Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama's Centeredness A Weakness for Reform?

While I have revealed in the past a deep affinity for the Democrats, there are some areas of disagreement. The following conclusions came from a chance meeting. It just so happens that my old MA Advisor walked into a Starbucks where I happened to be grading essays. Since he's been on sabbatical, we haven't had a chance to talk. As Americans in Canada, we starting discussing my move back to the US, and how two ethicists perceive the current attempts to rectify the American economy. My advisor claimed Obama's politics is a form of conservative consequential socialism.. By this he meant:

Conservative consequential socialism recognizes an intervention as morally justified for the greater good by conserving status quo economic institutions with public funds.

Now, I take from this two possibilities.

First, if the system of capitalism requires that some institutions fail to accrue wealth or achieve stability, then there might be some reasons to let them fail, that is, if we want to remain capitalists. On some level, this may be too naive, or at the outset, too harsh. We are talking about a consequentially driven line of thinking. Yet, the attempt to bolster or enhance current institutions so that people may retain their jobs rather than have those institutions fail might engender worse consequences in the future which means that CCS might not achieve the maximization of good consequences it set out to achieve.

Secondly, conserving current institutions may be the entirely wrong approach. Unlike the first point, it is possible that capitalism is an inherently self-destructive. Perhaps, we should have moved away from it. With the amount of money so far spent, we could have funded people's salary for several years, given them education to better themselves in science and mathematics, or developed auniversal health care. In so doing, the institutions would have failed, and people would be worse off currently. However, the institutions that improve human life would exist come time for things to improve in the future.

Now, my point is that the centeredness of Obama rests on standing between the first and second proposal. He's too moderate to ever let capitalism run its own course, and he's too moderate to ever shift focus to a more European model where public programs ensure some level of prosperity for everyone. It may just be the case that one of the more extreme positions is more correct than attempting to remain moderately center of one over the other. If that is the case, then Obama might not be able to see what is necessary to be seen, or perhaps, his centeredness is more nuanced than I have picked up on.

Either way, I am doubtful of the amount being spent though I remain cautiously optimistic. I want the best for the United States. However, I think that Obama could learn a little from Aristotle. First, wealth is instrumental in helping people achieve the Good life. This only means that the more money people have, the more a chance they have to refuse the ill-choices of those who have not. Secondly, when exemplifying generosity with one's wealth, you must only give to those that would remain virtuous. Giving money to the same institutions that perpetuated an active deception is questionable since they didn't make the right choices when they had wealth (or made choices to maximize their own interest beyond what virtue required) and we have no reason to think they would change for the better.

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