Thursday, September 04, 2008
An Old Post, recycled
False Beliefs and Fond Hopes
Along with deep skepticism, the voting public has a naïve trust in the ability of government and political leaders to accomplish several goals. Two of these are:
Improving the state of the economy
Providing sure protection and defense against terrorist attacks, like the attacks of September 11, 2001The public is justifiably concerned about future terrorist attacks. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry try to persuade the voters that the great responsibility of the next President will be to prevent any such attacks. Mr. Bush claims that he has the resolve and determination to lead and direct the war against terror and that it is the successful prosecution of that war as well as his determination that will protect us from any more such attacks. Mr. Kerry claims that he also has the needed resolve, determination, and character. Furthermore, he has a better plan that Mr. Bush on how to proceed with the “war on terror.” While Mr. Bush seems to rely solely on the military might of the United States and the resolve of Americans, Mr. Kerry proposes to enlist the support of allies to share the burden of continuing the attack. Many members of the public are also concerned about their economic futures. They want an economy that creates more good jobs for them, jobs as good as the ones they have lost. They feel that, even though there are jobs available, they do not pay well and do not have the benefits that jobs used to have. They resent illegal immigrants for depressing the wages of low-paying jobs. They resent the outsourcing of jobs to firms in India and elsewhere. Above all, they believe that government is powerful enough to do something effective about the situation. These are fond hopes. Government can not prevent another terrorist attack, any more than the local police department can prevent a criminal from murdering me. Government can not control the world-wide business cycle. A government may be able to control the economy within its own borders, but the cost is economic isolation from the rest of the world and, as experience has shown, permanent recession made worse by growing corruption. What government can and should do is to alleviate the effects of economic depression and international terror. Franklin Roosevelt showed us the way to relieve the effects of a depressed economy: use government to create public works programs to put people back to work, improve the infrastructure, and so on. Mr. Bush himself showed us, in the first few days after 9/11/01, that a President can express compassion for the loss and can energize not only the nation but the entire civilized world to embark on an effort to bring the criminals to justice and to deal with some of the causes of terror. Unfortunately, he then proceeded to lose the sympathy of the rest of the world by snubbing the United Nations and engaging in an unrelated attack on Iraq. He is now trying to recover the sympathy and the good will toward the United States that his actions have cost. I doubt that he can succeed. If John Kerry is elected to replace him, I hope that Mr. Kerry will succeed in this endeavor.