“For the sake of the altar of the free market system, do you accept a Great Depression?” the member asked. – Politico

Such is the desperate refrain of the consensus-enforcing ideologue, and whether it’s Hilzoy or President Bush or Bill O’Reilly who sings it, the desired effect is the same: to bury honest debate beneath a paralyzing fear of impending catastrophe; to demonize those who resist the impulsive rush to immediate action; to raise false dichotomies that stand in the way of sober analysis. That such ploys were, as Glenn Greenwald and Daniel Larison have pointed out, exactly the ones used to push us into war with Iraq, has either been forgotten or is suddenly of strange unimportance: the situation is dire and will only get worse, and so we must act decisively and do it now. Do what? Why this, of course! Why this? Because we must! Now fall in line; it’s time to be bipartisan. Or do you want to let the terrorists capitalists win?

Never mind that, as no shortage of expert analysts will tell you, we simply do not know whether the present economic situation is anywhere near as dire as the one that led to the Great Depression: for it could be that dire, and that mere possibility is bad enough. Never mind that, as those and other analysts will tell you once again, we similarly do not know whether a government bailout will work: for it could work, and we damn well better do something. (Note well the ease with which the “Something must be done; this is something; therefore we must do this” fallacy asserts itself.) And never, never mind that it might be wise to consider a wider range of options before rushing off to spend hundreds of billions (!!!) in taxpayer dollars on a bunch of assets that no one knows how to value: there is a problem now, and so now is the time that we must act to fix it. Surely anything that can be said of the “lack of imagination” among those who wish to resist such styles of thought can be applied every bit as properly to those who employ them.

Spare me, then, the trifle about “free market ideology” and grandstanding Republican buffoons. There is a discussion that needs to be had here, and it is better that it be had now than in hindsight. And whatever the merits or demerits of what the House GOP was proposing from its own end, I for one am happy to report that last night was one of the first in a long time when I was able to go to sleep – and wake up, as you can see, with mind muddled but racing and the sky hanging firmly where I left it – feeling genuinely proud to be a conservative.