Sunday, March 4, 2012

Escape Artists?

Escape Artists?
P. Schultz
March 4, 2012

This is a link to a review of a book entitled The Escape Artists, which claims to be a book explaining how the Obama administration “repeatedly failed” during the recovery from the great recession. Well, I guess this might work but what if the Obama administration did not fail at all in its approach to the recovery? That is, suppose, just for laughs perhaps, that what this author takes to be “failure” the Obama administration takes to be “success.” What is lacking, my addled brain tells me, in the accounts of the Obama administration is any kind of political analysis. That is, there is no analysis that factors in what might be called “political variables,” or how the Obama administration approached the recovery in a way that preserved the power of those elites, those groups who had power before the great recession. It is as if our analysts think of political people as “problem solvers,” as those who sought and use power to solve problems rather than as political people who want to rule.

When Aristotle looked at human beings, he noticed that it was rule or ruling that defined human beings. That is, he distinguished between “democrats” and “oligarchs,” for example, both of whom wanted to rule and to rule to achieve certain ends. Democrats wanted equality and oligarchs wanted inequality. Hence, democrats wanted the many not wealthy to rule and oligarchs wanted the few wealthy to rule. But whatever the details, the desire to rule is what motivates human beings as Aristotle understood us. This is surely part of what Aristotle meant when he wrote that human beings are political animals: human beings desire to rule and this desire is at least as basic as our sex drive or the desire for self-preservation.

But you would never know this from almost any political analysis today. As noted above, if one views Obama’s measures as meant to facilitate a recovery, then one can say he and his administration “failed.” However, if one views Obama’s measures as political, that is, as measures that would allow Obama and his ilk to rule, then one should not, at least not yet, label them “failures.” What looks like “failure” from what is called “an economic point of view” need not look like failure from “a political point of view.”

Hey, this is probably crazy but then “it just might be a lunatic you’re looking for.”

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