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Pick Me! Pick Me!

[ 0 ] January 29, 2009 |

Stephen Walt follows up his request for an IR Hall of Fame by asking who are the most underrated IR scholars. The metric?

To be clear: by “underrated” I don’t necessarily mean people who remained completely obscure despite having done great work.

I think it’s fair to say that I have not remained completely obscure despite having done great work. As such, I submit myself for candidacy as the most underrated IR scholar.

Hoover Revisionism

[ 0 ] January 29, 2009 |

Josh Marshall is right about Herbert Hoover, and he’s right about Jonah Goldberg, the latter of whom is, of course, a buffoon.

There’s no use reiterating all the ways that Hoover was or was not substantively responsive to the depression. Notwithstanding Goldberg’s insistence that Hoover was “not this stand-pat, do-nothing guy,” Hoover simply failed for the near-duration of his presidency to comprehend the enormity what was happening. It’s not the case, obviously, that he did nothing — but his public demeanor was weirdly disconnected from the crisis. In his first press conference after the stock market crash, Hoover talked about Iceland. Two weeks later, he insisted that “any lack of confidence in the economic future and the basic strength of business in the United States is simply foolish,” a point he reiterated in his State of the Union message the following month:

I am convinced that through these measures we have reestablished confidence. Wages should remain stable. A very large degree of industrial unemployment and suffering which would otherwise have occurred has been prevented. Agricultural prices have reflected the returning confidence. The measures taken must be vigorously pursued until normal conditions are restored.

Throughout 1930, Hoover continued to insist that the nation’s economic fundamentals, so to speak, were strong and that deficit spending would prove disastrous. In February, he warned against a “general expansion of public expenditure,” insisting that Congressional priorities should focus on maintaining a balanced budget. March, he claimed that “All the evidences indicate that the worst effects of the crash upon employment will have been passed during the next 60 days.” In October, he rejected calls for a special Congressional session to address unemployment, insisting that the nation’s “sense of voluntary organization” was sufficient to see it through. The worse conditions became, the more Hoover repeated his philosophy of volunteerism and insisted that local relief efforts were adequate. As the winter of 1931-32 approached, he publicized a series of letters from state governors who claimed (incorrectly) that public and private cooperation would enable them to “undertake their own problem” without any broader federal effort.

And so it continued for the rest of his term. At every point, Hoover congratulated the government for its modest spending increases on public works while expressing even greater enthusiasm for holding the line on budgets and not allowing public debt to increase. He spoke warmly of veterans while swatting away any efforts to broaden pension eligibility or provide early benefits to veterans of the Great War. (Indeed, Hoover’s arguably most aggressive “intervention” during his presidency was to evict the Bonus Expeditionary Force from their tents on the Anacostia flats.) When an emergency relief and public works bill appeared in the House in May 1932, Hoover freaked out, describing it as “the most gigantic pork barrel ever proposed” and an “unexampled raid on the Public Treasury.” When it eventually passed in July, he crowed about the removal of $100 million in “charity” and the reduction of public works spending by more than 75 percent from the original bill. Meantime, he urged people to “make a real contribution to employment” by purchasing cars.

There’s nothing profoundly “interventionist” about this, Goldberg’s claims to the contrary. Anyone who examines Hoover’s work in response to the Belgian food crisis as well as his post-war relief efforts in Germany and Russia knows that his chief asset was a skill for coordinating the activities of private agencies who were actually capable of meeting the needs of the moment. (And anyone who looks at Hoover’s response as Commerce Secretary to the 1927 Mississippi Flood will know as well that he also anticipated George W. Bush’s skill at allowing black people to writhe in squalor.) But the fact that Hoover rejected the advice of liquidationists like Andrew Mellon doesn’t make him a Keynesian. Though Hoover recognized that there were structural causes of the depression, he did not envision structural solutions. Rather, he preferred to view it as a natural disaster — a flood or a drought — that could be weathered through mere cooperation, voluntarism, positive thinking and elbow grease. He brought his impressive — but limited — talents to bear on a problem that was beyond his comprehension. And so by 1932, there were very good reasons for Americans to pelt their president with debris on the campaign trail and to deride his languid — and not very progressive — response to it all.

Today in the West Bank…

[ 0 ] January 29, 2009 |

Israeli settlements expanded. This make today like just about every other day since July 1967.


[ 0 ] January 29, 2009 |

Another shocker; hopefully this will be a long overdue hint for Obama, the Senate and the conference committee to ignore the House Republicans altogether. On whether this lack of “bipartisanship” should be considered a problem, see my co-blogger.

Dept. of People Who Really Should Never Call Other People Dumb

[ 0 ] January 29, 2009 |

Shorter Jules Crittenden: Jessica Alba was really dumb for calling Sweden neutral. Even though Sweden is neutral. But in my judgment, Sweden shouldn’t have been neutral, which means that Alba was really stupid to say that they were. See? This is the kind of analysis which makes me much smarter than Jessica Alba.

Dick of the Day

[ 0 ] January 29, 2009 |

Dick Armey.

Diplomacy Isn’t So Hard…

[ 0 ] January 28, 2009 |

It appears that the Bush administration’s effort to diplomatically “lock in” a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic has failed:

Russia has dropped plans to install missiles near Poland after the Obama administration signalled a change in US attitude to the region, a Moscow military official has reportedly said. The official suggested that Mr Obama’s White House had made clear it would not prioritise executing the Bush administration’s plan to install a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

An unnamed official in the Russian military’s general staff said: “The implementation of these plans has been halted in connection with the fact that the new US administration is not rushing through plans to deploy” elements of its missile defence shield in eastern Europe, according to the Interfax news agency.

Congratulations to Obama and Medvedev; Russia will save money, the United States will save money, and Poland won’t have Russian missiles parked on its border. It’s a win for everyone who’s not a missile defense zealot.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

Who Knew?

[ 0 ] January 28, 2009 |

Apparently, Caitlan Flanagan’s anecdotes and urban legends turn out to be not terribly reliable. I, for one, am shocked. I also agree with Jessica that the panic about teen sex really over a panic over girls (or young women, really) having sex.


[ 0 ] January 28, 2009 |

America’s worst op-ed columnist was only unemployed for about eight hours yesterday, as Bill Kristol was hired by the Washington Post Writers Group immediately after the NYT announced he wouldn’t be wasting its precious newsprint any more.

It’s no wonder newspapers aren’t going to exist ten years from now.

You betcha, etc.

[ 0 ] January 28, 2009 |

This is great news for me:

SarahPAC . . . was registered Monday night with the Federal Election Commission. The Web site went live Tuesday, said Pam Pryor, who worked as a liaison between the McCain-Palin presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee. Now, Pryor is serving as a volunteer spokeswoman for the new PAC.

The goal of the committee, according to its Web site, is to “make it possible for Gov. Palin to continue to be a strong voice for energy independence and reform. … SarahPAC will support local and national candidates who share Gov. Palin’s ideas and goals for our country.”

I can think of few other sights as grand as a litter of Sarah Palins, snouts to the soil like truffling hogs, trying to discern the “ideas and goals” that might win the approval of their would-be patron. I suppose Joe the Plumber will probably make the cut. Mabe they can hang out and read von Mises together.

John Updike

[ 0 ] January 28, 2009 |

R.I.P. Wolcott has more.

Fighting The Last War

[ 0 ] January 27, 2009 |

I think Steve M.’s analysis of the problems with defenses of Paterson’s senate appointment are very astute. One line of argument goes that Gillibrand was a strong choice for 2010 because a more progressive candidate would have their support too localized in New York to win, so we could end up with an Al D’Amato/Pataki situation. The main problem with such arguments , as Steve points out, is that 1)Westchester, Long Island, and other NYC bedroom areas are much more liberal than they were 15 years ago, and 2)upstate has shrunk relative to the population in the NYC metro area. Basically, the old Republican competitiveness formula no longer works. Any vaguely credible Democratic candidate, including one significantly more progressive than Gillibrand, would be a massive, massive favorite in 2010 even before we get to the question of who exactly the D’Amato/Pataki figure for the GOP is supposed to be. I suppose there may be good reasons to have picked Gillibrand, but the idea that the Dems needed her to win in 2010 certainly isn’t one of them.