Friday, April 22, 2011

Liberalism: Crony Capitalism and Skewed Scholarship

What do you call the research-on-demand work of the climate science community? They are the chaps who have obediently produced the end-of-the-world global warming scenarios for their political paymasters, proving that global temperature is increasing at an unprecedented rate in the past century: the fabled hockey stick, and that CO2 is the main driver of climate change.

That's not to say that the Michael Manns and the Phil Joneses and the Keith Briffas don't believe in their science. Of course they do. That's what makes Climategate so sad.

In one word, as Marx would say, for noble, honest, independent scholarship, we have naked, brutal, direct, "skewed scholarship."

That is the nature of the academy in the liberal patrimonial state. Educators and scholars and moralists and researchers get to realize what side their bread is buttered on. When education or scholarship or morality or research is funded by the government, the educator's, scholar's, moralist's or researcher's bread is buttered on the side that delivers research that makes the case for more government power.

In this sense we may say that Skewed Scholarship is closely related to another feature of the modern state, the state run as a patrimonial estate by the educated elite: in a word, Crony Capitalism.

Crony Capitalism is the market economy dominated by the patrimonial state. CEOs and capitalists learn that the way to make easy profits is by getting aligned with major government objectives. It used to be public electric power in the 1930s. In the 1950s and 1960s it was aerospace. In the 1970s it was energy conservation and environment. Now it is clean energy and very fast trains. (Did you know that the Chinese are slowing down their very fast empty trains so they can lower the ticket prices?)

Crony capitalists cozy up to political actors and get favorable terms written into legislation. They figure out how absurd pipe-dreams like goals for renewable energy, wind and solar, can be turned into subsidies and guarantees and sweetheart deals for their companies.

So we may say that when you have a overweening patrimonial state that has money and power and a desire to dominate the economic and moral-cultural sectors, you get, as a law of nature, Crony Capitalism and Skewed Scholarship. Jonah Goldberg has called this political system Liberal Fascism. By whatever name we are talking about the tendency of the modern political system to tip more and more in the direction of political primacy, where the political system gets more and more power over the rest of society (to deal with its bigger and bigger failures) and makes bigger and bigger toadies of the crony capitalists and the skewed scholars.

The joke is, of course, that eventually, when the politicians run out of other peoples' money they blame the crony capitalists and the skewed scholars. Speculators, they cry! Speculators are driving up the cost of gasoline! The skewed scholars, of course, suffer a less dramatic fate. They just end up testifying before an unfriendly Congress that is suddenly shocked, shocked, by the mistakes in their research. And then their grants dry up.

He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Should that include crony capitalists and skewed scholars? Well, yes. They are living from the crumbs that fall from the table of government, the patrimonial state of the educated liberal elite. And government is force; politics is power.

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