Assorted links


Re #2: Because, obviously, the Tea Party is crazy and needs a diagnosis.

Well, yeah. Those radical extremists wanted to keep the country from going deeper into debt. There's no asylum strong enough for people like that, I tell ya.

$17 trillion and counting, baby!

Right, that was their only policy, to keep the country from going deeper into debt. It's not like they favored holding our economy hostage by forcing us to default on our debt or anything.


Do you understand why not being able to roll over our short-term debt was such a potential problem?

Default was never a possibility or a desire of anyone.

Well, there was one person who could conceivably have caused default had the ceiling not been raised. Not exactly a Tea Partier, though.

Jim, they voted to lower taxes and increase spending. That promotes debt.

Really? On net? Citation? The debt is not the issue. It is the proxy for the issue. That's speaking for myself more than diagnosing The Tea Party.

Are we supposed to pretend that the only thing the TP wants is to reduce the national debt?

Exactly. If you read the interview Bloom does not even mention debt in the Tea Party context.

OTOH some other Tea Party positions make me a wee bit more uncomfortable:

--adherence to an originalist interpretation of the United States Constitution.
-- most noted TP national figures include Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin,
--positions on gays and lesbian issues

Yup - this guy may be a great literary critic, but he's seriously goofy when it comes to politics. If he's looking for fascists under the bed, he would do far better with his fellow lefties who start every third sentence with "We (meaning the State) should do X", not small-government types.

First they created the Rural Electrification Administration,
and I didn't speak out because I didn't live the country.

Then they created the FDIC,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a bank.

Then they created Social Security,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't old or disabled.


Gotta have somewhere to put the flawed attorneys...


2. Read this part and ignore his dumb misdiagnosis.

"One must read, try to possess by memory, and be possessed by the very best that has been imagined, cognitively apprehended and expressed powerfully. Thinking clearly and well is based upon memory. Unless you have read and absorbed the best that can be read and absorbed, you will not think clearly or well, and democracy will not survive."

Good advice about reading and thinking, but the "diagnosis" and Godwin's Law transgression seem to undermine the point: in this concrete instance, Prof. Bloom's reading has not led to clear thinking.

If democracy can't survive unless most of the voters are big Shakespeare fans, how has it managed these past 200-plus years? How ever do the Japanese and Koreans manage? Bloom, like most academics, thinks his field is all-important and absolutely critical. You can find philosophers who think we must all be philosophers, economists who think we all must be economists, and so and so on ad infinitum. They are all silly.

One of the biggest problems with American education is that students spend too much time reading "literature." You can go K-12 without ever once even touching a non-fiction book (except textbooks). It's extremely limiting, and guys like Bloom with their pontifications are a big part of the problem.


I'm not sure what remedy you envision.

A. With many books in the social sciences and physical sciences, just about anything except a textbook assumes a certain level of competence in the underlying field--and often at least some familiarity with the canon in that field. Even high schoolers will not yet have the requisite groundwork for reading those non-fiction books.

B. Many history books are more accessible, but how much time during the school year (or, more to the point, how much precious classroom time) can a school devote to, say, a 400-page monograph on the Crimean War? Once you get beyond textbooks, many non-fiction history books are to focused to be useful in pre-college curricula.

C. Maybe we could have kids read more non-fiction essays and short autobiographical works in place of fiction--in stead of reading Orwell's "Animal Farm," have them read "Homage to Catalonia" or some of his essays.

I'm not sure what Ken had in mind, but what about books like "Guns Germs and Steel", "Freakonomics", "The Checklist Manifesto" 'The Skeptical Environmentalist" etc? I'm sure there's non-fiction out there that does not need a great familiarity with the underlying field?

I think too that American school-kids get too much literature and not enough analytic reading. Many kids are comfortable talking about existential angst, symbolism, magic realism, etc. But not as many can identify logical fallacies, causality, deductive and inductive reasoning, necessary and sufficient conditions etc.

I'm not sure what cold fix this but I suspect more emphasis on GRE-style reading comprehension might help. The literature classes hone creativity, subjectivism and alternative interpretations but in all this hard, objective, black-and-white reasoning skills are sometimes lost along the way.

Right, because those are real historical classics. Let's teach the young about the world through books published in 2009 on hot-button issues.

Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" should satisfy Bloom and KenF.

2. I was wrong. You are not interested in becoming a "good scholar" blogger. You opted for the worst --to be a "good mercenary" blogger. Only an idiot pretending to be useful links to another one willing to say this (concluding paragraph of the interview):

"We have this horrible contemporary phenomenon in the Tea Party – a real menace not only to America but to the world. Because if it goes on like this, they will destroy our economy and they will destroy America. They have no democratic vision, and I don't mean with a capital “D”, I mean with a small “d”. They frighten me. They're like the early followers of Adolf Hitler, and I'm willing to be quoted on that. They are a sickening phenomenon. That is because they have not read deeply and widely enough. But then maybe they’re not to blame, because American education – even in elite universities – has become a scandal in my opinion. It has committed suicide."

BTW, that's not a diagnosis. It's just the standard insult that intellectuals shout to ordinary people that reject them.

Agree that there was no diagnosis. I would like to know why he feels this way. What is so frightening? What aspects remind him of proto-Nazis?

That they're not Communists.

their anti-intellectualism - that's pretty obvious, isn't it?

To be clear, as little as I like the Tea Party, I think the comparison is crazy. What's interesting, of course, is that Bloom is one of the intellectual super-heroes of old-school conservatism and his attitude exemplifies the distrust between Tea Partiers and Buckley-type establishment conservatives. (just like Hindenburg distrusted Hitler ;-)))

Yeah, I still don't get it. Tea Partiers are anti-intellectual only in the sense that they are not interested in certain ideas, much as the author is not interested in certain ideas (those of the new academy).

Tea Partiers go around handing out copies of the Constitution, for example. That is hardly anti-intellectual. They read the Federalist Papers, and the anti-Federalist Papers. They read Samuel Johnson.

"anti-intellectualism" doesn't mean people don't read at all - probably most anti-intellectuals throughout history had some texts they read and referred to frequently. The first sentence of the WP article is pretty good:
"Anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical and contemptible."

I think it's pretty hard to deny that a large part of the TP has a very dim view of people usually considered intellectuals and is critical of science (global warming, evolution, etc.). You'll also hear frequent derision of Ivy-league degrees and of academic (as opposed to real world/business) learning from tea partiers. As many people have pointed out, these (including the emphasis on religion) are common traits of US populist movements of various kinds and hardly new. It's natural for conservative elitists like Bloom to feel threatened by that type of populism. What I find interesting about this is that tea partiers and conservative elitists are now represented by the same party.

Link does not constitute an endorsement, wake up!

Then, tell me why you link to an insult. You need to wake up to what is going on in your country. If you want to be part of the mercenary media, please say it openly. It's your choice and I accept it, but then don't pretend to be "the good scholar".

Snap you tea partiying types sure are very touchy for people whose ideas are so obviously better than the rest of America's.

It's almost as if your ideas don't have the strength to stand up on their own without you accusing everyone who disagrees of being on a conspiratorial vendetta against you.

Your comment would have a point if the linked article contained any actual ideas. Instead, all we get is an silly stereotype that Tea Partiers don't read and a blatant violation of Godwin's Law.

Tell me, was there a single real thought regarding modern politics on the third page of that interview?

I didn't read the article. I'm not interested in partisan ranting no matter who does it.

I just think people like e here should be aware that no one cares enOugh about him to insult him. People can disagree with him without it being a personal issue.

I'll put up quietly with pompous e. But pompous thin-skinned e needs to count to 10 before getting so defensive.

You remind me of the early followers of Hitler.

They've got Tea Partiers in Argentina?

Linking to Nazi comparisons reflects poorly on you, wake up!

"BTW, that’s not a diagnosis. It’s just the standard insult that intellectuals shout to ordinary people that reject them."
Isn't this similar to how followers of Peron were treated? And Hugo Chaves now?

Yes, some intellectuals have been insulting Peron's followers since 1946. But I can tell you that since 1983 and in particular since 2002, many Peronist intellectuals have been insulting the ordinary people that oppose them (just read what has happened the past few weeks). That's why most intellectuals stay away from politics --not all intellectuals have the vocation to become useful idiots.


By my estimate about 90% of your comments consist of insults and declarations of your own superiority. Extremely tiresome.

Why don't you get your own blog and try to write something constructive? You might even succeed.

Another 5% are ad hominem attacks, and attempts to hijack threads with comments that are orthogonal to the topic posted. And twice a week Barandarian gets constipated if he doesn't demand that Tyler comment on some esoteric article Barandarian has dug up on the net.

99% of what Irvin Kirshner did wasn't The Empire Strikes Back and I'll be damned if he wasn't more important than I'll ever be. I also have no idea what the other 99% was. It's easy to ignore.

2. You have introduced to us another clueless professor.

Bloom seems eminently qualified (Professor of Humanities at Yale - BARF - where he has been poisoning young minds since earning his doctorate in 1955) to diagnose global economic and national political destruction wrought by 22(?) Tea Party Reps in Congress. Or, is his wisdom result of 60 years of hard drinking?

The latest moronic liberal (I repeat myself) lie is the incipient double-dip recession is the result of the debt ceiling debacle caused by Tea Party. Apparently, he thionks Obama-generated economic woes have nothing to do with the Euro debt Armaggedon, Mid East upheavals, German GDP growth death, growing US private sector risk aversion from uncertainty on health care costs, taxes, regulations, etc. Truth is the soaring debt ceiling quickly could have passed except the Obama negotiating strategy is, "You ain't in the bus, you is under the bus!"

Bruce Thornton, “The 2012 presidential election will be a referendum on democracy.” The issue will be is this the United States of America or The United States of Entitlements?

Apocryphal Ben Franklin, “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the Republic”

It bears repeating - Bloom is no liberal. Bloom hates liberals and thinks they're responsible for the decline of literary studies. Bloom was, for a long time, a conservative icon and still is to many conservatives.
That's the only reason why his vitriol against the Tea Party is interesting.

Nothing like a mention of the Tea Party to bring MR's usually high quality comments down to Michelle Malkin territory!

A 'mention' or a guy comparing them to the followers of Adolf Hitler? Are they really like the followers of Adolf Hitler? They have to be for his diagnosis to be correct because that's what he says.

So, this guy's supposed to be some hot-shot literary critic, and yet the only thing that he can add to our political discourse is a clumsy violation of Godwin's Law?

Yeah, I think I'll go back to safely ignoring him.

Godwin's Law is not a rule of polite discourse, it is an observation. A violation of Godwin's Law would be if Hitler never came up.

Well, you can't move towards 100% if you start at 100%.

The internet needs a new terminology, as in, e.g.:

GODWIN'S PROPOSITION: "In any internet discussion, as the discussion continues, the probability steadily rises that some participant or participants will make a comparison to Hitler or use Hitler and/or the Nazis as an example."

GODWIN'S LAW: "Thou shalt not resort to Hitler comparisons in internet discussions."

One is predictive, the other proscriptive.

2. Maybe Tyler's mention of the diagnosis is a clue to the piece as a whole: i.e., the Tea Party remark is so stupid that it should influence what you think of Bloom's five recommendations.

Unfortunately, the stuff he actually appears to be an expert in seems interesting. When Bush the Dub was in full terror, I witnessed a lot of academic signaling. So, this is probably the same kind of thing, though it doesn't really help.

The babies are funny.

I am seeing the fallacy of mood affiliation throughout this comment thread!

Danke, Chris.

Sorry, it's the idiocy of pretending to be an intellectual, someone above ordinary people, particularly above the morality and intelligence of ordinary people.

Who's pretending to be an intellectual here? Sorry, I didn't get your comment.

Who are you insinuating is an idiot? Tyler? Why?

Bloom. Tyler is just an accessory to Bloom's idiocy because he circulates Bloom's insult.

Sorry, it's the foolishness of pretending to be an intellectual, someone above ordinary people, particularly above their morality and intelligence.

RE: #4
Econonomic? Senegal could certainly use some more noms

"Not reading books results in disaster!", man who reads books for a living claims. Yawn.

The Tea Party is not alone in not reading literature. I am willing to bet that members of most political movements today, including both mainstream liberalism and mainstream conservatism, are not very literate, because our society is simply not very literate. The exceptions are probably the lunatic fringe of each side and the libertarians: they read because their ideology is mostly spread by books rather than by mainstream culture. But if they were to become the mainstream they'd probably stop reading too.

Isn't the Tea Party part of the fringe?

What's the source re TP reading habits?

I have no data on the reading habits of the Tea Party. But I am willing to bet that they are not very literate. My reasoning is solely this: the members of the Tea Party are alive and in the 21st century, and most people alive in the 21st century are not very literate. For the same reason, I assume (again without data) that most supporters of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney are not very literate. I forget which economist-blogger it is who advocates resolving issues by placing bets, but I'd be willing to place a bet on all of these unsupported statements I'm making.

I should add that I myself am not very literate: I find literature boring and read almost exclusively non-fiction. So when I call somebody illiterate, I'm not insulting them or trying to connote something negative.

I'll second that -- despite numerous good faith attempts, I find fiction impossible to read as I can never get over the feeling that it's a complete waste of my time.


Does one have to read literature to be deemed literate? Non-fiction doesn't count?

My money is that the TPs HAVE read some non-fiction. Specifically, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, and probably Common Sense. NONE of which do you get in today's government edutopia.

A chap who purports to be standing up for literary standards shouldn't take a question like this lying down: "Do you individuate from your precursors in your own work?" For, if I may say so, fuck's sake.

Harold Bloom:
"We have this horrible contemporary phenomenon in the Tea Party – a real menace not only to America but to the world. Because if it goes on like this, they will destroy our economy and they will destroy America. They have no democratic vision, and I don't mean with a capital “D”, I mean with a small “d”. They frighten me. They're like the early followers of Adolf Hitler, and I'm willing to be quoted on that. They are a sickening phenomenon."

What the heck. Why not, let's parse the actual non-fluff claims:

A real menace to American and the world: Not really. They are in part a chastening of GW Bush's Republican party. They are in part opposed to the Bush doctrine. That wing may be easily overrun by the hangers-on and the frontrunners, but then again how useful were the Democrats in opposing the Bush doctrine?

They will destroy our economy (And America): Well, not by too many wars (see above). The economy I guess if you believe The Government Are Us. I don't. Will a total lack of Keynesianism destroy America? I don't think so, isn't the worst case scenario a second Depression?

They have no democratic vision: I don't know what this means. They seem to be going about things by elections. They are asserting their franchise. They haven't shot too many people yet.

They’re like the early followers of Adolf Hitler: I'm not sure what this means.

I can only assume that the early followers of A. Hitler were big proponents of property rights

Fixated on fecal matters.

The tea party diagnosis bit was to flag that, while Harold Bloom may have interesting things to say about literature, he tacks on an unrelated political diatribe at the end.

Tyler often links to Bloom's literary stuff, and Bloom is perhapst he most well know "literary critic" in the old mold- meaning someone who is a connoissuer of literature rather than someone who spins off convoluted theories of epistomology and culture using the jargon of postmodernism. He attacks the latter type in the opening paragraphs of the article and suggests they have corrupted america's english departments.


I'm waiting for the post where you admit you just might be wrong about the merits of gold as the base monetary asset of the global financial system, instead of US Ponzi debt being emitted by the truckload every minute. Or perhaps just an impassioned argument against the move afoot by central bankers to move towards a gold reserve system, including large scale gold purchases by CBs around the world. And I would think that the sickly showing of the DXY versus gold as a safe haven during the 2011 market collapse vis a vis the 2010 and 2008 collapses would be of interest to your readership. Especially since the Euro is in such terrible shape, and the Euro is by far the largest component of the DXY.

I'd also love to hear if you have any thoughts on upcoming money printing / dollar trashing plans, such as QE3, operation Twist 2, or whatever other schemes we can expect coming out of Jackson Hole.

Oh, I'd also like to hear a discussion of the 16 trillion dollars of secret loans provided by the Fed to foreign TBTF commercials and central banks since 2008. Do you think it is possible that by throwing around sums of money larger than the GDP of the United States (and larger than our on-the-books debt) there might be issues with tradables inflation and moral hazard when those who lent money to the profligate and insolvent are made whole via trashing of the currency?

That makes one of us.

Re #3: First he robs his client, now he robs the public (via conversion).

As usual, soft-headed law enforcement encourages lawlessness. If he were on my beat, I'ld write him a ticket every hour (or whatever the law allows). Let him ignore it for a couple of months, impound the car, and auction it off for the tickets. Problem solved.

Lawyers work?

Only the disbarred ones. Obviously.

Here's a snippet from Wikipedia about the Tea Party that has me scratching my head:

The Bloomberg National Poll of adults 18 and over showed that 40% of Tea Party supporters are 55 or older, compared with 32% of all poll respondents; 79% are white, 61% are men and 44% identify as "born-again Christians",compared with 75%, 48.5%, and 34% for the general population, respectively.

44% of Tea Partiers are born again Christians? 34% of the American population identifies itself as born-again Christians? Really?

Do those numbers seem high or low to you, Rahul?


But maybe I misunderstand what the "born again" phrase means?

Noun 1. born-again Christian - a Christian who has experienced a dramatic conversion to faith in Jesus

I understood the "dramatic conversion" part to mean something wacky like hearing sounds and seeing halos etc.

Yes, same as anon . I thought the percentages seemed pretty high too. At first I thought it was just the Tea Party but then it seems to refer to all the population. I've heard a lot of people call themselves Christians but not that many that refer to themselves with the born-again epithet.

(More)Proof that erudition does not entail wisdom.

Wow, Tyler, what happened to your comments? You need to get a moderator in here or all the good commenters will be driven away.

Yikes. Not one of Bloom's best moments.

Bloom needs to calm down. Maybe read a book.

It was a dark and stormy night, onboard the fart-filled cabin of a tugboat on the cold-as-a-witches-tit North Sea. Suddenly, a shot rang out.

Interesting that #5 makes reference to Polanyi, but there are no actual Polanyi cites in the paper.

Re #5, lawyers like complaining about how dumb other lawyers are. Pope is Catholic. Bears sh*t in woods.

Confused yet? It gets better. At this point you’re probably thinking,Great

Comments for this post are closed