Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The ruling class’s unexpectedly old clothes

Jerry Stratton, October 27, 2021

I was re-reading an issue of 80 Microcomputing from July, 1981, when I ran across a familiar phrase:

Tandy/Radio Shack, Fort Worth, TX, had 31 percent higher sales this April than it did a year ago, and Garland P. Asher, director of financial planning for Tandy, sees it as a sign that the retail market is firming up. Asher said April was the third straight month of unexpectedly high sales figures. He said this may be a reflection of the unexpected strong upturn of the U.S. economy in the first quarter of 1981.

That would be, the unexpected strong upturn when President Reagan took office, with the expectation of all that he’d promised to do to restore American jobs and business. To leftist economists, the sudden, similarly thriving economy of 2017 was just as unexpected. Their forecast after Trump’s election was:

If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never… we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight.

Among the many dark jokes among conservative commentators is the use of “unexpected” to describe economic gains during a conservative presidency and economic losses during a Democratic presidency. Economic forecasts and even quarterly estimates during the Obama administration always seemed to have to be unexpectedly revised downward; the same forecasts and estimates during the Trump administration always seemed to be unexpectedly revised upward.

While I wasn’t aware that the “unexpected” turn of phrase went back to the eighties, I was aware that the press had the same worldview then. Things were always unexpected to them whether they used the word or not. In Straight Stuff: The Reporters, the White House, and the Truth, James Deakins looked at the United States economy in 1983 and concluded that Reagan was doomed to be a one-term president. The already visibly-improved economy under Reagan was unexpected, and could not possibly last. In fact, the economic growth under Reagan was the start of one of the longest sustained periods of growth then or since. Reagan won his second term.

It isn’t just the economy. I’ve seen the same blindness from the socialist media complex when reporters write about events during those eras. Lawrence Weschler, writing in 1981 or so about the Solidarity-inspired Polish uprising changed his characterization of the Soviet Union depending on how it helped the Soviet Union. He ridiculed Reagan for calling the Soviet Union a “fearsome opponent” when it was, in reality, a “pitiful giant”. But when it comes to Solidarity’s hopes of, and Reagan’s predictions of, a Soviet collapse amid further breakaway republics, Weschler upgraded the Soviet Union back to a fearsome opponent. It was inconceivable to him that, six years after his book was published, Lech Walesa would be president of an independent Poland.

Orwell: mostly peaceful riots: George Orwell, 1984: The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.; George Orwell; riots

The same people who called the above a “peaceful riot”—over and over again—saw insurrection in protestors who burned no buildings, destroyed no vehicles, killed no police (or anyone else, for that matter), a group who followed the instructions of security personnel and filed politely up the right side of staircases.

That’s the prism of the left and their press: when conservative policies coincide with beneficial outcomes, it is always unexpected. They never see it coming.

Similarly, the breakup of AT&T’s government-sponsored monopoly in 1984 was accompanied by forecasts of technological doom. Innovation and quality would plummet once AT&T had to compete with other companies for customers. Instead, of course, phones and phone service got better, cheaper, and more reliable.

When Reagan removed price controls on oil, the press and the left thought it meant economic doom for the United States and the poor. The subsequent drop in the price of oil came entirely unexpectedly to the left—and was characterized as economically undesirable when it happened. They applied the same characterization as energy prices plummeted because of the efforts of oilmen in Texas and other conservative states, too. That the economy thrives when we have cheap energy is always unexpected.

If the ruling class is blind to the obvious benefits of conservative policies, they are even more blind to the obvious failures of leftist policies. We’re now over half a century into the Great Society that reversed the economic gains of the poor, minorities in particular, and blacks most especially, and no one in the press will admit to the obvious; they’ll call it racist when the obvious is pointed out.

Even into the 1960s, Soviet five-year plans were expected to bury the United States economically. To everyone except Ronald Reagan and conservatives, the collapse of the Soviet Union came unexpectedly, despite what, outside of the ruling class, were obvious signs. Weschler, for example, clearly saw those signs in Poland. He wrote about them, but did not understand them. They were outside his expectations.

Remember this when you hear a politician or a talking head claim that the government must take control of the economy or the market. The market and the economy are the American people. That the American people do better when they’re not controlled by the government is entirely unexpected to them.

In response to The Wisdom of Partisan: Throughout history, the people willing to split the baby have been the people who win. Can we break that thread?

  1. <- Direct line to riots