Monthly Archives: April 2009

NYT on Obama’s Pragmatism

This is a bit old, but The New York Times had a recent piece on Obama’s “pragmatism.”

Here are some of the references:

In some of his earliest skirmishes, Mr. Obama eventually chose pragmatism over fisticuffs.

….And Thursday, Mr. Obama suggested that he would not fight in Congress to renew an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. It was the latest example of the pragmatic approach he adopted after winning the presidency by promising to challenge entrenched interests and put the public good ahead of political expedience.

….Pragmatism, they add, is an Obama hallmark, and among the changes he promised — and has delivered — is a break from his predecessor’s often uncompromising style.

Posner’s New Book and Free Markets

In light of our discussion a few weeks ago on Posner and libertarianism, this review of A Failure of Capitalism is illuminating. posner1

As the author, Marcus Baram, points out, Posner seems to have changed his tune significantly over the last few months, recognizing a larger role for government intervention in markets.  In other words, Posner seems to be softening his libertarianism.

Obama and Latin America

From Jim Johnson’s (Notes on) Politics, Theory and Photography blog, this post entitled “The Summit Challenges Obama’s Pragmatism.”galeanocover

Johnson points out that pragmatism isn’t just about predicting the future but about learning lessons from the past.

Johnson starts out by discussing this book, given to Obama by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

“Colonialism was essentially a good idea for Africa, it was a shame that we got rid of it, and the continent would have been better off under foreign rule.”

–Posted by Tom Cookson

Would European colonialism be good for Africa?

Watch this short video clip and decide for yourself:

Peter Singer (a very famous Australian philosopher at Princeton who you’ve probably heard of) and Tyler Cowen (a slightly famous American Economics Professor at George Mason University who you probably haven’t heard of) match wits on the subject.  If you’re bored, click through the entire interview, they’re at each others throats throughout and they talk about some really big, interesting ideas regarding world poverty and the implications of accepting a Utilitarian system of ethics (for the philosophy people).

I’m not sure what I think about this myself, even though I’ve done a lot stuff about Singer and frequently cite his opinions in arguments, Cowen makes some really good points.

-Tom Cookson

Money, Status, Sex and Happiness

–Posted by Tom Cookson

Anyone who needs a primer on the psychology of happiness should check out this video clip:

This is a discussion between liberal Mark Kleiman (UCLA’s expert professor on Drugs and Public Policy) on the left and Libertarian Megan McArdle (journalist for The Atlantic Monthly and economics expert) on the right, about what makes people really happy in a society.

If you listen carefully, you’ll notice that this is actually a clear, beautifully articulated version a pathetic incoherent rant I went out on a few weeks ago in class — even with the same exact examples I gave (the burned MIT professor; Fox’s “The Swan”), but this time they are sourced. I saw this when it was first published in 2007, and it really got me thinking, and I thought I had the exchange mostly memorized until discovered I was unable reproduce it in class.

Anyway, what does happiness have to do with Obama? Politics and economics is all about maximizing the happiness of a population–not just giving them what they want. Pragmatism has a lot to do with maximizing your own well being–or finding happiness–so knowing about it is important.

-Tom Cookson

Obama’s Pragmatism in Practise

Posted by Anna Raugalis

Here’s an interesting article I found on the NYT website about Obama’s calm attitude in the White House. At the beginning of the quarter we talked a little about the Pragmatic Mood and this article talks a little bit about how Obama fits into this.

Despite Major Plans, Obama Taking Softer Stands

-Anna Raugalis

Barack Obama @ Google

Posted by Peter Erickson

Illinois Senator and 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama visits Google’s Mountain View, CA, headquarters to deliver his innovation agenda, speak with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and take questions from Google employees. This event took place on November 14, 2007, as part of the Candidates@Google series.