Wall Street Journal Editorial: Perkins Was Basically Right

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 30 2014 12:41 PM

Wall Street Journal Editorial: Perkins Was Basically Right

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This is just like the Diary of Anne Frank, basically.

Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

My takeaway from Tom Perkins' publicly expressed fear of a "Progressive Kristallnacht" is that even rich and successful businessmen have lots of dumb ideas and we shouldn't pay them too much deference and respect. The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, by contrast, thinks that invoking the Nazis was unfortunate but that Perkins is basically correct:

Maybe the critics are afraid that Mr. Perkins is onto something about the left's political method. Consider the recent record of liberals in power. They're the ones obsessed with the Koch brothers and other billionaires contributing to conservative causes, siccing journalists to trash them and federal agencies to shut them down.

I guess one question you could ask here is who is the really "obsessed" one—is it the conservative person who spends tens of millions of dollars on advancing conservative political causes, or is it the liberal person who complains about it? But, look. Vigorous political debate in which liberals strongly criticize the views and actions of conservative activists and vice versa is pretty much the literal opposite of using violence to establish a totalitarian dictatorship.

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At any rate, I return to my basic point about rich people and dumb ideas. There are a lot of dumb ideas expressed by the Wall Street Journal editorial pages on a daily basis. And these dumb ideas appear to garner a considerable audience inside the business community. Presumably because the ideas, though dumb, are flattering. People like wealth. And people like power. But people also like to feel like embattled underdogs. One of the main downsides of being rich and powerful is that it becomes difficult to develop a self-conception as an embattled underdog. But here is the Wall Street Journal editorial page to oblige you. And so people who can think very clearly about their own businesses or investments nonetheless wander around in a fog of ridiculous political ideas.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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