A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Brat (brief)

Here's a nice bit, about David Brat's views regarding religion, virtue and the market. Apparently the guy's never read Mandeville, for whom, famously, the market is a hive of activity that depends on vice (not virtue) to flourish at peak efficiency and productivity. Remember the Fable of the Bees (1723)?: "Thus every Part was full of Vice, Yet the whole Mass a Paradise."

Brat doesn't understand the history of his own enterprise -- the ideological enterprise of supporting the values of commercial society -- very well. But then neither do many or perhaps most of his fellow Tea Partiers. 

About the Author

Robert Geroux is a political theorist.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

To the contrary, Appelbaum’s “bit” is not so nice according to Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute.  See

Ballor recommends Michelle Boorstein’s 6/13/14 article in the Washington Post as serious reporting and a good place to start:

OK.  I'm going to come right out and say it: Dave Brat is a looney tune.

In his curriculum vitae (public information) he lists His affiliation; associations on economics, several homeowners associations, tennis associations and, oh yes, an affiliation with St. Michael's Catholic Church as well as Christ Church Episcopal Church, Third Presbyterian Church, Shady Grove Methodist Church.  Hello, anyone else see that his claim to be "Catholic" is compromised?

Mark my words, as my grandmother used to say, he never went through RCIA and has never been received into the Catholic Church. He "attends" St. Michael's Catholic Church with his Catholic wife and children.

I'll eat my hat if I am wrong!

Helen - I don't doubt you're right about the Catholic part.  Anyone can pop into a parish office and join a Catholic parish - even a non-Catholic.

Applebaum's comment about Nobel Prizes being unlikely in Brat's department was nasty. Nobel Prizes are unlikely a lot of places, and in some cases that says more about the Nobel judges than the places. But Applebaum's larger point is well taken.

It was odd finding the Acton Institute taking offense at it since the Institute seems to want  desperately to be taken seriously in Nobel and other circles.  As described by John Baller, Brat's economic indebtedness seems to be more to Charles Dickens than to any recognizable economist. As Orwell pointed out, Dickens' economics consisted of the hope that education would make everyone be nicer to everyone else.

Economic theories based on Charles Dickens aren't going to win any prizes.

Tom - is Orwell's views on Dickens and economics available on the Internet somewhere?  I'd love to read it.  

I don't think it rises to the level of an economic theory, but I do think the world would be a better place if more employers were like the Cheeryble brothers.


"Apparently the guy's never read Mandeville..." He probably hasn't, but how is that apparent? Obviously he disagrees with Mandeville about the relationship between vice and good market outcomes, but then, so have many other proponents of small government—and not all of them were Christians. Jefferson comes to mind. Even Adam Smith, who agreed with Mandeville that self-interest and even the appetite for luxury could be forces of progress, thought that Mandeville's too scrupulous account made it sound as if "there is vice even in the use of a clean shirt."

Brat is a blip on the political junkie's radar. Even if he wins the congressional seat, he'll do nothing to distinguish himself in congress, and we'll probably never hear from him again after the first 6 months, when the novelty wears off. If Cantor hadn't been the whip, he'd be equally dispensible.

Jim P.

What provoke my comment was the  post on NCR titled "Meet the 'evangelical' Catholics remaking the GOP" in which Dave Brat, Jeb Bush, and Paul Ryan are showcased.  In my opinion the only one who could be cosidered "evangelical" (and I am not too sure what that means exactly) is Brat and I don't think he can legitiamatly be called "Catholic."

Funny how some cradle Catholics who are liberal Democrats have been labelled "Catholic in name only."

Jim P. My reference was to Orwell's essay On Dickens, which appeared in the Anchor paperback Eight Essays by George Orwell (or was it Nine?) that was on everybody's bookshelf at one point in my lifetime. This seems to be it:


Has Congressman Brat read Mandeville?  Soon he will have a chance to weigh in on a contemporary Fable of the Bees, courtesy of the Obama administration. 

"Within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, the Task Force shall develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy (Strategy), which shall include explicit goals, milestones, and metrics to measure progress."

(Not a parody)


Patrick: Colony collapse disorder is anything but a big joke. 

Applebaum's comment about Nobel Prizes being unlikely in Brat's department was nasty.

As well as some other points that were, at best nasty, but bordering on bullying. We have an obligation to elevate political discourse. This has to be more than a slogan during egregious events. All of this contributes to the toxicity pervading the existing political order. So, I am glad you pointed this out.

Vigrous debate by all means but we need to establish orderly and civil ground rules. Obviously the Times has not so it is left to the public.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment