Advertisement

Opinion

Opinion

Obama yearns for academic approach

March 13, 2010

Advertisement

— There are legislative miles to go before the government will be emancipated from its health care myopia, but it is not too soon for a summing up. Whether all or nothing of the legislation becomes law, Barack Obama has refuted critics who call him a radical. He has shown himself to be a timid progressive.

His timidity was displayed when he flinched from fighting for the boldness the nation needs — a transition from the irrationality of employer-provided health insurance. His progressivism is an attitude of genteel regret about the persistence of politics.

Employer-paid insurance is central to what David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute calls “the 12-cent problem.” That is how much of every health care dollar is spent by the person receiving the care. Hence Americans’ buffet mentality — we paid at the door to the health care feast, so let’s consume all we can.

John McCain had the correct prescription for health care during the 2008 campaign. He proposed serious change — taxing employer-provided health care as what it indisputably is, compensation, and giving tax credits, including refundable ones, for individuals to purchase insurance. Instead, as the legislative endgame plods toward us on leaden feet, the sprawling bills would subsidize insurance purchases for families of four earning almost $100,000 a year, a redundant reminder of unseriousness about the nation’s fiscal mismanagement.

Of course, there now is a commission of experts to recommend cures for this. It should be called the Philip Dru Memorial Commission.

In a scintillating book coming in June (“The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris”), Peter Beinart dissects the progressivism of Woodrow Wilson. Edward House, Wilson’s closest adviser, wrote an awful but indicative novel, “Philip Dru: Administrator.” With the nation in crisis, Dru seizes power, declares himself “Administrator of the Republic,” and replaces Congress with a commission of five experts who decree reforms that selfish interests had prevented.

Wilson, a professor of political science, said that the Princeton he led as its president was dedicated to unbiased expertise, and he thought government could be “reduced to science.” Progressives are forever longing to replace the governance of people by the administration of things. Because they are entirely public-spirited, progressives volunteer to be the administrators, and to be as disinterested as the dickens.

How gripped was Wilson by what Beinart calls “the hubris of reason”? Beinart writes:

“He even recommended to his wife that they draft a constitution for their marriage. Let’s write down the basic rules, he suggested; ‘then we can make bylaws at our leisure as they become necessary.’ It was an early warning sign, a hint that perhaps the earnest young rationalizer did not understand that there were spheres where abstract principles didn’t get you very far, where reason could never be king.”

Professor Obama, who will seek re-election on the 100th anniversary of Wilson’s 1912 election, understands, which makes him melancholy. Speaking to Katie Couric on Feb. 7, Obama said:

“I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, academically approved approach to health care, and didn’t have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed. But that’s not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately, what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people.”

Note his aesthetic criterion of elegance, by which he probably means sublime complexity. During the yearlong health care debate, Republicans such as Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have consistently cautioned against the conceit that government is good at “comprehensive” solutions to the complex problems of a continental nation. Obama has consistently argued, in effect, that the health care system is like a Calder mobile — touch it here and things will jiggle here, there and everywhere. Because everything is connected to everything else, merely piecemeal change is impossible.

So note also Obama’s yearning for something “academically approved” rather than something resulting from “a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people,” aka politics. Here, too, Obama is in the spirit of the U.S. president who first was president of the American Political Science Association.

Wilson was the first president to criticize the Founding Fathers. He faulted them for designing a government too susceptible to factions that impede disinterested experts from getting on with government undistracted. Like Princeton’s former president, Obama’s grievance is with the greatest Princetonian, the “father of the Constitution,” James Madison, class of 1771.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. georgewill@washpost.com

Comments

barrypenders 4 years, 1 month ago

As I have mentioned before Professor Poser, the man with the Arabic named, is going after Israel. The Arabic named Professor is on a 'Jihad' and all those Jewish folk that voted for him must be Proud of him.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1156251.html

Stimulus, Professor PAD and a Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless us all

0

weeslicket 4 years, 1 month ago

is this a refernce to something? uuhhhhhh. "Stratfor" barrypenders says:

i have also messed up the order!
the second part is really the first part which is really the fourth part, and i've lost track of the third part. yertle the turtle blesses you also.

0

barrypenders 4 years, 1 month ago

Good morning weeslicket!

I am not Articulate enough to type anything that long.

Stratfor. I messed up the order also. The third part goes ahead of the second part.

Stimulus, PAD Nirvana, and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless you

0

weeslicket 4 years, 1 month ago

barrypenders, one hardly recognizes your voice in the above(s). did you just copy and paste, and not cite your source?

0

barrypenders 4 years, 1 month ago

The world was a fairly mercantile place before World War II. Empires established colonies not merely to get access to raw materials, but to gain captive markets. When commercial interests clashed, skirmishes were common, and often erupted into full-blown war. Imperial Japan is a good example. The U.S. attempt to block Japan from appropriating the Dutch East Indies oil production and domineering over China was the proximate cause for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course economic interactions can still ignite conflict, but they have not done so on a global scale since WWII. Why? “In the past, most U.S. companies focused almost solely on the robust domestic market for their goods.” One of the leading reasons the world has been so stable is because the traditional merchant powers have had a deep market to sell into: the United States. Part of the peace accords and reconstruction of Japan included granting it full access to the U.S. market as well as full American protection of Japanese trade lines. Part of the peace accords and reconstruction of Germany included a similar arrangement. These arrangements proved so successful in containing Japanese and German imperial ambitions, revitalizing and enriching their economies, and giving them a powerful incentive to be part of the U.S. alliance structure that the pattern was repeated throughout Western Europe, in Taiwan and Korea, and to a lesser degree in Indonesia and elsewhere. By granting these states privileged access to the American market — and not necessarily demanding American access to their markets in return — the United States created conditions extremely favorable for its allies’ economic development and prosperity. “All” it asked for in return was the right to determine military strategy, ultimately creating a global alliance network that served American interests. The United States traded some market share to turn adversaries into allies, both reducing the number of foes and intimidating the remainder by the sheer size of the U.S. alliance structure. As a result, some of the world’s most aggressive mercantile powers became placid. They no longer had to go to war for access to resources or markets

Stimulus, Boy Wonder, and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless us

0

barrypenders 4 years, 1 month ago

This entire arrangement, however, rested on the basis that the United States generally did not use the full force of its state power in pursuit of its singular economic ends. The United States was content to buy others’ goods and run trade deficits to command the loyalty of its allies in security matters. The question with the Obama administration’s export strategy is whether it marks a change from this mode. To increase exports, one has to increase penetration into foreign economies, and a number of countries’ economies and social systems only work the way they do because they have taken shape with minimal outside pressure — i.e., minimal competition from the United States. This is not to say that many countries do not already perceive the U.S. presence as overbearing, but rather that the United States simply has not spent much energy in competing for foreign market share over the past half century. If it suddenly exerts itself in opening up the doors of trade around the world — and doubling U.S. exports would mean finding buyers for an additional $1.5 trillion dollars worth of goods — it will disrupt a lot of places. We are not saying that the Obama administration’s export strategy is good, bad, wise, unwise, feasible, unfeasible or anything else. It simply raises the question of whether it is a coincidence that when the dominant global power did not use state power to seek foreign markets, the degree of competition and ultimately violence among players on the international stage was markedly lower than in previous periods. If not a coincidence, then the full weight of the American nation behind a strategy of maximizing exports could have massive unintended consequences.

Stimulus, Boy Wonder, and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless us all

0

barrypenders 4 years, 1 month ago

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ANNOUNCED DETAILS of his National Export Initiative on Thursday during a speech to the U.S. Export-Import Bank in Washington, D.C. Obama’s stated goal is to double U.S. exports by 2015 and create two million jobs in the process. He will create an Export Promotion Cabinet with representation from the departments of Commerce, Treasury, State and Agriculture, as well as from other trade-related government bodies. He will also reform the President’s Export Council, an advisory group, putting the chief executives of Boeing and Xerox in charge. The reasoning behind the strategy is simple. The United States is recovering from a recession that has left the nation with a high unemployment rate, ailing manufacturers and a public that is nervous about spending and enthusiastic about saving. Yet American companies produce an endless variety of high-tech and high value goods — including computer software, advanced machinery and Hollywood flicks — which others might want or need. In the past, most U.S. companies focused almost solely on the robust domestic market for their goods. American companies that did seek out foreign markets were at a disadvantage when competing with foreign businesses whose governments took an active interest in promoting their cause. But if the U.S. government could use some of its political influence with other states to clear the path for exports into those markets, then U.S. businesses could have a much larger pool of consumers. Hence Obama’s desire for executive-level coordination with American companies that want to find markets abroad. In particular, the Obama administration is thinking of moving forward with preferential trade agreements with Pacific Ocean Basin states, and is also eyeing the large populations of developing economies — like India, Brazil, Indonesia and China — that could use top-notch American goods. Regardless of the feasibility of Obama’s claim to double exports in five years, even marginal gains into these markets could add considerably to overall American exports. Yet a push by the Americans to open up foreign markets is no easy matter. In fact, if sincerely pursued, it could — ironically — reverse one of the primary conditions contributing to global stability over the past 60 years.

Stimulus, Boy Wonder, and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless us all

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.