Kate Zernike, the New York Times's Tea Party reporter, can add another scalp to her collection. This one belongs to ‘obscure' Nobel Prize-winning economist Freidrich Hayek and his wacky theories like "rule of law."
"Once-obscure texts by dead writers" such as Hayek, wrote Zernike, are full of "long-dormant ideas" and strange arguments like Hayek's claim, as summarized by Zernike, that "government that intervened in the economy would inevitably intervene in every aspect of its citizens' lives." Who would believe that?
Hayek, meanwhile, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974 and is widely considered to be one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century. But Zernike just can't get over his radical views, principally that he advocates "a return to the principles of Austrian economics" and "the rule of law." I know, real wingnut stuff.
Zernike tries her best to depict the content of the books as whacky and extremist, citing, for example Bastiat's arguments that taxation is legally sanctioned theft or his argument against taxing alcohol, but she strains to paint anti-tax and anti-entitlement arguments as being "out there," even going so far as to write that "the rule of law" is "Hayek's term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of ‘personal ends and desires.'"
In other words, preventing politicians from usurping citizens' rights. This is apparently considered radical at the New York Times.
If I had said a day ago that your typical New York Times reporter doesn't have the vaguest sense of what the rule of law means, I would have heard from all sorts of earnest liberal readers - and probably some conservative ones too - about how I was setting up a straw man.
Being opposed to minimum wage and government handouts, however, is racist, according to some of Zernike's past articles, and Zernike has called the Tea Party itself racist and has called Brooklyn native Jason Mattera racist for speaking in a Brooklyn accent and wrote an entire book about why she thinks the Tea Party is racist. In short, she has an impressive record, and she is probably not the most impartial person for the Times to have covering the Tea Party.
Zernike has also advised Republican candidates to "Enlist [Tea Partiers], but Avoid Speeches About the Constitution," presumably because the Constitution is even older than any of the books mentioned in her article. But its not just the Tea Party that takes advice from old dead people whose ideas apparenty carry less weight because they are dead.
John Maynard Keynes, who died in 1946, 46 years before Hayek did, still influences politicians' attempts to spur economic growth through government spending. In fact, Keynes' ideas--and Hayek's for that matter--are still being taught in university economic departments. Here's a headline: "Long-ago texts still taught at university!" "Long-ago legal opinions still pored over in law school!"
At the liberal One Nation rally on October 2, there were tables selling books like The Communist Manifesto (1848), Marxism & Terrorism (Leon Trotsky) and The Jewish Question (1971, Abram Leon), as documented in this Americans for Prosperity video.
Or, as Dr. Tibor Machan wrote in The Daily Bell:
Frederick Bastiat's The Law, from 1850, and F. A Hayek's The Road to Serfdom from 1944, are selling like hotcakes among Tea Party members. OMG! How awful. Next we will be told that some people are studying Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Hume, Smith, Locke, Marx and other authors of "long-ago" texts in order to learn about political economy, ethics, social philosophy and such.
Zerike even found it interesting that Tea Party activists are studying these economic and philosophical works as if they were scholarly texts:
Doug Bramley, a postal worker and Tea Party activist in Maine, picked up "The Road to Serfdom" after Mr. Beck mentioned it on air in June. (Next up for Mr. Bramley, another classic of libertarian thought: "I've got to read ‘Atlas Shrugged,' " he said.) He found Hayek "dense reading," but he loved "The 5000 Year Leap."
"You don't read it," Mr. Bramley said, "you study it."
Across the country, many Tea Party groups are doing just that, often taking a chapter to discuss at each meeting.
There you have it: The anti-intellectual Tea Party is studying some of history's classical works. How radical of them.