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2016: Obama's America or Romney's

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"Mittens" or Monster?

by Christopher Chantrill
September 04, 2012 at 12:00 am

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YOU TELL ME what happened last week. Did Governor Romney and Rep. Ryan fail the test of audacity, by playing it safe, as the Wall Street Journal complained?

If they can’t confidently and aggressively win the argument for tax reform and spending restraint and why they promote faster growth and more jobs, they will give Mr. Obama an opening to win an election he should lose.

Or did they make a fearless case for ending the welfare state as we know it, as Janet Daley argues?

What is being challenged is nothing less than the most basic premise of the politics of the centre ground: that you can have free market economics and a democratic socialist welfare system at the same time.

Well, what do you think? Are we dealing here with harmless little “Mittens,” as Mitt Romney’s friends on the left like to call him? Or is he the monster of Bain that closes a couple dozen unionized steel plants every day before breakfast?

How about “all of the above?”

On the one hand, Mitt Romney is clearly trying to present himself as mild, inoffensive Mittens. He must be, or those attack dogs on the left would be trying out another insult.

On the other hand, as George Gilder and Fortune make clear, Bain & Company and Bain Capital achieved nothing less than “creative destruction” on steroids. In Wealth and Poverty George Gilder thought he had described the essence of capitalism with supply-side economics. Then he got a call from Bill Bain.

He invited me to speak to his team of Bain & Company partners, and also, if he might...no Offense...he wanted to impart some ideas of his own, some points I might have missed on supply-side economics.“We’ve done some research,” he said, “that shows the theory is much more general and powerful than even you believe.”

Bain believed in the “experience curve,” i.e., on-the-job learning, broadly considered. He believed that you can obtain unit cost reductions of about 20 percent every time you double production.

“We have discovered,” Bain said, “that aggressive price cuts can trigger a cascade of strategic benefits, not just expanding market share, building asset values, and increasing revenues and profits, but also gaining more knowledge of the strategic environment and provoking overreactions and blunders by rivals.”

You can see what this means. Bain’s people believed in smashing into an industry and upsetting the apple cart by aggressively expanding production and cutting prices: “creative destruction” on steroids. You can see who gets hurt by this. It is old-established, cartelized corporations with inflexible cost structures, i.e., unionized employees.

No wonder liberals look at Bain and see Bane, the cartoon villain. Bain was a search-and-destroy mission targeted on everything that liberals hold dear, starting with their nostalgic 1950s dream of good union jobs at good wages. (Reality was, of course, that only a few workers in the right place at the right time got those good jobs and good wages).

Meanwhile we are stuck in stagnation as tame Fed economists argue over how many quantitative easings can fit on the head of a pin. The truth is that the liberal welfare state is toast. Janet Daley again:

The crash of 2008 exposed a devastating truth that went much deeper than the discovery of a generation of delinquent bankers, or a transitory property bubble. It has become apparent to anyone with a grip on economic reality that free markets simply cannot produce enough wealth to support the sort of universal entitlement programmes which the populations of democratic countries have been led to expect.

Moses Mittens, Prince of Bain, has a plan to lead us to the Promised Land, but he is understandably vague about the forty years in the wilderness that will start with a pretty strong dose of Bain-style “creative destruction” right after the parting of the Red Sea.

But why are liberals so darned angry, you ask? I learned all about that just this week from Brit anthropologist Mary Douglas and her minor classic Purity and Danger. You see, we humans push back the dangers and uncertainties of the universe by imagining order, a system that makes a “unity of experience.” Anything that cuts against the grain of our precious system is a seed of disorder, a pollution that threatens our existence.

Think what life is like for liberals right now. They confidently pressed all the Keynesian buttons three years ago, and nothing happened. Then anomalies and strange portents appeared: Tea Parties sprang unbidden out of the ground; angry voters refused the sacrament of Obamacare. Millions of green jobs ended up as monstrous births. Paul Ryan profaned the sacred shrine of Medicare-as-we-know-it. Now you know why liberals are finding racists everywhere they look.

Note to liberals: Lose that “Mittens” moniker. You chaps need something with “vinegar and pepper in’t.” I know! How about Mittler?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures


German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Knowledge

Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Action

The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital


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