George W. Bush left
Bush arrived in
For years now, persons close to Bush have been advertising him as resembling Harry Truman (1884-1972), thirty-third president of the
A more apt comparison is to Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) twenty-eighth president, about whom ambivalence remains great even after ninety years. Bush may be remembered with the same tincture of admiration and regret.
At the same time, Wilson is remembered as a progressive, a man fundamentally in touch with the deeper currents of what would come to be described as the “the American century,” whose administration brought into existence the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Trade Commission, the Selective Service System (the military draft) and the ptogressive income tax.
Both presidents previously served as a governor of a major state. Wilson in
Otherwise, the two presidents defy mechanical comparison.
At bottom, what the two men seem to have shared is religious conviction amounting to certainty. Early in his presidential campaign,
Is it too facile to equate the impact of their faith with the evangelistic zeal of their politics? Malcolm Magee, urges that the temptation be resisted. A religion scholar at
A second scholar to have taken up the resemblance of Bush to
Any comparison of one president with another is really an implicit story about what comes next. In comparing Bush with Truman, the implication is that the
For what do we know with any certainty about the trend of history, about what will happen next? Who could have imagined, when
Similarly, what do we really know about the root causes of the current recession? Surely the rapid pace of global development had a lot to do with it. So much new specialization emerged so quickly, in the last thirty years or so, that the enormous imbalances that accumulated among
At a certain point in the ’80s and early ’90s, the idea took hold in New York and Washington (and London) that financial engineering constituted an industry analogous in many ways to the personal computer and the Internet (or, say, passenger airplanes fifty years before), its techniques (mainly) invented by American companies, and that a race of sorts was underway to build out a network and secure the advantages that would come from being its major proprietor; and that, under the circumstances, very little thought was given to whatever might be the risks that were involved. Instead the Americans wound up with something more like a global version of the Chinese poison milk scandal.
No less than computers, financial engineering is here to stay. That much, at least, is clear; in due course it will come to be seen as generally beneficial. But a great re-regulation of global financial markets will be necessary first, probably requiring an international treaty. Add to that the problem of dealing with climate change, of the growing opposition of interests between the