The Intellectual Roots of Romney’s 47 Percent Rage

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So Mitt, read my book, talk it up at some closed-door fund-raisers, and MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO HIDDEN CAMERAS. You got that last part, right? Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr

Mitt Romney’s leaked diatribe at a fund-raiser about non-income-tax-paying moochers has spawned a lot of interesting analysis about the spread of this fallacious and paranoid view on the right. The missing piece of the puzzle is, how did an apparently sober person like Romney himself come to believe it? Annie Lowrey and Michael Cooper report in the New York Times that Romney was channeling a popular book:

Mr. Romney’s thinking on the matter has been shaped in part by Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Brooks said that he had discussed his new book, “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise,” with Mr. Romney, who was particularly interested in whether redistribution would lead to a disengaged electorate — with the government paying for programs benefiting more people with dollars coming from fewer of them.

This is a fairly disturbing revelation. I reviewed Brooks previous book, which is a pastiche of illogic, paranoia, and a series of flat-out falsehoods. It's possible his more recent book is of higher quality, though I doubt it. In any case, the general theme of it is that American politics is a battle between virtuous makers against parasitic takers, with the latter executing an insidious and possibly irreversible plot to undermine capitalism. It’s pure crankery – but a crankery that has overtaken large chunks of the Republican party.