Sunday, October 3, 2010

Friedman, Shiller, etc. Miscellaney

Tom Friedman provides a persuasive and succinct description of the Tea Party Movement as a political phenomena. The Tea Party strikes me as having no coherent set of ideas or platform, just a populist outpouring against the world as it is. I think that Obama has the ability and aspirations to reach out and accomplish what Friedman wants, and what he sees as the real problems behind the Tea Kettle party phenomena, but the body politic does seem to be really mired in limited--if not downright stupid--thinking.

In the NYT today, Friedman opens with a quote from Lewis Mumford. This alone merits a shout-out, as Mumford was a great American humanist (for lack of a more specific term), and long-time favorite of mine. In Friedman's article a quote from Mumford is taken from his impressionistic account of history, and more specifically, that of the declining Roman empire. I think that we have to be careful of the "we're the new Rome" stuff, but still, it's a thought-provoking piece, and it allows Friedman to trumpet an important message. Friedman floats the idea of a third-party, a tried and true perspective in American politics (and one that can influence events, but not since the Republican Lincoln, have none have gained power at the presidential level). The problem, as I see it, is that Obama gets criticized for acting too conciliatory and non-partisan. What perspectives or attitudes could a, for instance, Bloomberg add to the national dialogue? If anything, maybe Obama and the Democrats need to act more boldly and move more to the left. Anyway, thanks for quoting Mumford, Tom.

Robert Shiller in the NYT today takes about "animal spirits" (again) in describing how attitudes effect economic outlooks and performance. Yea, Keynes, who wrote in English (although he spoke mathematics very fluently) seems to have his pulse on our situation. Another instance of human behavior not following the guidelines that mainstream economics says that we should.

Finally, a quick note: an article in the NYT about an upcoming series on PBS on religion in America. You cannot understand America if you don't have some grasp of its religious history and its current manifestations in their incredible variety. Sounds promising.