Saturday, October 04, 2008

Blame Obama

My friend Phil from Iowa has long been a passionate McCain supporter, and circulated numerous emails during McCain's previous bid for the presidency. Yesterday he sent me a copy of an article apparently blaming Senator Obama for single-handedly causing the current financial catastrophe. Diana West: Social Engineering Derailed Our Economy.

The argument goes like this. As a community organizer, Barack Obama encouraged poor people (yes there's a racial element to this argument) to take advantage of the available finance. As a politician, Barack Obama supported the availability of finance to poor people. Therefore the collapse of the American banking system is a dastardly communist plot orchestrated by Barack Obama.

Who is the principal beneficiary of this collapse? Why, Senator Obama of course, who now commands a healthy lead in the opinion polls. Therefore the primary purpose of this social engineering was to cheat Senator McCain from his rightful job as President Maverick.

If all this were true, of course, it would rather undermine the standard Republican argument that Obama has no management experience. A president capable of orchestrating such a dramatic outcome, and with such consummate timing, would make an outstanding President.

Of course this is nonsense. As if the weak-minded banks were coerced into dodgy finance by left-wing politicians!? If the capitalist system can be subverted by a handful of left-wing activists, then it isn't quite as robust as the End-of-History ideologues like to think.

Of course the current state of regulation over the banking system is a complete mess - both nationally and internationally. In the USA, regulation has been a battleground between Republicans and Democrats, with the latter blaming everything on Reagan-era deregulation, and the former blaming everything either on Clinton or on the refusal of the Democrats to support partial reintroduction of regulation under Bush.

One of the principles of systems thinking is that a regulation system needs to have requisite variety - in other words, it needs to have just enough complexity to respond intelligently to the complexity of the system being regulated. It is difficult to imagine politicians of any stripe being capable of designing an effective regulatory system. Conversely, it is difficult to imagine someone capable of real systems thinking becoming an effective President. Look at Jimmy Carter: the exception proves the rule.

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