Thursday
Jan242013

A Lovely Metaphor  

We are biased, but we think this metaphor from Robert Shiller for Pres. Obama’s second term and upcoming State of the Union address is just lovely:

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-image-of-barack-obama-s-second-term-by-robert-j—shiller

Shiller is right that the United States has an inclusivity deficit, which any politician really meaning to build a better society should urgently address. 

We would also add to his list:

  • Education: as we have argued here, the US educational system is failing and failing badly, thus weakening one of the main bulwarks of inclusivity. High school and college graduation rates for males are no better today than they were in the 1960s, and the quality of our high schools is probably quite a bit worse. How can the United States be an inclusive society when it fails to provide to a significant fraction of its population the resources necessary to compete domestically and globally?

  • Incarceration: as we have argued here, the US is locking up millions of its youths, and essentially five out of every 100 African-American males, for non-violent crimes. How can the United States be an inclusive society when it continues to create the deepest chasm among its citizens by condemning so many of its less advantaged ones to prison and then subsequently to a second-class existence scarred by incarceration?

  • Immigration: in addition to incarceration, millions of other inhabitants of this country are being condemned to second-class existence because, though born or living here for decades, they are labeled “illegal immigrants”. How can the United States be an inclusive society with this deep divide bearing on it?

  • The government vs. business: it can be argued that a particularly poisonous mix of business-government relations are emerging today as the government meddles more in business while at the same time coddling some privileged businessmen and companies (especially in the new and powerful security establishment, in defense, in finance, in health care, and in the legions of businesses now receiving government protection). How can the United States be an inclusive society when it is relations to government officials and bureaucrats that determine success in business?

  • Civil liberties: a central argument of Why Nations Fail is that economic inclusivity must ultimately rest on political inclusivity, which of course is impossible when civil liberties and freedom of thought and expression are being trampled upon. As we argued here, the United States has been taking an increasingly hostile attitude towards civil liberties. How can the United States be an inclusive society when the basic freedoms of its citizens are no longer protected from the power of the state and the whims of government officials?

So we wonder whether Pres. Obama really intends to work towards making the United States more inclusive on these dimensions?

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