American Elephants

President Barack Obama: Explaining the Inexplicable by The Elephant's Child

I am a great admirer of Richard Epstein. I like his mind and the way he thinks and I am fascinated with anyone who can speak for 20 or 30 minutes in complete sentences without pause and without a stumble. There is a perfect coordination between brain and mouth.

I am a slow thinker— clear enough, but s-l-o-w, and the connection between thought process and actual speech leaves much to be desired. I have made speeches that were much somewhat admired, but they were short and it was a struggle. This particular video from Uncommon Knowledge from the Hoover Institution is from March of 2009. It is nevertheless completely fascinating, but over 30 minutes long, if you can make the time.

Richard Epstein discusses his personal and professional associations with Barack Obama in the video starting at 20.36 and lasts around ten minutes if you are short on time. I have found his comments on Obama to be as good a guide as I can find, and have proven accurate as situations arise. It helps to explain the inexplicable.

There is a lot that is inexplicable. The man remains much of a mystery, and as we get deeper into the weeds of ObamaCare, it is more puzzling.  He does not change his mind. Once he has accepted ‘received knowledge’ he is not open to changing his mind. Hence, in spite of the collapse of the IPCC, Obama will pursue his pledge to stop global warming in its tracks. The failure of the stimulus merely means that he needs more infusions of wealth into the economy to stimulate it. See what you think.


Why Does Obama Want to Hire More Teachers? by The Elephant's Child

Last night, President Obama again returned to the issue of  “more teachers” which has so often puzzled me. He took on Gov. Romney on that subject, sneering at Romney’s lack of interest in hiring more teachers. Obama seems to offer hiring more teachers as a solution to our disastrous unemployment situation — while statistically, we have way more teachers in relation to numbers of students than is traditionally necessary.

I think I understand what he means. Obama is fiercely a man of the Left. He dislikes and distrusts Republicans, and opposes each policy of theirs. He thinks they are wrong, in every policy they advocate, and are constantly standing in his way. As is so often true of people on the left, he usually misinterprets Republican policies.

Democrats believe in Keynesian economics. Republicans believe that Keynesian economics has been proven over and over to be a failure in addressing a recession.  I think that Obama rejects Republican economic ideas, partly just because they are Republican. This recession, “the worst since the Great Depression,” is just way worse than they expected. Bush put two wars on the national credit card, and all that defense spending has really screwed things up.

Keynes thought that a recession was a problem of lack of demand, and you could increase demand by putting money into the economy (stimulus) and it didn’t much matter where you injected the funds.

Obama’s stimulus has worked, but just more slowly than expected, because “the worst blah, blah,” and with more stimulus the economy is coming back, we just have to wait it out. Maybe not quite “in the midst of a huge recovery” as Michelle said, but manufacturing is improving and he is doing wonderful things with alternative energy and saving America from the high cost of foreign oil.

I have urged you, many times to watchthe video of Richard Epstein explaining his observations of Obama, who he knew at University of Chicago and through his next-door neighbor who was a close friend of Obama’s. Obama is a puzzle, and many have written books, articles and even made movies trying to explain the man.

Richard Epstein, who is brilliant, does not attempt to psychoanalyze Obama or guess at his motives. His description of Obama is just close and careful observation, and has proved to be correct. Epstein said that Obama does not change his mind, that his ideas are set in concrete and if he believed in a stimulus four years ago, he believes that today.

The Obama we saw last night, is the Obama that Richard Epstein describes. And in spite of Solyndra and the dozens of other failed solar companies and wind farms and disastrous insistence of putting the corn crop in our gas tanks, he believes. So hiring more teachers grows the economy. Using taxpayer money to experiment with solar power, wind and biofuels is the wave of the future and you have to expect that not all will succeed — discounting the massive failures and bankruptcy of everything from Solyndra to the current bankruptcy of electric car battery maker A123.

Obama’s vision for his second term really is “more of the same.” It actually is what he believes will work. He really does have no idea how government can create more jobs other than to continue with current policies, spend more, and wait the slow recovery out.

He rejects completely the idea that small businesses report their income as individuals, and are a large part of “the rich” (defined as individuals reporting more than $200,000 in income) on whom he wants to increase taxes — thereby prolonging the recession. He sees “small business” as the multitude of small mom and pop enterprises, little shops, garages, that he has encountered.

Obama promises more of the same, because he thinks that is the answer.

If You Keep Your Ideas to Yourself, You Don’t Get to Hear Strong Ideas Articulated by People Who Disagree With You. by The Elephant's Child

This interview with the brilliant Richard Epstein was made in October, last year, and remains stunningly pertinent.


Few legal scholars have blown as many minds and had the tangible impact that Richard Epstein has managed. His 1985 volume, Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain is a case in point. Epstein made the hugely controversial argument that regulations and other government actions such as environmental regulations that substantially limit the use of or decrease the value of property should be thought of as a form of eminent domain and thus strictly limited by the Constitution. The immediate result was a firestorm of outrage followed by an acknowledgment that the guy was onto something.

As Epstein told Reason in a 1995 interview, “I took some pride in the fact that [Sen.] Joe Biden (D-Del.) held a copy of Takings up to a hapless Clarence Thomas back in 1991 and said that anyone who believes what’s in this book is certifiably unqualified to sit in on the Supreme Court. That’s a compliment of sorts…. But I took even more pride in the fact that, during the Breyer hearings [in 199X], there were no such theatrics, even as the nominee was constantly questioned on whether he agreed with the Epstein position on deregulation as if that position could not be held by responsible people.”

Born in New York in 1943, Epstein splits faculty appointments at the University of Chicago and New York University; he’s also a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and a contributor to Reason. In books such as Forbidden Grounds: The Case Against Employment Discrimination Laws (1992) to Simple Rules for a Complex World (1995), and Skepticism and Freedom: A Modern Case for Classical Liberalism (2003), Epstein pushes his ideas and preconceptions to their limits and takes his readers along for the ride. A die-hard libertarian who believes the state should be limited and individual freedom expanded, he is nonetheless the consummate intellectual who first and foremost demands he offer up ironclad proofs for his characteristically counterintuitive insights into law and social theory.

Indeed, Epstein’s enduring value may not be any particular legal or policy prescription he’s offered over the years but rather his methodology. He believes in robust and unfettered argument and debate as a way of gaining knowledge. If you don’t put your ideas out in the arena, you can’t be doing your best work, he argues. “The problem when you keep to yourself is you don’t get to hear strong ideas articulated by people who disagree with you,” he says.

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