[…] “Meanwhile, the Republican prospects in the fall just got even dimmer,” writes David Brooks in an NYT Campaign Stops blog burst titled Republicans Brawl, Democrats Yawn

I say this not only because a weak general election candidate won a primary, but because Mitt Romney’s win pretty much guarantees a bitter fight for the nomination. If you doubt that, here is what Rush Limbaugh said about McCain and Huckabee on his program today: “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party, it’s going to change it forever, be the end of it.” This week, Rush and his radio mimics have been on the rampage on the party’s modernizers, from Newt Gingrich on over.

Dear reader, were you aware that Romney’s Bain Capital recently acquired Clear Channel?

Rush Limbaugh is owned and operated by Romney.

Back to Brooks:

This thing will only get uglier.

Second, Mitt Romney found, as Hillary would say, his voice. I remember watching him campaign at a financial company about 6 months ago. He talked about business and was fantastic. The next event was at a senior citizen center. He was ideological and dreadful. In Michigan, the full corporate Mitt was on display.

His campaign was a reminder of how far corporate Republicans are from free market Republicans. He proposed $20 billion in new federal spending on research. He insisted that Washington had to get fully engaged in restoring the United States automotive industry. “Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner,” he said, “not a disinterested observer.” He vowed, “If I’m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership.”

This is how the British Tory party used to speak in the 1970s […]

Well, duh. What Romney describes is redolent of the “social market economies” of post-war Western Europe. Soziale Marktwirtschaft, in German. Here is an adequate description of the model:

[…] The social market economy seeks a middle path between socialism and capitalism (i.e. a mixed economy) and aims at maintaining a balance between a high rate of economic growth, low inflation, low levels of unemployment, good working conditions, social welfare, and public services, by using state intervention.

Basically respecting the free market, the social market economy is opposed to both a planned economy and laissez-faire capitalism. Erhard once told Friedrich Hayek that the free market economy did not need to be made social but was social in its origin.

In a social market economy, collective bargaining is often done on a national level not between one corporation and one union, but national employers’ organizations and national trade unions […]

In the 90s the model reappears in the less administrative-pragmatic-compromising, and more heatedly ideological form of “third way” speculation by Anthony Giddens et al.

U.S. self-funded outsider campaigns tend to articulate themselves in an intuitive, naive “third way,” “beyond right and left” rhetoric that describes a polity or a society, in weirdly medieval way, as an organic whole comprised of various components, e.g. towns, guilds, fueds, church, estates etc. Ross Perot and Romney both speak of “bringing together” government, labor, corporate interests, engineers, specialists, communities etc. to develop the consensus necessary to support policy solutions. Social problems become technical problems. Political questions become administrative tasks—e.g. Romney’s now infamous to-do list for Washington.

The rubes at the formerly conservative National Review who endorsed Willard Milton Romney because of his—snarf!—guffaw!—constant and steadfast commitment to conservative principles—cough!-cough!—are of course anxious to revise and redact the hapless candidate’s atavistic proposals.

Regard the following strained casuistical divisio to arrive at a mixed ruling:

[…] [Douthat] “thinks that conservatives are going too easy on Romney’s supposedly left-wing, “back-to-the-’70s, ‘D.C. will save the auto industry’ promises” and giving McCain too much grief over his “2000-2001 preference for a more progressive tax code,” complains Ramesh Ponnuru in an NRO The Corner post titled Douthat on Romney

Many of Romney’s policy specifics involved removing Washington-imposed burdens on the industry, such as the prospect of new regulations. You can think he exaggerated their impact—I do—but that’s not left-wing.

Rejoinder: Granted. Only this is not the claim or claims to which Douthat refers.

Convening industry reps and government officials to gab about the industry’s problems doesn’t strike me as all that alarming, either: It’s what comes out of the meeting that matters, and Romney didn’t commit to anything statist.

Rejoinder: We must assume that Romney wants his proposals to be received as meaningful and relevant. So does Ponnoru therefore argue that Romney’s proposal to convene government and industry actors to address the problems of the US automobile industry is at best a palliative exercise or at worst a cynical ploy?

And: does Ponnoru have no experience in political activism, community organizing, or politics in general? What Romney has proposed is called agenda setting, and political formations on the left and center-left use this technique to co-opt and corrupt actors and organizations on the right or otherwise uncommitted all the time. Organize a committee or convene a conference to investigate e.g. healthcare issues, invite lots of different stake holders etc., and everyone present will return a ruling in favor of reform at public expense. Why? Because the principal assumption governing whether you organize a committee or convene a conference is that you have a task, and that task is to address an issue—to attend at all is to assent to the proposition that there is an issue, that the issue resolves itself into a political question or quetions, and that all involved need to act to resolve it.

Romney’s proposal assumes in advance that the Government is committed to, and responsible for, the performance of the US automobile industry. The questions that remain are questions of degree—how much is the US government responsible, what is the US government expected to do, and how much is this going to cost us beyond the US$20 billion already committed.

Romney’s plan to quintuple research spending was pretty bad, in my view—but plenty of free-market folks are okay with such subsidies. The reason Romney got a “slap on the wrist” is that it’s all he deserved […]

Rejoinder: Granted, Ponnoru. This was bad, as you put it. Really, really bad. But this is still not what has people like Douthat, Brooks, and ourselves exercised. It is rather Romney’s explicit claim that “Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner,” combined with his subsidies etc.

Your eagerness to completely miss the point speaks volumes.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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