a woman's uterus.

So, Matty Yglesias can't be Ezra Klein. He doesn't have the chops to quite manage the banality of Ezra's numerical evil. But he can, at least, keep a gate with the best of them, and like a good master's little pig, go out hunting one of the other pigs who went off the master's private enclosure.

* - I'm sure a competent researcher might be able to help confirm what percentage of the states' combined budgets is actually federal grant, block and contribution monies...

** - no modern capitalist state will allow this because those who own the state don't want a money supply constrained by gold, or silver, or platinum, or anything but the fiat power of the creditor's state...and besides, Yglesias has an actual point buried within his gate keeping effort: tightening the money supply, right now, would trigger a depression that would actually hurt the ruling class


Annie said...

Paul confuses me. He openly admits that Murray Rothbard was his mentor yet he is not (or pretends not to be) an anarchist. Googling turns up no interviews or writing that explains why he parts ways with his mentor in this regard.

In fact, it's not just him. Others in the Ron Paul crowd, like Tom Woods, appear on shows like Glen Beck talking about the constitution and how real conservatives should be anti-war but, in less public settings, admit the state is illegitimate and should not exist.

Not too long ago, I met a young anarchist couple (early 20's) who told me they were apolitical students in 2007 when they found out about Paul and started supporting his campaign for many of the reasons mentioned in Matty's post (drug war, empire, etc.). From there, they found Rothbard, Hess, Konkin, etc. and within a couple years, they were calling themselves anarchists. I couldn't help but notice that these "kids" had taken less than 4 years to realize a truth that it had taken me almost 15 years to realize. Is it culture? Is it just timing? Did Paul help create these anarchists (they claim he did indirectly)? If so, is he aware of this side effect? And how does he feel about creating new non-voters?

Randal Graves said...

C'mon man, instead of reading that yahoo, why not do something more interesting, like clipping toenails or making a paper football?

Landru said...

I'm sure a competent researcher might be able to help confirm what percentage of the states' combined budgets is actually federal grant, block and contribution monies...

I don't think stipulating to "lots" would materially harm your case.

fish said...

Matt chooses to ignore the fact (like he does with all inconvenient facts), that his dismissal of the drug war issue:
fact that President Obama hasn’t stopped DEA raids on “medical” marijuana dispensaries in states that have used this route to create de facto decriminalization. The fact is, however, that most anti-drug laws and most drug law enforcement happens on the state level,

is internally contradictory. He is saying that because drug enforcement is at the state level, the president can't stop federal law enforcement overruling state law. WTF? The sentances are only separated by a period!

Jack Crow said...


I only really have any contact with Paul supporters and campaigners here in NH, and I don't think this environment is a good indicator of experiences and opinions elsewhere.

For what it's worth, I think Paul is an attractor. Whether or not he's aware of it, I couldn't say.


Who says it wasn't interesting and fun to imagine Woodchuck steepling his fingers and arching his brows, plumped up in a chair purchased out of a Neiman Marcus catalog, trying to outpace his own envy for the Kaplan owned commodity, Ezra Fucking Klein?


Gratis. "Lots" will work.


That's why I only gave him credit for a "bit" of trustworthiness.

fish said...

That's why I only gave him credit for a "bit" of trustworthiness.

Yeah, it is just amazing to me to see doublethink happen so quickly.

Jonathan Versen said...

JC, you know that from Yglesias is smart enough to know that Ron Paul's grab bag of policy positions helps throw a lot of contradictions in what the Democrats say they stand for in sharp relief[*], so he needs to be summarily denounced.

That's one level, and as you point out at yet another level Paul is unlikely to be able to do any of that Ron Paul "evol!" stuff even if he got elected, even if he meant to.

*Of course he also helps show some contradictions in the stated aims of the GOP, but they seem less concerned by this. I have to assume that the Republicans have done some polling regarding what happens to the vote of Ron Paul supporters after the primary.

Randall: Reading Yglesias vs clipping my tonails? In spite of your offering me an opportunity to spout off a superficially impressive-sounding declarative sentence with lots of big words that maybe ends in harrumph, I see your point. A pity, because using big words and saying harrumph is a lot of fun.

JTG said...

JC, you know that from Yglesias is smart enough to know that Ron Paul's grab bag of policy positions helps throw a lot of contradictions in what the Democrats say they stand for in sharp relief[*], so he needs to be summarily denounced.

I agree with this.
I also have a feeling that the recent anti-libertarian outrage that's been drummed up by pwogs (Yglesias included) is really about trying to divert attention from the fact that the Democratic Party is also pro-capitalist.

Al Schumann said...


I could forgive Woody Mattchuck if he spent his days "nestling himself into a thousand dollar smoking chair with a mint and fruit flavored boat drink". I suspect, instead, that he practices a perfectly loathsome abstemiousness. But one that is not quite as loathsome or perfect as Klein's.

I find them incomparable as fonts of received wisdom. Mr. Mattchuck has an aesthetic edge, however. It's not just in his delightful resemblance to an actual woodchuck, but in the way every last one of his columns easily lends itself to a bafflingly stupid conclusion. It's a gift!

Jack Crow said...


That's a shiny observation about the Democrats and Republicans. It's a matter of chance that I've got Ricky Gervais' "Invention of Lying" as I type this. I wonder what each party's mouthpieces would have to say about Ron Paul if they could not actually lie.


Within the party system, Libertarian contradictions are strengths, because Libertarians can use the disconnect between rhetoric and practice, from the other parties, as a wedge to promote their (relatively) less paternalistic and deceptive message. Their problem, though, comes from any future success. Once libertarians capture the state (theoretically) to which they are devoted to critiquing, they will be expected to use it in a more traditional manner, by the people who vote because they want something from the State. The Libertarian problem is the people, because the people still believe, by and large, that the state gets results for them. That libertarians will only be elected in large numbers once faith in the state collapses is Lady Irony's great smack in the face, because they will still be expected to deliver on their promises and will end up, I imagine, scapegoats.

Also, as the ostensibly "anti-government" message of the Tea Party has become more well known, as an example, it's become increasingly obvious that the message is a gloss for more authoritarianism:

Party Data

Libertarians don't have exactly the same wolves-in-sheeps-clothing problem, because they are refreshingly naive about their failure to understand messaging - but it exists for them in a less bat shit crazy form, and that's what, I think, the Woodchucks are busying themselves with lately, because the faith in the capitalist state is starting to crack.

Or something like that. I'm probably going to re-read this reply, later, and remind myself to eat before I type.


One cannot forgive fruit and mint in the same drink, but point taken about the Woodchuck's Imaginary Leisure moment.

You are right about Klein, too. What makes him so loathsome is his cultivated, manicured, sedate and sober cleanliness.

Jack Crow said...


Actual Data on the Tea Party

rapier said...

Yglesias has an actual point buried within his gate keeping effort: tightening the money supply, right now, would trigger a depression that would actually hurt the ruling class.

That's his beat and now his brand. The power lies in its absolute truth. In any possible short run more money printing and more credit is not simply better it is an existential necessity for the system and by extension its leaders.

120 years ago the rich were all in on hard money. 30 years ago they went all in on the softest most ephemeral money ever conceived. Which just goes to show you it isn't money itself but its control which is crucial.

When the time comes the MY's of the world will again support hard money or whatever kind of money it is that is the reward and result of holding power. If they have the gall to call it progressive seems unlikely and will probably be unnecessary.

Jack Crow said...

Insightful, rapier. Can't wait for the day when they finally get around to rebranding debt as public currency.

Oh, wait...

rapier said...

Ideally when the debt of giant corporations yields less than the US Treasury's then the stage will be set for private money, so to speak. Admittedly it is all fuzzy to me but when I predicted 10 years ago that such a thing would happen I was met with scorn but it has been happening from time to time over the last 3 years. The problem is that ideally it would be the debt of banks but sadly that is a joke right now.

A variant of this would be that corporate equity would be considered a safe store of value over money. It already is in a sense. Of course common stock is a sort of joke in this regard unless your an insider. Eventually longer term I expect the great corporations to be taken private. You might be able to make some inferences what that would mean.

I'll be dead so I don't sweat it too much. However if you look at the dystopian movies of the 70's and 80s from Blade Runner to the Aliens it is difficult to perceive where government starts or it's presence at all. Everything is corporate. I believe they were on to something. Which is why dystopia was replaced by disaster.