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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5390/irony-alert/

Irony Alert

July 27, 2006 by

There is this guy, Lew Rockwell, who writes regularly on these pages. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but the man is an extremist. Yes, I repeat that: an extremist! He has no sense of proportion, nor balance. Instead, he marks out the most extreme positions on any given subject, and tries to make them sound, horrors!, reasonable.

The latest example of this extremist nonsense of his, and, believe me, this is the merest tip of the ice berg, is a horrendous little piece in which he has the temerity to call for the complete privatization of, would you believe it, electrical utilities. Digg.com is madly debating this now. Now, I concede that, superficially, he has a point. The blackouts that have lately been bedeviling consumers in New York and California do demonstrate that all is not well with our present system of delivering electrical power. But that is the way of all extremists! They seize upon an actual fault in the system, and, instead of attempting to improve things marginally as would a sensible commentator, they use this an excuse to yank the rug under our feet with their radical “solutions.�?

Yes, there are problems in the energy field. This cannot be denied. But if Lew had called for more “hearings, reports, meetings, yammering, resolutions, reforms�? I could go along with him. This after all, constitutes responsible public policy analysis. Surely, if we fire a few of the people responsible for the present mess, and replace them with party hacks, no, sorry, a thousand pardons, I meant better engineers who have graduated from schools that emphasize inclusivity, political correctness, feminist and gay studies and affirmative action, we would have better results. Or, if Rockwell had stressed that the provision of electrical power is too complex for the states and localities to run, and that only federal expertise would suffice, then I might be able to support him. FEMA, for example, and the Army Corp of Engineers could be brought in to solve the problem. (But don’t for a moment count on this extremist getting with the program on that matter. Here is what he had to say about those organizations.)

Did Rockwell offer any of these constructive criticisms? To ask this question is to answer it; no, he did not. Instead, he said “What we need today is full, radical, complete, uncompromised deregulation and privatization. We need competition.�? C’mon, give me a break. The country is simply not ready for this sort of thing. Maybe, after a decade or two of government subsidies for Austrian economics, we could begin to move in this direction.

Has not Rockwell heard of marginal analysis? This is a mainstay of Austrian economics, which he says he supports. According to marginal analysis, good public policy consists of making marginal changes (get it? marginal) to extant economic institutions. But marginal means small and responsible. You just don’t tear down ways of doing things that have been in force for years, even decades. In that direction lies irresponsible extremism. Fascism, even.

Has not Rockwell heard of the Chicago School of Economics? No extremists, they. You will never find an economist associated with that revered school of thought making half vast recommendations of the sort we are now criticizing. No, this distinguished group of Economics Nobel Prize winners confines itself to politically possible changes and is justly world famous for so doing.

Imagine the disruption if Rockwell’s cockamamie schemes were put into effect. Why, there would be thousands, no, tens of thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats, time servers, nincompoops, wastrels, no wait, I mean great contributors to the economy, tossed out on their ears onto the unemployment lines. This would radically reduce their income. As a result, they would purchase less than before; things like luxury cars, luxury food, luxury bicycles, foreign vacations, jewels, Rolexes, yachts, etc. This would mean, in turn, that the purveyors of these items would suffer economic losses, and so on. No, in that direction lies depression. Haven’t we had enough of this sort of thing in 1929? Do we need more of the same, now, courtesy of Lew Rockwell?

No, no, I say, a thousand times no. Let those people suffering from brownouts and blackouts live in “90-degree houses and sleep in puddles of sweat.�? There are more important things than our (well, their) selfish creature comforts. High on this list is maintaining our present socialist system of electronic power distribution, or, at least, not disturbing the status quo more than merely around the edges.

It is no wonder that the Mises Institute is not popular with the in the beltway crowd. It is easy to understand why those associated with this organization are not regularly interviewed by the New York Times, and do not regularly appear on major network television. It is totally comprehensible that this group limps along with an extremely (get that!?! poetic justice, here) small budget, compared to other “free market�? think tanks that have caved in, no, no, I meant, taken on a more moderate position. It is all because of Rockwell’s unmitigated disaster of an extremist policy!

Rockwell must go. Down with Rockwell! Boo, Lew.


Manuel Lora July 27, 2006 at 4:48 pm

I’ve just about had it with these privatization people. Soon, they’ll be talking about abolishing the state and privatizing everything. Madness! I think we should nationalize Walter Block and Lew Rockwell (for their own good).

M E Hoffer July 27, 2006 at 5:04 pm

The true Irony, or is it horrific terror(?), is seeing the ignorance, paraded so assuredly, on that digg thread.

quincunx July 27, 2006 at 5:30 pm


What you talking about?

I think they presented the case well: we need a single national energy company, called: NOPOWER4U.

M E Hoffer July 27, 2006 at 5:42 pm


I’m sure that industrious enterprise would give a whole new understanding to the term “negawatt”.

Norton Lucas July 27, 2006 at 5:44 pm

I have two comments regarding Walter Block’s piece.
First, he mentions sexuality, namely homosexuality, among a slew of government-imposed issues, e.g., affirmative action, government regulation of utilities, FEMA, etc. Not only is the comparison logically incorrect, it might be needlessly offensive, subjectively, to Austrian homosexuals. I recommend that he and others of this ilk, e.g., Hans Hoppe, refrain from confusing homosexuality with “public policies” with which both they and I vehemently disagree.

2. To an untrained reader of this blog, who might be trying to understand the Mises/Austrian philosophy by reading articles and comments, Block’s piece might be read as a real attack on Lew. Obviously, to some it is a great piece of humor. But to others, it might be confusing. Somewhere, maybe at the end, at least acknowledge the joke. LOL?

Luke Fitzhugh, July 28, 2006, 5:25 pm

cynical July 27, 2006 at 7:04 pm

Honestly, Luke, I don’t find the reference to gay and lesbian studies offensive, given the context. In fact, I would have added more “politically correct” (i.e., not at all relevant to what people are paying to learn) “areas of study”. For instance, there is “Victimology”, “Learning and Organizational Change”, “Educational Learning”, and on down the line.

cynical July 27, 2006 at 7:07 pm

Sorry, *Educational Leadership*. Anyway, these are all “areas of study” by themselves, but the insanity within these “areas of study” creeps into every department and all the socialist programs at the universities. Every student is going to be taught this crap in one way or another.

Curt Howland July 27, 2006 at 11:01 pm

Indeed the digg arguments are uninformed and in some cases entirely emotional, but that is exactly what 100 years of forced government schooling has created: a mass populous who believe they are educated because they learned to walk and chew cud at the same time.

Look at the arguments, and notice the reoccurring theme: that because everyone uses electricity, and consistant delivery is critical, government must do it because no other entity can plan on a nationwide scale.

The basic assumption, that a single “entity” can “plan”, is assumed correct. No argument to the contrary is accepted.

Basic logic is no longer (if it ever was) a required course. Even simple mathematical proofs are taught only to scholars, the great majority never learn the difference between “assumption” and “axiom”.

The battle is being fought not on the subject of “electricity”, it is being waged right down at the bottom, at the assumption of what is and is not real.

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