Rick Santelli: My New Hero
By David Henderson
In response to Bryan Caplan’s post this morning about Hank Rearden and Atlas Shrugged, one of the commenters, Bob Murphy, made an insightful comment and another commenter, megapolisomancy, recommended the following youtube video of CNBC’s Rick Santelli. This is fresh from this morning, before the market opened. I highly recommend it. Santelli taps into the resentment of the productive class towards President Obama’s attempts to bail people out from their bad decisions. Listen to the whole thing.
I especially like Santelli’s giving his crowd credit for not being “putty in his hands,” but for actually listening to what he’s saying and responding to it.
I think it does get to something Bryan misses and another commenter on Bryan’s post mentioned: that there’s a basic unarticulated libertarianism in a large percent of the U.S. public that few people are articulating. I had an experience like Santelli’s that was not as dramatic but that reinforced my view about some basic libertarianism in Americans. Here’s an excerpt from one of my three articles (here and here) on that experience:
When I had first joined the campaign [against the tax increase for a failing government hospital], I had wondered what, if any, response I would get from my colleagues at the Naval Postgraduate School and from people generally in the community. A number of my colleagues have commented in the past, generally favorably, when I have an article in Fortune or the Wall Street Journal. But local politics is different for two reasons. First, a much higher percent of my colleagues and of my neighbors read or listen to local media than read Fortune or the Wall Street Journal. Second, local issues tend to generate more passion, I think because people feel more in control of local issues and feel hopeless about their ability to control national issues. I’m known somewhat in my town of Pacific Grove for my 10 years of coaching young girls in basketball, which began when my daughter started in 3rd grade and continued long past her participation because I enjoyed it so much. But, other than that, I’m somewhat anonymous in my community. So would people’s attitudes to me change?, I wondered.
I’m happy to report that they did. I noticed it first at a Navy school retirement party for a colleague. I went up to say hi to a senior economist colleague, one whom I’ve always liked and respected as an economist, but who, partly because he’s in a different department, I have not talked to at length for more than a decade. “I want to thank you for all you’re doing for us taxpayers. You’re performing a real public service,” he said.
I beamed and decided to say something that a fellow economist would appreciate. “You’re welcome. I’ve calculated how much money I’ve spent on this campaign and estimated the value of time I’ve put into it, and I’ve already put into it more than the present value of the amount I’ll pay in this tax over my lifetime.” We both chuckled.
A few minutes later, I approached a senior colleague from the Math department who said approximately the same thing. Although I’m guessing that I have colleagues who disapprove, they were lying low. After the campaign ended, one junior economist colleague in another department e-mailed me his congratulations and said that he thought we should have emphasized the regressive nature of the tax and, therefore, the fact that the tax would have added to the very poverty that the revenues were supposed to solve one of the effects of. I replied that he was right, but that, with a limited budget, we could do only so much. I suggested, though, that for the next sales tax fight, he write such a letter to the paper.
In the community generally, I received an even more positive response. I ran into people in my everyday life who volunteered to me that they liked what I was doing and thanked me for it. After the campaign ended, a number of people volunteered that they and their spouse had voted “No.” One woman who had a daughter attending the same high school as my daughter wrote me a nice note thanking me and when I called her to acknowledge her note, we talked for half an hour. When I called a neighbor about a completely unrelated matter, she told me she had voted No and that she had been an employee at Natividad for 20 years and it was so badly run that it was beyond hope. So one of the most positive unintended consequences was that I felt like more a member of my community and more like a respected community leader.
One last point: whenever I write a post, I have to choose a category. There’s no category that nicely fits this point. We don’t have a category for “Morality.” What does that tell you about how effectively we’re communicating to people about our deepest values?