Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quick Thought

If it's unjust for women to pay more for health insurance than men, is it OK for men to pay more for life insurance than women do?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Economics, Morality, and Individualism

Max Weber explored how individualism and economic growth can be mutually supportive in a climate of public morality. That morality, I would argue, can shift with the times but must remain personally comprehensible and economically productive if it is to endure.

Changing economic circumstances, in fact, demand that we reexamine the public morality that, by its very normative nature, we tend not to consider in an active and persistent manner. Such re-examination necessarily bring turmoil, for the reason, just implied, that unexamined mores proliferate best.

Rapid information flows and globalized financial networks are among the factors that most destabilize our public morality today. That nation-state is both less relevant and more vital to our economic life: Its control over a particular economic environment is less absolute, but the necessity for its support of the growing international business of its people is increasingly essential.

It will not be easy to assimilate dynamics that implicitly undermine traditional political orthodoxies and that, accordingly, act as intellectual irritants. Such is the source of the appeal of ideological entrenchment.

Our concerns for individual liberty and social welfare are valid and valuable. The success (or failure) of the task of re-imagining our politics depends on our patience and intellectual courage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Markets and Saints

Markets and Saints

November 11, 2009 by Barak Epstein

Free marketeers receive a cool reception nowadays but neither is socialism making much of a comeback, unless you count its mention on signs at Tea Parties. It’s never easy to develop a coherent economic response to a crisis when old ideologies lose relevance. Pragmatism therefore demands that we employ the best tools of our current system to address its greatest ills; a young real estate advisory and consulting nonprofit I know is a case in point.

Real Estate Advisory and Development Services (READS) raises funds through arranging real estate deals for budding charter schools as well as through writing grants, the more traditional work of a nonprofit. The president, Brian Keenan, told me, “Folks ask for reduced rates for our services, which actually are about half the rate of a for-profit. I tell them, ‘Our time is valuable. We can discuss when payment is made but we are unwilling to reduce our fee.’”

Keenan is a former banker and doesn’t fear sounding too commercial for the more delicate sentiments of the world of do-gooders. At the same time, he readily admits that he began his company because his old boss told him that he was “spending too much time helping floundering nonprofits with their real estate problems.”

Keenan’s work is emblematic of a generation of nonprofits not imbued with the anticapitalism of the 1960’s, nor evincing the noblesse oblige of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century reformers. The triumph of capitalism is implicit.

Firms such as Keenan’s aim to harness a bit of the tremendous accumulated capital in our country in order to catalyze the full economic participation of underutilized and undertrained social sectors.

The need and the opportunity are identical: Investing in socially marginalized children creates obvious value for the country entire but less obviously does so for particular, for-profit corporations. By leveraging the goodwill of socially-concerned citizens and, simultaneously, uncovering new profit streams, entrepreneurial-minded nonprofits demonstrate the latent productivity of large segments of the population and, eventually, attract further interest and investment.

Capitalism is excellent at providing opportunities to well-equipped and motivated entrepreneurs. It is less good at developing the talents, outlook, and networks of those who remained removed from its dynamics.

The wealth of our age gives us the luxury of seeking synergies between these two goals. Those who uncover such synergies have the potential to do good and to prosper.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why Bush and Obama are Not as Different as You Think

Bush ignored the supposed inviolability of nation-states with his invasion of Iraq. Obama believes that we should “spread the wealth around” and is attempting to do so through health care reform, agitating to no end those who believe in the sacredness of individual property. How could these two phenomena be connected?

The nation-state system and the ideology of individualism are codependent in many ways. The illusion of the atomized individual sustained itself as long as global politics forced individualistic societies to bind together in the confrontation of collectivist and/or repressive regimes.

Bush correctly discerned that the system of international law not protect the country in an age of easy travel and transportable, highly destructive technology, and committed non-nation state actors. He undermined the preexisting global order in the face of a real security need.

Obama correctly discerns that, in the wake of the general acceptance of the economic power of individualism and in the absence of a viable ideological alternative (whether, as you would have it, due to Bush’s attack on radical Islam or due to its inherent nihilism), he must confront the social malaise that individualism sometimes creates. Struggle with communism, for instance, can no longer provide an individualistic halo for the reform of education, infrastructure, or social insurance.

The post-national world, emerging slowly for now, presents a new matrix for security decisions and new social challenges to individualistic democracies. Naturally, national governments are a crude tool for managing their own (again, perhaps very gradual) retreat into obsolescence. Nonetheless, it is inevitable, and at times, useful, that they attempt to do so. It is no surprise that confusion reigns in the meantime.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The End of the American Consensus

We weren't told how to behave that day after 9-11, we just knew. It was right; it was the opposite of what we feel today . . . Are you ready to be the person you were that day after 9-11, on 9-12?

-Glenn Beck, 3/13/09


Wherefore 9/11 nostalgia?

What kind of nostalgia does the memory of 9-12-01 provoke? Why would it be appealing?

The memory of unity, of confronting the world as a coherent American people is clearly part of such romanticism.

The current economic recession, the fear of terrorism, and intensified political partisanship (through the Bush and, now, the Obama years) heighten the appeal of a reassuring unity.


Whence our discord?


But the events themselves (terror attack, economic recession) do not explain all of our unease. Nor does partisanship explain all of our discord.

Rather, 9/11 and the financial meltdown forced us to recognize American vulnerability in new ways and to make decisions that undermined the ideological consensus, predicated on the integrity of nation-states and of markets, that constituted the bulwark of American political life from, at least, World War II until recent years.

Let’s look at the security and economic challenges of recent years to understand how they have punctured this American consensus.


The security challenge:
9/11 demonstrated the limitations of the nation-state system: We learned that the apparently mundane political goings-on in other nation-states are of vital security interest to us even when possess no large conventional army. In other words, we have to pay attention to foreign societies, not just foreign militaries. The Bush Administration’s argument for the Iraq war, love it or hate it, proposed a response to this facet of the security challenge. At the same time, the preemptive Iraq War directly undermined Americans’ faith in the stability and relevance of the international laws undergirding the nation-state system.

The economic challenge:
The TARP bailout demonstrated the limitations of our corporate sector as well as our new economic vulnerability: Ultimately, the stabilization of that sector demanded the ‘public insurance’ of our tax dollars. Also, our debt and our trade imbalance demonstrated that the economic goings-on in other nation-states are of vital interest to us. Our large international debt limited our options to respond to the financial crisis and may have contributed (read more here here and here) to it in a number of ways.

In short, events have overwhelmed the ideology that underpinned American political thinking from the end of World War II until recent years: We now have less faith in the international system of nation-states as well as less faith in free market, corporate capitalism.

This ideological disorientation causes the malaise that Glenn Beck now exploits.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Future of Our Political Parties

I predicted, after 9/11, that the political parties in the US would fundamentally reconstitute themselves. 9/11 demanded an acknowledgment of an interconnected world in which the political organization of other countries, as well as non-Americans’ perceptions of us, were to be of vital consequence.

Bush won the day because he was the only one to present a coherent argument for American engagement in a connected world: Namely, America must reshape the world in its own image.

Obama’s argument for pragmatic flexibility, paired with his symbolic internationalism, gave heft to vague calls made by John Kerry in 2004 for ‘multilateralism;’ working with, and learning from, the rest of the world was now an affirmative act of engagement rather than a retreat from American principles: We were to engage the world with a willingness to adapt. This argument, of course, resonated more strongly in the absence of the perception of immediate threats from terrorists.

The economic crisis of the past year, too, supported Obama’s argument for increased American flexibility: how could we claim to know what is best for the entire world when our cherished capitalist system was mired in such a quandary?

Finally, Obama’s careful management of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, not in accord with the speedy withdrawals originally called for during the Democratic primaries, has robbed the Republican Party, even further, of a potentially affirmative, internationalist message: that of the United States bringing democracy to the world. The GOP’s impulse to take on the world reverts, accordingly, to a shallow xenophobia and isolationism.

Bush and Obama share (and the fact of their sharing anything is surely disturbing to many) a conviction that the world is increasingly intertwined. Each built a political persona based on that idea. All those who reject contending with this emerging reality are left to make increasingly ideological claims with little empirical backing and to entertain the least reality-based members of their political tribe. It is clear which party follows these patterns today.

If Obama leads the Democrats to a principled, if much more cautious and less violent, promotion of democracy around the world, and couples it with enhanced American flexibility on a range of other international issues, the Democrats will have stolen the center for a good time to come. Few constructive messages for the GOP will therefore remain and the party will accordingly continue to wither.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The True Story of the GOP's Dissipation

Rapid global development and economic/financial change undermine the relevance of strict rightists and leftists: The need to adapt quickly to new technologies and new economic realities will reward adaptable, rather than orthodox, parties and regimes.

Edward Golberg of Baruch College, in today's Friedman column diagnoses the malaise of the Republican Party accordingly:
Globalization has neutered the Republican Party, leaving it to represent not the have-nots of the recession but the have-nots of globalized America, the people who have been left behind either in reality or in their fears . . . The need to compete in a globalized world has forced the meritocracy, the multinational corporate manager, the eastern financier and the technology entrepreneur to reconsider what the Republican Party has to offer.


Health care is one example of an area where government can play a productive role in supporting economic growth and human capital development.

Government intervention is only justified in the Right's worldview when the capitalist system is under threat (e.g. during ideological struggles with the Soviets, radical Islamists, etc.). They have no ideological context for coming to terms with the pressing national-economic needs of globalization.

Some on the left have a similar problem coming to terms with globalization but the left's solutions happen to be more pertinent at the moment. And, the anti-WTO, anti-trade wing of the Democratic party has receded, for the time being.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Why Business is The New Communism

Which companies have changed our lives most in recent years?

Could you argue that Google and Facebook have been at the lead?

Perhaps you've thought about how these companies don't just represent new computer tools but new philosophies of doing business: they organize information to make it accessible and trust that that will draw you into their grasp, that they will find out how to make money off of you accordingly.

What's communist about that?

The fact that these companies have an interest in engaging your creativity. That commitment, to the extent that other businesses adopt it, represents a revolution in the relationship of commercial interests to social development: people are inherently valued as knowledge producers and consumers, and the increasing intellectual efficacy of an individual is seen as an economic opportunity for business.

So what?

Many have argued, over the past several hundred years, for a social counterweight (often this role is taken by, and presumed by, government) to the narrow interests of business. Others have argued that the narrowness of business interests is a good thing, as it counterbalances overambitious intellectuals and bureaucrats, and is the stuff of gradual economic and social improvement.

The business philosophies of the Information Age undermine the supposition that broad social thinking and the profit motive tend to lead to divergent paths (though, of course, they sometimes will).

The key idea is that increased access to, and ability to contend with, information is (a) increasingly essential to our economy and, simultaneously, (b) increasingly understood by businesses as an essential avenue for growth.

I am not arguing that business will solve all of our social problems, only that the emerging business philosophy of interconnectivity can lead to enormous social good and hold government increasingly accountable to making economically effective investments in human capital.

A substantiated belief in the alignment of business interest and human development is, where it exists, a salutary development that has wide implications. That trend is where we should keep our attention in coming years, and decades.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Why is the Health Care Debate Happening Now?

Because a Democrat is in the White House?

Because health care costs have skyrocketed?

Because free marketed ideologies have been discredited by the financial crisis?

Because Obama is especially charming?

The principal reason these debates are happening now is none of these things. The sea change in public opinion on health care over the past few decades is a result of the international predominance of capitalism and democracy.

Sound crazy?

During the Cold War, for instance, Americans were much more sensitive about socialist reforms. Now, a minority of Americans expresses such concerns.

At the same time, the idea of taking a huge economic risk in the midst of a focus on international political competition with, say, the Soviet Union or Islamic fundamentalists, was extremely frightening.

Finally, of course, the focus on human development has grown with the increase in the value of human capital in the global economy.

So, the global triumph of capitalism and democracy has (1) reduced ideological sensitivity, (2) shifted our focus away from international political competition, and (3) created the conditions for international economic competition, based on human capital investment, to take on increasing importance.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I'm sure you've seen this posted on your homepage:

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.


I've certainly felt an upsurge of sentiment on this score. And I doubt that that upsurge will go away.

This is not just about health care, though. There is a change of mores occurring in the US, with implications both promising and daunting.

Individual responsibility, to be sure, is not disappearing, but the idea of health care as a right will help to solidify a new meaning of the word "right."

Many others have noticed that "rights" used to imply a freedom from government interference. And that they are coming to mean an entitlement to social support.

This change comes with some risks, economic and social. New rights, however, can lead to both economic and social inefficiencies and efficiencies. We should not pretend that the two conversations are unconnected nor, alternatively, that they always point in the same direction.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Health Care: A Right or A Privilege?

"I think health care is a privilege. I wouldn't call it a right." So says Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) in a recent interview.

This comment is disturbing some liberal commentators. See here and here.

And, yes, the questions raised are essential.

But liberals should pause and realize that the abundant economic wealth that surrounds them makes much more practicable the very idea of "health care as a right." The individualism/individual responsibility that DeMint advocates is an essential element in the growth of wealth that we have witnessed over the past several hundred years. Wealth matters. Individual responsibility matters.

Conservatives should equally consider how mores can evolve, and redound to society's benefit, with new economic and social circumstances. Protections help to make society more stable and help to make less privileged members more productive. Rights matter. Both socially and economically.

One lens for considering the balance between economic growth and civil rights is the historical one:

Namely, rights and protections extended in economically advantageous fashion at one point in economic development might have undermined general economic growth at an earlier time. Had Roman slaves been protected from forced dislocation, as were feudal serfs, the Roman Empire might have been economically undermined in dramatic fashion. Had feudal serfs been extended universal K-12 education as is the common citizen of our time, agricultural output of the period would likely have declined precipitously. By the same token, a commitment to the universal health in our own times may be compatible with strong (more on this adjective later) economic growth even though the costs of such a commitment would have been overwhelming in an earlier time.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Why are there More Independents this Year?

Why did the numbers of independents surge this year? Because neither the Right nor the Left could provide satisfactory answers to the economic crisis: Capitalism, it seemed, could not be left to its own devices without resulting dramatic social repercussions. On the other hand, a nation bridled with great debt could not be depended on to spend its way out of crisis.

The Democrats are ignoring the debt crisis of the future by acting as if spending is the salve for all social wounds. The Republicans are ignoring the financial crisis of last year by blaming Obama for all government actions, including those initiated by Bush; instead, they choose to increase the shrillness of their rhetoric.

The economic crisis did demonstrate that government spending is sometimes necessary to ‘right the national ship.’ But our looming debt should remind us that such spending must be, in the vast majority of cases, a carefully considered economic investment.

The ideologies of the past must give way to a more pragmatic approach to spending and investment that acknowledges the tremendous, but not infinite, power of individualism to drive national growth.

Research Organizations in the Information Age

How can an academic research organization engage a broader public in its work? How can it provoke the common man to buy in to its research process?

Academics need to ask focused questions about which they can gain some insight from the hidden analysts in the general public. Discussion boards that allow for ratings, such as the Obama online discussion about health care, provide for the rise to prominence of the strongest ideas and critiques. Researchers can learn from these and can create a sense of investment by demonstrating that they are doing so.

Ultimately, grants will be written so that data is shared with the public even as analysis is ongoing. If someone else can do a better analysis of ‘my’ data, so much the better for society. If someone can correct my errors before I write up my work, so much the better for me.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Philosophy of Preschool

I’m working at an organization that researches the academic efficacy of preschool programs. Sound like an idea that is bizarre or overly intense?

It might sound less so if you consider ‘play’ as a pre-academic activity.

More people appreciate the intellectual and social aspects of play for children of all ages, nowadays. Interestingly, this infuses the ‘playing years’ with additional intellectual import.

Could growing national interest in pre-K programs reflect a broader understanding of how children learn or is it just a neurotic attempt to twist our young ones into academic machines?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Truth

Tm Friedman:

While the Lebanese deserve 95 percent of the credit for this election, 5 percent goes to two U.S. presidents. As more than one Lebanese whispered to me: Without George Bush standing up to the Syrians in 2005 — and forcing them to get out of Lebanon after the Hariri killing — this free election would not have happened. Mr. Bush helped create the space. Power matters. Mr. Obama helped stir the hope. Words also matter.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Food for Thought

From an article by Carlos Lozada:

With all the despair over the American economy's disappearing jobs and plummeting growth, here's mind bender for you: There is no U.S. economy. The national economy, as we traditionally think of it, is a myth. A fake. Over.

So contend Bruce Katz, Mark Muro and Jennifer Bradley in the latest issue of the journal "Democracy." The United States is not a single unified economy, they say, nor even a breakdown of 50 state economies. Instead, the country's 100 largest metropolitan regions are the real drivers of economic activity, generating two-thirds of the nation's jobs and three-quarters of its output. The sooner we reorient federal economic policies to support this "MetroNation," the quicker we can fix the mess we're in.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Israeli Politics

Check out my new blogpost on a site associated with Haaretz:


Many of you will know the back alleys near Kikar Tzion in Jerusalem: dusty, cobbled-stoned roads, labyrinthine alleys, and rusty railings greet you there. I entered my apartment by passing under a stone archway, turning right, jumping over a gate, climbing stairs, jiggling a difficult lock, and passing through my roommate’s room. My job was no less idiosyncratic and, fittingly, the open courtyard where I dug dirt and carried tiles was within sight of my apartment. My co-workers were Palestinian tiling experts and Ukrainian leathernecks in their fifties.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reasons to Worry

David Smick in the Washington Post:

Pity Barack Obama's economic advisers. The blogs are now demanding their scalps, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and his colleagues face a nasty dilemma: There are no solutions to the banking crisis without extraordinary political and financial risks. Thus, they have adopted a three-pronged approach, delay, delay, delay, in the hope that somebody comes up with a breakthrough.



David Ignatius in the Post:


We're still in the Neville Chamberlain phase when it comes to the economic crisis. The government is talking about sacrifice and solutions, but it hasn't yet made the tough decisions that will put the economy back together.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Letter to NYT: A Theoretical Basis for Moderate Political Thought

Dear Editor:

David Brooks (“A Moderate Manifesto,” 3/3/09) offers an appealing vision of a capitalism aware of its social underpinnings, and of a humanism aware of the decentralization required for economic growth. He could go further by explaining the global context that justifies his thinking.

Increasing global competition belies the idea that government can desist from making the social investments necessary to build new generations of engineers, entrepreneurs, and technicians. It also, however, reminds us of the perils of chasing capital away from our shores. The central challenge that faces us today is that of balancing these two aims.

Many Democrats and Republicans prefer to live in a simpler world in which, respectively, state action is the fundamental palliative, or the fundamental poison. The requisite wake-up call can come from a cold-eyed gaze at the growing power of international markets. A depression might make us do just that.


Sincerely,
Barak Epstein

Letter to WSJ: Protectionism, Globalization, and the Recession

To Whom It May Concern:

New economic realities demand new agreements and regulatory regimes and Jeffrey E. Garten (“The Dangers of Turning Inward, 3/1/09) is correct to identify the source of our current economic woes in an unbalanced global financial system that included an Asian savings glut, distorted currency exchange rates and, consequently, as we know well, inflated asset prices in developed countries.

Professor Garten proposes some lucid solutions to these problems but cannot do much to identify the political force that will call for careful international regulation and social investment. This is no fault of his own. Republican nativist and Democratic labor protectionist sentiment are well-entrenched and a sufficient reorganization of international institutions would necessitate compromises in national sovereignty that neither political party could support.

Garten hopes that “short-lived recession” would teach the body politic enough about the new global order to make possible needed reforms. Count me among those who think that the learning curve will be too steep for that.

Sincerely,
Barak Epstein

Monday, March 02, 2009

Reflections on the Israeli Election

Many of you will know the back alleys near Kikar Tzion in Jerusalem: dusty, cobbled-stoned roads, labyrinthine alleys, and rusty railings greet you there. I entered my apartment by passing under a stone archway, turning right, jumping over a gate, climbing stairs, jiggling a difficult lock, and passing through my roommate’s room. My job was no less (darkly mysterious) and, fittingly, the open courtyard where I dug dirt and carried tiles was within sight of my apartment. My co-workers were Palestinian tiling experts and Ukrainian leathernecks in their fifties. (Continue reading.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

International, International, International

The most fundamental aspect of the current crisis is its international nature. Essentially, huge seas of capital are sloshing around the world and creating great instability in the process. Trust in financial markets is hurt by the general instability and the particular abuses.

Carefully designed international regulations could increase transparency and accountability without squelching capital movement dramatically. The problem is that, when one country imposes such controls, capital can move to another country with great speed. International coordination is clearly desirable. Unfortunately, there is not enough trust for that either.

Robert Samuelson identifies the three layers of the crisis (consumer, finance, and international trade) that must be solved simultaneously. The current US government responses focus on the first two problems. On the third, there is little intelligent government response. In fact, we are likely to see increased protectionism, such as through the "Buy America" steel provision in the recent stimulus package.

The Obama interest in infrastructure development is a good first step towards addressing the need to be internationally competitive but we will not have addressed the challenges, and opportunities, of our economic moment until we look more seriously at international financial and economic structures.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Clear and Principled

Obama to Al-Arabiya:

And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that. And that I think is going to be an important task.


I have to say that I am excited and hopeful about Obama's pending visit to, and speech in, a Muslim capital.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dear Dr. Krugman

I may not be a Nobel Laureate but I think that I can explain Obama's speech to Paul Krugman.

Krugman writes:
Thus, in his speech Mr. Obama attributed the economic crisis in part to “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age” — but I have no idea what he meant. This is, first and foremost, a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. And if we failed to rein in that industry, it wasn’t because Americans “collectively” refused to make hard choices; the American public had no idea what was going on, and the people who did know what was going on mostly thought deregulation was a great idea.


Obama's perspective entails:
1) holding the purchasers of subprime mortgages to account for their decision-making
2) at the same time, implying that such debacles of overleveraging are bound to happen in an unequal society, i.e. the poor are likely to overspend to try to keep up, at least, with the middle class
3) supporting the poor in their ambitions by developing new opportunities for them make economic contributions
4) recognizing that such 'opportunity development' is especially crucial when economic structures change (viz. globalization, the decline of American industry, the growth of the information economy)

It's a complex view that makes room for both individual responsibility and acknowledgment of social tendencies. Or, like others, I have simply divined in Obama's spacious words the perspective that I, myself, hold.

Prediction: Cuban Regime Will Fall Within Two Years

The Cuban regime has relied upon the sense of defiance of American imperialism to support its claims to political leadership. The American system can no longer look so convincingly monolithic to average Cubans. Won't the appeal of grasping the power that American voters have, to buck the establishment (whether it be the Clintons or the former WASP elite, be quite appealing to the Cuban people?

Are Castro's admittedly thoughtful words a strong enough brew to hold the Cuban system together, especially in the event of his apparently pending passing?

Castro:

Nobody can doubt the sincerity of Obama's words when he says he will make his country into a model of freedom, respect for human rights in the world and for the independence of other nations. . .

[But,] despite all the tests he has been put through, Obama has not faced the most important of all.

What will he do when the immense power he has grasped soon proves to be totally useless in overcoming the intractable, opposing contradictions of the (capitalist) system?


The final question may be interesting but I doubt that it will be sufficient to stir the Cuban people to defiance of the United States.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hegel, Democrats, Republicans, Obama(, and the Financial Crisis)

Hegel wrote of a the distinction between the business/manufacturing class (somewhat arcanely referred to as the 'reflective class') and the 'universal' class, constituted of civil servants and others whose professional work demands a broad social perspective.

It is not too difficult to argue, I think, that the Democrats are led by the 'universal class' and the Republicans have tended to be led by Hegel's 'reflective class,' which I will refer to as the 'creative class.'

The crisis in Republican leadership is a result of the fact that the new leading creators tend to have an increasingly universal perspective. This is due to the increasing importance of human capital, which puts the onus upon industry leaders to be more aware of the social investments necessary for their continued prosperity. The future course of the Republican party is unclear so long as Democrats are able to seize the ground where 'universal' meets 'creative.' Obama does this intuitively.

Also: The government purchase of large parts of the economy is a recognition of the increasing importance of addressing universal concerns (i.e. social stability) in the face of pulsating flows of international capital. This is a further manifestation of the same phenomenon as that described above.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How We Will Really Get to Know Obama

John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei present a series of excellent questions about Obama:

The stirring rhetoric witnessed on the campaign trail and in Tuesday’s inaugural address is laced with spacious language — flexible enough to support conflicting conclusions about what he really believes.
Only decisions, not words, can clarify what Obama stands for. Those are coming soon enough.

Until then, here are the questions still left hanging as the Obama administration begins:

DOES HE REALLY THINK AFGHANISTAN IS WINNABLE? . . .

DO DEFICITS MATTER? . . .

HOW FAST IS TOO FAST IN IRAQ? . . .


[and more about surveillance, unions, Darfur, and the Left . . .]