Diary

Absurdity Then, Absurdity Now

There’s a famous quip by one English intellectual about another. “Oh, you know what so-and-so’s idea of a tragedy is: A beautiful theory killed by an ugly fact.”

Well, don’t I know it.

I wrote a column, recently, for Townhall.com, entitled “The Buxom Bailout Babes of the Umpteenth Brumaire.” In it I noted that while the Great Depression was a tragedy, today’s economic debacle, though a repeat of it, is more farce. To demonstrate its farcical nature I noted that some people are seriously talking about bailing out the newspapers, which have hit hard times.

And nothing, I assured my readers, could be more absurd than that. The point of having newspapers is to be critical of government. To have government support them would turn them into worse propaganda rags than they now are.

The trouble with this? Well, FDR, way back in the tragedy, also subsidized newspapers. Well, at least one.

Bailouts weren’t exactly the main thrust of the New Deal, but they happened. And, like most political acts, they were politically motivated. FDR was worried about Philadelphia, which was solidly Republican. The Democratic newspaper was failing.

So he bailed it out.

Simultaneously he set the IRS on the publisher of the Republican newspaper. In the next election, the area turned Democrat.

Here’s one theory that won’t be disproven: In government, it’s politics that matters.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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