Monday, July 18, 2011

Responsibility meets conviction, births used dishwater


The shenanigans in Washington drag on. They look likely to both crash the economy again and deprive government of more of its capacity to promote the general welfare. Nobody is talking about what most everyone actually wants: jobs.

In this sad moment, George Packer has managed to say something meaningful:

The sociologist Max Weber, in his 1919 essay “Politics as a Vocation,” drew a distinction between “the ethic of responsibility” and “the ethic of ultimate ends”—between those who act from a sense of practical consequence and those who act from higher conviction, regardless of consequences. These ethics are tragically opposed, but the true calling of politics requires a union of the two. On its own, the ethic of responsibility can become a devotion to technically correct procedure, while the ethic of ultimate ends can become fanaticism.

Weber’s terms perfectly capture the toxic dynamic between the President, who takes responsibility as an end in itself, and the Republicans in Congress, who are destructively consumed with their own dogma. Neither side can be said to possess what Weber calls a “leader’s personality.” Responsibility without conviction is weak, but it is sane. Conviction without responsibility, in the current incarnation of the Republican Party, is raving mad. ...

What does either side have to offer the tens of millions of Americans who have settled into a semi-permanent state of economic depression? Virtually nothing. ...

Huge, powerful countries can collapse when they rot from within. We've seen this in our lifetime. Must we live it here?

1 comment:

John Schappi said...

Nearly a week after this post and things look worse. Thinking about the current mess, I came up with these thoughts:
1. Government basically involves (a) spending and (b) taxing
2. Governing in a two-party democracy requires compromises from both sides.
3. If one side says no compromises on taxes, they aren't interested in governing. They are only interested in political bumper stickers that might get them re-elected.

While the above is obviously directed at the "no tax increases, no way" Republicans. The Democrats have been also as bad about focusing on elections rather than governing. I couldn't believe when Reid and the rest of the Senate Democrat leaders decided that, despite the huge problems facing us, they wouldn't propose or take up anything controversial for fear that this could jeopardize the re-election chances of the Senators up for re-election in 2012!

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