One has to pay close attention to the sleight of hand going on in political philosophy unless one wants illusion standing in for reality -- presto! your money, principles and freedom have disappeared, and in their place is a circle -- but, circles don't pay the rent, as they say. Is anyone thinking outside the circle?
Deweyan/Rawlsian relativism/Pragmatism deserves notice because it has the strength of philosophy on its side, plus this is something, tweaked by the Pragmatists in charge, that's palatable to millions who form the new brigade of HopenChange. A distinction is made between the ideological right and the pragmatic progressives -- the far left has been given a pass (they are not so much ideological as combatants against right ideology, you see). They will fume a bit, but when they understand the strategy, all will be well.
The current Pragmatists have moved beyond the question of regulation or deregulation to smart-regulation. Libertarian concepts of a minimal government are not even a consideration -- libertarians have no power in the new arrangement which will, however, welcome Republicans who check their principles at the door and are open to experimentation. The Republicans who want to continue the corporate welfare route are shut out, because smart-regulation will use a different union of public and private which doesn't cotton to old-style cronyism -- there's a new gang of cronies on the scene and they are "partners", thank you.
Chris Hayes has written extensively regarding Obama's Pragmatism and concluded the nation sorely needs the Dewey-style, principle-free experimentation reminiscent of FDR. Others, many I can't even remember, have written along the same lines. Free market ideolouges have been the problem and now we can join public and private in an innovative union that transcends all dichotomies. There seems to be an acceptance that this new solution might not look like the America we've known, but we must try.
So, the sleight of hand is to marginalize libertarianism as kooky and unworkable, even though it's based on the founding principles and never tried as envisioned, and to frame the right as free market ideolouges while giving the left a pass on ideology. The only way the Pragmatists can avoid further division on this issue is to create a single enemy who can resist the new union if they want to, but they'll be seen as obstructionists. The far left is asked to be patient. Then it's proposed that left-regulation restricting the market, and the right-regulation of corporate welfare will be transcended into a public/private partnership -- this is the new experiment, the Pragmatic solution, free of divisive principles, open to ideas from the left and right.
Obama's push seems to be inspired by Lincoln's priority of saving the union, at all costs -- in Lincoln's case even if it meant not freeing the slaves, or even if it meant freeing only some of the slaves, or all of the slaves -- it wasn't based on principles but on the pragmatic actions necessary to save the union. So, with Obama, it's ostensibly a matter of saving the union even it means nationalizing all industry, or nationalizing part of industry, or even none of industry, just whatever works -- ostensibly.
The Pragmatists will have us believe we're starting from a clean slate, really no guiding principles to cloud the way, since principles have failed us, caused gridlock and the evils of the free market. Yet, I can't help but think the current Pragmatism is a mask for an ideology that's cynically worming its way into the mind of America. There's nothing new about it -- it's been around Europe for a long time. It's statism -- control of the few over the many through the modern nation-state. There's nothing too complicated about the strategy, except fear of the economy complicates the nation's ability to see through the ruse, to see the sleight of hand.
I'll give it to them, it's a good try. This idea of dropping our divisive principles which have caused so much strife and gridlock in order to smartly regulate a free market which has frenzied out of control seems like an intelligent, open-minded, pragmatic way to solve the problems -- bring everyone together and tell them to drop their ideologies so that a workable solution can be ironed out in bi-partisan consensus -- man, this is wonderful!
It feels good! If it feels good, people will have confidence and they'll be glad that people are working together to come up with solutions, not fighting over ideological positions. Because it feels good people will resist any criticism of the approach which feels negative and bad. Hope is a powerful emotion and can substitute for critical thinking and analysis. When things are bad, people want change, and they've offered change, so the hope grows and it's emotion over intellect that drives the movement. When a nation is operating with emotion over intellect and reason, the nation is at risk -- even though the Pragmatists will say it's reasonable just not rational -- rationality is the tool of ideolouges, while reasonableness is co-operative.
The long period of easy money and home appreciation allowing people to finance their lifestyles way beyond their means has ended -- it felt bad to end like that. Bush and greedy Wall Street tricksters caused it. The magic box that creates money no longer worked. But now there is Hope -- there will be Change -- government will rebuild the magic box and money will flow again, and this time all of government will be working in concert -- the evil ideolouges who only enriched their buddies and pulled the rug out from under the little people have been run out of town and the ones remaining will be brought in line. Executives will be restricted from grabbing all the loot -- resistant representatives will be ostracized and pressured by democracy. Things will change and government will work again. This time it will be done right, and although everyone must sacrifice for a minute, the little people will be protected. Don't listen to the naysayers, they're only protecting the status quo or trying to throw the world back into a state of dog-eat-dog.
This is the new world, the world of co-operation, of a compassionate state. We'll only do what works. Nevermind that bi-partisan central control will be no more effective than partisan central control or tyrannical central control -- nevermind that government interference through avenues such as Freddie and Fannie caused the bubble -- nevermind that government control of finances and industry will yield the same poor results as in Europe where mediocrity is pervasive and governments are going broke -- nevermind that we're losing our freedoms and that taxes or inflation will destroy our personal wealth -- nevermind that we're selling liberty and enslaving our children and grandchildren to statist control -- nevermind the history of Russia and Germany and Japan and every other country ravaged by the misuse of power -- no, all that's a downer. We're America, we just feel good.