Sunday, May 10, 2009

Book review: "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama

In case anybody recalls, there was a presidential election going on last year. One couldn't open a newspaper, switch on the radio, go for a coffee without hearing "Obamaobamaobamabama." The absolutely last thing I wanted was to read a book by this person. But then it hunted me down in form a Christmas gift from my mother, "The Audacity of Hope," in my mailbox.

Okay, so I read it. After all, the guy is now president and he smiles friendly from the cover. What is there to say? It's an entirely flawless book. Neatly organized into 9 chapters -- Republicans and Democrats, Values, Our Constitution, Politics, Opportunity, Faith, Race, The World Beyond our Borders, Family -- covering every sector a politician should have an opinion on, sprinkled with anecdotes, personal stories and reflections, it is an easy read, entertaining and interesting. The book is so good it is disgusting. One has to hate it. It feels as if one thousand PR agents went over it and sanded out all edges. Doesn't the guy have any vices, doesn't he have any regrets, didn't he make any mistakes, doesn't he have anything provocative to say at all? Can somebody be so smoothly intellectual and considerate and indeed be real?

Here is the only upsetting sentence I could find: "[T]here will be times when we must again play the role of the world's reluctant sheriff." Unfortunately, this sentence is only outrageous when quoted out of context since the rest of the chapter provides a perfectly reasonably 21st century view on foreign politics. The guy is neither a dumb pacifist nor eager to convert the rest of the world to Americanism.

What I liked best about the book has however nothing do to with it largely overlapping with my political views. No, it is that it communicates that politics is done by humans for humans, that arguments can be approached from an intellectual rather than a personal point of view, and that one can disagree with somebody without declaring that person an enemy. And it describes how the media by and large grossly distorts this process, amplifying and exaggerating differences to everybody's disadvantage.

Though the book is generally optimistic (well, what did you expect?) it is cautious about the status of our democracies, especially the influence of wealth and the functionality of the political system itself. You shouldn't be surprised I pick out these two points, readers of this blog know they are among my pet topics. Obama writes:
"[T]oday's constitutional arguments can't be separated from politics. But there's more than just outcomes at stake in our current debates about the Constitution and the proper role of the courts. We're also arguing about how to argue -- the means, in a big, crowded, noisy democracy, of settling our disputes peacefully. We want to get our way, but most of us also recognize the need for consistency, predictability, and coherence. We want the rules governing our democracy to be fair."

Which nicely highlights the necessity to ensure our political systems work optimally. One could call that meta-politics. It is unfortunately a topic that doesn't receive enough attention though one should think the need to occasionally update procedures that are centuries old would be apparent. He further points out:
"[W]e must test our ideals, visions, and values against the realities of a common life, so that over time they may be refined, discarded or replaced by new ideals, sharper vision, deeper values."

If I translate that into my usual, considerably less eloquent, style: We must ensure our systems allow not only for variation, but also evaluation and following adaption so we remain able to learn and improve. The world is changing and we have to change with it.

About the devastating backlash it can have on our democracies when influence is weighted by wealth, Obama writes "[T]hose who use their economic power to magnify their political influence far beyond what their numbers might justify [...] subvert the very idea of democracy." Well said. Unfortunately, he remains vague on what to do about it.

A general criticism is that with his elaborations on all these topics he doesn't set any priorities. It is all well and fine to have high goals and visions about everything, but where to start? What is it that he finds most important? If you were president, what were the first thing you'd do? Also, the chapter about religion strikes me as somewhat odd, but then it seems to be a big deal in the USA. And one issue I found completely missing is what appears funny about American elections to most outside observers: it is essentially a two party system. I don't think this is a good status and a point that would have merited a sentence or two.

Altogether, I guess the book is as good as a book from a politician can get. I find it neither particularly inspiring nor insightful, but I learned something about American history and politics. If this was an Amazon review I'd give four stars. One lacking because of leaving me nothing to complain about.

PS: Thanks, mom :-)

41 comments:

adlib said...

I chose to read his earlier 1994 book, "dreams from my father". I think the context within which it was written (a book deal received when he was elected harvard law review's first black president) is more revealing of obama as a person than a politically airbrushed manifesto. Reading his journey of self-discovery in his own words, knowing this person would go on to be the future president of the US, makes for a remarkable autobiography.

I can see why it didn't initially fly off the shelves though...

Jean-Philippe said...

What one could call "meta-politics", one could also call it by an existing word: "philosophy", or if one wishes to be more specific, "epistemology".

But anyway, this falls beyond the scope of the political. What the politics can do is to provide a propicious environment for democratic debate to take place, they cannot and should not try to codify such a debate.

In more practical terms, the politicians should endeavour to separate the power derived from economic wealth and the political power. Democracy can only be effective if everybody is given a fair chance to participate to the political decision, and this implies an access to education, health,...etc for every member of the society.

As for the epistemological problematic, it consists in rejecting dualism between the individual and the collective, the self-interest and the social empathy, those entities are not opposed, they complement each in a necessary way. To acknowledge that will place the democratic debate at the center of modern life as the core constituent of modern societies. Tagore calls it Creative Unity (I just posted something on my blog, this morning, on this very problematic).

JP

Uncle Al said...

Doesn't the guy have any vicesHis lover is a past wild-haired Black Radical now with two children. They live in a Washington, DC mansion that they do not own or lease. Neither one has divorced its original spouse.

Obama is exceptionally nimble at rolling wtih punches. We have yet to see him throw any much less have one land on target.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Let me first give praise to your mother on this most appropriate of days for giving you the book, although I can’t say I’ve read it myself. With the review you offer I probably will now despite your compliant of it being written in an air brushed style, as still some of the person must leak through even if it simply boils down to him being intelligent, considerate and careful. That is to say if one was deciding upon and mixing ingredients to build a politician those three wouldn’t be a bad start. I certainly like the title chosen for the book for without having hope and being able to project this onto others all the intellect, communication skills and smoothness wouldn’t count for much.

Oh yes, he like all of us has flaws and weaknesses yet he's smart enough to realize his opponents will expose all those he has and even some he doesn't without the need of his help:-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Adlib,

So many books, so little time... I'll put it on my reading list :-) Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Jean-Philippe,

"What one could call "meta-politics", one could also call it by an existing word: "philosophy", or if one wishes to be more specific, "epistemology"."

No, the existing word would be political theory, but people tend not to know what I am talking about when I use that word. What I am saying is that one has to distinguish between the actual process of reaching a decision (politics) and the question of how to organize the system in which such these decisions are reached (meta-politics). Philosophy is absolutely not what I am talking about. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

I think you will enjoy the book. Yes, I too like the title. At least the book gives one hope that not all politicians are self-centered, dumb, and only wasting the taxpayers' money. Best,

B.

Jean-Philippe said...

Hi Bee,

Sorry, I may not have been clear enough: What I meant is that the solution to the current problems of society is not to be found in a reform of the institutions, or the constitution. Therefore it does not lie within the dominion of political theory (which is indeed to define such a framework).
Rather the genuine problem is at the level of the formulation of the problems itself, in the methodology we use to frame our conceptions of the world, in that it is an epistemological problem, and no institution can solve this.

On the other hand some practical measures can be taken at the political level to help at an evolution in a positive direction relatively to the core epistemological problem, such as indeed, reforming the institution, facilitating the access to critical thinking, encouraging selfless, generous behaviors against selfish ones,...etc, but the genuine evolution will have to primarily be made possible by a genuine epistemological work made available to the masses.
Institutions need a spirit to come to life, and it is the spirit of democracy that is today upside down (to the point where democracy is often likened to a dictatorship of the majority), and in need of an affirmation.

Cheers

JP

Jean-Philippe said...

As for the situation in US more particularly.

You are right to identify the two parties system as problematic, and the reason is that it formalizes at the level of institutions the dualistic conception of the world that is problematic:
For an american psyche, all problems are seen as 2-dimensional, that obviously prevents most kind of compromise (as Obama is in the process of finding out), and polarizes the opposition. All negociation is seen as a struggle with a winner and a looser.
But again, altering this 2-parties system won't do much to change this approach. This one has much deeper origins, in religious belief for instance (see Max Weber).

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

...what appears funny about American elections to most outside observers: it is essentially a two party systemAnd all those with stable two-hundred year old democracies are surely invited to criticize. Oddly, though, most of them also seem to be essentially two party systems.

The single member district is the key to such systems. Despite some disadvantages, it keeps any nuts who can't attract more than, say, 40% support from throwing sand in the gears of government.

History has also shown that in such two-party systems, any party that get totally out of touch with the nation gets replaced by something more mainstream.

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

After having had such a bad president for 8 years, the person revealed in TAOH, even with rough edges sanded off by PR, was appealing. Perhaps in another era the book would not be read so much.

Best,
-Arun

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

If i understand your meaning, institutions cannot change themselves as they run by rules that are established externally. Meta-politics as you call it is then what, a process that discovers which rules work best or one that invents them? This is what I see as the central problem, for one group already claims that this has been established by nature, where the other contends this can be exceeded.

What I mean is basically the free market model is a blind process, that while it can’t predict individual out comes believes it knows the overall one. The other group believes random can be more removed from the equation based on models (rules) that are not static, yet require examination and change perpetually. From what I gather in your reading of Obama he belongs to this second group and I admit so do I. For me it boils down to being either content with surrendering yourself to fate or choosing your destiny. With all considered then I’d rather choose.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

CIP "And all those with stable two-hundred year old democracies are surely invited to criticize. "

A particularly unenlightened comment. I suppose you're also only allowed to criticize the pope if you belong to a church that has worshiped nonsense for +2000 years?

Bee said...

Hi Jean-Philippe,

While I agree with you that the origin of the change isn't going to come from nowhere and requires a widespread shift in thinking, what it eventually needs to achieve is to reform the institutions etc. We're living in a material world, you're not going to convince anybody to move their ass with throwing around philosophy and epistemology. What we need is a practical how to. Best,

B.

Jean-Philippe said...

We're living in a material world, you're not going to convince anybody to move their ass with throwing around philosophy and epistemology. What we need is a practical how to.Surely, I am not suggesting that "throwing around philosophy and epistemology" is what was needed. What I think is that such a reflection should be conducted and be the inspiration of the deciders (politicians and others).
At a global level, it is the ideals that must change:
Which country, which family look forward to his children being philanthropist as a most desirable activity?
Is competitive sport the fantastic school of life it is advertised to be, or does it rather reduce all human relationship to a dualistic struggle (with friends on one side and deadly enemies on the other)?
...
All these questions are foundational of any society, and the first thing to do is to examine them. And their outcomes must be the spirit the deciders will insufflate in whatever reforms they undertake.

Clearly though, I don't see the overall change coming from USA, since it embodies all the opposites of the new paradigm. Rather far-eastern countries, and especially India seems more promising (possibly China if it evolves towards democracy), Europe may also participate to it, especially at the level of political reforms.

Cheers

JP

Bee said...

Hi Jean-Philippe,

"All these questions are foundational of any society, and the first thing to do is to examine them. And their outcomes must be the spirit the deciders will insufflate in whatever reforms they undertake."

I just don't think you're going to achieve anything by examining philosophical questions and prescribing them as a 'spirit' to 'the deciders'. Nobody is going to buy it. What we need is a pragmatic vision.

"Clearly though, I don't see the overall change coming from USA, since it embodies all the opposites of the new paradigm."

Which is a) not true and b) severely underestimates the Americans. The USA isn't a homogeneous soup, the problem is that the people you notice most prominently are the ones who are most extreme. Now I admit that the Americans that I know don't make a particularly representative sample of the US population (98% of them seem to have a PhD or are on the way to one), but most of them worry about the same things as you and I and probably millions of other people. In particular, they hold democracy very dear. While I find it puzzling they then watch their own democracy turning into a farce, in contrast to eg Europeans they have a potential to change fast and, maybe most importantly, embrace change.

In this context, you might find this article interesting:

What Happens to the American Dream in a Recession?It's not the philosophy that changes circumstances - it's the circumstances that change philosophy. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

In principle, institutions can change themselves, yet they rarely do so. There are few cases in which an institution's organization has been fixed eternally. Smart men know times change and what they once believed to be self-evident might no longer be so in some centuries. However, these internal changes have a huge inertia. It's not that we have no innovations, they just aren't very well thought through and seem quite random.

"Meta-politics as you call it is then what, a process that discovers which rules work best or one that invents them?"

Yes. It's been given many names. Call it organizational design, adaptive management, political theory, whatever. These are all issues people have worked on since decades, with small scale applications, and I think we should be taking this much more seriously. After all, we are talking about the systems that organize the way we live together, so we should approach their design in a somewhat more scientific way. I think this can be done and it's the way we should be going.

Well yes, definitely, I do think that there is nothing natural or particularly holy about the free market. It's just one way to set up an economic system, unfortunately happens to be the way which is presently dominant. Of course I think we have a choice and we better chose wisely. Best,

B.

Jean-Philippe said...

Hi Bee,

I'm afraid I disagree. Pragmatism don't change paradigm, it works well within a paradigm. If a society is to change fundamentally, it ought to examine the fundamental questions, the ideals that it proposes to the people,...etc.
You seem to consider philosophy as a useless activity, it's not. It has not been such in history, philosophical investigations have always been at the forefront of social and political evolution, and it is the purpose of politicians to carry these ideas and implement them in a pragmatic way. Pragmatism in itself, won't tell you anything about the sense of an evolution.
This utilitarian idea that pragmatism is enough in itself, is simply a fallacy, actually a strategy to exclude any fundamental questioning of the ends of society.

As for USA.
Clearly, there is an evolution, but I don't buy the cliche of a USA fond of evolution and a Europe stuck in the past, I would even say that Europe has changed much more radically in the last 50 years than USA, and I don't think this is very controversial.
But ultimately, change is rooted in a philosophical shift, and civilization are not very good at that (including America). Rome also did change tremendously in the christian era, many Romans converted to Christianism, even emperors, Christianism even became the empire religion, did it prevent Rome to fall? No, it did not, because the structures of Rome were based on a view of the world that was obsolete (with slavery as an institution, among other things), and the adoption of Christianity only served to reveal this obsolescence.

There's however nothing wrong, with the anglo-saxon model being replaced by a more modern view of the world, of humanity and of society, it simply is history, and clearly, history is not ending just yet.
I am not forecasting the end of the world of the north-american continent, simply, USA will become a country like the others, and new ideals will be created all over the world as a fusion between some western ideas and some eastern ones. There's nothing dramatic in that. I doubt their implementation will be first done in US, though.

Arun said...

CIP: the two party system may be seen as a contributor to stability (good) or as a contributor to incumbentitis and a barrier to entry (bad).

Bee: the press plays a role in the "meta" level of discussion; the degeneration of the mainstream press is continually discussed at Glenn Greenwald's salon.com blog.

Bee said...

Dear Arun,

Indeed, the media plays a huge role, but it's not the origin of the problem. They amplify, they echo, they causes a positive feedback that vastly increases the problem, but at least so far they are not creating problems themselves. They play the role we allow them to play, and as everybody else they are trying to maximize their influence. Problem is, we let them. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Jean-Philippe,

I think it is probably a point we won't be able to clarify. Weather it's innovation changing the paradigm or the paradigm leading to innovation is something I leave to sort out for historians. Whatever the causation, they both go along with each other. While pragmatism alone might not change paradigm, paradigm alone isn't going to create the necessary pragmatism.

"This utilitarian idea that pragmatism is enough in itself, is simply a fallacy, actually a strategy to exclude any fundamental questioning of the ends of society."

I never said it is enough. I said without it you won't get anywhere. I'm not opposed to fundamental questioning, but I prefer to leave it to those who know what they are questioning to begin with. As far as I am concerned, this questioning is all well and fine but without the necessary pragmatism it's like trying to drive a car while you're pressing the clutch.

"I don't buy the cliche of a USA fond of evolution and a Europe stuck in the past, I would even say that Europe has changed much more radically in the last 50 years than USA, and I don't think this is very controversial."

I agree with what you say. What I was trying to express is that I think the Americans have a larger potential (call it courage) to try something radically new (call it craziness). After all, that's the role they are playing in this world. The risk-taking, on-the-edge, entrepreneurial, future-oriented nutcases. No? What's Europe? Europe is the bedrock of sanity where everything gets discussed until everybody falls asleep and change comes so slowly nobody notices. See, the world needs both, so I think we should stop complaining about the differences and instead let everybody do what they do best. Best,

B.

Jean-Philippe said...

Hi Bee,

"I think it is probably a point we won't be able to clarify"

I think we should be able to clarify it, if only by precising our position. Whether or not we reach an agreement, is another matter, which, for me, is not very important. Again the debate is not a duel, it's an enlightenment.

"While pragmatism alone might not change paradigm, paradigm alone isn't going to create the necessary pragmatism."

Absolutely, I completely agree with that. I just say that politicians have to be pragmatic, but the problem nowadays, is not that they are not so, their problem is that they have no idea about what to do. There is no articulated whole, no vision, being courageous, hopeful, audacious is very nice, but if it is all you have, chances are that you are going nowhere. If you're lost in a desert, applying Brownian Motion to your walk is very unlikely to save your life.

"What I was trying to express is that I think the Americans have a larger potential (call it courage) to try something radically new (call it craziness). After all, that's the role they are playing in this world. The risk-taking, on-the-edge, entrepreneurial, future-oriented nutcases. No? What's Europe? Europe is the bedrock of sanity where everything gets discussed until everybody falls asleep and change comes so slowly nobody notices. See, the world needs both, so I think we should stop complaining about the differences and instead let everybody do what they do best."

Actually, I think the world need much more than the two aspects you present here.
As for innovations, USA has been great for technological innovations, much less so in terms of fundamental ones, be it in sciences or in philosophy. Today it is one of the most conservative place among developed countries. Another point is that a culture that has achieved material success within a philosophical framework is very unlikely to change this framework rapidly.
Let me take a recent example:
A few months ago, a democrat representative has proposed HR 7125 (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-7125). Interestingly, this bill was questioning some fundamentals of the current economy, i.e. the effect of unlimited speculations on the real economy. Was there a debate along those lines? No, the only mentions I saw were from some blogs and other medias which just rejected it as absurd. In fact, it is far from being absurd if you are ready to examine some fundamental questions, but no such debate has occurred, because for such a debate to happen, the problem must be framed in fundamental terms, and the public must be ready to receive it, none of this condition got fulfilled in this case.

However, there is this part of the american dream indeed, which is open to change, and I would say that all cultures share this part, including Europe, but in the final phase of domination, a culture will see this part becoming minimal. America was carrying the modern spirit in 1918 when Wilson tried to oppose Clemenceau's hatred of Germany in Versailles, he unfortunately failed for the doom of Europe, but America came to embody modernity and change for a century. But today USA has been bathed in Neo-conservatism for 30 years (even more if I count from the popularization of this philosophy in the 60s), and there is no emphasis on radical change in it, on the contrary, it's all about preservation of power (by all means), and it is there, even in the most liberal mind: The number one threat for americans is still big government, ahead of corporations, according to a recent poll.

Cheers

JP

Jean-Philippe said...

Some points I forgot to mention earlier:

Many countries all over the world (in Europe and Asia) actually have a financial transaction tax, US used to have one until 1964, if they now come back to it (which is still far from being done, even though the bill was reintroduced in february this year), they will merely follow the rest of the world.

Bee said...

Hi Jean-Philippe,

Well, sure. What I meant is that what we currently need is practical innovation. There are enough people out there already proposing their paradigms for a new world. If anything, it creates confusion. Sure, we should all be thinking critical, and we're developing an attention deficit syndrome on the collective scale. But hey, blink, the power is in thinking without thinking. And hey, money doesn't make happy. But here's ten ways to get rich fast. You're beautiful, and here's how to lose 30 pounds in three days. If somebody wrote a book proposing the official new paradigm of the 21st century, I for sure wouldn't buy it. Or maybe somebody already wrote it and just nobody read it?

"I just say that politicians have to be pragmatic, but the problem nowadays, is not that they are not so, their problem is that they have no idea about what to do."

Ah. I think we've just been talking past each other. I wasn't talking about politicians when I was asking for pragmatism. I was talking about social scientists for the biggest part of the social science research is incomprehensible or even inaccessible to most of the public, and far too detached from application. It is neither an integral part of running our world, nor is it part of the standard education. Now is it a surprise our political and economical systems are so prone to error? Best,

B.

Jean-Philippe said...

Hi Bee,

Well, the multiplicity of paradigms is nothing new really, it even is typical of a period of paradigm shift, whether in sciences or in politics. Christianity (or what was to become it) was not the only religious sect around 40BC, far from it, and it did not become the dominant one until a few hundred years later.
In our times, things should go faster, but it wont happen overnight either. Anyway, it wont be a religion, or at least, not in the sense of a revealed truth from a transcendental realm.
Phil is right when he wrote:
"For me it boils down to being either content with surrendering yourself to fate or choosing your destiny. With all considered then I’d rather choose."

It is indeed about choice, but not only in the perspective of choosing to act upon the economic system, but also to act upon who we are in a very fundamental way, to define what is good and what is bad, not because it is said so in an old book of dubious origins, but because we think though these matters, not only with our reason but also with our emotion. The 21st century is the time to realize what Existentialism foresaw dimly as an infinite freedom, but eventually gave up as a dead-end of pessimism. But Heidegger was right to claim the end of metaphysics, but he was wrong in positing technology as its replacement, technology as a motive comes from an anthropocentric conception of the world directly coming from the revealed religions, it is rooted in metaphysics. The infinite freedom does not lead to a dead end either, because it can be creative (godlike actually if we are to refer to the obsolete order, in which our language is still rooted), the road is simply not there because it is not built yet.

So, in practise, what does it mean? Simply that the world is not here to serve us, there is no divine insurance we will prosper indefinitely, no divine wrath either that could destroy us in the blink of an eye. We are responsible to ourselves, and nobody else. And that's it, there is no official paradigm beyond that, there is no best, pre-defined order, there can only be the realisation of this and the freedom of building what we choose through the democratic process, which is about debating responsibly(in the sense of infinite responsibility) and in good faith(the sartrian corrollary of infinite responsibility).

Anybody who indeed looks for a revelation, a messiah, a modern prophet of what should be, is still living in the old world.

Now, back to USA, can such a mentality develops widely in a country where 80% of the people won't vote for a non-christian president? I don't think so.

As for the courage to innovate and take risks you talked of earlier, besides some structures facilitating this in US, the christian (and especially the type of christianity in US) mentality also facilitates that, but it obviously does not encourage a change away from itself, which is exactly what is happening today.

Jean-Philippe said...

Sorry, I have not reply to the part on social sciences.

Generally speaking, I am quite critical of social sciences myself. My impression is that they have been engaged in a dead end for decades, under the belief that somehow, they could just apply the method of hard sciences (reductionism) to every phenomena. Unfortunately it does not work this way, because social phenomena are highly interacting with each others, and today social sciences is therefore reduced to an endless flow of poor, meaningless statistics, just good to feed the daily news on Yahoo.

On the other hand, some results of social sciences are very interesting.
I consider the works of Freud, or Lacan as central to the progress of human thought, Durkheim, Max Weber did provide with great insighths, the same can be said of the Frankfurt School,...etc.

Cheers

JP

Plato said...

Hi Bee,

It's nice that you took the leap and sought to read what your mother offered:)That you thought to write on it. People do need to become more involved on a "global perspective" as Phil mentioned under your journey.

Just wanted to add some info and a comment. The "spirit of the book" and it's creation.

In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here -- the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope. The transcript of a speech by Barack ObamaHope, in a different kind of America perhaps? To dream?

This may be classified "in spirit" and thought, less then substantial, while it was a factor that rang true to a population, and in real scientific terms, measurable.

Mr. President:)

While one might be drawn to the characterization as an "Optimism or Pessimism," and saw these things as productive or counterproductive, I found that a Pessimist can indeed after reviewing and producing safeguards, just in case, become an optimist. This might even be part of a "dynamical relationship" with one's spouse.:) Embedded, within our own makeup.

Shall one not reason with thy own self, and or be lead blindly. Yes of course, then you choose.

So then the "depth of thinking" here is that, on a social level, one can move through the day, while ever so carefully descending into the very nature and fabric of our decisions and work within the political ideological framework and society, to offer a opinion?

This is what it is about. Participation.

Science, becoming well armed to see the "truth of the situation" while a whole society can be moved in one way or another in spirit.

Bush may have in sighted a "with us or against us," and people thought "how warm and fuzzy this cause" was felt by society toward a new adventure?

Inspiration, is a very powerful force that should not be overlooked. With reason, well balanced introspective look. That the person, mill worker, or immigrant made the leap, is honourable too.

Best,

O'Grady said...

The most serious amd complete review of "Audacity of Hope" is by Steve Sailer. Sailer's review can be be found at vdare.com.

Yes, "The Audacity of Hope" is too good to be true. Go read Sailers review-which can also be purchased as a book-which explains why.

I saw the following two bumber stickers recently,one on top of the other. Bumper sticker one:"Jesus was a community organizer;Pontius Pilote was a governor." The references are obvious.

Bumper sticker number two underneath bumber sticker one"Obama for president."

Barack Obama has been in office-in power-for 100 days. In this time period, at least two Afghani wedding parties were bombed killing both wedding parties. These are the facts so far. Facts do matter,right?

Plato said...

I would say facts do indeed matter, but this does not omit the "leap of faith" the American people have already made.

You see, you can classify people as too, an immigrant or mill worker, and still, this is talking about what the American people have already done. They have decided.

Best,

Plato said...

It was the response to the book that help Barack Obama decide to run for President.

O'Grady said...

Plato

Your statement does quanitfy across all American. Some American peolpe would make more sense. Not everyone is on the band wagon. Not even a majority.McCain only lost the election by one hundred thousand votes.(This is not an endorsement of McCain)

At the core of both Barack Obama's books was racial grievances against you know who(White Americas). However,in Steve Sailer's meticulous analysis of Barack Obama's life, he very likley fibbed about his actual racial oppression.

Blacks insisted that Whites vote for Barack Obama because Barack is..well...black. In the weeks before the election, I asked several Black Americans who were handing out campaign material at Fall Festivals about specifcs on Barack Obama's foreign and economic policy. None of them could give a anything specific ..although they all agreed with what ever policy he advocated.

Barck Obama is not a post-racial president. The opposite is true. In a few weeks, he will propose an amnesty for millons of Mexicans living illegaly in the United States. On top of that, once legalized Obama will give them all affirmative action benefits.

If this ever happens, the situation in the United States within a few years cold become very explosive.

The Democratic party's constituency since 1965 is largely imported. With these imported voters, the Democratic party would be, by this time, an insignificant minor party.

Anonymous said...

I don't think "invited" means the same as "allowed" but let me try to rephrase my question less offensively.

There are several long-lived democracies in the world, and of the ones I know the best (US, Britain, Canada, France) all are mainly two party except France (yes, I know UK and Canada have minor parties - so does the US). US and UK have a record of long term stability, but France has a record of repeated chaos. So do the newer multi-parti democracies in Italy and Israel.

There are some other old democracies (Netherlands, Scandanavia) which have multi-party systems, but i don't know anything about them. Some readers here might and might want to comment (or not).

There are lots of newer democracies, many of them strongly multi-party, others less so. My suspicion is that they are less stable. True or false? Long term history might be a better guide than short term.

I have belonged to a church that worshipped nonsense for 2k years, but I'm not sure why that is relevant.

Finally, I have a much different opinion of the Obama book than you do. I have seen and read the PR sanded books you speak of (see, e.g., any of the zillion or so biographies of John McCain, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, etc.) and they look a lot different to me.

CIP

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

O'Grady,

Among other errors, you are quite wrong about the margin of victory in 2008: Obama won 69,498,215 to59,948,240. That, incidentally, is the largest plurality of any non-incumbent US president ever.

See Wikipedia article on the election (or any other reputable source).

CIP

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Just to say your complaint with the US two party systems is one I share. Further however I have a problem with the way the party system works in the overall, no matter what the number. More ideally all members would be independents and have no direct party alliance, with each running on their own platform. The system as it stands is primarily as it is for two reasons, first is to assure maximum funding for campaigning and the other to insure that decisions end up in the hands of a few, rather than a larger group. What this creates is a situation where options are limited and the populous merely being a mob that must be duped into agreeing with their leaders, rather than a group that constructively adds to the decision process.

I’m not certain what structural changes are needed to address this, yet it is certainly something that should be looked at and worked upon. I think as a first step there should be benefits for those that participate in the voting process, that can’t be enjoyed by those who don’t. Also, the right to vote should be something earned, rather than something ordained.

For instance instead of having you pick the one you vote for from a list, one should have to write it down or type in or at the very least be able to verbalize it for it to be accepted. Let’s face it if the voter hasn’t spent the time to at least inform themselves of how to spell or at worst pronounce the person’s name, how much have they looked into things at even the most rudimentary level. What I mean is currently we have a system where people place ever increasing expectations and demands on their leaders, while putting less and less on themselves. It stands to reason then until this is addressed not much should be expected to seriously change.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi CIP,

well, I guess my point is that 'mainly two party' makes a huge difference to 'basically two party'. Canada and also Germany you could say have two dominating parties, but the fact that they have other parties too that - though not as relevant - can't be simply ignored completely changes the dynamics. In particular the discussion is far less polarized and the plurality of options is better represented. Do US newspaper even mention other parties exist?

It adds to this that in a situation that is less focused on two parties it becomes possible that over a longer period of time the dominating two parties change, whereas I feel like the US is completely stuck in the red/blue world. The result is that it's not the people who vote for a party that represents them best, but that it's up for the parties to change such that they represent the people. This then causes a constant pressure to popularize and flip-flop to. As far as stability is concerned, I don't have the impression neither Canada's nor Germany's democracy is less stable than that of the US. Depends maybe on what you mean with stable. Possibly what you'd call instable I would call dynamic. I honestly think a bit of chaos every now and then is good to avoid not getting stuck. But then it is hard to pin down a single cause for why a democracy is more or less stable. There are a lot of factors playing into this. Best,

B.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Bee,

I agree that there are potential advantages to having all points of view represented - but there are also advantages to being able to make a decision. There are two factors in political organization that tend to promote two party systems: the single member district (like Canada, the US, and the UK) and an independent executive (like the US, France post DeGaulle, and Germany). The US has both but Israel, for example, has neither.

Jean-Philippe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean-Philippe said...

Hi CIP,

I don't really see any reality in the implicit link you make between France's multi-parties system and your proposition:
"France has a record of repeated chaos"

I guess you are alluding here to mostly the 19th century, but to relate the events of 1830, 1848 or 1871 (just to take the most "chaotic") to the existence of many parties is very superficial. The 19th century in France saw a constant struggle for the source of the legitimacy of power, between religion and the secular part of society, it was also a time of great confusion between political power and economic power.
France still has had a multi-parties system in the 20th century, and none of these "chaos" has occurred, except if you wish to see the origins of one world wars and one colonial war in this system, which is even more outrageous than in the case of the 19th century.

As for USA two-parties system, this does not relate to the institutions, there is no laws facilitating that system in USA, other parties are tolerated and actually exist, simply they are not taken seriously. This is rooted in culture (confrontation vs compromise) and history, but that relates to more fundamental questions, that nobody seems eager to explore here.

JP

Jean-Philippe said...

It obviously is "TWO world wars and one colonial war" instead of "one world wars and one colonial war".

Grietje said...

Hi. Just stumbled on your blog because I was checking out reviews of Audacity of Hope. Just finished reading it - no to be honest I skimmed the last half.
Started out impressed, but after a chapter or two I got the feeling it was too smooth, too balanced.
As several commentators noted "air-brushed" describes the book nicely.
I was starting to feel that my opinion was too critical, too harsh, until I read your blog and comments. Thanks so much.
regards, Grietje

Steven Colyer said...

Regarding America's ridiculous 2-party system, watch this for a former Governor's very wise take on the subject.