Conservative “Morality”

Robert ReichI’m very fond of Robert Reich, but I think he is fundamentally wrong in discussing how conservatives have public and private morality backwards. Yesterday, he noted that Mitt Romney thinks that banks—in particular, J. P. Morgan Chase—should be allowed to do whatever they want, because the market will figure it out. We all know how well that’s worked historically.

At the same time, Romney thinks that people’s private morality—whom to marry or when to have children—should be controlled by the government.

Reich writes:

This is a dangerous confusion. It should be a matter of personal choice whom to marry and when to have children. But it is undoubtedly a matter of public choice whether big banks should be allowed to take the kind of risky bets that plunged the economy into the worst downturn since the Great Depression, and whether people with great wealth should be able to buy our democracy with huge campaign contributions.

Reich is right about this from a policy standpoint. But I don’t think this is how the conservatives elites see it. Instead, they are looking for ways to remove all societal restrictions on what the wealthy can do. Taxes take away freedom from the rich. But abortion rights and even marriage laws do not affect them. They can buy their way around them. If a wealthy man wants to marry another man, he can set up the legal framework to have everything but the title “marriage.” And if he really wants the title, he can just live full time in another country. As for abortion? If a wealthy man wants his daughter to have an abortion, he’ll just fly her to Amsterdam.[1]

The morality of Romney and his peers is that of the aristocracy. The rich are rich because they are better than the rest of us. Therefore, there should be no limits on their behavior. And in general, there aren’t.[2]


[1] Note that this is largely what the Democratic Party has become since President Clinton. The people who fund the Democrats are socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. They still want to screw the poor. They believe in gay rights for rich people. A homeless gay man doesn’t think that his life is bad because he can’t marry another man. And so on among the various Democratic Party constituents.

[2] Here’s a nice video that goes along with Reich’s article:

“Power Players” on Jeopardy! Out of Touch

Jeopardy!This week on the game show Jeopardy! they are presenting “Power Players,” which is basically media figures. Tonight the show featured evil spawn of an arguably great man, Chris Wallace; proof that anyone can become a doctor and have their own TV show, Dr Oz; and hardly great but the British press are almost always better than their American peers, Katty Kay.

Early on, two “answers” really struck me. The first was, “The tax credit only poor workers qualify for.” The answer (obviously) is “Earned.” The second was, “Keynes’ book ‘The General Theory of this, Interest and Money’.” The answer (obviously) is “Employment.” Not one of these “Power Players” got these “questions.”

This made me think that the reason must be that they don’t have to worry about things like earning money and being employed. These are society’s elite. They don’t need to think about the stuff that occupies the Little People.

When the show started, I wondered, “Why would these people go on Jeopardy! when they might embarrass themselves?” I found the answer very quickly. The “answers” were trivial compared to those normal contestants (“Little People”) face. You know, this is the way it has to be: the lives of these “Power Players” aren’t easy enough.