Global Economic Crisis? Blame the Gay!

Rob Tisinai

September 6th, 2011

Mark Steyn is a bestselling conservative author. Frank Pastore is the host of the biggest Christian radio talk show in the US. The radio host has been promoting Steyn’s big lie about economist John Maynard Keynes.

I’ve written about this in depth elsewhere (go here, if you’re a policy geek), but to summarize, Steyn writes this in his new book:

In his pithiest maxim, John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of the 20th century social-democratic state and the patron saint of “stimulus”, offered a characteristically offhand dismissal of any obligation to the future: “In the long run we are all dead.” The Greeks [currently in upheaval over their economic crisis] are Keynesians to a man: The mob is demanding the right to carry on suspending reality until they’re all dead. After that, who cares?

He’s got the quote right, but the interpretation is pure dishonesty.

Keynes wrote that in 1923, snapping back at classical economists who believed the government should do nothing when the economy goes wrong. It’ll fix itself in the long run, they said — which Keynes viewed as small comfort to hard-working folks who lose their jobs or homes or savings before the long run finally arrives.  As Keynes put it:

The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again.

Keynes wanted the government to even out the business cycle by running budget deficits in bad times, balanced by surpluses in good times. That way we’re not passing down debt or a wildly unstable economy to the next generation.

I learned about Steyn’s lie when Frank Pastore repeated it on his talk show. Their agenda is clear:  Those who want to stimulate the economy aren’t just bad — they’re horrible, selfish people who care nothing about the future.

But what does this have to do with gays?

Well, nothing, I thought, until my Friday evening commute when I heard Frank Pastore interviewing Steyn on his radio show.  Here’s my transcription (or you can listen here):

Frank Pastore: Mark, I was just checking the Drudge Report:  the lead headline right now is talking about the United States for the first time in history is ten trillion dollars in debt,  and of course the reality that in the West at large and specifically here  in America we just can’t continue to pay for a social welfare state.  Where’s the money coming from and it goes back to something that Keynes said, “In the long run we’re all dead.” Explain that.

Mark Steyn: Yeah, I’m always struck by that line. He’s the most influential economist of the 20th century. Barack Obama is a Keynesian to a fault, they fall back on Keynes to defend the stimulus and all the rest of it. [dramatic pause] Keynes was a childless homosexual, he was a libertine in many ways in his personal life. And I think that reflected his particular view of the purpose of life: “In the long run we are all dead.” That’s his most famous quote, it’s the one that’s in Webster’s, it’s the one you can — if you’ve only got one if you’ve only got one quotation from Keynes, it’ll be that one in whatever quotations book you look up. And I think that’s not how humanity works, that human existence is a compact between the present and the past and the future…

<snip>

Keynes just says, “Huh! Nuts to that, in the long run we’re all dead.” And that’s what you see in the streets of Athens, when those guys are rioting, and that’s what you see in Madison, Wisconsin –-

Frank Pastore: Yes!

Mark Steyn: — when those union workers are saying they’re going to defend those –- they don’t care if their privileges bankrupt the state. In the long run they’re dead, as long as they keep the checks coming till they’re dead, they don’t care what it does.

Frank Pastore: Yeah, and who’s going to end up paying for this? And, well, basically, screw our kids and our grandkids. And we’re doing that, and it’s like it’s the mindset of, “Well, hey, after all, in the long run we’re dead.”

Emphasis added.

Steyn isn’t just continuing to bear false witness against Keynes and Keynsians. No, he offers up Keynes’ sexual orientation as an obvious explanation of how the man could be was so awful: Surely Keynes wasn’t as terrible as that — wait, he was a homosexual? Oh, well then of course he was a selfish bastard!

You almost have to admire Mark Steyn’s big brass balls. He’s attacking Keynes’ character and he’s doing it by telling a lie! But that’s just the start. During the middle of dishonest rant about the debt crisis, Steyn also manages to toss in a smear gay about people in general (though to be fair, he might only want to slander childless gays, and he’d be just as eager to demonize straight people who aren’t parents — ya think?). It’s as if he’s doing a product placement for homophobia in the middle of his movie about the recession.  People are selfish, don’t care about community, want to steal from our kids, yada yada yada — oh, and it’s all because we trusted a homo.

Sadly enough, that’s one product that still seems to sell.

Charles

September 6th, 2011

I hope that you are wrong about Mark Steyn. I do agree with a lot of what he has to say. But this is over the top.

Aaron

September 6th, 2011

If anything Keynes was bisexual. He had a successful marriage with a woman which by all accounts was happy. The reason they were childless is because his wife may not have been able to bear children. She definitely suffered at least one miscarriage.

Everything said in that radio broadcast was disgusting.

andrew

September 6th, 2011

Can’t figure out how they’re developing the shorthand that if he’s gay he must have a concommitantly shorthanded social agenda and belief system. That just by identifying his sexuality, his politics must therefore follow, and you can therefore label his economic theories accordingly.

Now do you understand the danger of allowing gays to be stereotyped as holding a specific set of values, ideas, and political philosophies?

I’m not letting these idiots off the hook — but I’m pointing out that it’s possible to play into their hand. They’re working hard enough to put us all into one philosophical box, and some of us feel the urge to hand them a roll of packing tape

Matt

September 6th, 2011

Thanks for an interesting blog post — economics, history, and a gay angle!

I don’t think Steyn’s interpretation of the “long run” quote is pure dishonesty, and I don’t think you make the case that it is, either here or on the other blog. You cite Keynes’ good intentions, his desire that the government move when people feel pain — OK, and I’m sure a conservative like Steyn wouldn’t be surprised by people he disagrees with invoking good intentions.

But Steyn said Keynes “offered a characteristically offhand dismissal of any obligation to the future.” And he did! Right there, he did. People never have any shortage of good intentions for their policy prescriptions, but consequences matter, too, and Steyn has a pretty good example for his argument. He points out what is, I think, a peculiar and revealing flaw in Keynes’ work. And I think it’s a valid criticism.

You are right to point out that the invoking of Keynes as a “childless homosexual” is silly and unconvincing. Keynes was married, and according to at least one biography, his wife became pregnant but miscarried. All according to plan, no doubt! Plus, I’m not sure how Greece fits with the childless-gay angle (Spain would work better, as far as PIIGS countries go, no?) Steyn is singularly fixated on his ideas about demographics and cultural decline, and his grand overarching of-a-piece vision of humanity, and he is not very good with specific, individual, complicated human beings.

Bruce Garrett

September 6th, 2011

Thank you for illuminating the Keynes quote for me. For the longest time I thought he’d simply been misquoted. Now I know better.

The first time I heard that quote was in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. It was something her one-dimensional straw man band of looters said occasionally throughout the story…Rand’s way of telling her readers how morally corrupt they were, living only for the moment, looting the economy and not caring a whit about the future.

It’s another data point for me about her, as if I really needed one by now. If Rand had ever read that quote of Keynes, and I am certain she must have, then she’d have known that the way she was using it was completely dishonest. But then honesty with her readers/followers was something you really can’t accuse Rand of.

Bruce Garrett

September 6th, 2011

No. Keynes wasn’t dismissing the future. He was accusing some economists of dismissing the present. He was saying if they have nothing to offer the living they’re not doing their jobs. “This too shall pass” isn’t helping people who need to feed their families now.

Leo

September 7th, 2011

Doesn’t Steyn live in Canada?

Not exactly a country given over to completely unfettered market driven capitalism, but he seems to survive quite nicely.

Lorenzo from Oz

September 7th, 2011

It is amazing how no one’s bad ideas are ever “explained” by their heterosexuality.

Hue-Man

September 7th, 2011

wiki: “Steyn, a Canadian citizen, now resides mainly in New Hampshire in the United States.”
Steyn, David Frum, and Conrad Black are three Canadian-born individuals that are welcome to remain in the USA permanently. All three hate everything about Canada until they have to face the day to day reality of current American conservatism (wing-nut version).

tavdy79

September 7th, 2011

Perhaps Mr. Steyn would like to explain why we are in the middle of the greatest recession for eighty years when Keynesian economics (which are aimed specifically at reducing the consequences of recessions) were rejected by most Western nations about 35 years ago?

Priya Lynn

September 7th, 2011

Matt said “You cite Keynes’ good intentions, his desire that the government move when people feel pain — OK…But Steyn said Keynes “offered a characteristically offhand dismissal of any obligation to the future.” And he did! Right there, he did.”.

No he didn’t. The future Keynes was referring to was one in which things have returned to a good economic climate. He was saying it doesn’t matter to people now if things improve after they are dead As Bruce said he was criticizing those who offered an offhand dismissal of any obligation to the present.

Timothy Kincaid

September 8th, 2011

Keynes wanted the government to even out the business cycle by running budget deficits in bad times, balanced by surpluses in good times.

Well… I’d say our country’s politicians (of both stripes) are half Keynesian.

Priya Lynn

September 8th, 2011

Clinton ran a surplus in good times. These aren’t good times so Obama isn’t running a surplus. Times were good under Bush (until the middle of his second term) and he ran deficits. And now during bad times Republicans want to eliminate the deficit (and cave the economy and blame it on Obama).

Democrats are fully keynesian, Republicans are anti-keynesian

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