Ed Driscoll

President Barack Stasist Obama

“Our President Really, Truly Does Not Understand The Economy,” Prof. William A. Jacobson writes at Legal Insurrection:

Obama recently expressed a view of the economy in which technological innovation is viewed as a threat to jobs:

President Obama explained to NBC News that the reason companies aren’t hiring is not because of his policies, it’s because the economy is so automated. … “There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.”

This is a perfectly static view, which would have protected jobs in the buggy whip industry by preventing the creation and expansion of the auto industry; would have protected jobs at glass tube manufacturers against the advent of flat screen televisions; would have barred the creation of the cell phone industry because of all the jobs lost in the land line business, and so on and so on.

This is your modern union mentality at work, in which the preservation of the economic status quo takes priority over innovation and creation.  Job losses in old industries make for good 30-second political ads, while the creation of new and more vibrant industries which create more jobs takes too long to explain on television.

It’s also the perfect definition of what Virginia Postrel called a “stasist,” in her seminal 1999 book, the Future and its Enemies. As she told me in an interview a decade ago that I republished during the very early days of Blogcritics:

Postrel describes the dynamists as a group of individuals who want to allow for more individual exploration and experimentation, a group “looking for improvements in their own lives, in their businesses, in technologies they work with. And doing this in a very decentralized way.”On the other side of the equation, Postrel says, “There are a lot of people who are very uncomfortable with that choice or with that process”; uncomfortable with individuals having too much control. “And this group wants stability or control at the level of the whole society. They want some form of stasis. Some form of holding the future still.” And says Postrel, they typically want the government to do this on a national level.

In contrast, the dynamist, who seeks to be unfettered by government control, tends by definition not to be as politically active as stasists. The software writer so interested in the evolution of his programs that he is willing to explore uncharted territory, Postrel says, is a dynamist. “But you don’t necessarily take your expertise to the political world,” she says.

Naturally, like most labels, these are a broad simplification of how the world operates. Most people are comfortable with dynamic growth and exploration in some areas, but want a certain amount of stasis (usually in the form of government regulation), in others. But they allow Postrel to make her points and explore the directions she feels the nation may pursue in the 21st century. Not surprisingly, given her libertarian leanings, her money’s on the dynamists.

But that was in the years before 2008. As Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote, the dynamists are very much keeping their powder dry these days:

I think a majority of Americans have now come to the above conclusions (as evidenced in the 2010 midterm election), and those in business, from the small entrepreneur to the captain of industry, have decided that it is wisest to sit out what is left of this administration, and wait to hire, buy, invest, and expand until someone at the top shows a basic knowledge of finance and economics, and some sympathy concerning what those in the private sector must contend with.

In other words, those who live and die by the economics lessons they don’t teach at Harvard Law School, to slightly paraphrase Stacy McCain.