David Hines
Charge of the money brigade
By David Hines
January 22, 2009

One would have thought that savvy advertisers would have changed the name of the cardigan sweater.

The item became popular during Lord Cardigan's brief moment of éclat after his Light Brigade was decimated in the Crimea. It was a facsimile of the woolen jacket he wore while on campaign. Returning to England on medical leave, he vociferously gave his spin to the action in numerous speeches and public appearances. Then the facts began to emerge, gleaned by a military panel examining the issue. The public and media turned on Cardigan. He quickly went from hero to goat.

Cardigan was never the most popular guy. He was an arrogant and demanding noble. In the Crimea, he spent his nights aboard his yacht with his mistress. He'd show up on the field late in the morning. Still, nobody could doubt his bravery. He led his troopers into the guns, fully expecting to die in the action. Having reached the Russian redoubt, however, he didn't stay long. It was beneath his dignity to fight alongside common soldiers. (Born to old nobility, Cardigan viewed few short of the king as his peers.) They'd have to get by without his leadership.

He was the product of a British "pay to play" military system. Officers bought their commissions, as well as promotions. Wealthy nobles advanced quickly; capable men of lesser means remained in lower ranks.

This was viewed as a good thing. Cromwell's professional soldiers had disrupted the monarchy. A repetition of such a tumultuous event was to be avoided. Thus army leadership was tied to the nobles and, to a lesser extent, rich merchant families, whose incomes and properties depended upon the security of the Crown. The cavalry, especially, was the purview of nobles. Leading finely attired mounted troops appealed to their vanity; slogging through the mud with foot soldiers struck them as terribly plebeian.

The Crimean campaign was marked by numerous amateurish decisions and miscommunications. Though it eventually accomplished its objective of disrupting Russian Black Sea naval power, it was marked by avoidable vicissitudes. A result was a revamping of the British military, which added professionally trained staff officers.

Barack Obama said that he has gotten a consensus of economic advisers from administrations of both parties. Of course. These are the "pay to play" guys, who migrate back and forth through the revolving door to and from Goldman Sachs and other politically preferred corporations. Their campaign contributions are critical determinants of who wins the Oval Office. They're the same guys whose amateurish decisions created the problems in the first place. Their incomes and property are tied to the security of the Crown.

Unlike the British high command, our leaders don't learn from their mistakes.

Those playing at economic command will charge the guns, then leave the taxpayers to slug it out. They'll retire to their taxpayer-funded yachts, massages, and golf courses, oblivious to the damage caused by their amateurish decisions.

It's obvious they don't know what they are doing. A supposedly crucial plan is changed on a whim, without any better results. When billions of dollars don't do the trick, spend trillions more — with no beneficial effect. But at least their former, present, and future employers get subsidies.

These guys ought to wear cardigan sweaters, to remind us of what amateurs they really are.

© David Hines


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David Hines

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)


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