Atrios says (in response to this post at Obsidian Wings): But one day I hope this country grows up and recognizes that the fear that maybe someone is getting something I’m not and they don’t deserve shouldn’t be the primary philosophy of governance.

I’ve read two autobiographical books by Nobelist James Buchanan, a major figure in public choice economics and the brains behind Welfare Cadillac Republicanism, and there’s ample evidence that his primary philosophy of governance is exactly what Atrios was talking about. He came from a gentry family in a bigoted area of the former Confederacy, and he left the Democratic party in 1948 during the Dixiecrat rebellion. There’s plenty of evidence besides that, too.

The Welfare Cadillac meme is powerful propaganda because everyone can think of someone they know personally who a.) they hate, b.) is a moocher and a scrounge, and c.) benefits from a government program that many other, better people do not benefit from. It doesn’t have to be racist; it could be an acquaintance, neighbor, or even a relative. (This is the Republican politics of envy).

Because they’re very concrete and vivid, people like that are the ideal anti-welfare state poster children. They are especially useful for the anonymous, faceless scam artists systematically looting the government for much larger amounts of cash. (Public choice economists seem to have been infinitely less vigilant about looting by deregulation and privatization.)

The best way for Democrats to shunt this question aside would be to make examples of a lot of individuals in finance: make them famous, destroy their reputations forever, and repeat a simple story line over and over again for weeks on end, as though they were so many OJ Simpsons.

Of course, that could never happen. First, all of the media are owned by malefactors of great wealth. Second, the Democratic Party itself is owned by malefactors of great wealth. And third, it would be populist to do something like that, and Hofstadter has taught all good Democrats that populists are Nazis.

So we’ll have to make do with the second-best plan, which is to trust ourselves to the “shit happens” theory of history and hope that things turn out well.