STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Obama Can Save Us
By - January 20, 2009

The incoming president has a lot to live up to, with polls suggesting that the public has higher expectations of him than for any recent U.S. president. According to a survey published last night, 71 per cent of Americans believe the economy will improve during the first year of the Obama presidency and 65 per cent said they think unemployment will drop. Asked about cash-strapped Wall Street, 72 per cent said they thought the stock market would recover. Some 63 per cent were confident that their personal financial situation would improve. 'He cannot not succeed. He has to succeed because the world really depends on him right now,' said Richard Kern, 51, who works in a home remodeling business in Bernalillo, New Mexico. 'We're all hanging in by the treads of our shoes, waiting for the economy to break. We need good news.' There was solid support for Mr. Obama's recovery plan in the Associated Press-Gfk survey, with 58 per cent saying they believe it will bring significant improvements to the economy. – Daily Mail

Dominant Social Theme: The pitch is feverish as Obama is deified.

Free-Market Analysis: There is a disturbing amount of personality worship already swirling around Barack Obama. The idea seemingly expressed among many voters and American celebrities via short interviews and quotes in various articles is that Obama will be able to succeed simply by virtue of his personal incandescence.

We actually see this as a sort of extension of the public school approach to society that has colored many people's vision of what it is like to live in a civilized Western society. (We are also aware that we have among our readers public school teachers. The criticisms that follow in this article are directed not at individual teachers who may be doing a great deal of good and are very committed to their craft but at the system itself.)

Western schools, sad to say, may not even be primarily set up for learning per se – but for other reasons, mostly having to do with social control. In fact, it is quite possible that government schools, with their emphasis on age-specific learning and lack of emphasis on critical thinking, predispose young people to accept an un-serious Western political process even before they are of age to vote. When they do vote, they may well be inordinately influenced by what others think, may decide on voting for this candidate or that simply because others are saying good things about the individual. As the race builds, they follow who is attracting the most attention, who comes off the best in a debate (takes command of the stage), whom the media seems to like. The whole process is very similar to the public school experience; voters recreate the process by which some are "cool" and some are not – some are "in" and some are "out" for various hazy reasons.

Barack Obama has undoubtedly taken advantage of this kind of educational process (dysfunction). He has powerful backers who poured hundreds of millions of dollars into his election campaign to generate a very specific and simplistic message. His approach to campaigning, the uncontroversial themes that were selected and the vagueness of his discourse were all directed toward appealing to those who are conditioned to make snap judgments based on rhetoric, socialization and others' approbation. It is unfortunate but even educated voters in the West may not ever do a great deal of research about a candidate's point of view, relying instead on speeches, sound-bites and newspapers and magazine articles that tend to report what the candidate is saying rather than provide a more detailed analysis and frame of reference.

Obama's appeal is obviously based on his good looks, youth and energy. It is also based, at least partly, on his low-key personal style and, importantly, on a very calculated campaign that has tended to emphasize generalities. His clever approach has been to provide a kind of public persona of such inchoateness that one can project onto him one's hopes and dreams without much contradiction.

But what of the policies we can discern? Free-market economics tells us that Obama's idea of spending his way out of a depression will not work. Trying to keep prices high during a monetary contraction only aggravates the difficulties of the economy. Providing make-work will not help. Taking away capital from productive private hands will aggravate difficulties. All of these things, Obama has already proposed and is on his way to initiating. But since Americans, still, have almost no idea of economic history, of free-market economics, marginal utility or the destructiveness of central banking, it is not surprising that Obama is being judged on his demeanor, his physicality (he plays basketball very well), his family life and other qualities that, while important, have little to do with the reality of the slow-motion economic devolution of the West. It is quite possible that Obama himself, Harvard educated and surrounded by like-minded folks, doesn't quite understand what is going on either. This gives rise to a kind of blind-leading-the-blind syndrome.

After Thoughts

It is fairly obvious that Obama and those in his inner circle are very uncomfortable about continuing to generate high expectations that Obama can "solve" the problems that America and the West faces. Whether they know or not how to do it – reducing government spending and cutting taxes radically would be a start – they are seeking to redefine expectations so that Obama will be judged based on the "hope" that his administration generates rather than any specific set of economic results.

As we have written previously, we wish Obama and his administration well. But we are also convinced that the next few years shall likely once again illustrate the impotence of government. Thanks to the Internet, there is already in America and Europe a powerful, burgeoning movement of Libertarianism. In fact, one could say with some confidence that sooner or later, a Reformation of sorts is coming. Yes, the current failures and desperation of the West shall surely provide fertile soil for a new beginning – and very possibly an economic default back to gold and silver (the natural circulation of honest money). Obama's supporters are fond of saying that change is on the way. But it is probably not the change they expect, and it may not happen in the manner that they predict.

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