Let’s start with the skinny on Ms. Shlaes: she is simply the beneficiary of wingnut welfare. After graduating with a bachelors in English, she proceeds to spout the most predictable right wing economic theory imaginable, and following her marriage to the right wing founder the New York Sun, gets herself columns, and becomes a senior fellow at the CFR. As Matthew Yglesias notes:
I have a really, really, really hard time imagining the CFR doing something comparable for a liberal with so little in the way of relevant qualifications or track-record outside an ideological cocoon.
That being said, some of the beneficiaries are not outright stupid, and Amity Shlaes is either naturally or deliberately so.
Because in her WaPo OP/ED, she continues with riffing on her thesis, pulled from lord knows where, that the the 1937 recession was a result of rich people tucking their money back in their mattresses.
Not even Milton Friedman believed that. He blamed then Fed Chairman Marriner Eccles for tightening credit requirements.
The stupid, it burns us.
That being said, Amity Shlaes is in this instance not the columnist most deserving of opprobrium today, that honor belongs to Ruth Marcus, who does not merely set herself up as an advocate for stupidity and ignorance, but instead advocates for the aggressive protection of evil.
After getting what I am sure is hundreds of outraged emails for her last justification of letting the architects of a torturer regime go free, she thinks that she step up to the plate again 11 days later.
How, some readers asked, could future law-breaking be prevented if past misdeeds go unpunished?
First, criminal prosecution isn’t the only or necessarily the most effective mechanism for deterrence. To the extent that they weigh the potential penalties for their actions, government officials worry as much about dealing with career-ruining internal investigations or being hauled before congressional committees. Criminal prosecution and conviction requires such a high level of proof of conscious wrongdoing that the likelihood of those other punishments is much greater.
Second, the looming threat of criminal sanctions did not do much to deter the actions of Bush administration officials. “The Terror Presidency,” former Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith’s account of the legal battles within the administration over torture and wiretapping, is replete with accounts of how officials proceeded despite their omnipresent concerns about legal jeopardy.
This is because there is already a culture of impunity among Republicans in Washington, DC, and it’s been there ever since Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon before even an indictment was handed down.
These people knew that George W. Bush would pardon them, like he pardoned Libby, because he was protecting his own neck.
The cycle of impunity, which appears to extend only to Republicans, needs to stop.
Third, punishment is not the only way to prevent wrongdoing. If someone is caught breaking into your house, by all means, press charges. But you might also want to consider installing an alarm system or buying stronger locks. Responsible congressional oversight, an essential tool for checking executive branch excesses, was lacking for much of the Bush administration.
I’m sure that the guy with the electrodes attached to his genitals is happy that you are considering closing that barn door after the arsonist has set fire to the cow.
There was no good will here. There were no honest mistakes. Waterboarding is torture, and has been considered so for hundreds of years, what’s more, the people with experience in the field have been saying consistently that torture does not work.
Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld were torturing not because there was a ticking bomb, there wasn’t, and not because they were desperate for information, because it wasn’t getting good intel, they were torturing because it made them feel like they were taking it to the terrorists.
They authorized torture because it made them feel good, and they continued it after they were shown that it did not work because it made them feel good, this is a classic definition of sadism, and absent some jail time, the sadism will be institutionalized.*
*No intention to condemn the S&M crowd. Where informed consent is present, the moral equation is different.