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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Does the presidential campaign show a conflict in values?

Does it?

Probably not, reading Morris Berman, Kevin Phillips, Bill Moyers and others.  Looking at the two candidate webpages, both put Jobs and Economy as the #1 issue. "It's the Economy Stupid" was the mantra of the Clinton campaign (and Reagan's and Bush's). Yes, there are different approaches: the old 19th century or U of Chicago more libertarian approach vs the New Deal or Keynesian approach. But the measure of success for individuals and for the collective remains the same: compensation or income, value of stocks, GDP, amount of wealth or assets, housing prices, consumption, balance of payments. The higher all these measures are the more successful we are.

We've looked at their webpages. Now let's look at their speeches: Romney's speech accepting his position as presumptive nominee and Obama's state of the union speech which were opening salvo's in each of their campaigns. What are the most fundamental values to which they are appealing?

  • "Economy": as above--same measures and priorities, different approaches.  Public sector subordinate to the private sector. Everybody seems to accept uncritically that this election is about the economy as whether people see that Obama saved it and we are on the road to recovery or that our recovery is slow because Obama interfered too much.  No one seems to be questioning how the economy is dominating our lives, character, and spirit.  
  • "America First":  denial by both of the changing role of the US in the world.
  • "Strong Military":  denial by both of the need to draw down (Ron Paul better on this); and the constant use of the "troops" as if they are the "saints and martyrs"for the American religion.
  • "Fairness": both use the word but mean different things. Obama is closer to Rawl's definition.  Romney doesn't mean "dignity of the human person," but reward of the "deserving." Procedural justice rather than substantive justice. Romney buys into Ryan's budget which will reduce substantially the support of the working poor.
  • "Nature and Role of Government". Government as an enemy of the people vs government as an instrument of the people. Less government vs proper role of government.  
  • "Principle of Initiative": For Romney it is 19th century free market: corporate leaders and entrepreneurs (who will become corporate leaders) seeking to expand their wealth without government interference. For Obama it is government leadership with leadership of corporations and NGOs.  (I of course disagree with both of them!)
  • "Values":  Romney means traditional marriage and right to life. Obama means civil rights of groups on the edge.

PS:  Just read this and I think it makes Berman's point (previous blog).

"Mr. Romney," (Utah Governor Herbert) said, "should frame his financial success as a totem of the America he is fighting to restore — a free-market economy, unburdened by overregulation and big government, in which entrepreneurs thrive and, in turn, employment grows.  He has been way too timid about talking about his successes in the private sector. It’s what’s great about America. I can be the next Bill Gates or Mitt Romney.”

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