Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so. America’s best days lie ahead.
If Buffet means the human potential for greed and self-destruction he may be right. It’s difficult to find a reason for optimism. Perhaps it is this: that the meltdown of the economy might provide an opportunity for change of a more profound kind than Barack Obama has in mind.
They say crafting legislation is like making sausage. But if you’re a Democrat and you’re helping the Republicans put rancid sausage onto people’s plates, then don’t be shocked when they come back and tell you they don’t like sausage.
Whatever utility the rhetoric of bipartisanship had for Barack Obama during the campaign, it’s now time for the president and the Democratic leadership to let it go. As political historian Allen Lichtman argued at TPMlast week, the most effective presidents “don’t move to the middle; they move the middle to them.”
… so influential are those in the financial elite – and their hangers-on in think-tanks and economics departments – that they continue to appear on our TV screens, confidently providing us with economic advice, as if they’d played no role whatsoever in shaping our economic system for the past quarter century.
Of course, we’re told there’s been a major change in their thinking, in that many of them are now willing to accept large deficits in today’s federal budget, in the name of stimulating the economy.
While this does seem like a sharp departure from the deficit hysteria of the 1990s, a closer look reveals the change may not be that significant.
In fact, financial types have always accepted deficits – when they liked the cause. Hence their lack of protest over George W. Bush’s enormous deficits, which were caused by his large tax cuts for the rich and his extravagant foreign wars.
What they don’t like is governments going into deficit to help ordinary citizens – either by creating jobs or providing much unemployment relief.
… if we are to have peace in the world, men and nations must embrace the nonviolent affirmation that ends and means must cohere. One of the great philosophical debates of history has been over the whole question of means and ends. And there have always been those who argued that the end justifies the means, that the means really aren’t important. The important thing is to get to the end, you see.
So, if you’re seeking to develop a just society, they say, the important thing is to get there, and the means are really unimportant; any means will do so long as they get you there? they may be violent, they may be untruthful means; they may even be unjust means to a just end. There have been those who have argued this throughout history. But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.
It’s one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace. The conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, were akin in seeking a peaceful world order. If you will read Mein Kampf closely enough, you will discover that Hitler contended that everything he did in Germany was for peace. And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.
It is commonly believed not only that both the abstract notion of politics and concrete politics one fine day fell from the heavens, landing on ‘classical’ Athens in the miraculous and authenticated form of Democracy (with a capital D), but also that a divinely linear history has led us by the hand from the American Revolution, passing by way of the ‘French Revolution’, all the way to our own western societies that are so blithely convinced that their mission is to convert all peoples to the true religion of democracy.
“The West’s selective reading of history” by Alain Gresh at Le Monde Diplomatique
… watching the news shows, you’d think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story.
From The Barefoot Bum, an argument that makes sense to me, amongst a lot of arguments that don’t:
I’m a revolutionary communist because my conscience is deeply shocked by the crimes perpetrated by our existing political system. I’m shocked by the suffering and oppression this system entails, proven by both empirical historical evidence and theoretical analysis. I’m no longer willing to work within a system that gives me only the choices between bad and worse. I’m no longer willing to remain silent about some suffering only to avoid even worse suffering.
Just asking for a little less oppression isn’t enough for me any more. I may be mistaken, but I believe that a radical transformation of society — and only a radical transformation — can end all oppression.
To bear witness to the way things stay the same is often depressing. To continue to believe that the transformation is possible, that it is worth devoting oneself to, is evidence of profound and radical optimism and faith in humanity, a faith to which few “religions” aspire.
From James Laxer, as has been the case several times in the last few weeks – and it’s a long one, but I just love this:
In 40 AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula appointed his horse Incitatus to the Senate. On reflection, the emperor may have been an early Keynesian, who suddenly realized that Rome required economic stimulus to aid in the creation of jobs. Whether the appointment of Incitatus to high office improved the empire’s approach to economic policy-making is not known. What is known is that the horse’s high status did lead to the creation of a number of jobs. Praetorian guards were posted around his stables to ensure that he was allowed peace and quiet before competitions. Eighteen servants attended the horse full-time, drawing salaries and this helped generate greater demand for goods and services in the imperial capital.
In Ottawa, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the Caligula’s horse of the Harper government, delivered an Economic Statement only nineteen days ago that already is so outdated that it feels as if it could have been written in ancient Rome.