Another presidential election has come and gone, only this time the results are astoundingly and, yes, satisfyingly historic. In light of our racial history and leaving aside political philosophy, I am overjoyed at what Barack Obama’s election means. I cannot put it better than Will Wilkinson did at The Fly Bottle, “It means something profound that a black man was elected to the most visible, high-status position our society offers. The mere fact that Obama won truly does make our society a better place.” I also share Wilkinson’s reservations. In a truly free society, the presidency would not be the most visible high-status position our society offers. That designation would be reserved for a variety of private-sector roles. Unfortunately, however, the presidency does have that status today, and Obama’s election must be appreciated from that perspective. Relatedly, I am uneasy about, though understanding of, the public displays that followed John McCain’s concession Tuesday night. Again, Wilkinson: “[F]rankly, I hope never to see again streets thronging with people chanting the victorious leader’s name.” Amen.
President-elect Obama’s many supporters and well-wishers have great confidence in his ability to solve the economic problems that vex American society. That ability is said to lie in his cool judgment, his good intentions, and his eloquence. Let us grant that he possesses all three. Valuable as they are, they will be useless if he attempts to solve our economic problems directly by an exercise of power. That’s because there is something he does not have -- something no man or woman can have: the power to repeal the laws of economics.