Saturday, April 28, 2012

One thing I disagree on Obama about

Their vision is that if there’s a sliver of folks doing well at the top who are unencumbered by any regulatory restraints whatsoever, that the nation will grow and prosperity will trickle down. The challenge that they’re going to have is: We tried it. From 2000 to 2008, that was the agenda. It wasn’t like we have to engage in some theoretical debate – we’ve got evidence of how it worked out. It did not work out well, and I think the American people understand that.

Ready for the Fight

While I am happy that we are, in fact, having a conversation about Reaganomics, I have to disagree with Obama on that last point. It would seem self-evident that the American people do not understand things based on evidence.

So not only does Obama have to win his argument, he has to educate his audience as to the basic terms of arguments in the first place. Good thing he's a professor.


  1. I have an aversion to the usage of the term "conversation," as in: “...we are, in fact, having a conversation about Reaganomics...” Like the terms, "global village" or "social contract" it gives a complete misimpression of how large scale social mechanisms actually work. It gives a comforting impression that you have more significance than you actually do, as though the world were a big town hall meeting, democratically moving incrementally closer to utopia. It is not, and probably cannot be the case.

    In this particular instance, we are not having a "conversation" about Reaganomics, religion, or anything else that admits to a crisp definition. Rather, we are having a slugfest between two competing narratives – neither of which is very well grounded in fact. It is a battle between emotions, rival advertising firms and competing dirty tricks. It is a war of cultures and their cultural myths. In the end, the pool of corrupt politicians will get reshuffled, pushing public policy slightly in one direction or another to suit the winning parties’ base, while the main trajectory toward ever less honesty, ever less substantial liberty, and ever greater poverty will probably remain unaltered. Failing an unexpected genocide, neither culture is going to instantly change as the result of an election, or go away – or were you planning to accept Reaganomics if that is what the majority wants to do?


  2. It's actually a series of conversations; what talking heads and pundits discuss is far less important than what ordinary people decide amongst themselves. Because eventually, what those ordinary people choose is what we get. The reason our current government is so Ayn Randian and theocratically inclined is because that is the way most Americans actually think things should be.

    As for declining honesty, liberty, and increasing poverty... how is it possible that these quantities are always in decline? Because previous generations bemoaned exactly the same decline, with exactly the same vigor.

    In actuality, the broad majority of Americans saw their wealth grow between the end of WWII and the start of Reaganomics. Along with that, they enjoyed an increase in education and liberty. Politicians became more honest as the old political machines fell apart; up until Citizens United the amount of transparency in elections was constantly increasing.

    And just for a moment, consider the amount of freedoms that accrued to everyone who wasn't white, male, and Christian. Gays, blacks, and women have all had dramatic increases in their legal protections. Why, many of those groups are almost legally equal to white men now! Surely the liberation of over half the populace counts for something; even if white male Christians have lost a few traditional perks.

    I think it's wrong to discount the rapidity of change. The Civil Rights movement occurred in sub-generational time; gay rights (as exemplified by military service and marriage) have gone from a pipe dream to a distinct reality in less than a decade. Even a majority of Republicans now support gay marriage.

    These are cultural norms we have to change; and they can change almost as quickly as fads and fashion trends.

    And we are having a very distinct national conversation, one that will come into ever tighter focus during the election. Are we in this together, or is it every man for himself? It may sound simplistic, but it succinctly expresses the divide between Ayn Rand and Thomas Paine, and what people decide about it over their kitchen tables matters.