Friday, April 13, 2012

The Politics of Failure, Part 4

The Politics of Failure, Part 4
P. Schultz
April 13, 2012

I am sitting here thinking or something and I came up with this question: Is our "problem" a budget problem? Or can what is ailing us be cured by means of budgeting, ala' the thought of Paul Ryan and many others? If we think it can, then we immediately turn to economic considerations, e.g., should taxes be raised, should taxes be lowered, how much should spending be cut, etc., etc., etc. So, we have turned our "problems" into economic problems and think that the proper "economic expertise" - which of course Paul Ryan is suppose to be very good at - will solve our problems.

But (a) is this correct? One interesting implication of Paul Ryan's references to his Catholicism suggests or could suggest - although he does not seem to see it this way - that our "problems" are not economic at all. He, of course, uses his Catholicism to justify his budget recommendations, that is, turns Catholicism into a primer on economics. But one could argue that from the perspective of Catholicism our problems are not economic but rather "moral" or as we say today "cultural." Greed runs capitalist economies, "free market" economies, and it this "culture" that needs changing. No budget can accomplish such cultural change. In fact, budgeting is mere tinkering.

And (b) by turning or treating our problems as economic, aren't we just reinforcing the status quo? Think of it this way: During the Vietnam War it was the common thought that our problems there were "military problems," and so the correct application of "military expertise" and "military prowess" and "military hardware" could solve them. But this way of thinking merely served to reinforce the status quo and amounted to little more than tinkering. Most interestingly, the "non-experts" saw this and, hence, concluded that it was time to end our involvement in that war because it was futile. The "experts," that is, those who are rewarded precisely because they are tinkerers, could not see this.

Expertise has certain advantages to be sure. But it has disadvantages as well, one of which is that the experts fail to see the degree to which they are tinkerers. As I said to someone once who was arguing for the necessity for bureaucracy: "OK, I will grant you this much. If you are up shit's creek it is better to have bureaucracy [expertise] than not because at least you have a paddle. But even with that paddle you will still be up shit's creek." 

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