Obama's eloquence central to ability to govern

Further to my post about the epideictic case for Barack Obama as President, I recalled this editorial in The New Yorker last month.

. . . it is Obama’s first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” (1995), that offers an unprecedented glimpse into the mind and heart of a potential President. Obama began writing it in his early thirties, before he was a candidate for anything. Not since Theodore Roosevelt has an American politician this close to the pinnacle of power produced such a sustained, highly personal work of literary merit before being definitively swept up by the tides of political ambition.
A Presidential election is not the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize: we elect a politician and, we hope, a statesman, not an author. But Obama’s first book is valuable in the way that it reveals his fundamental attitudes of mind and spirit. “Dreams from My Father” is an illuminating memoir not only in the substance of Obama’s own peculiarly American story but also in the qualities he brings to the telling: a formidable intelligence, emotional empathy, self-reflection, balance, and a remarkable ability to see life and the world through the eyes of people very different from himself. In common with nearly all other senators and governors of his generation, Obama does not count military service as part of his biography. But his life has been full of tests—personal, spiritual, racial, political—that bear on his preparation for great responsibility.
It is perfectly legitimate to call attention, as McCain has done, to Obama’s lack of conventional national and international policymaking experience. We, too, wish he had more of it. But office-holding is not the only kind of experience relevant to the task of leading a wildly variegated nation. Obama’s immersion in diverse human environments (Hawaii’s racial rainbow, Chicago’s racial cauldron, countercultural New York, middle-class Kansas, predominantly Muslim Indonesia), his years of organizing among the poor, his taste of corporate law and his grounding in public-interest and constitutional law—these, too, are experiences. And his books show that he has wrung from them every drop of insight and breadth of perspective they contained.
The exhaustingly, sometimes infuriatingly long campaign of 2008 (and 2007) has had at least one virtue: it has demonstrated that Obama’s intelligence and steady temperament are not just figments of the writer’s craft. He has made mistakes, to be sure. (His failure to accept McCain’s imaginative proposal for a series of unmediated joint appearances was among them.) But, on the whole, his campaign has been marked by patience, planning, discipline, organization, technological proficiency, and strategic astuteness. Obama has often looked two or three moves ahead, relatively impervious to the permanent hysteria of the hourly news cycle and the cable-news shouters. And when crisis has struck, as it did when the divisive antics of his ex-pastor threatened to bring down his campaign, he has proved equal to the moment, rescuing himself with a speech that not only drew the poison but also demonstrated a profound respect for the electorate. Although his opponents have tried to attack him as a man of “mere” words, Obama has returned eloquence to its essential place in American politics. The choice between experience and eloquence is a false one––something that Lincoln, out of office after a single term in Congress, proved in his own campaign of political and national renewal. Obama’s “mere” speeches on everything from the economy and foreign affairs to race have been at the center of his campaign and its success; if he wins, his eloquence will be central to his ability to govern.
We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.”

The Editors [2008]: The Choice.  The New Yorker, 13 October 2008.

American History

Rosa sat so that Martin could walk
Martin walked so that Barack could run
Barack ran so that our children could fly.

Adrian Lester, quoting a friend, speaking on Andrew Neil’s BBC 2’s weekly TV news review program last night.

Poem: Times go by Turns

To acknowledge the great political change of the past week and to commemorate Guy Fawkes, here is a poem by an English Catholic martyr about the seasons of fate. Robert Southwell (c. 1561 – 1595) was an English Jesuit from an aristocratic family, whose mother had been a friend of Queen Elizabeth I. He left England illegally to study for the priesthood and returned – again illegally – to live and minister in secret to England’s oppressed Catholic population.  He was captured, tortured by Elizabeth’s sadistic religious police, subjected to a show trial, and publicly executed.
Southwell was a poet of fine sensitivity, and drew on his Jesuit spiritual training to become the first English poet to develop personation (or subjectivity), a psychologically-real description of the interior self.   His distant cousin William Shakespeare was to adopt this idea in his plays, so that (for example) we learn about Hamlet’s internal mental deliberations, not only about his public actions and conversations.
Whig literary historians, intent on asserting a Protestant identity for all of English life and culture, have mostly written Southwell out of the story of English literature, despite his key influence on the religious poets of the next century, such as John Donne. Living underground and on the run, Southwell wrote poetry for a community unable to obtain prayer books or to easily hear preachers: poetry was thus a substitute for sermons and for personal counselling, and a form of prayer and spiritual meditation. His poetry is also strongly visual.

Times Go By Turns
The lopped tree in time may grow again
Most naked plants renew both fruit and flower
The sorriest weight may find release of pain
The driest soil suck in some moistening shower
Times go by turns and chances change by course
From foul to fair from better happ to worse
The sea of fortune does not ever flow
She draws her favours to the lowest ebb
Her tide has equal times to come and go
Her loom does weave the fine and coarsest web
No joy so great but runneth to an end
No happ so hard but may in fine amend.
Not always fall of leaf nor ever spring
No endless night yet not eternal day
The saddest birds a season find to sing
The roughest storm a calm may soon allay
Thus with succeeding turns god tempers all
That man may hope to rise yet fear to fall
A Chance may win that by mis-chance was lost
The net that holds no great takes little fish
In some things all, in all things none are crossed
Few all they need but none have all they wish
Unmeddled joys here to no man befall
Who least has some who most has never all.

Christopher Devlin [1956]: The Life of Robert Southwell: Poet and Martyr.  New York, NY, USA:  Farrar, Straus and Cudahy.
Robert Southwell [2007]:  Collected Poems. Edited by Peter Davidson and Anne Sweeney.  Manchester, UK:  Fyfield Books.
Anne R. Sweeney [2006]: Robert Southwell: Snow in Arcadia:  Redrawing the English Lyric Landscape 1586-1595. Manchester, UK:  Manchester University Press.
(Note:  I have modernised the spelling where sensible to do so.)

Epideictic arguments

Suppose you are diagnosed with a serious medical condition, and you seek advice from two doctors.  The first doctor, let’s call him Dr Barack, says that there are three possible courses of treatment.   He labels these courses, A, B and C, and then proceeds to walk you methodically through each course – what separate basic procedures are involved, in what order, with what likely side effects, and with what costs and durations, what chances of success or failure, and what likely survival rates.   He finishes this methodical exposition by summing up each treatment, with pithy statements such as, “Course A is the cheapest and most proven.  Course B is an experimental treatment, which makes it higher risk, but it may be the most effective.  Course C . . .” etc.
The other doctor, let’s call him Dr John, in contrast talks in a manner which is apparently lacking all structure. He begins a long, discursive narrative about the many different basic procedures possible, not in any particular order, jumping back and forth between these as he focuses first on the costs of procedures, then switching to their durations, then back again to costs, then onto their expected side effects, with tangential discussions in the middle about the history of the experimental tests undertaken of one of the procedures and about his having suffered torture while a POW in Vietnam, etc, etc.  And he does all this without any indication that some procedures are part of larger courses of treatment, or are even linked in any way, and speaking without using any patient-friendly labelling or summarizing of the decision-options.
Which doctor would you choose to treat you?  If this description was all that you knew, then Doctor Barack would appear to be the much better organized of the two doctors.   Most of us would have more confidence being treated by a doctor who sounds better-organized, who appears to know what he was doing, compared to a doctor who sounds dis-organized.   More importantly, it is also evident that Doctor Barack knows how to structure what he knows into a coherent whole, into a form which makes his knowledge easier to transmit to others, easier for a patient to understand, and which also facilitates the subsequent decision-making by the patient.  We generally have more confidence in the underlying knowledge and expertise of people able to explain their knowledge and expertise well, than in those who cannot.
If we reasoned this way, we would be choosing between the two doctors on the basis of their different rhetorical styles:  we would be judging the contents of their arguments (in this case, the content is their ability to provide us with effective treatment) on the basis of the styles of their arguments.  Such reasoning processes, which use form to assess content, are called epideictic, as are arguments which draw attention to their own style.
Advertising provides many examples of epideictic arguments, particularly in cultures where the intended target audience is savvy regarding the form of advertisements.  In Britain, for instance, the film director Michael Winner starred in a series of TV advertisements for an insurance company in which the actors pretending to be real people giving endorsements revealed that they were just actors, pretending to be real people giving endorsements.   This was a glimpse behind the curtain of theatrical artifice, with the actors themselves pulling back the curtain.  Why do this?  Well, self-reference only works with a knowledgeable audience, perhaps so knowledgeable that they have even grown cynical with the claims of advertisers.   By winking at the audience, the advertisers are colluding with this cynicism, saying to the audience, “we know you think this and we agree, so our advert is pitched to you, you cynical sophisticates, not to those others who don’t get it.”
The world-weary tone of the narration of Apple’s “Future” series of adverts here is another example of advertisements which knowingly direct our attention to their own style.
Apple Future Advertisement – Robots
And Dr Barack and Dr John?  One argument against electing Senator Obama to the US Presidency was that he lacked executive experience.  A counter-argument, made even by the good Senator Obama himself, was that he demonstrated his executive capabilities through the competence, professionalism and effectiveness of his management of his own campaign.   This is an epideictic argument.
There is nothing necessarily irrational or fallacious about such arguments or such modes of reasoning; indeed, it is often the case that the only relevant information available for a decision on a claim of substantive content is the form of the claim.   Experienced investors in hi-tech start-ups, for example, know that the business plan they are presented with is most unlikely to be implemented, because the world changes too fast and too radically for any plan to endure.   A key factor in the decision to invest must therefore be an assessment of the capability of the management team to adjust the business plan to changing circumstances, from recognizing that circumstances have in fact changed, to acting quickly and effectively in response, through to evaluating the outcomes.   How to assess this capability for decision-making robustness?  Well, one basis is the past experience of the team.  But experience may well hinder managerial flexibility rather than facilitate it, especially in a turbulent environment.  Another way to assess this capability is to subject the team to a stress test – contesting the assumptions and reasoning of the business plan, being unreasonable in questions and challenges, prodding and poking and provoking the team to see how well and how quickly they can respond, in real time, without preparation.   In all of this, a decision on the substance of the investment is being made from evidence about the form – about how well the management team responds to such stress testing.   This is perfectly rational, given the absence of any other basis on which to make a decision and given our imperfect knowledge of the future.
Likewise, an assessment of Senator Obama’s capabilities for high managerial office on the basis of his competence at managing his campaign was also eminently rational and perfectly justifiable.   The incoherent nature of Senator McCain’s campaign and the panic-struck and erratic manner in which he responded to surprising events (such as the financial crisis of September 2008) was similarly an indication of his likely style of government; the style here did not produce confidence in the content.  For many people,  the choice between candidates in the US Presidential campaign was an epideictic one.
POSTSCRIPT (2011-12-14):
Over at Normblog, Norm has a nice example of epideictic reasoning:  deciding between two arguments on the basis of how the arguments were made (presented), rather than by their content.  As always with such reasoning – and contrary to much educated opinion – such reasoning can be perfectly rational, as is the case here.
PS2 (2016-09-05): 
John Lanchester in a book review of a book about investor activism gives a nice example of attempting to influence people’s opinions using epideictic means: Warren Buffet’s annual letters to investors in Berkshire Hathaway:

Even the look of the letters – deliberately plain to the point of hokiness, with old-school fonts and layout hardly changed in fifty years – is didactic. The message is: no flash here, only substance. Go to the company’s Web site, arguably the ugliest in the world, and you are greeted by “A Message from Warren E. Buffet” telling you that he doesn’t make stock recommendations but that you will save money by insuring your car with GEICO and buying your jewelry from Borsheims.” (page 78)

PS3 (2017-04-02):
Dale Russakof, in a New Yorker profile of now-Senator Cory Booker, says:

Over lunch at Andros Diner, Booker told me that [fellow Yale Law School student Ed] Nicoll taught him an invaluable lesson: “Investors bet on people, not on business plans, because they know successful people will find a way to be successful.” (page 60)

Refs and Acks
The medical example is due to William Rehg.
John Lanchester [2016]: Cover letter. New Yorker, 5 September 2016, pp.76-79.
William Rehg [1997]: Reason and rhetoric in Habermas’s theory of argumentation,  pp. 358-377 in:  W. Jost and M. J. Hyde (Editors): Rhetoric and Hermeneutics in Our Time: A Reader. New Haven, CN, USA: Yale University Press.
Dale Russakoff [2014]: Schooled. The New Yorker, 19 May 2014, pp. 58-73.

This is our moment. This is our time.

From the best public orator since John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr, President-elect Barack Obama’s speech in Chicago, Illinois, on election night 4 November 2008:

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.
It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.
It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.
It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.
I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.
I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.
I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.
To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.
But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.
I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.
It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.
Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.
For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.
And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.
At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.
A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.
America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:
Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.”

King Solomon's Mines

An archeological dig in Jordan has revealed an ancient copper mine which could have been the site of King Solomon’s Mines.   Coincidentally, the great British artist and cartoonist Ray Lowry passed away last month.  He was famous for his album covers for The Clash, and for his dark, anarchic cartoons.
One Lowry cartoon I recall vividly showed a group of mid 19th-century European explorers emerging from an African jungle into a clearing, in the midst of which could be seen a massive, late 20th-century petrochemicals complex, surrounded by high fences and armed guards, with a big sign proclaiming:  “King Solomon’s Mines:  Keep Out”.  One of the explorers turns to his colleague to say:  “Oh my God, we’re too late!  They’ve already been nationalized!”

Why vote?

Someone once joked that economists are people who see something working in practice, and then wonder if it will also work in theory.   One practice that mainstream economists have long failed to explain theoretically is voting.    Following the (so-called) rational choice models of Arrow and Downs, they calculate the likely net monetary benefit of voting to an individual voter, and compare that to the likely net costs to the voter.  With long queues due to inadequately-resourced or incompetently-managed voting administrations (such as those in many US states), these costs can be considerable.  Since one vote is very unlikely to have any marginal consequences, economists are stumped as to why any person votes.
One explanation for voting, of course, is that voters are indeed feeble-minded or irrational, unable to calculate the costs and benefits themselves, or, if they can, unable to act in their own self-interest.   This is the standard explanation, and it strikes me as morally reprehensible:  a failure to explain or model some phenomenon theoretically is justified on the grounds that the phenomenon should not exist.
Another explanation for voting may be that the rational-choice models understate the benefits or overstate the costs to individuals of voting.   Some economists, as if in a parody of themselves, have now  – in 2008!  – discovered altruism.  Factor in the benefits to others,  this study claims, and the balance of benefits to costs may move more in favour of benefits.
A third explanation for voting may be that rational-choice models are simply inappropriate to the phenomena under study.  The rational choice model assumes that citizens in a democracy are passive consumers of political ideas and proposals, with their only action being the selection of representatives at election times.   Since at least the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, this quaint notion of a passive citizenry has been rebutted repeatedly by direct political action by citizens.  The most famous example, of course, was the uprising against colonial taxation known as the American War of Independence, which, one imagines, some economist or two may have heard speak of.   There’s also the various revolutions and uprisings of 1789, 1791, 1848, 1854, 1871, 1905, 1910, 1917, 1926, 1949, 1953, 1956, 1968 and 1989, just to list the most important since economics began to be studied systematically.
An historically-informed observer would surely conclude that a model of voting in which citizens produce as well as consume political ideas is likely to have more calibrative traction than one in which citizens do nothing except (if they so choose) vote.   Such a theory already exists in political science, where it goes under the name of deliberative democracy.   One wonders what terrors would strike the earth were an economist to read the relevant literature before modeling some domain.
People vote not only out of their own self-interest (if they ever do that), but also to influence the direction of their country, to act in solidarity with others, to elect to join a group, to demonstrate membership of a group, to respond to peer pressure, because the law requires they do, or to exercise a hard-won civil right.  Only a person with no sense of history – an economist, say – would fail to understand the importance – indeed, the extreme rationality – of this last factor, especially during a year when a major political party has nominated a black candidate for President of the USA, and the other party a woman for Veep.  At the founding of the USA, neither candidate would have been allowed to vote.
Not for the first time, mainstream economics has ignored social structures and processes when studying social phenomena, focusing only on those factors which can be assigned to an individual (indeed, some idealized, self-interested, desiccated calculating machine) and, within these, only on factors able to be quantified.   The big question here is not why people vote, which is obvious, but why economists seem unable to recognize social structures and processes which can be clearly seen by most everyone else.  What is it about mainstream economists that makes them autistic in this regard?   Do they simply have an under-supply of inter-personal intelligence, unable to empathize with or reason about others?
References and Acknowledgments:
Hat-tip to Normblog
Kenneth J. Arrow [1951]: Social Choice and Individual Values. New York City, NY, USA: Wiley.
J. Bessette [1980]: “Deliberative Democracy: The majority principle in republican government”,  pp. 102-116, in: R. A. Goldwin and W. A. Schambra (Editors): How Democratic is the Constitution? Washington, DC, USA: American Enterprise Institute.
James Bohman and William Rehg (Editors) [1997]: Deliberative Democracy:  Essays on Reason and Politics.  Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Anthony Downs [1957]: An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York City, NY, USA: Harper and Row.

Poem: Vides ut alta

Horace’s Ode I:IX, Vides ut alta (translated by David West), was inspired by Mount Soracte (aka Soratte), in the Tiber Valley, north of Rome, and pictured here.  Carpe diem is the theme.

You see Soracte standing white and deep
with snow, the woods in trouble, hardly able
to carry their burden, and the rivers
halted by sharp ice.
Thaw out the cold. Pile up the logs
on the hearth and be more generous, Thaliarchus,
as you draw the four-year-old Sabine
from its two-eared cask.
Leave everything else to the gods. As soon as
they still the winds battling it out
on the boiling sea, the cypresses stop waving
and the old ash trees.
Don’t ask what will happen tomorrow.
Whatever day Fortune gives you, enter it
as profit, and don’t look down on love
and dancing while you’re still a lad,
while the gloomy grey keeps away from the green.
Now is the time for the Campus and the squares
and soft sighs at the time arranged
as darkness falls.
Now is the time for the lovely laugh from the secret corner
giving away the girl in her hiding-place,
and for the token snatched from her arm
or finger feebly resisting.


Horace [1997 AD/23 BCE]: The Complete Odes and Epodes. Translation by David West. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Note: The opening of this poem was recited (in Latin) in May 1944 by German army officer and Military Governor of occupied Crete, General Heinrich Kreipe, while being transported following his kidnapping by the Cretan resistance during World War II.   Traveling with the resistance, British SOE agent Major Patrick Leigh Fermor recognized the ode, and completed the stanza to the surprise of Kreipe.   There is something indescribably sad about this story, a small incident revealing so much about Nazi destruction of Europe’s common culture.