Achievement!

by Don Boudreaux on May 30, 2010

in Books, Politics

Here’s a letter to the New York Times Book Review:

Reviewing Jonathan Alter’s book on Barack Obama’s first year in the White House, Jacob Heilbrunn writes that “Alter begins by suggesting that Obama achieved more during his first year than is commonly acknowledged” (“Interim Report,” May 30).  Heilbrunn continues, with no hint of critical scrutiny: “Alter thus praises Obama’s stimulus bill as consisting of ‘five landmark pieces of legislation in one’ that would have made him look ‘like Superman, or at least more like F.D.R.,’ had it been split up into separate bills.”

Such praise for Mr. Obama’s “achievements” reveals just how low are the standards to which elected officials are held.  Legislation is not an end in itself.  It is, at best, a means to an end, such as an improved economy or a lower budget deficit.  To count an enacted statute as an achievement is to uncritically presume both that the statute will achieve its supporters’ stated goals and that those goals are worthwhile.

If war were like politics, a general would be celebrated as being a successful warrior immediately upon his or her “achievement” of landing an impressively large number of regiments in a war zone, but without anyone bothering to await the outcome and the consequences of the battle.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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