in Kulturkampf

Michele Bachmann and the Piety of Production

At Salon, Andrew Leonard muses on Michele and von Mises:

One of the most striking things I have learned about Mises is that, at least while writing “Human Action” in the late 1940s, he appears to have suffered from a sense of aggrievement at how the lessons of classical economists were being ignored during his day, whether by American New Dealers or Soviet communists. Mises is a truth-teller, but everywhere, his gospel is being ignored or trampled.

Members of any culture under stress — or perceived stress — are dependable volunteers. Bachmann has always been a kulturkampf volunteer. Inhabiting a fact-free world of reactionary organizing, her world is all fear, all the time — fear that Christian or American culture is in terrible danger. Producerism is also a belief system, one as counterfactual as ‘intelligent design’ or climate change denial, in which the culture of individual economic freedom is under relentless assault. Do you see a pattern here?

On the one hand, Michelle (sic) Bachmann has the word of God to guide her, as expressed through His son Jesus. On the other, there’s the word of von Mises, as expressed through the price mechanism. Absolute certainty exerts a potent seduction, whether spiritual or economic. Is it really all that strange that the two might go together? (Emphasis mine)

It isn’t, because culture warriors like Bachmann suffer from terminal irony deficiency. They never notice their own dissonance or reflect on the incompatibility of laissez faire and Christian red-letter text. It is why Glenn Beck can make a show of his piety and then denounce “social justice.”

This seemingly-strange marriage isn’t new, either; it has roots in the originating myths of the John Birch Society. It emerged in Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority,” as evangelicals declared that God had ordained capitalism. Indeed, for decades it has been a major project of the usual right-wing funding sources — just like climate change denial.

Bachmann isn’t an outlier, she’s a creature of the movement that made her. Her historical revisions are theirs. Her scientific revisions are theirs. Why should we be surprised that her economics come from within the movement as well, or as holy writ?

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