Thursday, November 20, 2008


A number of people have already commented on this Daniel Henninger op-ed from The Wall Street Journal, which argues, in all seriousness, that we're in economic trouble because we've taken Christ out of Christmas -- but I want to say a few words about it.

If you haven't read it, no, I'm not exaggerating:

...And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say "Merry Christmas" and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.

This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

Yes, Henninger says there's a cause-and-effect relationship; the explanation is below.

But first, Henninger explains what didn't get us into this mess: inadequate regulation of buccaneer capitalism. His evidence? He doesn't have any. He simply declares that it just can't possibly be so:

... What happened?

The answer echoing through the marble hallways of Congress and Europe's ministries is: regulation failed. In short, throw plaster at cracked walls. Trusting the public sector to protect us from financial catastrophe is a bad idea. When the Social Security and Medicare meltdowns arrive, as precisely foretold by their trustees, will we ask again: What were they thinking?

Then he tells us what did go wrong:

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions....

There are a hundred things wrong with this nonsense, starting with the fact that in this burst-bubble period (as I've noted before) bankruptcies have actually correlated with high church attendance -- states with the most regular churchgoers have tended to be states with lots of bankruptcies, and less religious states have had less bankruptcy.

Now, Henninger's not a stupid man. Read his bio -- Pulitzer, American Society of Newspaper Editors Award, several other awards, sheepskin from Georgetown, editorship at the Journal ... the guy isn't a dumb rube.

But the intellectual center of the conservative movement right now consists of dumb rubes -- dumb rube bloviators, dumb rube audiences, even a much-admired dumb rube vice presidential candidate. (I'm not using "rube" geographically; rube-ism is a state of mind, so Sean Hannity, from Long Island, counts.)

Henninger's been part of a movement centered on dumb-rube ideas for so long that it appears he's actually started to believe some of the dumbest of those ideas. He genuinely believes that people in America are afraid to say "Merry Christmas." He genuinely believes that greed and financial foolhardiness simply didn't exist in America until the past couple of years, at which time they began to be spread across the nation by a Christmas-related "dereligioning."

This kind of nonsense was supposed to be peddled by pundits to keep the rubes voting for the plutocrat party. The pundits weren't supposed to believe it. But Henninger does.

Dealers of highly addictive drugs aren't supposed to get hooked on their own product -- at least not if they're smart. But Henninger has fallen prey to his own supply of mind-numbing junk. Every well-educated pundit who treats Sarah Palin as a plainspoken savant, or who parrots the sophistries of the McCain campaign ("Obama's a socialist" and the like) is similarly dipping into the stash.

No comments: