Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Are Philosoper Kings rare or the norm?

Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, — nor the human race, as I believe, — and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. Plato's Republic

During a recent phone conversation with my friend, Stephen Plant, I opined, in reference to the curious unwillingness of the US Treasury to put the (now $714B ) already raised "bail-out" funds to work, that the party in power might be waiting to put the funds to work until after the election, perhaps to avoid a collapse of the US$.

There are, of course, many other potential reasons behind this policy choice. Perhaps (from a less skeptical perspective) simple operational difficulties of implementing such a large and complex task are slowing them down. Perhaps (with a greater degree of skepticism) they were waiting to "paint the tape" (i.e. drive the Dow higher) in the last week before the election. As with all public policy choices, its a combination of desires that tends to explain best.

I base my (more skeptical) speculations on my study of history both of politics in general and the current administration in specific. Rarely, it seems to me, and, as the opening quote above suggests, to Plato as well, are nations led by truly altruistic experts. Much more common are those who skillfully disguise their self-aggrandizing policies in the clothes of altruism or, are not expert at all.

While it is true that abundant evidence of such policies in the past does not necessarily mean that the current Treasury policy falls into the same category, that same evidence at least suggests the current policy might so fall.

I would prefer to believe that the current policy is a result of altruistic expert views. However, I try not to let my preference get in the way of the evidence, or dismiss such speculation as a "conspiracy theory" - a term whose highly pejorative connotation in these United States seems a bit strange given that the nation was founded by conspiracy.