4.29.2009

WSJ on Pragmatism

The Wall St. Journal editors have provided their analysis of Barack Obama's presidency so far, and it's a wishy-washy account that goes from being somewhat laudatory to slightly more negative, making some good points, but for superficial reasons.

Still, I found it interesting to read their assessment of Obama's domestic policy, especially in light of yesterday's post, Pragmatism, Social Justice, and the Failure of Conservatism. The editors write:

On the home front, there can no longer be any such doubts. Mr. Obama talks the language of pragmatism, but his program has revealed a man of the left. He clearly views the financial crisis and the liberal majorities in Congress as a rare chance to advance the power of the state in American life. The only two comparable moments in the last century were 1965, which gave us the Great Society, and 1933, which bequeathed the New Deal. Mr. Obama's goals are at least as ambitious, resuming the march toward the European welfare state that was stopped by what Democrats like to call the Reagan detour. [bold added]

Overall, they have grasped the direction in which Obama is taking the country and why. It is good to see that they call a spade a spade, and give voice to the fact that the country is ratcheting up (not resuming... it never stopped) its march toward the European welfare state.

But the editors have swallowed the idea that pragmatism is somehow above ideology -- and by 'ideology' I use their meaning of partisanship of one flavor or another -- and that it would be a great tool if people wouldn't tarnish it with politics. In reality, pragmatism's a-philosophical nature leaves nothing to help one decide what "works" except for whim, faith, or prepackaged ideology. If you fully abandon reason, principle, and the certainty of knowledge of the world, from where else can such a "practical" judgment come? And as I discussed yesterday, Obama's flavor of pragmatism has a purposeful, and purposefully obfuscated, progressive agenda.

The editors also buy into the false promise of the conservatives being those who would not use the crises and the solidification of party power "as a rare chance to advance the power of the state in American life." They would just use the power of the state to control different aspects of American life. Eight years of George W. Bush should be enough proof of that.

The editorial ends with the following:
Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, and sooner or later the twain shall meet. For now, we are living in another era of unchecked liberal government. The reckoning will come when Americans discover how much it costs.
I believe, based on the rest of the editorial, that they are referring only to monetary costs such as taxes and deficits. But the statement applies equally well, if not better, when considering the cost to American individual liberty and economic freedoms. There will certainly be a reckoning, but it is unclear if Americans will discover the true costs before it's too late.

No comments: