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Nov 17 / Jonathan

Politicians or political philosophers?

One of my favorite Dean Baker themes.

Politicians as Political Philosophers: Differences at the G-20

The NYT reported today on the political philosophy of that renowned political philosopher, George W. Bush, and how it prevented it from reaching agreement on many issues with the other leaders at the G-20 summit. According to the NYT article “it was clear that bridging ideological gaps among nations afflicted with different versions of the economic contagion would provide the new president and other world leaders with a daunting challenge.”

Maybe the problem is ideology but there is an alternative explanation. The financial sector is an extremely powerful interest group in the United States. It is relatively less powerful in countries like France and Germany, where the financial industry is a smaller share of the economy and other interest groups, like unions play a more important role.

Suppose the President Bush and other U.S. politicians feel the need to respond to the demand of a key interest group that plays an important role in their election. Suppose that the leaders of other countries instead feel the need to respond to the demands of others economic actors who have been hurt by the financial sector?

I don’t know if my description of the motivations of President Bush and other leaders is correct, but the NYT certainly does not know that it is wrong. It is worth noting that the people at the G-20 meeting all got there because of their success in politics, not political philosophy. It would be best if reporters refrained from imputing motives that they cannot know. News reporting should just tell us what the politicians said and did and not speculate about their thoughts.

—Dean Baker

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