Principalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnVoices in the AirrnBy the middle of the second month ofrnthe Repubhean Revolution, acute observersrnwere beginning to see that thernrevolution might actually go somewherernif only the Republicans were not inrncharge of it. Aside from such irritatingrncontretemps as the revelations of SpeakerrnNewt Gingrich’s book deal, his instantaneousrndumping of historian ChristinarnJeffrey when her criticisms of a curriculumrnon the Nazi persecution of EuropeanrnJews came to light, and his irrepressiblernhabit of unbosoming his everyrnneurological reflex to a bewildered pressrnand citizenry, the prospects of the revolutionrndimmed considerably when Mr.rnGingrich and his counterpart in the Senate,rnBob Dole, eagerly signed on to thernbailout of a bankrupt Mexico and beganrnto back away from some of their ownrnrevolution’s commitments.rnMr. Gingrich had second thoughtsrnabout ending welfare for immigrants,rndespite the obvious popular support forrndoing so, and second thoughts againrnabout repealing the notorious “assaultrnweapons” ban enacted with Republicanrnhelp in the last months of the previousrnCongress, despite the obvious debt ofrnthe new Republican majority to thernvotes of outraged gunowners. On allrnthese issues—the bailout, the immigrants,rnand guns—he was obliged byrnpressures from within his own party, especiallyrnfreshmen Republicans considerablyrnto the right of him and Mr. Dole, tornreverse himself yet again and exude thirdrnthoughts. But since exuding thoughts isrnnever difficult for the Speaker, his politicalrnping-pong was not the problem.rnOn the more substantive commitmentsrnof the party to its “Contract withrnAmerica” there was definite progress,rnthough many rank-and-file Republicansrnand conservatives asked themselvesrnexactly why the Contract’s sometimesrnarcane pledges were important at all.rnSeveral items in the Contract involvingrnrather radical changes threatened tornturn what remains of the Constitutionrninto the kind of voluminous and indecipherablerndocument more familiar tornsuch governments as those of Boliviarnand Botswana, and even with a Republicanrnmajority in the House, some parts ofrnthe Contract could not pass without sufferingrnamputation of their more radicalrnand meaningful provisions. Nor wasrnthere any language in the Contract thatrncommitted its signatories to eliminatingrnwhole departments and agencies of thernfederal leviathan, abolishing affirmativernaction, or reversing the ruin inflicted onrnthe Republic by generations of judicialrninsanity, though individual Republicansrndid mutter about engaging these issuesrnon their own.rnRevolutions, hovcer, exhaust themselvesrncjuickly, even when fed by passionsrnconsiderably fiercer than thosernknown to drive the souls of Republicans,rnand by locking the House and Senate onrnthe immediate goal of enacting thernContract, the Republican leadershiprnmay have ensured that any further andrnmore substantial radical proclivities inrnRepublican breasts would be smotheredrnbefore they had a chance to squeak.rnIndeed, even as the 104th Congressrnconvened, it was advised by its selfappointedrnegghead, Bill Kristol, torneschew serious reforms from the rightrnuntil the Republicans had also capturedrnthe presidency. The Republicans, itrnseems, were about as readv for their ownrnrevolution as a college freshman is tornstart studying for his final exams.rnYet the main problem with the RepublicanrnRevolution comes not from thernquestionable conduct or judgment of itsrnleaders or from any lack of legislativernskills. The main problem is simply thatrnthe Republican Party finds it almost impossiblernto conceive of public policy inrnanything but economic terms, that itrnremains wedded to the worldvicw associatedrnwith the myth of Economic Man.rnNo matter how often Republicans diprntheir knees to “family values,” the religiousrnright, and “cultural issues,” and nornmatter how much they exploit patrioticrnsentiment by contriving to nominaternsuch military titans as Ulysses S. Grantrnor Colin Powell for President, it is onlyrnwhen dollars and cents are being talkedrnabout that the Republican eye begins torngleam and the Republican lip tremblesrnwith lachrymose enthusiasm.rnThe myth of Economic Man is todayrnless a theory of human nature and historyrnthan an intellectual archaism fromrnthe bourgeois order of the 19th century,rnwhen the Republicans led the nation inrncrushing a region that did not embracernthe myth and proceeded to constructrnaround it what was essentially the “SecondrnRepublic” of American history betweenrnthe Civil War and the New Deal.rnPerhaps the only wise sentence that JohnrnMaynard Keynes ever wrote was his wellknownrninsight that “Practical men, whornbelieve themselves to be quite exemptrnfrom anv intellectual influences, are usuallyrnthe slaves of some defunct economist.rnMadmen in authority, who hearrnvoices in the air, are distilling their frenzyrnfrom some academic scribbler of arnfew years back. I am sure that the powerrnof vested interests is vastly exaggeratedrncompared with the gradual encroachmentrnof ideas.” Leaving aside his skepticismrnabout the power of vested interestsrn(a skepticism rather implausible whenrnthe Mexican bailout is considered). LordrnKeynes could (and may) have beenrndescribing the Republican Party of thern20th century.rnThe myth of Economic Man holdsrnthat human beings are driven mainly byrnconsiderations of material gain and loss,rnand therefore that the key to understandingrnhistory is the calculation ofrnwhich economic interests prevail andrnwhat those interests are. From that dubiousrngeneralization, its adherents elicitrna moral imperatie, that economic calculationsrnshould prevail, and that thereforernthe value of any course of action,rnespecially public policies, should bernjudged in terms of whether and howrnmuch it enhances material gain. Thernmyth and its derivatives are the foundationrnstones of both socialism (especiallyrnits Marxist version) and capitalism, andrnit is no accident that Karl Marx was asrnindebted to the classical economists whornhelped unleash the myth on the modernrnmind as he was enchanted by the AmericanrnCivil War and the Second Republicrnit initiated as progressive forward steps ofrnworld-historical significance. The mainrnpractical difference between the socialistrnand capitalist versions of the myth isrnsimply that each perceives differentrnroads toward their shared goals of thernfull dinner pail. (It tells us somethingrnabout both communists and Republicansrnthat they think Utopia consists ofrn10/CHRONICLESrnrnrn