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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Friday, May 16, 2003

 

More Haynes bashing
I already tore into Haynes Johnson's The Best of Times, a handwringing account of the 1990's, but I'm not quite done. (The rest of this post is a version of a piece of a short essay I wrote on the book for a history class.)

Painting a full picture of something as massive and as recent as “the 1990’s” is a daunting task, and apparently impossible to do in an unbiased manner, if this book is to be taken as an indicator. Written by a journalist, who would, theoretically at least, be the best hope for an unbiased account, The Best of Times is nonetheless a sore disappointment for anyone expecting one. It is difficult to tell if Johnson went into this planning to write from a specific perspective, but failed to mention very prominently, or if he is simply too enmeshed in his own ideology to recognize the many instances when it distorts the story he is supposedly trying to tell. A conservative can hardly expect an apologetic for the free-market system or other conservative ideals from the book, but there are some instances where Johnson crosses the line from questionable to irresponsible in his omissions.

One of the most blatant instances of this apparently unconscious bias comes in his discussion of government regulation and deregulation of television and radio. With no sense of irony whatsoever, he discusses, with a sense of admiration, the explosive rise of the personal computer and the Internet—among the least regulated technologies in modern history—and soon afterwards laments the deregulation of deregulation of television like Jeremiah mourning Jerusalem.
In his defense, he does play up the role that government played in the development of computer and Internet technology, but seems to ignore the fact that this was a military project, not an FDR or LBJ induced federal program. And once the private sector got its hands on the technology, the government didn’t touch it until the Microsoft anti-trust case—and even that only fiddled with a relatively small portion of computer technology. Anyone truly fond of free markets looks back on the 1920’s regulation with a tear in their eye, wondering what could have been achieved if Hoover had behaved a little more like Reagan. Perhaps nothing—but the explosion of technology that accompanied Reagan’s laissez faire policies should be enough to give one pause.

Johnson gives Reagan and his conservatism no credit for the technology boom, however, most likely because he didn’t do anything (except, of course, help to win the Cold War, providing an era of heretofore unknown peace to which those same technologies added prosperity—but Johnson conveniently forgets that part as well). But to a free-market conservative, that is exactly the point—he didn't do anything
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