Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Obama the Dynamist

It's almost a throwaway line in today's Wall Street Journal story about the presidential campaign in Pennsylvania, but it jumped out at me:

"In many ways, the state mirrors how the Democratic campaign is creating splits within the party beyond issues such as race or gender, to voters' education and income, rural or urban habitat, and traditional or future-oriented outlook on life." (my emphasis)

I think these last seven words do a good job of summing up why my libertarian views push me toward Barack Obama: he wants to govern for the future. "We are the change we've been waiting for" sums it up pretty well.

In her book The Future and its Enemies, former Reason editor Virginia Postrel divides the political world into "dynamists" who embrace change and have a future orientation and "stasists" who cling to the past. Postrel rightly classifies most - but certainly not all - libertarians as dynamists because they want to unleash the potential of the individual and the creativity of the market.

Most true conservatives are obviously stasists. But liberals - as the word is used in America - can fall into either camp - or both. Putting up laws against smoking in public or setting a mandatory retirement age are certainly stasist ideas. But giving federal support to stem cell research and advocating for gay marriage fall into the dynamism camp, even if they aren't strictly libertarian positions.

Not surprisingly, Postrel likes a lot of what she's hearing from Obama - especially his post-racial themes - though his distrust of corporations is holding her back from jumping onto the bandwagon.

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