Philosophy

Obama's Clever Liberalism

Hold the tea bags: “Obama has no intention of changing the nature of American capitalism,” Frank Foer and Noam Scheiber write in The New Republic. Obama believes in “behavioral economics” (which policymakers call “libertarian paternalism”). “Obama has set out to synthesize the New Democratic faith in the utility of markets with the Old Democratic emphasis on reducing inequality. In Obama's state, government never supplants the market or stifles its inner workings--the old forms of statism that didn't wash economically, and certainly not politically. But government does aggressively prod markets--by planting incentives, by stirring new competition--to achieve the results he prefers.” Foer and Scheiber conclude: “Obama has groped toward a form of liberal activism that is eminently saleable in this country--both with the average voter, easily spooked by charges of creeping statism, and the constellation of political interests in Washington.”