November 16, 2011

$1.6 million paid to historian: Nice work if you can get it

From the NYT:
The report from Bloomberg News, which said Mr. Gingrich received at least $1.6 million [from Freddie Mac], is signifcantly higher than previous estimates of Mr. Gingrich’s compensation for what he has described as his work as “a historian” for the troubled mortgage lender.

Gingrich was out of power at the time, so this wasn't a direct bribe, it was more an attempt to mold opinion to keep Freddie respectable by buying the friendship of a voluble famous guy, with maybe some big payoff down the road if Gingrich made a political comeback. Moreover, paying Gingrich a lot after he was out of office serves to encourage the others in office to be nice to Freddie now in the hopes that they too can get what's coming to them down the road. 

In modern America, it's crucial for rich institutions like Fannie and Freddie to control what ideas are respectable and thus thinkable. 

For example, after Bill Gates got in trouble over anti-trust, he started the vastly wealthy Gates Foundation, which then, in Bill's own disillusioned 2009 words, wasted $2 billion on the New Left concept of turning high schools into "small learning communities." Why didn't anybody make clear to him at the time that this was a boondoggle? Because Bill gave $57 million to education think tanks, so that practically every "expert" that reporters called was on the Bill Dole or hoped to be. To thinktankers, $57 million is huge money, but to Bill Gates it's about as important as the change lost in his sofa cushions. So, Bill's dopey Ayers Brothers-inspired brainstorm was the height of respectability, until Bill himself got sick of it.

In contrast, one obvious way to help America's public schools over the next generation -- don't let in so many unintelligent foreigners with high fertility rates -- is simply unmentionable. There are lots of highly respectable ideas about school reform backed by huge amounts of money, but the single most sure-fire way to help the schools never even registers on the mental map of respectable opinion. Where's the money in it?

Similarly, being alarmed about carbon emissions causing global warming is extremely respectable. Not being alarmed about carbon emissions causing global warming is semi-respectable because the energy companies put a lot of money into keeping doubt alive. But to point out the tautologically obvious lesson that mass immigration from poor countries to rich countries causes increased carbon emissions isn't even not respectable, it's just unheard of. There's practically no money backing skepticism about immigration, so it's not respectable, and very little at all on the immigration leads to increased carbon emissions idea, so it's just unthinkable. 

This is just my self-interested bias, but my counter-intuitive take is that rather than go all blue in the face trying to crack down on Newt Gingrich and Michelle Obama getting paid off by rich institutions, the more valuable service to America would be to develop larger alternative sources of funding for ideas that aren't respectable at present. As you so often hear, there are a lot of rich guys in America. What's the point of being a rich guy, however, if not occasionally spending money on something that you find fun but that respectable opinion finds baffling or shocking?

53 comments:

Bill said...

A lot of rich guys seem to have the same mindset as everyone else -- that is, something awful (but vaguely defined) will happen if you step out of the bounds of convention.

Maybe it's true, but given what Soros gets away with I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the question of why rich guys are so left-liberal in their politics is a tough one. There's no doubt but that they are though. Even the supposedly "right-wing" billionaires, like the Koch brothers, skew towards the neocon/libertarian side of things. Which means they're as pro-open-borders as any cultural leftist.

Anonymous said...

There's a great section of the Wealth of Nations where Adam Smith explains how wealthy landowners tend to be patriotic and conservative, whereas wealthy owners of capital tend to be cosmopolitan and liberal in their political attitudes.

Anonymous said...

Didn't he get 4 million for Contract with America?

Anonymous said...

The pundits seem to feel it was the Democrats' way of seeing to it F&F had a big voice on the other side of the aisle supporting it, insulating the Dems and F&F from criticism.

alonzo portfolio said...

Blue-state chicks won't ball you if they think you're trying to reprise the Eisenhower years.

Anonymous said...

"There's practically no money backing skepticism about immigration, so it's not respectable, and very little at all on the immigration leads to increased carbon emissions idea, so it's just unthinkable."

I think you're overstating this. Garrett Hardin's Lifeboat Ethics was on precisely this point, and I first encountered it in a mainstream (i.e., Lefty) Environmental Ethics textbook in a mainstream (i.e., Lefty) university course.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, Steve.

It's funny because I think the unspoken thoughts of lefties when they look down their nose at you for overpopulating the world when you have more than two children is that "White people are bad, we use more resources so it's up to us to not breed, while everyone else has a free pass for unchecked birthrates."

And yet because immigration is to the point where our countries are nearly at the 50% white/non-white mark, non-whites use roughly as much resources as we do, if not more.

Anonymous said...

I know it's not your field Steve, but I think the idea that Israel really isn't America's BFF ought to be respectable.
It's coming though, and it now has far more smart proponents than immigration restriction type reform.

Thrasymachus said...

>>What's the point of being a rich guy, however, if not occasionally spending money on something that you find fun but that respectable opinion finds baffling or shocking?
<<

Because social conformity controls not even the rich, but especially the rich. Orwell talked about Huyhnhms of Gulliver's Travels in one of his essays, and the way they maintain conformity of thought by social pressure. I think Swift was really just describing the social environment of the English rich. This informal consensus of respectability is crucial to how Anglophone societies work.

I have tried to write about this, but the subtleties escape me. I think Steve should look into this.

David said...

Twain on "corn pone opinions."

dearieme said...

"There's a great section of the Wealth of Nations where Adam Smith ...": any teenager who read Smith, Darwin and Gibbon would almost certainly get a better education than he'll be offered at school.

candid observer said...

I think that if you are waiting for some rich guy -- who has spent his entire life paying attention to just about nothing but his business -- to have an original and interesting point of view when it comes to some other domain, then you should pull up a chair and sit down, because you've got a long, long wait ahead of you.

Yeah, sometimes they'll fund something different -- but usually, if it's different, it'll be crackpot.

These are not deep thinkers.

Anonymous said...

" But to point out the tautologically obvious lesson that mass immigration from poor countries to rich countries causes increased carbon emissions isn't even not respectable, it's just unheard of."

No, the reason why no one points this out is because it is an extremely callous thing to say. Listen to what you are saying...that it is a good thing that millions of people in most of the World continue poor and without cars so that a small number of spoiled people in First World countries can continue to polute in a vastly disproportional rate compared to the other 6 billion humans. Yes, let's stop global warming by keeping all those people poor and without cars by denying them the oportunity to immigrate and have better lives, while we will of course keep driving our SUVs and muscle cars with impunity. Then, there is the issue that a lot of the Third World is growing economically very fast and thus will start to buy cars and pollute anyway which makes your justification for stopping immigration from poor countries redundant. In 20 more years, 600 million more Chinese will be able to afford cars, which makes the potential addition of 60 million cars from Mexican immigrants to the U.S redundant in terms of World polution.

I have said it before and I will say it again: Steve's blog is all about coming with absurd, pseudo-intellectual "arguments" to stop immigration from Latin America. Everything bad that happens is to blame on Latin immigrants to Sailer, from the the mortgage meltdown to the current debt crises, everything is to blame on those inferior Latins. Never mind that the mortage crises was caused by the U.S government backing the real state firms, which made them make risky loans they otherwise wouldn't have made. There were millions of poor white people in the U.S before 1965, and yet no mortage crises. Why? Because since they were not backed by the government, they wouldn't risk loaning to people who probably wouldn't be able to pay back. Simple as that. As for the debt crises, it is all the fault of WHITE AMERICANS. It is white Americans who live way above their means and buy all that crap from China and not Latin immigrants who are happy to just being able to affors foo.

I think Sailer should just stop with the excuses and come out and say that he thinks Latins are inferior, that he doesen't want them in his coun try and that's it, instead of trying to rationalize by making up arguments to justify stopping immigration by trying to weave webs between events that are extremely remotely connected to immigration and trying to blame all of it on immigration.

Anonymous said...

now you sound like a conspiracy theorist. I completely with everything you said. That is the way it works. But you seem not to like similar arguments coming from others with .... different goals.

MC said...

"There are lots of highly respectable ideas about school reform backed by huge amounts of money, but the single most sure-fire way to help the schools never even registers on the mental map of respectable opinion."

What is that sure-fire way?

Chicago said...

Bring up a touchy subject like this and you get hot air blasts like the screechy church sermon from one of the above anonymous posters. Like it's our job to uplift every aborigine in the world and ruin ourselves in the process.

RKU said...

As you so often hear, there are a lot of rich guys in America. What's the point of being a rich guy, however, if not occasionally spending money on something that you find fun but that respectable opinion finds baffling or shocking?

Actually, this presents an interesting thought-experiment on the true distribution of power in modern American society...

Consider the position of Bill Gates around the year 1999. He served as CEO and dominant shareholder of the world's largest corporation, which absolutely controlled all the software found in the computers used by nearly everyone everywhere. His personal wealth stood at around $100B, making him by a huge margin the richest individual on the globe. His name was a household word among people in every country, and he was arguably among the most dominant industrialists in all of human history. From a naive (or perhaps a naively Marxian perspective), he might seem the most powerful person in the world, or at any rate among the tiny, tiny handful of the most powerful. And Gates was certainly a very smart fellow, even brilliant perhaps, and very well-connected.

But suppose at that point Gates had happened to make a casual public remark on some extremely touchy matter, perhaps a highly un-PC statement or claim or speculation on any one of a number of different subjects. If this had been widely circulated in the media, I have little doubt that he would have been rapidly and utterly destroyed, losing his company, his reputation, and perhaps a large portion of his personal fortune. He would have been crushed like a bug.

When "the most powerful man in the world" obviously possesses absolutely no public freedom of speech or thought, perhaps he's not really "the most powerful man in the world" and our naive analysis is sorely mistaken.

I seem to recall that during the Thirties the top government leader in the USSR was officially the President. But when Stalin, whose official possition was quite lowly by comparison, grew irritated with the USSR President over some trifling matter, he had the man's entire family shipped off to the Gulag without a moment's hesitation, while still keeping the fellow himself in his top position, since he was utterly loyal. By contrast, no one would have dared imprison Stalin's cousin's best-friend's hairdresser without his complete authorization.

Similarly, when the Emperor Caligula appointed his favorite horse to the highest official position in the Roman government, that underscored the difference between "official" and "actual."

"Rich guys in America" didn't get to be rich guys in America by being suicidally stupid...

Nanonymous said...

Gingrich was out of power at the time, so this wasn't a direct bribe

OK, let's call it what it is then. "Indirect bribe". Also let's have no illusions as to whether Gingrich understood that it is a bribe or not. He did. That's what people become politicians for.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Gates just didn't go the way of the Rockefeller and Sloan Foundations and just fund mathematical, scientific, and medical research. Instead like Ford and virtually every other foundation afterward he decided to fund b.s. social science and humanities "research" which never produces anything. Well, he still has 40 or 50 billion more, perhaps he can still do something important with his money.

Mel Torme said...

"Not being alarmed about carbon emissions causing global warming is semi-respectable because the energy companies put a lot of money into keeping doubt alive."

What a load of crap. Not being alarmed by additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is semi-respectable because any scientist or engineer, when talked to in private, will admit that there is no damn working model of the entire world's climate. (We don't even know exactly what causes the ice ages, and when the next one will occur!) To have a working model, all physical processes must be understood, and they're not. In addition, even if all processes are known and modeled correctly, an entire synthesis of the math into one model will still have loads of errors.

You don't know squat about physical sciences, Steve, so I wish you'd quit with the global warming/cooling/whatever-it's-doing-these-days crap.

Great site, otherwise.

Svigor said...

There are lots of highly respectable ideas about school reform backed by huge amounts of money, but the single most sure-fire way to help the schools never even registers on the mental map of respectable opinion. Where's the money in it?

The money would be in PACs. You know, citizens who want to preserve their country. Quaint, I know, but there's money there.

It's just not worth the down-side - the enmity of all the wrong people.

Same thing with nationalism - it's "bad for you" because people will smash you if you try it.

Mr. Anon said...

I'm disappointed that a thread nominally about Newt Gingrich has not featured more dumping on that odious little swine.

So here goes. Guess how this tireless advocate of leaner, smarter government began his congressional career, back in 1979? By voting yes on the bill which established the Department of Education:

http://www.lessgovisthebestgov.com/Newt-Gingrich-Candidate-President-Republican-Primary.html

That was long before he had graduated to accepting million-dollar bribes.

Gingrich could almost be considered the republican Ted Kennedy, except that Kennedy was actually much more likeable.

the Dude said...

To the fellow with the long comment about Latins this and Latins that: is Latins short for Latino-American? Cause I can't see nor hear any Latin around me. Are you lazy and can't type the whole thing? What's with this Latin, Latino, Latina? If you want to sound more educated, drop this nonsense.

Svigor said...

Bill, it's not all that vaguely defined. Rich people in the public eye probably have a good idea what a smear campaign looks like.

Yeah, the question of why rich guys are so left-liberal in their politics is a tough one.

Because that's the way the wind is blowing. Why? Because a substantial portion of the rich and powerful decided it'll be that way, for various reasons that are only partially economic.

40% of the Forbes 400 is Jewish, you know. That buys a lot of allies, and there ain't much competition. And the Jewish motives for leftism have been gone over to death so there are few mysteries there anymore.

There's a great section of the Wealth of Nations where Adam Smith explains how wealthy landowners tend to be patriotic and conservative, whereas wealthy owners of capital tend to be cosmopolitan and liberal in their political attitudes.

Farmers vs. Usurers, Apollonians vs. Mercurians, Blood & Soil vs. Gypsies, Werewolves vs. Vampires...

I think you're overstating this.

Yeah, wonks get more freedom than the peons who get all their ideas from TV and newspapers.

Because social conformity controls not even the rich, but especially the rich.

Yep. Nobody's as status-obsessed as a celebrity or public figure.

I think that if you are waiting for some rich guy -- who has spent his entire life paying attention to just about nothing but his business -- to have an original and interesting point of view when it comes to some other domain, then you should pull up a chair and sit down, because you've got a long, long wait ahead of you.

Yep. It's hard enough to build something and get to the top without cutting off your nose to spite your face.

11/16/11 4:59 PM

You're still no good at this.

Bring up a touchy subject like this and you get hot air blasts like the screechy church sermon from one of the above anonymous posters. Like it's our job to uplift every aborigine in the world and ruin ourselves in the process.

See? Chicago took you apart in two sentences.

Svigor said...

Bill, it's not all that vaguely defined. Rich people in the public eye probably have a good idea what a smear campaign looks like.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's stop global warming by keeping all those people poor and without cars by denying them the oportunity to immigrate and have better lives.


Dear God, you're emotional! While you're on a roll, do you have any outrage left over for the fact that I'm being denied (denied, I tell you!) the opportunity to pollute the environment like a fat-cat capitalist because I don't have my own private Gulfstream jet? If you must splutter in outrage, splutter in outrage over that.

Anonymous said...

I have said it before and I will say it again


Indeed, Anonymous, I have seen your comments here frequently. They run the gamut from brilliant to idiotic.

morleysafer said...

It seems to be restating some evergreen themes of the blog so pardon me for saying that Sailer is always waxing rueful about 21st Century Davos Man having overtaken Herbert Spencer's X Club and I believe it is probably not a constructive point. To be filthy, disgustingly, obscenely rich, and ergo important these days requires more transnational get-along-go-along than ever in human history. "Tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut" etc; it's why the Ayn Rand characters now seem so laughable, or more laughable than previously. Since you mentioned Bill G it is fitting to link the Michael Kinsley breakdown of D.C. America 2011 (very snitty reaction from journolists then since his wife is still a higher-up in the Gates shelter, or something similar, as I lost track of their Fourth Estate soap opera)

cablinasian said...

Nov. 16, 2011

to his Dudeness, maestro of cultural sensitivity:


Which adj do you advise for uniformity, "Latino" or "Latina" or possibly "Latinao/oa" How 'bout we fab a boilerplate initialism, DGH(a)TBC3 Dual gendered Hispanic alternatively tranny bicurious 3rd-sexer -- can't proceed talking about 300 mil people unless we get the phrase 100% precise and full-on professorial, comprende? Please set us straight, communicating in convenient terms everyone understands immediately isn't enough, we gotta acknowledge Internet pedants too! Sincerely, people in need of edification

map said...

There's a great section of the Wealth of Nations where Adam Smith explains how wealthy landowners tend to be patriotic and conservative, whereas wealthy owners of capital tend to be cosmopolitan and liberal in their political attitudes.

Where is that?

eh said...

I don't know anyone who can stomach him. So I think if he offered to disappear forever from the public eye in exchange for money, he could collect a lot more than that. I'd make a contribution.

Conatus said...

Great Post! It kind of makes you wonder if ideas really ‘percolate up from the bottom’ or are they special billionaire inflated balloons?
Seems to me a good reason to direct anger at billionaires. That is one thousand million dollars! The only reason anyone needs a billion dollars is to prove his(or her)d**k is bigger than the next obsessive. You could never spend it all and at most it would buy a few more years of life(Steve Jobs new liver). I just do not understand the social utility of the existence of billionaires?
Their existence is demoralizing to the rest of us with dirt under our fingernails. They would make a fine rhetorical target for both parties. Admittedly taxing the hell out of them would not solve our debt problems but it would make the rest of us feel less foolish, not in terms of I-couldda-been-a billionaire but in terms of why bother to think about any of these bigger social ideas if the billionaires pay for and control the debate?

Nanonymous said...

Too bad Gates just didn't go the way of the Rockefeller and Sloan Foundations

Don't forget Hughes. His establishment of Howard Hughes Medical Institute provided a veritable bonanza funding to the cutting edge biology/biotech research.

David said...

Anonymous 11/16/11 4:59 PM:

Tell all your homeboys, Jose: I'm not going to ruin my family so your family can be on top. Make something of yourself in your own country, don't come here looting mine and whining when you meet resistance. The principles of a cockroach are NOT morality. Clear enough now?

neil craig said...

I don't think the survival of global warming scepticism was caused by the $ thousands of dollars given by the oil companies, most of whom had given mullions to alarmists (the government having given billions). I think it genuinely was a number of honest emeritus professors and others who respect science.

These have now been joined, following the failure of the globe, after 32 years, to show any sign of catastrophic warming and following the climategate fraud, by some journalists wanting to hedge their bets by not being on record as having been entirely supportive of something that is clearly a fraud.

I may be being insufficiently cynical but I think there are people who support things just because they believe them. Otherwise I wouldn't read you Steve.

Anonymous said...

I know it's not your field Steve, but I think the idea that Israel really isn't America's BFF ought to be respectable.
It's coming though, and it now has far more smart proponents than immigration restriction type reform.



Immigration restriction is so much more important, though, which is why I wish Sailer didn't try both crusades at once.

21st Century Paleo Man said...

OT Robert Fripp played the guitar parts on "Windows Vista" apparently--lame

Whiskey said...

I will have something up soon on why the West cannot close the door on immigration. Looking at Israel, which being small, threatened, and Zionist should be the best case and yet finds itself paralyzed. There are two forces, basically, the cheap labor for service/low end manufacturing, and the legalist/moralist. Of the two, I'd argue the latter is more powerful, counter-intuitively. In some ways it is the global triumph of Protestant moralism (without that inconvenient Christianity). It speaks to what you've noted Steve, moralistic status competition.

[Good catch anon on landowners vs. capital -- Trump is more conservative than say, Buffett. Because he's stuck. Give every American some land, they'll be conservative.]

Whiskey said...

School reform is already here. "My Teacher is an App" on the WSJ noted how internet learning ala the Khan Academy allows both problem kids and those wishing to escape bad schools the freedom to learn at home. Drill by computer, and internet access to the "best" teachers ala the Khan Academy or Great Courses. Eventually parents will pay to school their kids at home ala carte buying each course from competitively rated teachers, operating globally. While public school attendance WITHERS among the White middle/upper class and thus tax support.

As for Latin Americans, Whites don't want to live in Mexico. If we did we'd have moved there. Why do Mexicans have the "right" to move here and transform our culture and nation when we do not have the right to mass emigration and transform Mexico into a Sunny New England? You can't have one-way open borders, if imperialism and colonialism is bad for the third world it is bad for us. Unless your view is just "I hate White people." Which seems to be the default of most Latin Americans.

As for Israel, as the Democratic Party and media/university system become more dependent on Black votes/support, anti-Israel stuff will rise. Blacks hate Jews and Israel more than any other group in America. Think Louis Farrakhan. Most of this is emotionally based -- Jewish ability in cognitive fields far outstrips anything Blacks have been able to accomplishment, hence hatred and resentment. Dunking a ball through a hoop only gets one's group so far.

Anonymous said...

"What's the point of being a rich guy, however, if not occasionally spending money on something that you find fun but that respectable opinion finds baffling or shocking?"

Sex with attractive women?

Justthisguy said...

Bill Gates is an aspie, and thus starts out honest. An honest aspie can get rapidly disillusioned when he meets up with the right awkward bastards who are the actual movers and shakers. I had this happen to me, in a much smaller way.

beowulf said...

"A lot of rich guys seem to have the same mindset as everyone else -- that is, something awful (but vaguely defined) will happen if you step out of the bounds of convention."

In my experience, a lot of them have the Panglossian "this is the best of all possible worlds" mindset. After all, their very success is proof that the cream does indeed rise to the top.

NOTA said...

anon 7:54:

The Gates foundation funds a bunch of medical research, too. My guess is that the Gates' took the consensus expert opinion on what needed to be done in a bunch of areas. Where the consensus was smart (send Insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets to places with malaria), this worked out. Where the consensus was wrong (every high school kid should be on the college prep track), it didn't.

beowulf said...

"Blue-state chicks won't ball you if they think you're trying to reprise the Eisenhower years"

Oddly enough, this is quite inaccurate. Many many Women love jackasses, so if voting Republican is what makes a girl think you're a jackass, then I say go with the flow.

beowulf said...

When "the most powerful man in the world" obviously possesses absolutely no public freedom of speech or thought, perhaps he's not really "the most powerful man in the world" and our naive analysis is sorely mistaken.

Its not anything more complicated than what Spiderman's uncle said, with great power comes great responsibility.
The press and the politicians will give a lot more leeway to someone they think is a good guy versus someone who's clearly a pig.

The smartest thing Gates did was at the time of his wedding (he was already a billionaire), it was leaked he hadn't asked Melinda to sign a pre-nup. It made him look like a mensch.

Anonymous said...

Sex with attractive women?

Which doesnt explain John Lennon and Yoko Ono, or indeed Paul McCartney and Linda. OK, argument from anecdote and all that.

NOTA said...

Actually, a fair number of rich, prominent, powerful people do step outside the ruling class consensus in public. Overwhelmingly, nothing happens to them other than maybe being ignored or called mean names. The Koch brothers aren't in a GULAG or hiding out in Europe, despite having and loudly backing a bunch of non-mainstream opinions. And who was that rich guy who was heavily funding the ACLU until he got clobbered by the financial meltdown?

However, a large fraction of the people who get paid to talk and think about political and social issues work for organizations that have ideological bounds. Being loudly anti-Iraq-war in 2006 was a good way to lose your nice gig at the Heritage institute. Saying nasty stuff about Israel can cost you your media job. Getting the wrong answers in your research on racial IQ differences probably makes it hard to get tenure or grants.

There is something really dangerous there. Most of the people who get paid to think about important policy issues have to weigh intellectual integrity against financial stability. That guarantees that some heretical ideas simply never get much attention, because examining them honestly is career limiting. I don't know the best solution tothis, but we need to come up with some way other than what we have now to pay some people to think deeply and research policy questions.

Kylie said...

"'Sex with attractive women?'

Which doesnt explain John Lennon and Yoko Ono, or indeed Paul McCartney and Linda. OK, argument from anecdote and all that."


Apparently, John and Paul both got way more than their fair share of sex with attractive women before they decided to settle down with, respectively, Mommy and money.

Simon in London said...

Yes, but - if you fund thought-crime, you become a thought criminal. Then you don't get invoted to the best parties, or whatever it is rich people care about. Here in Europe they may put you in jail.

Anonymous said...

Good news, the recession has changed hispanic birth rates from over 3 to 2.4 per children.

Harry Baldwin said...

Whiskey said...Give every American some land, they'll be conservative.

Isn't this the theory that brought us the mortgage meltdown, courtesy Bush/Rove?

NOTA said...

The mortgage meltdown = the ownership society + grade inflation