President Obama

Well, the inevitable is now official, and Obama is now President-elect of the United States.  The question is whether the Democrats will go overboard now that they have a clean sweep?

Congratulations to Obama.  Though I personally disagree with many of his left-wing ideals, you can’t deny the historic nature of his victory.

42 thoughts on “President Obama

  1. No we can’t deny the historic significance. However ” yes we can’ doesn’t mean he’ll be able to defy economic laws. If he does it will be done at his peril.

    The problem as I see it comes down to this.

    He’s says he’ll tax the 50% of the population to redistribute the income to the 50% that pays no federal income tax. This will basically means that he’s directing resources away from investment towards consumption. In addition the tax base get loaded up during a time when the federal government is running a US1 trillion deficit.

    As he raises taxes the opportunity to increase jobs etc. will diminish.

    So there we are.

    Frankly which ever way i look at it his economic plan is screwed.

    This doesn’t take into account the new, new economic spending plan the Dems are going to introduce amounting to $300 billion.

    It will be interesting to see where this takes us. He can of course cut military spending down to the bone as I’m sure he’ll do but that would possibly net about $150 billion a year.

    The Dems are certainly not going to cut entitlement spending, so i am very interested to know where all the loot is coming from.

    If I were in the 50% taxpayer group i would be quite worried as there could be a second and third bight at the cherry.

  2. He may not be as bad as he sounds… I hope not – and I hope the positives of his election will outweigh any negatives.

    The thing is, he tells people what they want to hear – so if something is too unpopular, he won’t go ahead with it.

    Unfortunately, a lot of the really bad ideas ARE popular… and it’s kind of hard to argue about the dangers of socialised healthcare, when they’ve just been nationalising insurance companies and banks, etc.

  3. Congratulations to Obama and America. It will be very interesting now to see who he appoints to which portfolios.

    It was unfortunate that McCain ran a spoiling campaign against Barr.

  4. Watch Rudd. He is a white Obama. The sentiment electing Obama is what elected Rudd.

    If you don’t mind what Rudd has been doing too much, you won’t mind what Obama will do. If you have despised Rudd so far, you’ll despise Obama.

    They are different people and different countries. But we saw a paradigm shift and people in both countries voted for “change” and populism and for helping the average Joe.

  5. Interestingly it’s probably better news for those of us that live outside the US than those in. It’s important that the world has respect for the US. I wish him well.

  6. I’m just glad the whole thing is over for another 2 and a half years.

    America was going to get a big government President no matter who won.

    The only positive is that it might shut up a few of the Bush haters, who after 8 years are really boring now.

  7. I agree with pommygranate. It’s probably good for all the rest of us, and while I also disagree with some of his leftwing ideals, overall it will do much to improve America’s international reputation which admittedly Bush damaged.

    Imagine if McCain had won – the world would have put it down to racism and intolerance. This result is a pretty good counterargument to the whole ‘Americans are racist rednecks’ thing.

    Congrats to Obama and I hope the power doesn’t go to his head!

  8. I agree with the Rudd comparison, Shem… Though FWIW, I have loathed Rudd. The symbolism and “international respect” with Obama is different though – and I agree with John Humphreys that this is a positive, even if I don’t think it was a valid enough reason to vote for him.

    Bill Clinton once pointed out that it in some ways, it can actually be harder to deal with your own party in house majority… let’s hope Obama deals with it well. For his own interests, he’ll probably have to… saying stuff to get in power is one thing – keeping power requires a much more delicate balance.

    There are some conservatives, I’m sure, who want to see Obama fail – to prove how right they were. I would like to see both Obama and the US succeed – and prove my worst fears wrong.

    To Brendan – yes, it will shut up the Bush haters (eventually). Some conservative-bloggers have already asked who the haters will hate next… based on the Rudd situation, I suspect they will be too worries about gloating.

  9. There’s nothing good that will emerge from Obama’s election apart from proving America is willing to elect a black. All the fluff about electing him will be gone within 6 months.

    We’ll then be left with a policy response to the financial turmoil that makes the recession deeper and longer than necessary. If he does half of what he proposes the US will go into a prolonged slump that drags down the rest of the world. He’s a protectionist, high taxing big spender.

    I predict Congress will return to the Republicans in two years and Obama will be a one term president. I just hope the Republicans genuinely return to their free trade, low tax roots before then.

  10. Given that we have just seen the banks pretty much nationalized and the US government debt get totally out of hand I find it difficult to see what your talking about.

    Look past the rhetoric and look at what 8 years of right wing nuttery has done.

  11. I fear you’re right about the financial turmoil DavidL, but one can hope.

    I think you’re wrong about how long the honeymoon will last. Rudd’s lasted longer, and he’s no smooth-talker. And FDR was elected multiple terms, despite the disastrous New Deal policies.

    Hmmm… thanks David – I was trying to be all optimistic, and you ruined it 😦

  12. In the American elections, Libertarian Bob Barr received barely 1% of the vote in nine of the fifty states. In comparison, Left-extremist Ralph Nader received 1% of the vote in thirty-six states. In the five most-libertarian states (FL, NH, NV, TX, WA), Barr managed to earn 1% of the vote in only one state, and no percent in his home state of Georgia.

    Which makes libertarianism in the U.S. even more ‘fringe’ politically than socialist extremism.

    Libertraianism is an intellectual movement, not a political movement. Libertarianism is a philosophy, not an ideology. Voters perecieve this to be true, even if so many libertarians do not.

    It is libertarian philosophy which is so influential (while libertarian ideology is such a disaster), and that is where we libertarians should concentrate our best efforts in the sea-change of urban demographics capturing political power in America. America’s urbanization is now the culmination of a 150 year process, and is not going to be reversed.

    Mr. Obama ran a great campaign, combining a preacher’s rhetorical skills with a personal keen intelligence, genuine likability, and a very moderate temperment. At best, 40% of his vote is ideological; the decisive factors were broad disgust with two inconclusive wars and the meltdown of financial markets (two trillion dollars of paper wealth lost, and still counting).

    What do you think, Australia? Are we libertarians an intellectual movement grounded in philosophy, are are we libertarians a political movement, offering the myths of ideology?

  13. A Duoist, have you ever heard the expression “Faith without works is dead”? It’s in the Bible. The letter-writer was admonishing those Christians who felt that they need do nothing, not even change themselves, after they became Christians.
    You seem to be advocating the same thing- that Libertarianism should remain a ‘pure’ philosophy which never sullies its’ hands with real matter. You seem to be talking about a Platonic Libertarianism, which just wants to be a distant friend of the world.
    How about a compromise? You stay in your Ivory tower where you can espouse an ideal world, and we foot-soldiers will try to build the better world you say that you can see? Your talk about an abstract libertarianism might inspire some people to take an interest in us, and we can then recruit them to our practical goals.

  14. Fingers crossed. I believe you should take people at their word and Obama has a bunch of bad policies and a House keen to get moving on them. Much will depend on the treasury secretary I suspect. Double fingers crossed for Volker.

    If he goes all Smoot-Hawley then it will hurt us. If the US stagnates it will hurt us.

    I predict that the financial crisis will be a stick used to beat sensible policies for years and will thus hide any left-wing follies for a couple of election cycles at least.

    As for the world loving the US, when republicans have the white house the world hates yanks and their president. When the dems have the whitehouse the world hates yanks despite their president.

  15. A Duoist, libertarianism is hardly an ideology. It’s primarily a political movement.
    Libertarians have widely differing views on metaphysics, epistemology ethics etc.

    The Rothbardian approach has failed and will continue to fail IMO.

    For proof of my statement note how Ron Paul endorsed Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.
    Basically the US version of family first party. The absolute opposite of actual liberty.
    http://www.campaignforliberty.com/blog.php?view=547

  16. In regards to respect for the US.

    I don’t think that will change much. But I could be wrong.
    I think it’s mainly a tall poppy syndrome effect IMO – although I’d agree the president would have some small impact on respect levels.

    How many Australians would acknowledge that the US is a big part of the reason for our relative prosperity? They simply wouldn’t have thought about it. We have benefitted from their political system ie: their revival of the modern democracy back in the 18th century and the massive amount of private enterprise that grew in the 19th century.
    But I doubt many Australians would admit this even while munching down their McDonalds fries.

    IMO Australians, for emotional or other weak reasons, generally regard themselves as superior to Americans. But I don’t see the big difference.

  17. Well, we should give them some credit- thanks to their separatist behaviour, Britain got around to colonising Australia. And not just anyone- our first settlers were hand-picked by the best judges of the day! They didn’t settle for anyone, but insisted on people with honest convictions!

  18. I totally agree with a Duoist to say that libertarianism is a coherent political ideology is to deny all the various forms that have sprung about as an extension of classical liberalism. When you’ve got Barr and Chomsky sticking on the same label you know you’ve got a problem. However there is no recognition of this variety at Cato, here or with any libertarian political party.

  19. The problem is in this day and age that young people are either wankers when it comes to politics or just don’t care. There are very few people genuinely interested in politics at uni and they seem to keep to themselves. Whenever I see political campaigners in union court I deliberately challenge them, even if I agree with them to some extent. So far I’ve only had one girl admit that she knew nothing about what she was talking about, while all the others have either walked away or, in the case of the socialists, called me a neo-fascist (I don’t know what that is either :/). I think our biggest danger as a political movement is attracting wankers who just want an excuse to espouse holier than thou rhetoric. Libertarianism is great and all, but -isms are a great danger in the hands of the irrational

  20. I think also that often libertarian organization responses to many issue facing modern society (third world poverty, global warming, overpopulation, AIDS ect ) go back to classically liberal ideas that were formed before such issues came into political discussion. Often American libertarians (and by their influence Australian libertarians) act like conservatives thinking back to the days of small government under conditions in which the US constitution was formed. Looking at traditional ideals is great, but I think there needs to be more modern responses to such issues.

  21. Jarryd, the issue of “chomsky v barr” is simply the problem of two people using the same label for different ideas.

    The same problem exists with “liberal” — which means “social democracy” in America, but it means “free-market” in other places.

    Chomsky’s philosophy would best be described as “stupid”. But if you need a different title, then try “anarcho-syndicalist” or “anarcho-communist”. This philosophy self-destructs after about 5 seconds of analysis.

    In contrast, the libertarian political philosohpy is internally consistent and quite robust. Even if you disagree, you can’t say that “free trade, legalise drugs, low tax, privacy rights” aren’t real ideas.

    Of course, there are different degrees of libertarianism — ranging from anarchy to minarchy to moderate.

    And I disagree that government intervention is a “modern” or “better” response to the challenges of the 21st century. People have been saying “you’ll all die, give me power and money” for centuries, and they’ve been abusing their power for centuries, and they’ve been making the world a worse place for centuries. Very old, and very poor idea.

  22. Mark Hill: It would depend on your idea of “big government” I guess. The current trends towards tackling such issues: fair trade, subsidized medications and emission trading lead to responses of “tax is theft”, “look after yourself” and the classic avoiding tactic “what global warming?”.

    John Humphreys: But Chomsky (like Barr) started off forming his beliefs from the stand point of classical liberalism. His view encompasses many left ideologies that are libertarian in nature including Georgism and its extension Geolibertarianism, Agorism and other anti-authoritative ideologies. I find it strange that you view Chomsky’s anarchistic tendencies as profoundly distinct from libertarian ones given that they have very similar ideas and goals.

  23. Personally, I think philosophically Chomsky is sound.

    But on a policy level I couldn’t disagree with him more profoundly. He believes that increasing government can somehow lead to individual responsibility and freedom. I believe that only smaller government can encourage these traits.

    Unlike many here, I am quite critical of capitalism. I believe that anarcho-capitalism is not a fair, or even a free system. Chomsky quite rightly points at many of the philosophical problems with capitalism. But he believe somehow that capitalism is a greater threat to freedom than government. He believe in destroying capitalism now and abolishing government later.

    I believe that we must abolish government now and let capitalism decay itself later. Government is a far greater threat to freedom than capitalism will ever be. Capitalism is at least based on the presumption of freedom even though philosophically capitalism can lead to situations where freedom is denied.

    And while there are philosophical problems with capitalism. I think practically a lot of the dystopian scenarios have not eventuated. Socialism only works if people are good, capitalism works even if people aren’t good. I believe we’re all flawed, so capitalism is the only system that works.

    On a practical level I do support some government intervention in people’s lives. I think that sometimes government outcomes have benefits over free market outcomes. I think government will continue to exist during my life, I just hope that a healthier balance between government and free markets will have been reached.

    Personally I’m a supporter of freedom- but others really do just prefer security. Security is illusory, but that illusion IS security, it’s the feeling of safety that is more important to most people than actual safety. Just like it’s the feeling of freedom that is more important than actual freedom. Governments provide a feeling of security, just like markets provide a feeling of freedom. I hope that both lovers of security and freedom can be satiated, because right now those who prefer freedom are really being treated poorly.

  24. Shem are you critical of capitalism or anarcho-capitalism? They are different.

    From the little I know of Chomsky I wouldn’t agree with all of his philosophy, although I definitely don’t agree with some behaviouralsit pyschology theories either (Chomsky was a critic).

    I do agree 100% with capitalism as the only free and moral economic system. What are the “philosophical problems” you state exist with capitalism?

    I find it strange that you would agree with someone’s philosophy, then dramatically disagree with their views of politics. Politics is after all a branch of philosophy.

    You also say “on a practical level” you support some (undefined) government intervention.
    But I was wondering if you were implying a dichotomy between theory and practice or a mind body dichotomy?

    In regards to people wishing for security. These people need to be educated that freedom is the best way they can achieve true security, happiness, prosperity etc.

  25. I’ve been reading a fascinating book, called “God & Gold”, written by Walter Russell Mead. He points out that the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ system, of tolerating religious and political differences, encourages freedom and some level of insecurity. We are culturally different to the ‘Continental’ model of heavy-handed government ‘guidance’- and that is why the English-speaking world is ahead of the rest. Freedom to worship as you please, and freedom to get gold, make your countries richer.

  26. Fair trade is a bad idea. It is a poor choice for the more often known reasons cited by economists and also Sinclair Davidson has shown how it doesn’t actually help the poor and producers.

    Subsidised medicine isn’t as good as a HECS style system for medical services. That is a level of Government intervention but it serves merely to redistribute, and nothing more. Sometimes a valid case may be made for this.

    Mitigating global warming hasn’t been shown to have a net benefit for society. Mitigating global warming need not increase the overall tax rate, there is no reason why it cannot be done voluntarily or for profit by well intentioned business, without any new taxes. See http://www.betterplace.com for more. Also consider the level of Governemnt subsidy that causes carbon emissions and a range of other economic problems (of note, the recent ABC news article I posted in “Discussion” which points out that excessive red tape is stopping more efficient water use and more environmental flows). Also consider the extent of pollution in the Soviet bloc at the time of it’s dissolution.

    Generally, less Government has more optimal results for society.

  27. Tim R- I’m in favour of capitalism as it currently exists and I’m in favour of moving towards more capitalism. But to maximise capitalism, it really means maximising the free market, which means there is no role for government. The end point of capitalism IS anarcho-capitalism.

    Problems I have with anarcho-capitalism as an end state are: if every piece of land is owned by someone and your parents only rent the land, when you are born you have no choice but to accept the conditions of the property you are on, or move elsewhere. It’s exactly the same problem we face with government- you can choose between different models of government but you can never choose no government. If all land was owned by someone you could choose between different rental contracts but you could never choose “no contract” and those private property contracts theoretically could be very close to a government system.

    Anarcho-capitalists usually say they believe in equality of opportunity but not equality of outcome. Yet most also oppose the death tax. While it is possible to be a self-made millionaire I don’t think children born to capitalist dynasties have the same opportunities children born to 3-generation unemployed even today, I think the situation could become even more pronounced if you removed current equalisers like welfare and education if nothing replaced them. Welfare today sucks, it traps as many people as it helps, but I’m still not convinced that I’d be able to attend Uni if I hadn’t had it.

    Privatisation of law is something that would become necessary if there was no government. Yet if law and military were privatised then people could voluntarily choose whether or not they wanted to be protected by a particular law or by a particular police force/ military. That sounds a lot like gang/ mafia rule to me. Where each organisation sets their own rules and each person chooses which group to pay protection money to.

    When you carry the thought-experiment of anarcho-capitalism to its logical conclusion they are some of the outcomes I see as possible. I only believe anarchy would work if people were perfect, or a lot more perfect than we are. But we’re prone to evil and corruption more often than we should be.

    Regardless of the society you live in there will always be Ubermensch or people that try and dominate those below them. I think a Liberal Democracy is the best system of civilisation for keeping the power-hungry among us in check. A capital economic system allows the powerful to rise, but a strong government and the rule of law stops them from dominating those below them and a strong democracy keeps the government accountable. We’ve swung too far away from liberal democracy and given the government too much power- we need people to remember that the point of democracy is to protect individual rights from corrupt interests- whether they be in business, crime or government.

  28. I find Chomsky’s political ideals to be little more than glorified mob rule. I was going to quote his selected essays, but it seems I didn’t bring his selected essays back to Canberra with me ^_^’ Basically, it says that industry workers should control the flow of goods under an elected head. Needless to say, I see no difference between this and slavery, though he would say that wage slavery is worse. Easily refuted by me saying “but at least I set the going rate”. Gotta love the man for his linguistic theories though, huge contribution to computer science 🙂
    While capitalism is not perfect, it’s a lot better than being subjected to the mercy of a power-hungry state that, although it provides everything you need, can take it all away with little more than a snap of it’s fingers and a couple of sour words. That’s one of the things my girlfriend and I are always fighting about, she would rather be enslaved and living in a squalor while receiving everything she needed rather than be working in private industry and getting a wage that lets her live her life the way she wants to. Somehow in her head freedom doesn’t equate to responsibility :/ Anyway, enough of my rambling 🙂

  29. Mark…

    Fair Trade:
    From my understanding the only issue free trade economists have with fair trade is that it involves setting a price floor . This is to counteract the current circumstances in which developing countries are forced to bet down the price of business to a barely profitable level in order to compete with one another so that their citizens can be employed. Free trade economists see this as wrong because it decreases competition. Fair trade economists see this as justified as western countries have had years of protectionist policies to gain considerable wealth and that even with a price floor the cost of production in developing countries will still out beat most western manufacturers. Even if you don’t accept the price floor concept of fair trade, there is also the aspect of ensuring certain environmental and more importantly labor standards are kept in order to trade. You can hardly say that the main goal of globalisation is to force developing countries to “compete” on who can have the shittyier labor standards. Fair trade is not in opposition to free trade, it is simply a movement that believe their should be a transition into a more neoliberal approach.

    Medical Care:
    Moving past the loads of moral questions which come from allowing individuals to incur debt to care for their health, HIV treatment is life long its not something that once “cured” someone can start finding a way to pay back.

    Global Warming:
    I wasn’t talking about a government heavy solution. Something along the lines of an emission trading scheme or a carbon tax need not be heavily bureaucratic. But there is a ‘conservative’ libertarian need to even resist these such solutions look at Cato (http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9406) and look at the only environmental concern on the American LP (http://www.lp.org/issues/environment). I admit we are much better over here but when you move past being simply ‘small government’ to ‘pro-business’ suddenly the external effects of industry on individual life and liberty seem to not matter.

  30. I still find amusement in the notion of a US President called Osama Hussein.

    Oops I meant Obama.

    If nothing else it proves that voters can vote without getting hung up on irony.

  31. Stephen, I actually don’t like a lot of Chomsky’s linguistic theories. I don’t agree with the LAD, I think that universal grammar generalises to language when it should generalise to a large cognitive and pattern finding framework. I’m even not sure about his work on Principles and Paradigms.

    I do like some of what he writes about Wage Slavery. The problem, again, however is that he looks at issues too narrowly. Yes people are forced to work in order to eat, but that’s a necessary part of the human condition. Even a caveman had to work if he wanted to eat. Until we have enough robots to do the work for us, working will always be necessary to prevent poverty and starvation.

    I do like the idea of workers having their wages tied to a companies productivity. Right now a profitable company like McDonalds doesn’t have much of a trickle down effect to the cashiers that hold the system up. Wages being linked to productivity more tightly is a fairer system than the current setup, but a lot of people wouldn’t like their wages to drop if their employer is having trouble. They do prefer security to risk which is why there are flat wages.

  32. Chomsky grammars are an invaluable part to modern programming languages, what you wrote was absolute moonspeak to me, I don’t have that kind of background :(. The first language, FORTRAN, was defined before Chomsky’s theories, i.e on the fly and made up as they went along, and as a result seems incredibly weird and ambiguous by today’s standards (they were using context sensitive grammars :/ Really stupid thing to do if you want efficiency and clarity in your language….). Not here to lecture on programming languages though 🙂 I agree with you, I would work a lot harder if I knew my wages directly depended on the company’s success, but at the same time I would feel a little screwed over if I gave 110% and the company went downhill because of some idiotic high risk investment or I missed out on getting a wage full stop because the company wanted to expand and couldn’t afford to give employees a cut.

    I’m kind of umming and arring about weighing in on the free vs fair trade debate… I don’t know a whole lot about economics 😦

  33. Jarryd…there is nothing wrong from a libertarian or economist’s point of view – if it is voluntary. However, there are basic problems with the concept. Poor countries trade labour intensive goods for capital intensive goods. If poor nations can’t engage in this trade – they have little to sell. I don’t think it can have widespread success, and this is witnessed by the low uptake. It’s success is dependent on consumer preferences. But how is voluntary fair trade related to an increased role of Government in economic affairs?

    There are moral questions is having a system like we have…and Medicare isn’t insurance. Anyone can turn up to a hospital and get medical care for the most trivial of matters, for free getting in the way of emergency and more important patients. It merely subsidises losses. A HECS style system would allow people with high cost healthcare to be covered better than now but be overall, cheaper and more effective since all other health services are deregulated. If people can live normal lives or get cured, they pay it back as taxes. There is no reason why private groups cannot set up similar schemes if we removed Medicare and deregulated health services. The current system is terribly inefficient. To keep the PBS system viable, the Federal Government needs to subsidise pharmaceuitcal companies to ensure they keep producing or selling to Australia. Where are the savings in such a crazy system? There is simply a lot of waste.

    Finally: libertarians are not “pro business”. (Look at the Kelo decision in the US for a disgusting abrogation of property rights, a win for business and social democrats)

    We’re different. We’re live and let live. A tax should impact prices minimally and simply raise no more revenue than necessary.

  34. There’s a lot you could automate within the tax office that, while the initial cost would be high, would be a lot cheaper and more efficient than what we have now. The really bad thing is, I can see the damn software in my head, but something tells me it would never get approved 😦

  35. I disagree that capitalism in its maximum form is anarcho capitalism.

    Property rights are the basis for Capitalism – these rights need enforcing by a monopoly law provider.

    A right is a legal protection by definition. In an anarchy you don’t have such protections. And you cannot therefore expect you will have property rights.

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