Party of now

This weekend I posted some reflections on the remarkable reversal of our soi-disant conservatives from, um, conserving stuff to a program that puts widespread waste front and center.  It occurs to me that another equally striking new Republican theme is a truly bizarre attitude to time, specifically that we should live as though it stops now.

All sorts of things that will happen in the future have just been taken off the table.  Planet getting too hot? Well, this summer was pretty bad, but the air conditioning worked, and it isn’t like south Florida will be underwater for my vacation this winter. This year’s drought-ravaged corn harvest is poking food prices up a little, but I didn’t see any lack of steaks  at the supermarket today.  People under 55 won’t be retiring for a decade or so;  why are you looking at their medical care way out there?  Workforce now in school won’t be up to the job when they graduate?  Well, none of them can be of any use to us this week, and teaching them hits my tax bill right now.

Perhaps this is what you get when old men take over, especially old rich men.  The crowd at the Republican convention really has nothing to gain from being conservative: what’s best for them is to just use up everything quickly. (And, of course, for some of them an imminent rapture would seem to make thinking about the future not only silly but impious…)

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

12 thoughts on “Party of now”

  1. Positing the above, there is a simultanious move in an opposite direction regarding one of our oldest institutions – the Post Office! While the powerful white men want us to stay here in a variety of examples above, they are demanding the Post Office fund imaginary future employees to the tune of 5 billion dollars.

    Let’s be direct – these power brokers for the Republican brand are all about doing bad things to the rest of us!

    1. The Republicans are pretty much all about protecting existing wealth. The Democrats a little less so.

      Instructive in looking at the Republicans is Tainter’s work on the collapse of complex civilizations.

      The Republican attack on the Post Office is meant to undermine the legitimacy and local perception of the Federal government. While there is a local Federal office that actually provides useful service on a daily basis it is hard to get folks to believe that the U.S. government is a totally useless thing (except for funding the armed forces which are useful for overseas corporate support).

      The Post Office is authorized in the Constitution.

      One might wonder why this creation of the founders, especially Ben Franklin, is so despised by the soi-disant (gotta love that phrase) conservatives of today.

        1. Note that each of the powers invested in Congress by Article I Section 8, including establishing post offices and post roads, has been extensively exercised. Note also that the Framers put the post office clause behind the powers to tax, borrow, regulate commerce, and coin money, but ahead of declaring war, raising armies, and maintaining a navy.

    2. The bill containing the future funding requirement was passed by a 410 to 20 vote in the House and a voice vote in the Senate in 2006.

  2. When it comes to budgetary discussions, the rhetorical positions typically reverse. (And yes, I’m aware that the policy actions often do not match the rhetoric).


    “Stereotypically, at least, those on the right claim there is an imminent crisis in entitlements that should have been solved yesterday, while arguing for caution regarding global warming, and waiting until a consensus is reached. Those on the left do the opposite, mentioning the long time horizon and considerable uncertainty regarding Social Security projections but citing the precautionary principle in arguing for immediate action on climate change.”

    1. And if you ever examined the likely ‘worst case’ for Social Security (for example), you’d find that it’s a problem, not a crisis. While the opposite is true for global warming.

      And that’s before we get into the credibility of people in these debates.

  3. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this isn’t the theme of the campaign. To lead us out of hard times, do you want the guy who came from nothing and worked his way up to the very top by building communities and coalitions to make a better world, or do you want the guy who came from everything and stayed on top by tearing down communities and businesses to make a contribution to his pocketbook?

    1. Obama did not come from nothing. He was raised by his mother, who made an unusual marriage choice, but was herself relatively comfortable middle class, and then by his grandparents. He went to Punahou, for Godsake! and whiled away his high school years with the affluent stoners there. Not to mention Harvard Law. This election reminds me a lot of British elections where loud calls for class war come from the Labor candidate, who himself went to the same swell schools as did his Conservative rivals.

  4. An aristocracy is typically run by old men concerned with preserving things as they are for their heirs. Let’s blame Jefferson’s attack on primogeniture.

  5. Yes, I stole a line from somewhere and put it on every blog post:

    “Let’s live on the planet as if we intend to stay.”

  6. I’m sure much of this is the aging plutocracy at work. But some of it comes from evangelical convictions that god gave us the earth and everything in it to use as we see fit and also that the rapture near (as always), so we might as well use everything up while we can. The second conviction certainly motivates short-run thinking, while the first is a convenient cover for “I’m gonna get whatever I can now” and to hell with the next generation. Remember Reagan’s Interior Secretary James “End Times” Watt? He’s the patriarch of the current GOP’s fervor for unrestrained resource exploitation.

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