On and on goes media coverage of the debt ceiling standoff, a shocking spectacle of Democratic weakness and Republican greed. What’s not being covered in the ongoing misery of the millions of Americans who lost jobs and/or homes and see no signs that the White House and Congress intend to do anything in the way of jobs creation.
An exception: George Packer recently shed light on the situation by combining a description of one poor family’s plight with a report on the posturing of the blowhards we elected to help mend the economy. Then he tried to put the rot of our political system in perspective:
The sociologist Max Weber, in his 1919 essay “Politics as a Vocation,” drew a distinction between “the ethic of responsibility” and “the ethic of ultimate ends”—between those who act from a sense of practical consequence and those who act from higher conviction, regardless of consequences. These ethics are tragically opposed, but the true calling of politics requires a union of the two. On its own, the ethic of responsibility can become a devotion to technically correct procedure, while the ethic of ultimate ends can become fanaticism. Weber’s terms perfectly capture the toxic dynamic between the President, who takes responsibility as an end in itself, and the Republicans in Congress, who are destructively consumed with their own dogma. Neither side can be said to possess what Weber calls a “leader’s personality.” Responsibility without conviction is weak, but it is sane. Conviction without responsibility, in the current incarnation of the Republican Party, is raving mad.
Packer’s reading of Weber is superficial, and his use of the word “sane” is dubious — where is the sanity in Obama’s style of governance? — but he makes it clear the the jobs picture won’t brighten until we stop electing people to high office who are weak and/or corrupt.