1. Ralph’s book (see below) is really great. He reconciles philosophy and moral responsibility on the deepest level, but without getting all Kantian on us.
2. Because I’m known for liking compromises, why don’t I like the current one between Congress and the president (that may be unraveling)? It’s self-indulgent or easygoing—tax cuts and spending increases. If the current recession is caused by excessive indebtedness (or not primarily cyclical), as many say, than we need the “tough love” that points in the direction of budget balancing or at least debt reduction. Charles Krauthammer is surely right that the president thinks he has pulled one over on the Republicans: He now has both Democratic and Republicans theories of economic stimulation in place. Maybe everything or certainly something will work in the short term, and an improving economy over the next couples of years will secure his reelection. Meanwhile, he’s posturing as the pragmatist opposed to the professorial left-wing of his party—those silly enough to take a stand over a small difference in the tax rate for the rich. The compromise (in which he got a lot more than the Republicans if you look closely) makes him look like a pragmatist etc. Republicans, though, can take a strange kind of solace in the possibility that neither Keynesian or supply-side schemes for prosperity are likely to work right now. But maybe they will: Some experts today are encouraging people to sell their bonds and buy ‘dem stocks.
3. But the truth is we need to get around soon to some combination of tax increases (ones carefully chosen to minimize the negative effect most taxes have on productivity) and budget cutting. And surely we need to start “the conversation” about means-testing entitlements. Bill Voegeli is the best guide for our “statesmen” here.
4. It’s great that Mike Pence is going to run for president. Most of all, he’s sure to take Palin out early—either by her choice or by Tea Party mandate. He’ll be the Tea Party candidate. And give the likely character of the electorate in the key primaries, he’s already emerged, for anyone with eyes to see, as the favorite for the nomination. I myself favor one of the governors who has displayed a record of admirable competence. I even think that Pence will be unnecessarily polarizing and scare swing voters. But he is very smart and highly principled and may convince even ME eventually that he’s the MAN. I’d be thrilled to have a tax code so simple that I could twitter in my form.
5. Next topic: The moral collapse of the middle class. OR our ruling class’s meritocratic withdrawal from public responsibility and moral leadership. (See Dr. Pat Deneen’s recent post on the Porcher page—it’s very thoughtful [if somewhat extreme] and not at all monarchic).