So, I’ve finally watched (and read) the entire speech by Barack Obama on race that so many bloggers (including libertarians) have been gushing about. I agree that Obama is very bright, and that his speeches (including this one) are very well-crafted and well-delivered. And, I think he did a good job of defending his refusal to completely disown Rev. Wright after the wide distribution of inflammatory video.
But, I didn’t really see anything new or brilliant in the speech that seems likely to lead to great consequences. He said some true things that most people don’t talk about. He pointed out that there are explanations for each of the different (often angry) positions staked out in the race controversies. He tapped into the strong feelings that many of us have about race, and our hopes that the problems can be solved.
But, with all of his stirring oratory, I didn’t see any evidence that he’s likely to improve things. I’m afraid he’s just likely to cause more and more people to fall for “Politicians Logic“, that:
1) Something must be done.
2) This is something.
3) Therefore, we must do it.
His focus on policy prescriptions are hard to find, but what I find isn’t very encouraging:
By investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations…Let us be our brother’s keeper…Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools… This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together… This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
When I look at Obama’s policy prescriptions (in this speech, and others), I don’t see much that inspires hope in me. There is some good stuff, like more transparency in many areas of federal activity. But, I mainly see pandering to anti-trade irrationality, appeals to class resentment, proposals for the federal government to “invest” in every possible solution to people’s problems, anti-speech campaign “reforms”, favoritism toward unions, socialization of health care, increasing burdensome regulations, etc. The same old leftist drivel.
When I hear Obama, I feel like I’m hearing Peter Pan ask us to all clap our hands if we believe in fairies. Exhorting us to believe and hope hard enough to get these pigs to fly.
Well, I think that these are bad policies, and that no amount of hope and optimism will make them good ones. I’m sure that we can all think of talented politicians who persuaded the masses to follow them down the wrong roads. I understand that it feels good. I’m sure that new street gang members feel good about the solidarity, and camaraderie and shared commitments that they have. But, it’s a sham. It’s not in their, or our, interests for them to join these projects even though it feels good.
I don’t believe in fairies.
We survived FDR’s New Deal, and LBJ’s Great Society, and I’m sure we can survive Obama’s Perfect Union (or whatever inspiring name he gives this pile of policies).
But, I hope we don’t have to.