Amity Shlaes gave the Manhattan Institute's Hayek Lecture on Thursday night, and she didn't pull any punches. I've already mentioned her scathing assessment of the Obama administration's treatment of the Chrysler bondholders, but the rest of the talk is worth recounting, too. Miss Shlaes was introduced by the publisher, author, and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, who portrayed President Obama as something other than the wave of the future. "The Obama administration is the last gasp of the New Deal," Mr. Forbes said. "He's a dinosaur. He's a relic. His mindset is 1935." Miss Shlaes, too, said she saw parallels between the current period and the Great Depression era that she wrote about in her book The Forgotten Man. She spoke of the "sense that money is waiting, not playing," and of the "arrogance" of the Roosevelt administration, "talking down to citizens" and "undermining property rights."
"The arrogance is worth focusing on," Miss Shlaes said, mentioning health reform as one contemporary example. The arrogance theme is one that John Stossel tried out the other day, too, and there is doubtless something to it, though it's racially perilous as a line of attack against Mr. Obama, as Josh Gerstein pointed out for the New York Sun back during the campaign. Democrats will no doubt point out that L. Paul Bremer's tour as proconsul of Iraq can compete pretty well in the arrogance department, but that is another matter.
Another point Miss Shlaes made that is worth repeating: If Mr. Obama goes ahead with a third stimulus focused on "infrastructure," it will likely trigger a new round of challenges to property rights under eminent domain.
The evening brought the news that the Manhattan Institute has upped the financial ante on the Hayek Lecture to $50,000, which brought a lot of oohs and ahhs from the audience, notwithstanding how it pales beside George Soros's $50 million project on the other side of the game.