What unemployment crisis?

On and on goes media coverage of the debt ceiling standoff, a shocking spectacle of Democratic weakness and Republican greed. What’s not being covered in the ongoing misery of the millions of Americans who lost jobs and/or homes and see no signs that the White House and Congress intend to do anything in the way of jobs creation.

George Packer recently shed light on the situation by itemizing the travails of one desperate family and showing how irrelevant all such families are to the blowhards we elected to help mend the economy. Then he put the rot of our political system in perspective:

The sociologist Max Weber, in his 1919 essay “Politics as a Vocation,” drew a distinction between “the ethic of responsibility” and “the ethic of ultimate ends”—between those who act from a sense of practical consequence and those who act from higher conviction, regardless of consequences. These ethics are tragically opposed, but the true calling of politics requires a union of the two. On its own, the ethic of responsibility can become a devotion to technically correct procedure, while the ethic of ultimate ends can become fanaticism. Weber’s terms perfectly capture the toxic dynamic between the President, who takes responsibility as an end in itself, and the Republicans in Congress, who are destructively consumed with their own dogma. Neither side can be said to possess what Weber calls a “leader’s personality.” Responsibility without conviction is weak, but it is sane. Conviction without responsibility, in the current incarnation of the Republican Party, is raving mad.

Packer’s use of the word “sane” might be dubious, but he makes it clear the the jobs picture won’t brighten until we stop electing people to high office who are weak, corrupt and/or crazy.

3 thoughts on “What unemployment crisis?

  1. At this point, I have to disagree. It’s Boehner who’s arguing for increasing the debt limit only, but Obama and Reid who want to decimate SS/MM starting Now Now Now. We are thru the looking glass, Alice.

  2. Packer overstates the case with Obama. Obama most definitely does not take responsibility as an end in itself. His overarching objective is to get reelected. His secondary objectives include “governance as process devoid of substance” — albeit with a bias toward substance that reinforces the oligarchic status quo (because his number one objective demands campaign contributions from the oligarchy). This is the problem with sophomoric analysts like Packer. They so badly want to put forth a narrative that can reveal their own cleverness that they fail to look deeply at the meanings of writings such as Weber’s. Inevitably they end up writing drivel such as “Responsibility without conviction is weak, but it is sane.” Nothing could be more insane than that sentiment. What Obama and pals are doing is not sane — unless by sanity we mean anything whatsoever that is consistent with the destruction of our democracy and liberty and justice for all. Packer has, unwittingly I’m sure, simply restated the famous Nuremburg Defense. He calls Obama sane for ‘merely following orders of the oligarchy’.

  3. You make a lot of good points, Doug. Packer isn’t the ideal analyst to cite while examining the disaster-in-progress that is the American workplace. I agree with you about Obama, and with your contention that Packer’s reading of Weber was superficial, perhaps because he doesn’t want to be perceived as too far outside the mainstream media’s messaging. I should have quoted from Packer’s unusually thorough description of one family’s suffering, because he made it movingly clear that what’s happening to this family is happening to millions of others. That’s the sort of thing journalists don’t do often enough, not anymore. But you’re right, there’s nothing sane about what Obama is doing, not unless one equates sanity with greedy self-interest.

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