Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hugh Hewitt, The Dark Prince of Mean

Hugh lovingly--and rightly--defends James Lileks here. But in the course of his defense he makes a large mistake. He asks,

If, as I hope happens, the Strib wakes up and keeps Lileks as its online anchor and Jim Boyd disappears into well-deserved obscurity, what will that tell us about the talents of the two?

Umm, it will tell us absolutely nothing. Just as if, Lileks falls into obscurity and Jim Boyd goes on to run the New York Times, that, too, will tell us nothing about their talents. We measure talent by the work it produces, not the rewards it reaps. Need we recite a long, long, long list of spectacularly untalented hacks who have seen their careers as an endless buffet of prizes and payouts? Need we recall the depressingly long list of superb talents who go through life toiling in the shadows of said hacks? Tina Brown is much more conventionaly "successful" than, say, Ramesh Ponnuru. Katie Couric is much more "successful" than, say, Chris Wallace. Cynthia Tucker is more "successful" than Matt Labash. Who's the bigger talent? We could go on and on and on with this list and it's not just a question of left-right media bias.

Lileks is a treasure and he deserves a great future. But the world is frequently an unfair place.

Update: I don't know why this chafes me so. I think it's because there's a certain strain of free-market conservatism which insists that the only values are market values and that whatever a market declares is the Eternal Truth. These are the loud people who tell you that CEO X, who has driven his company into the ground, must have been worth $140 million a year, because if he wasn't, nobody would have been willing to pay him the money. I hate these people.

I'm as much for the free market as the next guy, I suppose. But market failures are real and pervasive and much, much more common than most conservatives would like to acknowledge. Sometimes they work themselves out over time, sometimes they don't. In any event, I'm happy to live my consumerist life by the free market, but we should never allow it to dictate to us moral truths.

And that's why we don't write about politics here.

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