Monday, October 19, 2009

Obama's good values -- and the king's

The way the Wall Street bailout went down, the unwillingness of American politicians and the mainstream media to hold those responsible for the financial crisis to account, the appalling lack of tough new regulations for derivatives traders, simply boggles the mind.    Frank Rich, writing in the NY Times, points a finger at Goldman Sachs:
As the Reuters columnist Rolfe Winkler wrote last week, “Main Street still owns much of the risk while Wall Street gets all of the profit.”  The idea of investing in the real economy — the one that might create jobs for Americans — remains outré in this culture. Credit to small businesses remains tight. The holy capitalist grail is still the speculative buying and selling of companies and the concoction of ever more esoteric financial “instruments.”
At the end of his column, Rich sums up the questions "disappointed Obama fans" are asking about Obama:
Those Obama fans who are disappointed keep looking for explanations. Is he too impressed by the elite he met in Cambridge, too eager to split the difference between left and right, too willing to compromise? As he pursues legislation, why does he keep deferring to others — whether to his party’s Congressional leaders or the Congressional Budget Office or to this month’s acting president, Olympia Snowe? Why doesn’t he ever draw a line in the sand? “We know Obama has good values,” Jeff Madrick said to me last week, “but we don’t know if he has convictions.”
On what bases does Jeff Madrick claim to know that Obama has good values?  Indeed, why should anyone take it for granted that Obama has good values?   Because Obama won the presidency?  Because Obama's speeches have inspired people?  Because Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize?

In certain Asian countries, it is believed that kings rule on the basis of rajadharma, or the virtues of kingship -- of which there are said to be ten.   Bangkok Pundit, in a recent post concerning the future king of Thailand, asked:  "The more pertinent question is, who decides whether the monarch has all the 10 virtues? A referendum? Parliament? Or Sondhi L as the sole arbitrator?"  Without beating an eye, many Thais would respond to the question: "The king has the 10 virtues because he is the king."  

It's one thing for Thai royalists to believe in the goodness of their king, it's quite another thing when the citizens of a republic make such a claim about a political leader.

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