Obama’s Philosophy and Economics

I’ve previously posted portions of an article by Cass Sunstein on Obama’s views. He has posted a revised version at The New Republic. Here’s a portion which which explains Obama’s views, primarily on economic matters. This gives some clues as to how libertarian ideas have influenced his views:

He is strongly committed to helping the disadvantaged, but his University of Chicago background shows. He appreciates the virtues and power of free markets. In some of his most important disagreements with Senator Clinton, he suggested caution about mandates and bans, and stressed the value of freedom of choice.

Transparency and accountability matter greatly to him; they are a defining feature of his proposals. With respect to the mortgage crisis, credit cards, and the broader debate over credit markets, Obama rejects heavy-handed regulation and insists above all on disclosure, so that consumers will know exactly what they are getting.

Expect transparency to be a central theme in any Obama administration, as a check on government and the private sector alike. It is highly revealing that Obama worked with Republican Tom Coburn to produce legislation creating a publicly searchable database of all federal spending.

Obama’s healthcare plan places a premium on cutting costs and on making care affordable, without requiring adults to purchase health insurance. (He would require mandatory coverage only for children.) Republican legislators are unlikely to support a mandatory approach, and his plan can be understood, in part, as a recognition of political realities.

But it is also a reflection of his keen interest in allowing people to choose as they see fit. He seeks universal coverage not through unenforceable mandates but through giving people good options.

It should not be surprising that in terms of helping low-income workers, Obama has long been enthusiastic about the Earned Income Tax Credit–an approach, pioneered by Republicans, that supplements wages but does not threaten to throw people out of work. In the environmental domain, Obama is a strong supporter of incentive-based programs, not of command-and-control. Here too, he draws on ideas that have been pressed most prominently by Republicans (and he gives them credit for their initiative in this domain).

But Obama is no a compromiser; he does not try to steer between the poles (or the polls). “Triangulation” has no appeal for him. Both internationally and domestically, he is willing to think big and to be bold. As everyone knows, he publicly opposed the war in Iraq at a time when opposition was exceedingly unpopular. (In his speech opposing the war, by the way, he went out of his way to emphasize, before a largely pacifist audience, that he does not oppose all wars: “After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”)

As everyone also knows, Obama favors high-level meetings with some of the world’s worst dictators. He would rethink the embargo against Cuba.

He proposes a $150 billion research budget for climate change. He wants to hold an unprecedented national auction for the right to emit greenhouse gases. (This is an idea, by the way, that has large support among economists and that can be traced to an essay by Ronald Coase on communications policy.) He has offered an ambitious plan for promoting technological innovation, calling for a national broadband policy, embracing network neutrality, and proposing a reform of the patent system.

His campaign has spoken of moving toward “iPod Government”–an effort to rethink public services and national regulations in ways that will make things far simpler and more user-friendly. These are points about policies and substance. As president, Obama would set a new tone in US politics. He refuses to demonize his political opponents; deep in his heart, I believe, he doesn’t even think of them as opponents. It would not be surprising to find Republicans and independents prominent in his administration. Obama wants to know what ideas are likely to work, not whether a Democrat or a Republican is responsible for them. Recall the most memorable passage from his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention: “We coach Little League [baseball] in the blue [Democratic-voting] states, and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.”


  1. 1
    kym says:

    I would like to see the subject of the navajo and hopi tribes mccain ordered out of arizona in 2006.So the state could get the gas, coal and oil from the land.

  2. 2
    Brad Scales says:

    Please send me any literature or e-mail information about his policies and projected actions at home and abroad, thank you

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:


    Check out the Obama category here as well as his campaign’s web site.

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