Here is Frank Rich's column from Sunday, April 11, 2010 entitled "No One Is to Blame," in which he writes about, among others, Alan Greenspan's attempts to duck responsibility for the financial meltdown that followed hard on his tenure as head of the Federal Reserve, where he was reputed to be a genius. Rich correctly points out that despite Greenspan's attempts to obfuscate by saying that no one saw the meltdown coming, that that is just bogus. More than one person saw it coming, just as many saw that the "intelligence" leading us into Iraq was fatally flawed and just as many saw that our war in Vietnam would end in defeat.
But Rich only sees part of the phenomenon. People like Greenspan get away with this stuff because "blame" in not concept that governments recognize. In fact, it is only a bit simplistic to say that "government" was created in order to remove "blame" from the political arena as a relevant category. Simple example: Hamilton in the Federalist Papers argues that what is needed in government is an "energetic executive," one who possesses great powers and who is willing to use them. Now, think about it. If "blame" is to remain a relevant political or governmental category, how likely is it that an energetic executive will exist? Or put it this way: Which is more conducive to creating and maintaining an energetic executive, a political discourse in which "blame" is a central and relevant category or a political discourse from which "blame" has been excised? Clearly, it is the latter. Without having to worry about being "blamed" and all this entails, executives will be more likely, in fact even encouraged, to act in ways that are morally dubious. And, of course, this is what Hamilton meant when he spoke of an "energetic executive," one who would be willing and able to act in morally dubious ways, allegedly for the good of the polity.
I wonder how this is working out?