Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm back--sort of

After a couple of weeks hanging out with Tony, I am trying to get back to whatever routine I have.  Actually, most of this routine is prescribed by Lynne--reason 473 why it good that woman is in my life.

Aside from making Tony's life more hazardous than necessary, it was mostly good times.  I don't have a lot of visuals these days but we did make it to the Veblen house and graveyard.  We also saw robber baron St. Paul and made a stop at Garrison Keillor's book store.  But the trip to Little Falls was mostly a bust.  It rained all day, the Lindbergh house was closed until Memorial Day, and the sweet little old lady who was in charge of answering questions at the Morrison County Historical Society knew essentially nothing about the politics of pre-WW I Minnesota.

She was pushing a book about some early real estate speculator that gave away some trifles to the county so it seems historical societies are pretty much all the same.  And she was convinced that the only reason anyone was interested in C. A. Lindbergh was because he had a very famous son.  That pretty much meant we didn't exist because we were interested in the early 20th-century Progressive movements.

Ah well!  And then it started to SNOW.  I know this is Minnesota but geeze, we saw corn coming out of the ground near Northfield.

I am pretty sure that Tony was at least mildly surprised by Minnesota's many manifestations of Protestant progressivism.  I mean it really is not so surprising that a state largely formed by the politics of Scandinavian immigrants should wind up being politically much like the old country.  Hubert Humphrey would have made an excellent Swedish Social Democrat.  But for someone who went from a Catholic Chicago childhood to Washington D.C. to North Carolina, I am sure there were moments when we must have looked and sounded like Martians.

A perfect example was when my friend with the Harvard pedigree came over to watch hockey--specifically the Hawks-Canucks playoff game (hockey being athletically significant at both our alma maters and this IS Minnesota.)  Both my friend and I justify wasting time watching sports by trying to intellectualize it at least to the level of Hunter S. Thompson--who started as a sportswriter.  Friend tends to be a Grantland Rice traditionalist while I judge all sports by their aesthetics and analyze the action using good old-fashioned Institutional Analysis. I am pretty sure that Tony had long ago stuffed hockey fans into the category of drooling morons--which isn't all that surprising coming from Chicago.  So listening to a conversation on why the Canucks play the way they do by referencing Swedish pedagogy and coaching methods, for example, was probably new.

Tony's visit was finished off with an encounter with a freshly-minted economist from Northwestern.  Guy is super-smart but so full of shit, you despair for the future. For example, he finally admitted that Neoliberalism was "probably a failure."  A policy error.  He doesn't understand the incredible destruction these policy errors have caused in ruined lives.  There's no moral outrage.  There are no policy prescriptions for meaningful change and certainly no urgency.  There is no understanding why economic rules must be set by other actors than those who merely go to market.  At one point, I asked him why he thought every culture that got advanced enough to use currency restricted or prohibited the practices of usury. The response was pure dog-watching-a-ceiling-fan.

This bright young man is off to poison the minds at Norte Dame.  Tony told him to look up the incredible industrial history of South Bend.  Yeah, he's going to do THAT!  You hardly know what to advise in a situation like this.  If he discards the ridiculous bullshit he picked up at Northwestern, he loses his possible career in teaching.  The downside of retaining the bullshit is that he becomes permanently irrelevant.  Or, he could rediscover the economics of the folks who actually understood the prescriptions for prosperity and actually propose useful suggestions for getting us out of the economic calamity we currently face.  He would have the satisfaction of being right.  He could become important in the course of human affairs.  And he could spend his life starving in front of his blog.

Good luck, kid.  It's a shitty world we have left you.  Sorry our elite universities exist to fill your head with lies and nonsense.  Your brains and determination deserved better.

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