Thursday, November 20, 2008

Financial Crisis Meets the War on Christmas

I don't generally read opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal, on the advice of countless liberal bloggers who say that the WSJ opinion pages are as bad as the paper's financial reporting is good. But sometimes I stumble across a doozy I can hardly resist, like this op-ed comparing Bush to Batman (favorably, and ridiculously) and this op-ed which paints Obama as a third world populist. But it appears Daniel Henninger isn't content to let others hog the spotlight, and uses this column to race to the bottom of the barrel of dumb:

This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

One had better explain that.

Yes, one had better. After some blathering about "moral hazards" (everyone's favorite catch-phrase these days it seems) he comes right down to it: the global financial crisis can be blamed on "secularists" (read, liberals):

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

Boy, have we seen this play before. Literally every year you can count on the culture warriors to blame the downfall of western society on retailiers who won't let their employees say "Merry Christmas" and force them to renounce both Jesus and Santa Claus by saying "happy holidays" instead , I guess for fear of angering the tens of millions of liberals, atheists and secularists who threaten boycotts, stand-ins and marches every time they're forced to listen to someone say the word "christmas." The new twist, at least to Henninger, is that the pall of fear that descends over America each Christmas when secularists demand to have the Christ taken out of Christmas has undermined the moral virtue of our nation, which in turn led to people on Wall Street making foolish and greedy decisions and thus causing the subprime and global financial crisis (as opposed to just leading people to get more abortions, as in years past.) According to Henninger, in years past when America was more religious and anyone could say "merry christmas" without fear of shunning, capatalists in general practiced the virtues of thrift, common sense, and concern for their fellow man. Never mind that they didn't.

Of course this is all ridiculous. Henninger plainly wants people to stop blaming lasseiz-faire capitalism itself for our problems, and being as the holidays are right around the corner what else comes to mind but the now time-honored tradition of blaming atheists and secularists?  The problem is that, as you and I well-know, capitalism is premised on selfishness. In fact, a capitalist system needs selfish and greedy people who want to make a ton of money to survive. This is completely incompatible with the spirit of Christmas (or Christianity, for that matter) but Henninger couldn't write a column blaming securalists for the woes of our economy if he were to acknowledge this basic and simple fact. 

Henninger and I actually agree on something; the financial crisis was caused in part by excess greed and selfishness. His solution is to coerce poeple into saying "merry christmas!" My solution (and the solution of most liberals, progressives, and people with any damn sense in their heads) is to restrain the greed of people when it threatens the economic health of our nation. Who's recommendations should people take more seriously than? I would say November 4th convincingly answered that question. 

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