Exceeding Our Expectations

Recently, a commenter reacted with both surprise and disdain to the hopeful messages here following the election of Barack Obama as our next President. Referring correctly to the fact that many of our writers — including myself — had grave reservations about Obama (the word he used was “villified” [sic]) and strongly favored McCain, he wondered how Cross-Currents writers could be “scurrying to demonstrate their moderation and seek his favor.”

The simple answer is that we did not “vilify” anyone, but referred critically to Obama’s public record — and now that the election is over, it’s time to work with our President-elect rather than against him.

During the election, I said Obama’s record on Israel worried me — and for good reason. For example, in an essay on the Middle East, paragraphs referring to Hizbollah and Hamas categorized the former, but not the latter, as a terrorist organization. Could anyone concerned for Israel’s safety not find that troubling? John McCain’s decades-long relationship with Israel is unquestioned, his attitude towards Arab terrorism consistent, and his belief in Israel’s right and need of aggressive self-defense, refreshingly frank.

But John McCain isn’t going to be our next president, and instead of focusing our energies upon water under the bridge, it is only appropriate that we look forward. It would be far from the first time that a politician dramatically exceeded expectations created from his or her past record.

One example is that of George W. Bush himself, scion of a political family “viewed with suspicion and at times outright hostility by Jewish Americans.” Anne Kornblut, writing in the strongly left-wing Slate magazine in 2002, recognized that GWB not only crafted a pro-Jewish image, but “appears to be entirely sincere in his warmth toward the Jewish people.” And this was after an election in which “Jewish neocons” backed his primary-season opponents such as John McCain, his opponent in the general election had an observant Jewish running mate, and his outreach to Arab-Americans was amply rewarded. Not even Jewish conservatives expected him to turn out quite so pro-Israel and favorable towards the Jewish community.

But I would like to provide two examples with a more local flavor.

This past Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night) was the annual dinner of the NorthWest Citizen’s Patrol, a community watch organization here in Baltimore that works with police to detect and prevent crime in the Upper Park Heights-Greenspring areas. Rabbis and public service officials shared the dais to praise the work of this organization, and honor several of its participating volunteers and the public servants who have helped make it so effective.

At the conclusion of the event, I recognized and took the opportunity to introduce myself to State Senator Lisa Gladden, who serves our district. While the dinner is popular with many politicians, Senator Gladden hardly had to be there. An African-American who had served two terms in the House of Delegates, Gladden handily defeated Barbara Hoffman, a Jewish incumbent with twenty years of seniority in the Senate. During that 2002 campaign, one of her leading political backers said that her district (which is 70% black) would vote for those who “look like them, smell like them and think like them” (just imagine how quietly this statement would have passed had it been made by a WASP politician). Now Gladden is herself the Majority Whip, and at little risk for losing her seat any time soon.

She doesn’t need our support, and that makes her admiration for the work of the NWCP and the cohesion of our community all the more genuine and commendable. She cares about — and works for — all of her constituents. My wife said afterward that Gladden doesn’t carry herself like a politician, but seems genuine and down-to-earth — meeting Gladden reminded her of spending time with the nicest of her graduate-school classmates.

I mentioned this to NWCP President Neil Schachter, and he both affirmed our evaluation and provided an example of his own: the record of Mayor Sheila Dixon. Dixon was City Council President, and was selected by the Council to be Interim Mayor following Martin O’Malley’s successful bid to unseat Governor Bob Ehrlich in 2006. Beforehand, what would become of Baltimore was considered a reason to vote Ehrlich; a Democratic politician incorrectly reassured voters that there was no way Dixon, under the cloud of a corruption investigation and widely perceived as soft on crime, would become Mayor. In 2007, the Firefighters Union, the Police Union (FOP), the Sheriffs Union, and Attorney General Doug Gansler all endorsed her leading opponent, Keiffer Mitchell, who focused upon the spiraling crime rate during his campaign against her.

Instead, Dixon has proven herself to be both much more effective in fighting crime than anyone expected, and extremely responsive to our community. The city’s murder rate has sharply declined this year, reversing a thirty-year pattern (in 2006, Baltimore had the second-highest murder rate in the country). In addition, Neil told me that when something happens in the NWCP neighborhood, someone from the Mayor’s office calls within hours to keep the NWCP apprised — an unheard-of level of outreach directly from the Mayor, to ensure that our community is aware and our needs met. And this, he said, is only one example of her numerous efforts.

My point here is not merely to commend the records of two Democrats, although it is such a rare opportunity that it would be a shame to miss it (just kidding). It is that, as various market funds have been required to warn us for years, “past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.” It is only rational and appropriate to work with President Obama, and consider the possibility that he could exceed even GW Bush as a pro-Israel President, while pursuing pro-business policies that stimulate rather than burdening our struggling economy.

We can always dream!

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24 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    Cross-Currents is one of the only sane places for me to look for Torah perspectives on current events. Thank you for your optimism and keen eye (and mouth) for emes.

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    While the writers for Cross Currents did indeed stick to Sen. Obama’s public record, there were plenty of commenters who could not refrain from repeating long debunked lies about him, many of which were started by people who were known to be either anti-Semites or out and out nutcases.

    I went to graduate school in Baltimore during the early 1990s. At that time, New York City had about six times the number of homicides as Baltimore despite having about ten times the population — and people considered New York City to be ungovernable and crime to be a hopeless problem. In 2007, New York City, where I’ve lived since 2001, had about thirteen times the population as Baltimore but only about twice the number of homicides. (NYC still has room to improve; in 2007 it still had more than three times the number of homicides as London, UK, which has only about 10% fewer people.) The decline started under Mayor Dinkins, continued under Mayor Giuliani, and continued further under Mayor Bloomberg. I am *so* happy that crime in Baltimore is on the way down and I wish the people of Baltimore all the best.

    Regarding non-Jewish politicians, here in the Bronx I see them coming to Jewish events on a regular basis despite the fact that there is no longer a significant Jewish population in their districts — or in the Bronx as a whole. And I have no reason to question their sincerity. (All of them today are Democrats; the Bronx was Barack Obama’s second best county in the entire United States and only one Republican — also a big supporter of the Jewish community when he was in office — has been elected to anything at all in decades.)

  3. LOberstein says:

    Lisa Gladden is doing a fine job as State Senator. She retained as her office manager Jacqueline Greenfield, a member of the frum community. This is because Mrs Greenfield had a reputation of servicing the needs of all constituents, regardless of color. Likewise, Senator Gladden is color blind when servicing the needs of her constituents ,as are our other leading politicians. I haven’t run into any who are anti-white. We all want the same things in our communities. There are no “republican” pot holes or democratic “drug corners”. There wasn’t one politician who didn’t come to see Rabbi Neuberger when he or she wanted to run for office. If the frum community has a good relationship it is because we have benefited from wise leadership and we present a united front. Our African American mayor is so proud that she approved the establishement of an eruv around the Johns Hopkins neighborhood at the request of Rabbi Binny Marwick , who works for the OU on campus.

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    good post. we had a similar panic in passaic when a spanish guy was running several years ago. there was a panic around town that he would be terrible for the jews and someone got me to give $100 toward the campaign of a white jew. What a wast of money.

    Turns out that this hispanic candidate (who happens to now be in jail) was the best mayor the frum community in passaic ever had.

  5. David N. Friedman says:

    Rabbi Menken–sure we all dream. I am afraid that now is the time to be afraid and not hopeful.

    His cabinet is hardly a model of balance with no person on his economic team with any entrepreneurial experience or pro-business sensitivity and his selection of the highly controversial Hillary Clinton with all her baggage associated with her husband hardly soothes the souls of those of us that want a pro-Israel posture to continue. The incoming Homeland Security chief is not at all what the nation needs, in fact, beyond the good sense of keeping Gates and choosing a well-known Christian minister to lead an invocation as a bit of symbolism–I can find no hope in his cabinet thus far. He is in love with radical environmentalism and has no plans to cut federal spending. His enduring promise remains only his words–a general sense that he will engage our national problems and he will engage in determined diplomacy–building on his own sense that our nation does not need an administration and a new chief executive, rather, a man with a magic wand who people really, really like and want to please. This is a nice gig if one can get it and it is realistic to expect that the opening for President Obama will not be there for more than a few months.

    The sad fact is that recent events have put a lot of pressure on an incoming administration and it is very doubtful–all dreams aside–things will improve. We would have to blessed with some very good luck to not garner at least one or two hits to either the economy or foreign events and while we are down, it will hurt all the more. I feel it is fine to hope for the best but it is more accurate to anticipate a mediocre cabinet with some really dangerous tendencies that only a lack of Federal cash will curtail.

  6. cvmay says:

    said Obama’s record on Israel worried me — and for good reason

    For optimal physical, emotional and mental health, it is perferable to be an optimist and hope for the best (while smiling).
    But Hillary Clinton future position as Secretary of State is quite distressing. Now that we know who the undisclosed patrons of Billy’s Presidental Library to the tune of 50 million dollars are, the CONFLICT OF INTEREST is apparent. The Islamic governments including Saudai kings to the tune of 50million $$$ have certain expectations of influence from the Clintons. Is there anyone who donates for altrustic reasons only? The Clintons are beholded to the ‘Terrorist enemy’, the US and its ally(?) Israel will place second in the ongoing war of terror.

  7. LOberstein says:

    With every passing day I gain confidence in President Elect Obama. He has the most organized selection of his cabinet of any President in recent memory. He is picking highly qualified and experienced people with a clear vision of how to deal with our nation’s many problems. The Bush Administration is lucky that in the United States we don’t arrest politicians when they leave office in disgrace. He lowered taxes on the top 5% and waged two wars while lowering government’s income. He sold our nation to the Arab money lenders and left our country in the worst recession since 1929. How bad can one President be? As far as the Clinton Global Initiative, how ignorant can one be? The money went for tsynami relief, for AIDS care in Africa and many other worthwhile causes. What President Clinton, with the help of former President Bush has done is wonderful and a credit to humanity. Some of you guys just can’t see the good , all you want to do is pull down our next President. I predict he will be one of the best in American history.Israeli billionaires also gave to the CGI, ot just Asian dictators. You don’t like Hillary, you don’t like Barack, all you like are Republicans who got us into the worst mess both in this country and abroad. They are lucky they are not put in jail for their malfeasance.

  8. Charlie Hall says:


    You wrote,

    “His cabinet is hardly a model of balance with no person on his economic team with any entrepreneurial experience or pro-business sensitivity”

    You are incorrect again. Interior Secretary designate Ken Salazar ran a number of small businesses. Energy Secretary designate Bill Richardson, SEC chair designate Mary Schapiro, and Agriculture Secretary designate Tom Vilsack served on corporate boards. HUD Secretary designate Shaun Donovan worked as a managing director of a mortgage company. White House National Economic Council Director designate Larry Summers was managing director of a private equity firm. Please do your homework before commenting.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    LOberstein should give the recent Democratic-controlled Congress some of the credit for our national debacles. Obama was allegedly a member of the Senate during that period.

  10. dovid says:

    So LOberstein, you like Hillary. The acid test of a politician, or any person for that matter, is what his/her first reaction is to a controversial issue. Did you like Hillary when she hugged Arafat’s wife subsequent to the speech Arafat’s wife made accusing Jews of poisoning little Arab children? She was provided with simultaneous translation, so she knew what was taking place. Why did she hug her? Is it because she can’t think on her feet, or maybe, maybe blood libel is part of her upbringing and psyche? IMHO, whether for the first or second reason, we have a lot to be concerned.

    Do you also like the fact that Arab money was poured into Bill Clinton’s projects? Not concerned maybe, maybe Hillary is biased against Israel even before she takes office? How different are you from those investors who let Madoff manage their money w/o doing their due diligence, w/o questioning Madoff’s methods? The writing is all over on the wall.

  11. David N. Friedman says:

    Charlie, I said that his “economic team” has no one with any entrepreneurial experience–the people you mention are in other cabinet positions. Further, you not only missed my correct observation, you missed its significance since I did not mention a background in mortgage companies, private equity firms or serving on corporate boards. I referenced having entrepreneurial experience. Obama has a tin ear towards business development and he is a man with no clue about what it takes to run a business. This is a big problem for the Democratic party which has made the representative of small business in America to Congress, the US Chamber of Commerce, a Republican interest group by default. Surely, the Chamber of Commerce wants to believe the interests of small businesses are not limited to one party and yet, small business owners are overwhelmingly Republican, while big business is much more split. As Republicans are prone to argue, small business is a key in economic recovery and by contrast Mr. Obama rarely says anything at all about small business. The reason is obvious, the socialist philosophy is to destroy small business and empower the Federal government. Obama wants to be the principal employer of people who worked in small businesses YESTERDAY and this is why he has an overwhelming compunction to draw up Federal mandates for work projects –this is quite an opportunity to make dependency a permanent, automatic majority for the Democratic party. Our nation faces several big threats right now that will be ignored by the incoming administration including the Medicare and Social security crisis.

    Charlie, I am pleased to give you another opportunity to explain how you can support a candidate failing to disclose a valid birth certificate and without disclosing his academic and medical records.

    This is not at all a “moderate” cabinet and as positive as I would like to be, there is not much hope that the people he has chosen in ANY of his cabinet positions represent the kind of change the nation needs right now. We bought “change and hope” and we are going to get no hope of any change from the standard DemParty play book. The Republicans are tripping over themselves concerning their various sins and to be sure–there are sins. However, the Dems have survived culpable for many of our national problems without a purge of various members responsible (Dodd and Barney Frank for example)and without a critical review of their sacred cows.

  12. Charlie Hall says:


    You just seem to be addicted to the irrelevant lie about the birth certificate. Even if he were born in Kenya, he’d still be a natural born citizen and thus eligible to be President.

    Anyway, please cite any member of any recent Republican President’s economic team with a background primarily in small business. Mostly they are either former corporate execs (Paul O’Neill, John Snow), bankers (Henry Paulson) or academics with backgrounds in economics (Ben Bernanke, Ed Lazear).

    BTW if you ever surf the liberal blogs like dailykos or huffingtonpost you will find that President-elect Obama is getting blasted for appointing lots of moderates and even a few conservatives to his cabinet. I guess he is following Rambam’s “middle path” since he has disppointed both you and all the dogmatic lefties. Right wingers can’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a conservative Democrat like Salazar and a socialist like Bernie Sanders. But even Salazar will represent a change from the ideologically driven Bush administration that has been in charge for the past 8 years and brought us to the brink of economic disaster. The “change” will likely be be a dumping of ideological dogmatism in favor of whatever is needed.

    And even the US Chamber of Commerce wants change. If you peruse your web site you will find support for a lot of aggressive governmental interventions — including the bailout of the auto industry and significant infrastructure spending — that are much closer to the Democratic mainstream today than to the Republican. (That shows how far off the cliff the Republicans have gone.) And their detailed recommendations are indeed reasonable if you aren’t a free market ideologue; I hope that the Obama administration will take them seriously.

  13. LOberstein says:

    How different are you from those investors who let Madoff manage their money w/o doing their due diligence, w/o questioning Madoff’s methods? The writing is all over on the wall.” Now that is cute, just tie in everyone and everything you don’t like into one chulent. Life must be so sad when one sees a boogeyman behind every shadow.
    Senator Clinton doesn’t need my approbation. She was re-elected by the voters of New York State, one of the most Jewish states in the USA. She has a record of how she has voted and her actions speak louder than your words. Get over it and get a real grip on life.

  14. Mr. Cohen says:

    Complaint against http://www.cross-currents.com advertiser:

    One of you advertisers is claiming that praying 40 days at the kotel is a segulah for getting married, yet this is NEVER mentioned in ANY Jewish holy book.

    Stop segulah madness!!

  15. David N. Friedman says:

    Charlie, there was never any “ideological dogmatism” in Geo. W. Bush–that is simply wrong–he has always been a moderate and he has never been accepted as a conservative by the conservatives. In contrast, Obama has always been seen as a radical leftist.

    As a small businessman, an Obama Presidency promises all the wrong moves. An Interior minister is a small part of the economic team. Salazar will deal with Green energy initiatives and kill our hopes for energy prosperity–he wants us all to be poor and this is consistent with Obama. Our economy cannot run on solar panels and windmills–it runs on oil and natural gas, coal and nuclear. This desire for “green” is a desire for drastic cuts in economic prosperity and is bizarre and is as dangerous as it is foolish.

    I do not support the current Bush economic team and Paulson is a loyal Dem and this is why we are in such trouble. Obama would never choose a Republican to be in such a position of power. I thought a lot of Snow and he warned us about Freddie and Fannie. The point here is that a new circumstance requires a new approach and the Obama approach is all about empowering the Federal government to take more and more control and puts small business out of the picture. America is distinguished as being identified so strongly with entrepreneurship—that quality will soon be very lacking until Obama is overthrown at the polls. Now is the time to get government off the back of small business. Small business is Conservative–the US Chamber of Commerce whored itself to open borders and fully understands that sticking with Republicans when Republicans are in exile is not going to bring it any favors. Small business owners will find new and more overwhelming reasons to dislike the Democrats and the global warming fetish will head the list–behind all the tax increases and regulations Obama will install.

    The fact that some leftists are in an uproar about Obama (for example, for merely allowing mega-church populist Rick Warren to give an invocation–that is, to be a chosen theologian) is more of a joke than it is a statement of Obama’s alleged moderation. The gay lobby’s response to Warren impeaches their cause–such as it is. Keeping Gates, on the other hand, is something they have a right to complain about since Obama won the nomination based upon reversing course in Iraq and he has selected Bush’s Iraq policy’s big defender. Let’s see how long it is before Gates is gone and Obama goes in another direction. This President Obama will zig and then he will zag–that is a promise. Gates is the lone example of any moderation thus far.

    Regarding the birth certificate, again, you ignore the central question concerning his willingness to hide his past and seal it off for public view. If he was born in Kenya, he would lose in a legal challenge under the natural born citizen clause–but that depends on some sanity in the courts. Hiding his past makes him vulnerable to blackmail and it also means that he has no credibility concerning the kind of openness and transparency we have enjoyed recently and Obama’s secretive nature. It is therefore obvious why a conservative cannot stomach to vote for a newcomer to national politics who also hid his most relevant past since we have standards (we also oppose radicals and socialists). But have liberals abandoned even curiosity, Charlie? Do you care when he got his first passport, when the last time he took cocaine, what it says on his records at Columbia concerning his named religion and nation of origin, how he was admitted to Harvard law school when he admitted doing a lot of cocaine and alcohol while at Columbia, etc? We know he has worked very hard to hide his past–do you even think for a moment about what is is trying so hard to hide?

    I won’t ask again but I hope you will finally answer.

  16. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Charlie, I must respectfully suggest that you, too, do your homework before commenting. The Bush administration made mistakes aplenty, but the biggest factor bringing us “to the brink of disaster” was the housing bubble driven by artificially high demand for housing, driven by the Community Reinvestment Act, driven by Democrats such as Barney Frank that were willing to “roll the dice” over the GSE’s solvency in the interests of “affordable” housing, whatever that actually means. Bush et al failed in their responsibility to effectively monitor the agencies, but to the extent that our current problems are due to ideologues, it’s actually your team and its insistence on warping the free market that are to blame.

  17. dovid says:

    David N. Friedman, why don’t you mention that small business as an aggregate provides more that half of the private employment in America, which makes it even more deserving of support given current widespread unemployment?

  18. David N. Friedman says:

    Dovid, I thank you for your comments. Small business does not want direct aid from government, we want the government to keep their hands off of us. The price of all this governmental intervention in our private economic matters is a disaster. Government stands in the way of small business hiring due to its oppressive tax system and regulations.

    Pres. Elect Obama is completely unsympathetic. Governmental hiring will increase by the design of the new government.

  19. LOberstein says:

    “it’s actually your team and its insistence on warping the free market that are to blame.”
    I will never convince you guys, your minds are made up. As far as I am concerned, we have to be united, not “red” not “blue”. The whole world is in a mess and there is plenty of blame to go around. May our incoming President have the help from Above to make the right decisions.There is no quick fix , our problems took many years to develope . We need to re-energize our country to once again be a first rate nation, our schools have to produce the best and we have to stop expelling non citizen scientists and hard working laborers who do a lot more for our country than some native born citizens. We have to find a common language with our allies and engage the world so that we are not isolated and fighting battles we cannot win alone. We must cease our dependence on foreign oil and create millions of new “green” jobs. We can’t turn back the clock. If you actually took the time to read “The Audacity of Hope” you would hear a wonderful, intellilgent and well thought out agenda to rstore America to peace and prosperity.
    Say what you will, let’s check again in four years.

  20. Charlie Hall says:


    I note that you could not name a single Republican President with a economic adviser who came from a small business background.

    In any case, Bush is no moderate on fiscal matters (the tax cuts), nor on hot button social issues (embryonic stem cell research is an example), nor on Presidential power (if I don’t like a law, I’m just going to say when I sign the law that I’m not going to obey it), nor on support for those less well off (health care for children of working poor, extended unemployment benefits), nor on environmental issues (too numerous to even begin), nor on court appointments (some of which were too nutty even for the Republicans who controlled the Senate). I could go on with more and more examples but the picture is clear.

    You do say that new circumstances require a new approach; and that is what we will get from the Obama administration. And just in time! I think that John McCain was a great American, but I shudder to think of what might happen had he been elected and selected Phil Gramm as Treasury Secretary.

    I didn’t even mention open borders, why do you bring them up? But in any case I agree with them, as should every Jew! If the US had had the same immigration laws in 1940 as in 1840, the six million would have had a place to flea. (The *Wall Street Journal* also agrees with me, and they aren’t know for being liberal.) Also, global warming is not a “fetish” it is a fact.

    The leftists aren’t just upset over Warren (much ado about nothing IMNSHO). They especially don’t like Salazar, and they don’t like Gates, LaHood, Vilsack, Richardson, Daschle, Duncan, or Jackson (EPA director). The difference between a conservative Democrat like Salazar and liberal like Raul Grijalva, who was the leftists choice for Interior secretary, is particularly striking.

    And once again regarding the birth certificate: The law is that if a US Citizen has a child outside the US, that child is a natural born US Citizen and there is even a form for registering that birth with a US embassy or consulate. I know because my wife was born outside the US to US Citizen parents the same year that Barack Obama was born. She has a birth certificate from that other country (in that country’s language) and the “Notice of birth of US Citizen” from the US embassy there. I’ve explained this before.

    Regarding past drug use, I personally know lots of people who were recreational drug users in the past and haven’t used in decades. If you were to exclude anyone with a history of drug use from ever being considered for public office you would exclude most of my generation. We Jews are supposed to believe in tshuvah.


    There is no free market in housing in much of the US, so you can’t accuse anyone of distorting it. Certainly not in New York City and other high cost areas. The high costs create barriers to entry that are insurmountable to almost anyone not a millionaire, and the fixed supply of land is also a constraint on the free market. Hence, government intervention.

    In addition, the CRA was not the reason for the subprime crisis because the banks subject to the CRA made FEWER subprime loans than did the independent mortgage companies who were exempt. Bush actually did make a half-hearted attempt to regulate the GSEs, but he never gave a second thought to the possibility that the non-transparent investment vehicles and derivatives might be a problem, and neither did his advisors until too late. This was an example of where trust in an unregulated market was a terrible idea, and even Alan Greenspan admitted he had been mistaken.

  21. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Charlie –

    Again, I need to respectfully suggest that you better understand what you’re commenting on. The fact that one can craft a reason (compelling or not) for government intervention does not mean that there won’t be unintended consequences to that intervention. Second, the fact that there already were examples of government intervention does not imply that additional government intervention won’t be additionally disruptive. The indisputable fact is that when banks were pressured to make loans to people that couldn’t afford them, the information contained in housing prices no longer means what it did before, which led to the sort of widespread miscalculations that we call the housing bubble. It had nothing to do with which banks made the loans. (Also, to address your other point, Bush himself has small business experience, even if we pretend that entrepreneurship pertains only to small business, as you suggest.)

    Rabbi Oberstein – you misinterpreted my comments completely if you somehow interpreted them as a comment against unity. I was correcting Charlie’s incorrect assertion that our current problems stem from free-market ideology, but I had and have no problem with Obama, and I wish him only the best.

  22. Bob Miller says:

    I’m reminded of something an R&D manager told me years ago. I was going on about the evils of politicians. Carl said (more or less), “Bob, do you know what the problem is with politicians?…It’s that they’re just like us!” This probably applies to many financial and business people as well. When they or politicians go wrong, it’s not because they all belong to some different species; it’s because they have the same basic human qualities as the rest of us but made wrong decisions to go with the flow of temptation and not resist it.

  23. Moishe Potemkin says:

    I mentioned in an earlier comment that I believe that Charlie, despite his many accomplishments in biostatistics and his vast knowledge of the history of higher education, seems unaware of some elementary points of knowledge in the realm of economics. I don’t want that to be interpreted as a personal insult – I don’t know too much about biology or the University of Padua myself – so I am excerpting one of his comments to clarify my point.

    “(T)he fixed supply of land is also a constraint on the free market.”

    A fixed supply is not a constraint on the free market, it simply describes the quantity of a good. The “free market” determines the value of that good, based on aggregate levels of demand. A constraint would be the government deciding that the good should only be available to Zoroastrians, or, more to the point, forcing the price of this good to be higher or lower than that set by the free market, motivated by the belief that access to housing in high-cost area (and, one imagines, ponies) is somehow an inalienable right. That constraint may be nobly motivated, but it carries the externality of corrupting the informative value of the market price, which leads to poor decision making on the part of market participants. (Particularly if the “half-hearted attempt(s)” that were made to regulate the bodies ultimately assuming the costs of these decisions are rebuffed by populist ideologues such as Representative Frank who do not or will not understand the inevitable ramifications of their actions, because, by golly. they sound so good.)

  24. David N. Friedman says:

    Allow me to explain further why the Obama Presidency will doom America. Let’s allow the possibility of a maximalist degree of hope concerning Obama–he will continue the Bush course on the war on terror, he will side with Israel instead of with Israel’s enemies, he will not push for a radical form of national health care coverage and destroy our health care system, he will suddenly reveal all his hidden past and there is nothing of scandal, he will lack the money to suck all the money out of the economy through a socialist agenda, etc. Could he, as Rabbi Menken maintains, exceed our expectations? Sure he could but I submit we are still doomed and we will be severely punished by his candidacy even under conditions of great luck.

    It is easy to see that a commitment to bring bad ideas to America will eventually win out even if Obama proves to be some kind of moderate and 80% of the fears about his Presidency are proved false. I cannot say what it will be but it is easy to argue that he will ultimately fail since he will victimize America with the defeated policies of the liberal playbook.

    I agree with those who argue that America will recover and there is resiliency and a counter balance to the radicalism. This will come AFTER we pay the price of his leadership and I surely hope and pray we will not suffer too high of a price. Bad times and big challenges are tough enough without leadership that ignores real problems, chooses the wrong side and spends way too much money. We can do something when Israel faces a more hostile US administration, when our government caters to global warming nonsense, when government becomes tone deaf to the needs of the free market choices, in short, if you love Obama, you will hope and pray that he can become moderated by conservative opposition.

    And we cannot hesitate to tell him that he is wrong and believe me, he will spend a lot of time in our doghouse.

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