Incantation as policy

Wishing that bad results won’t happen isn’t the same as preventing them.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The dollar is now down 29% since January 2002. The president of the Dallas Fed says “There is only one way for the dollar to go — lower.” The Secretary of the Treasury says “You know our view on the dollar. We have articulated it many times. We support a strong dollar.”

And? And? Glad to hear you’re for a strong dollar, Mr. Snow. Now what are you going to do about it? For example, do you intend to straighten out the fiscal mess created by a combination of tax cuts and profligate spending? No, I didn’t think so.

This is, of course, characteristic of the Bush administration. Being for good things, and saying you’re for good things — “affirming your values” — is understood to be the same as taking action. (Not a substitute for taking action: that’s a reality-based formulation. Bushism holds that saying the right words is action.) It’s a profoundly magical world view.

This helps explain why the reality-based community isn’t fully reassured when the President, in the face of an obviously overstretched military and of large and persistent shortfalls in recruitment and retention, says that he’s against a draft, and that therefore there will be no draft.

After all, he seems to have believed that there would be no casualties in Iraq.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: