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European Tribune - Obama, John Rawls, and a Defense of the Unreasonable
By doing away with the concepts of right and wrong, Rawls has ensured that the de facto "right" is what most people in power think at any one time.  A government based on overlapping consensus operates within the Overton window -- the range of generally acceptable alternatives on any given issue.  The problem isn't just that alternatives outside the Overton window are automatically devalued; it's that for some issues the objective truth lies outside the Overton window.  Global warming is an excellent example.  Most reasonable people (by the Rawlsian definition) agree that the range of possible alternatives ranges from no action (the Bush administration's choice) to the 5-7% carbon emissions reductions proposed by the Kyoto Protocol (at least theoretically Obama's choice).  But the science clearly shows that only a 50% or greater reduction can stave off environmental holocaust.  In the Rawlsian bizarro-world, the science is wrong because it disagrees with the overlapping consensus.  Rawls gives us no way to move beyond the practical in order to achieve the necessary.

* * * * * * * * *

Sadly, we live in that Rawlsian bizarro-world.  There have been plenty of presidents in our history who have elevated the overlapping consensus to a high art through the ideas of "bipartisanship" and "getting things done" -- think of Bill Clinton's "triangulation" or Eisenhower's inveterate moderacy.  But few (perhaps only John F. Kennedy) have venerated the overlapping consensus as itself the supreme good of the nation in the way Barack Obama does.  Few have failed to spend political capital on expansive policies, not because they feared losing reelection, but because they believed doing so would be breaking a sacred trust -- but Obama is one of those few.

Read his books and you'll see that, despite the fact that Obama holds strikingly liberal views on a variety of issues, his anger at the Bush administration is directed not at its policies, but at its politics.  For Obama, Bush's supreme betrayal was in breaking the Rawlsian consensus.  Bush's extreme partisanship, his utter disregard of the Democratic members of his government, turned Americans against each other and polarized the electorate.  For Obama, that was Bush's greatest crime -- because to the President, we are a nation of consensus before we are a nation of laws or dreams or anything else.

It's the only interpretation that explains Obama's baffling and infuriating rejection of progressives and his embrace of the moderate wing of the Republican party.



By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 04:27:20 AM EST
I think that the elite are in office but increasingly no longer in power.

The steering wheel has come off in their hands.

At the zero bound Central Banks and their vaunted monetary policy is as much use as a chocolate teapot.

With the existing terminal systemic imbalance of wealth - where 90% are in debt to the other 10% who own all the unencumbered property - then Treasuries' fiscal policy is also as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Change is coming, and it's coming bottom up from the people really in power, who are linking up in what Brzezinski calls a global political awakening.

Just not politics as we know it.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 05:22:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was a good diary - including the usually thoughtful comments by rdf, who is missed.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 05:29:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, a very good diary. I missed it last time around, I'm glad Mig brought it back.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 10:58:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I dredge up tosh for a living...

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 11:04:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tosheroon « What Ladder?
A tosheroon, "as any fule know, chiz chiz" is the gold piece that sometimes turns up in the sewer.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 11:25:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sometimes!?

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 11:34:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's also slang for half a crown.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 11:47:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tosher - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
There is another similar sounding term from the same period : tosheroon which has been applied to a tosher in error but it in fact it originally denotes a piece of pre-decimal British currency: the half-crown. Whether the two words are related is not known.


By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 11:54:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wonder if there was a dialect where the fricative "p" was confused with the explosive "t."

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 12:03:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so that "posh" -> "tosh"

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 12:12:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that it has anything to do with Jerome's diary.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 12:12:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rawls committed the 'Aristotle Fallacy:'  he assumed people are rational animals.  There was no excuse for that error.  Even the Logical Positivists knew people engage in "emotive discourse."

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 at 11:54:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Isn't his position more: " IF people are rational, then they will choose in this way" rather than that all people ARE rational.  Cf.:

"Rawls claims that rational people (not everybody, TW) will unanimously adopt his principles of justice if their reasoning is based on general considerations, without knowing anything about their own personal situation."

http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~piccard/entropy/rawls.html

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sat Aug 21st, 2010 at 06:25:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what I get for going by memory - it's been 20 years since I read Rawls - and not doublechecking.

Thank you.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Aug 21st, 2010 at 06:30:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming that summary is accurate, it looks like something else he missed was the co-option principle - any philosophy or world view can be rewritten and reinterpreted to support neo-liberal values, and will be rewritten without notice.

We're forever quoting Smith's more socialist leanings, but to the neo-liberals the statue matters more than the words or ideas.

Obama seems to be more interested in collecting sculpture than planting new forests.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 21st, 2010 at 06:53:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know why you say "ANOTHER thing he missed" - ATinNM agrees that his accusation was not well-founded.

As to your "co-option principle", I don't know why you assume it's something he "missed" - I suspect he would probably agree that others might well rewrite or reinterpret what he had said to argue something far different from his conclusions. I'm also pretty sure that he would argue why he thought that in such cases they were not really being rational.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Aug 22nd, 2010 at 04:58:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, my respect to you for just putting your hand up - even thanking me! I did try to put the point in a somewhat less confrontational way than is often my style :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 04:37:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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