Thursday, August 11, 2011

Decision Points???

I just finished reading Decision Points, George Bush's memoirs. It was a a great read. It was a book which left me with one overriding thought. Was I, were we too hard on George W Bush? I suppose it is natural to sympathise with any author after reading their autobiography but the former President did articulate in a very convincing way just how unique the Presidency is as ultimately the job comes down to one man in an office making some incredibly difficult calls that will shape human history. I also got the impression of a man who had little appetite for the partisan game. I never realised what a hard time he got from the Christian right wing of the Republican Party which regularly accused him of selling out on many of their principles. He was clearly less ideological and more pragmatic than most people give him credit for. This is evident in his chapters on Stem Cell Research, Social Security Reform, Hurricane katrina and No Child Left Behind. Yet it is impossible to avoid the reality that Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis render his Presidency largely, a bad one.


builder man said...

Bush's massive tax cuts for the rich promoted the largest recession since
WW2. Poverty and unemployment slowed
the world economy. The unnecessary wars destroyed the lives of millions
but doubtless, like Reagan, he will
have a statue in London in 30 years
and be eulogised. Reagan deregulated
which produced the latest banking crisis. In 1987, Gorbachev offered to
withdraw all troops from Afghanistan
and that they should work together to
counter Islamic fundamentalism.
Reagan,who could not see beyond his fanatical anti-communism,refused.The problem with US Presidents, as with most of the people, is that they understand little beyond America. When you are the most powerful country in the world, that is often a disaster for others. The major exception is of course,WW2.
On October the first, 1942
I was just coming up for three
And some Yank, on the other side of the world
Was dying, to keep me free.

Jenny said...

I agree with Builderman. Bush was an embarrassment, a dangerous embarrassment, for 8 years. Probably a nice guy, I'm nice enough myself, but neither of us has any business running a country.
Lives have been ruined and lost because of this man's lack of knowledge and ability.

Ted Leddy said...

Builder man

Thanks very much for your excellent contributions to Gubu World in recent days.

I don't blame tax cuts for the recession either in Ireland or America. But I do blame conservative economic thinking for excessively promoting deregulation in the financial sector, as if it were some symbol of freedom. That I believe is a right wing fantasy.

However I disagree with your assessment of Reagan although I don't know enough about the details of his economic policies to argue whether or not they contributed to the current recession.

I do believe that Reagan was right to agressively stand up to the Soviets, whose right to own Eastern and Central Europe was no more legitimate than Hitlers. You describe his opposition to communism as fanatical, I believe it was based on an understanding of its horrors where as those opposed to Reagan did not.

It is strange. You praise America for its role in liberating millions during WW2 yet outside of that context refer to US involvement internationally as being a disaster. But Reagan contributed in a huge way to the liberation of Eastern and central Europe and he did so at the cost of much less bloodshed than FDR during WW2.

Ted Leddy said...


Don't be so hard on yourself. I think you would make a great president, maybe try a smaller country first to get some practise.

Bush's weakness at public speaking was embarrasing and cringy at times.

However the top job in the Oval Ofice does require a certain coldness in order to make some of the bigger decisions. Every American president has had to make decisions that have effected millions, sometimes negatively. In this respect, I do sympathise with Bush.

Having said that, if is it true that he was unaware of the sectarian divide in Iraq between Sunni and Shia Muslim then you are correct when you say that "Lives have been ruined and lost because of this man's lack of knowledge"

The System Works said...

Builder Man:

Tax cuts have never been an integral cause of any recession. Economic downturns begin with a 'cluster of errors' in business. Now, imagine if you heard one day that over lunch tens of thousands of cars crashed in your city. The most likely cause of that is not 'greed' among drivers (desire to go some place). Rather, the most obvious cause would be a problem with the traffic lights and signals, especially if such lights were staying entirely green. This is what happens in the economy. Central banks (Marx called for these in the Communist Manifesto, by the way) set artificially low interest rates. This wrongly encourages borrowing and unwise speculation, causing a boom followed by a bust when the interest rates rise. Interest rates are crucial signals, today set by central banks. The problem is central planning in money. Like in Soviet Russia, there is always an incentive to keep the price of some things too low.

Deregulation was certainly not responsible. From 1980-2009 in the US, there were 4 new regulatory policies for every 1 deregulatory policy. The problem is socialism. Remember always that it was the evil Keynesian Paul Krugman in 2001 who wrote that after the dot com bubble, the government should create a housing bubble to make up for it!

I must thank economist Steve Horwitz for providing me with the traffic light example at a lecture several months ago.