David Brooks, the New York Times’ genial sorta-conservative columnist, views the financial reform debate roughly as I do, which makes me tentatively pleased that the GOP turned the lemmings back from the cliff yesterday:
The premise of the current financial regulatory reform is that the establishment missed the last bubble and, therefore, more power should be vested in the establishment to foresee and prevent the next one.
If you take this as your premise, the Democratic bill is fine and reasonable. It would force derivative trading out into the open. It would create a structure so the government could break down failing firms in an orderly manner. But the bill doesn’t solve the basic epistemic problem, which is that members of the establishment herd are always the last to know when something unexpected happens.
Kudos to Brooks for nicely stating what is obvious to me. Cries and lamentations that it is unknown to most of Congress, whose centralizing impulse continues because it so nicely fits a good guy/bad guy mythology. As Brooks says:
If this were a Hollywood movie, the prescient outsiders would be good-looking, just and true, and we could all root for them as they outfoxed the smug establishment. But this is real life, so things are more complicated …
In this drama … the establishment was pleasant, respectable and stupid, while the contrarians were smart but hard to love, and sometimes sleazy.
However, Congress is mostly ignoring the outsiders, vying for the white hat role itself.
Elsewhere on the Grey Lady’s editorial page, Linda Greenhouse, who usually functions as a Supreme Court reporter with supposed neutrality, gives free rein to her fury at Arizona for its new immigration bill:
I’m glad I’ve already seen the Grand Canyon.
Because I’m not going back to Arizona as long as it remains a police state, which is what the appalling anti-immigrant bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week has turned it into.
[T]he phrase “lawful contact” makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, [but] another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. “A person is guilty of trespassing,” the law provides, by being “present on any public or private land in this state” while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented.
I don’t think the “police state” label is a good fit, even if the new law is ugly. Most Arizonans are walking around without fear of police hassles, after all, while everyone cowers in a police state.
I’ll not make it a point of principle to follow Greehouse’s lead (and in fairness, she’s not explicitly calling for a boycott), if only because I want to return to St. Anthony in the Desert Monastery. But if you want to get an eerie police state feeling, drive down to the Monastery from Phoenix to the north. You’ll pass through Florence, whose dominant industry is prisons. Several of them. Public and private prisons (e.g., Corrections Corporation of America), large and forbidding, lining both sides of the road on the drive through town. It’s like stumbling onto something that was deliberately moved out of the way because of its brutal ugliness. One almost wants to divert one’s eyes, the better to say, if challenged for straying onto a scene the public wasn’t meant to see, “I didn’t see nuthin’, and I won’t tell nobody! Please, Officer, let me go!”
It oddly makes the Monastery seem particularly apart from the (seedy) world, coming and going from a day visit or pilgrimage.