June 02, 2009

Reevaluating Reagonomics

Sometimes knowledgeable people have the tendency to show off their knowledge too much by intentionally complicating their message.
Then there are others who make it their business to communicate complicated ideas to the general public using language that everyone can understand.
In the sphere of science, no one comes close to Carl Sagan when it comes to explaining science to everyone using spectacularly passionate language.
Paul Krugman's columns are similar — bereft of economic technobabble and illuminating.
His latest column in the New York Times makes interesting reading — if nothing else, it was good to see someone criticizing Reagan.
I've been watching with some skepticism all the praise that has been praised on President Reagan — particularly since his death(?).
Apart from all the logical historical analysis, it seems somewhat implausible that a minor Hollywood actor would necessarily have the qualities required to make for a great president.
"Reagan ended the Cold War" — his supporters might proclaim. But historical events such as those happen on a timescale that is a product with a multitude of factors — no single person should get much credit for those happenings.
If any single person is to be credited for the end of the Cold War, it should be Mikhail Gorbachev.
By the same token to judge presidential qualities, George W. Bush seems to lack the qualities on the face of it that might have made him a good president.
The better presidents in the 20th century seem to have been the following (going back chronologically): Bill Clinton, Nixon, JFK, Eisenhower, FDR, ...
It is odd to put Nixon on that list, of course . . .
But apart from the obvious paucity of character and other moral deficiencies that Nixon ample demonstrated, if one were to judge his presidency on the basis of pure accomplishments, the report card might be fairly impressive.
Would it be fair to credit him with the achievement of bringing to an end the Vietnam War?
Bill Clinton was an exceptionally brilliant student and law school teacher and a precocious politician and governor — kind of like the ideal person who should be president and who's likely to make a 'good' president.
But, again, one should always put a man in the proper historical context . . .
Clinton had many successes as president — mainly, the fact that America went through a long period of economic expansion.
But that expansion could have been the result of a confluence of many historical reasons — the rise of the Internet and other technologies which helped increase the productivity of the American worker. Technology also enabled the creation of a seamless global financial market — perhaps too seamless, the flip side of which is perhaps only too apparent right now.
JFK was a similarly talented person from a competitive family background who was brilliant academically. He was also tempered by his experiences in the Second World War and his many battles with death.
He was also very well read in the liberal arts — having a sense of the large sweep of human history. Something that Bill Clinton also must have had.
It seems that is an essential quality — the present president is also someone with a rich liberal education and exceptional appreciation for history.
One hopes this is a good prognosis that his presidency will be a success as well.
Eisenhower of course was a military general who led the Allies in the Second World War and obviously led America as president at a time when American power was in a way at its zenith.
Colin Powell, if he had chosen to enter politics, would likely have made a great president.
Same goes for Al Gore as well.

Summary and conclusion: For all the parents who have got young kids and want to see the kids grow up to become president, the message is clear.
  1. Get your kids a great liberal arts education so that they appreciate the intricacies of humanity's history and human nature.
  2. Ensure that they have good to great oratorial skills.
  3. Ensure that they should be telegenic.
  4. Get the kid interested in outdoor sports.
  5. Whatever you do, make sure that the kid has good eyesight — well, the key is not to wear spectacles. So, those with eyesight problems need to wear contacts, that is all.
  6. If you can, please try not to push them too hard.
  7. Try to make sure that the kid doesn't develop a sense of personal insecurity.
  8. Give the kid a middle class upbringing so that the kid needs scholarship to go through college.
  9. Teach them a foreign language or two — that will come in handy as president.
  10. Don't take them to Kennedy Space Center when they're kids to see a shuttle launch. Or else, they might get too interested in all that space stuff and might want to become astronauts or scientists . . . of course, if you're OKAY with that, then no problems!

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