Rand, Kemmis, & the Summer 2011 Debt Crisis

The extremity of the Kemmis and Rand works reminded me of the current political atmosphere in the United States. Throughout the summer, and basically since the 2010 midterm election, there has been much talk about how “extreme” some parties and politicians have become (for one example, read this article by David Brooks of the New York Times). This adjective has been mostly used to describe Tea Party members and other die-hard Republicans. Clearly, this is not necessarily true—surely Fox News says the exact opposite—but this notion of the extreme came up again and again during coverage of the debt talks. With this in mind, I wonder how Rand and Kemmis would have felt about the budget crisis, debates, and the Republican Party’s tactics?

Based on the brief excerpt of Rand’s The Fountainhead, I would anticipate that Rand would have supported the Republican Party’s pursuit of their individual interests. That is, the Republican politicians are acting as trustees of the people they represent. Because they felt the debt deals being proposed would hurt the people in their districts, they refused to compromise. In this case, Rand would not have been nearly as upset with the Republican Party’s tactics as many other media and political sources were. (However, we know that at some point the Republican Party had to compromise to some extent to reach an agreement.)

Based on Kemmis’s excerpts, I would anticipate that Kemmis would have been utterly disgusted by the so-called debt crisis. He would have urged for the people to come together as a community to resolve the debate and do what was best for the common good. While it is debatable what that “common good” may be, one arguable “common good” is to avoid defaulting on our debts. If we defaulted, we risk lowering our credit rating, as well as aggravating our lenders and other nations. Assuming this is the common good, Kemmis would have hoped that the political leaders acted as delegates to represent the people’s desire to find a solution without default or other penalties.

Overall, I feel that this scenario illustrates the unrealistic nature of the extremity of both classic liberalism and civic republicanism. That is, if the Republican Party had refused to compromise completely and no debt deal could be reached, it is arguable that no individuals would have benefitted; the government would default on their debt, the stock market could sink, and unemployment could rise even further as a result. Even wealthy Americans, who may be a member of the Republican Party, would likely experience some negative effect (whether it be home values falling, their stock portfolio decreasing in value, etc.). On the other hand, if every politician had tried to sit down together to compromise and accurately represent their people’s interests, nothing would have been accomplished based on the mere size of the group. As a result, we could’ve missed the deadline as well because our debt talks were so inefficient. In short, I don’t pretend to be an expert of political theory, Rand, or Kemmis, but I do feel that this is an interesting scenario to consider when thinking about classic liberalism and civic republicanism.

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5 Responses to Rand, Kemmis, & the Summer 2011 Debt Crisis

  1. Andrew says:

    I think that you made a great connection between early political thought (Rand and Kemmis) and the ongoing political crises today. The contrasting articles that you used in the first paragraph (New York Times and Fox News) were also great examples of different political views. An important question to raise: In addition to how Rand and Kemmis would have felt about the budget crisis, debates, and the Republican Party’s tactics, how would they have gone about addressing and/or solving these controversial topics?

  2. udontempura says:

    Andrew brings up a good point; assuming that things are where they are in politics today, how would each go about solving the issue? I think that Kemis would argue that the answer lies within the constituency, and would have urged politicians to gauge what Americans thought of the issue at a local level when acting, whereas Rand of course would argue the opposite.

  3. arlaurin says:

    I believe It would be hard for Rand to address the current issues because he is against compromise. He feels people should be individuals and not give in to what others think while Kemmis is the opposite and believes we should work with others to come up with the common good. For an issue such as the budget crisis, we have already seen that compromise can be hard. Recently, the executive branch and legislative branch have had the hardest time coming up with a way to move forward and solve the budget crisis. The issue became a deadlock crisis that scared many Americans because the future of or government was not clear. Does anyone see a way in which Kemmis’s view could solve the issues with the budget crisis?

  4. megsavel says:

    I think Kemmis’s views on compromise are important in thinking about how he would go about trying to solve the budget crisis. In my opinion, Kemmis’s views on cooperation and the interdependence of individuals would led him to believe that compromise over the budget crisis was possible although difficult. Kemmis’s belief in the common good over personal preferences would have most likely led him to push for a solution forged by President Obama and key Democrats on the hill along with Speaker Boehner and House and Senate Republicans. Kemmis would have believed that meetings like those discussed by Time magazine could have been fruitful if only both sides had been willing to see past partisan politics. Although this may seem idealistic and naïve, I believe Kemmis had a large amount of faith in the ability of people to put aside differences for the common good. (For the Time article see http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2082971,00.html)

  5. arlaurin says:

    Oops! I realized I asked about the wrong guy! Is there anyway Rand’s view can work to solve an issue such as the budget crisis? He is about the individuals and not compromise. How can this possibly work?

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