The great conductor Bruno Walter once said that conductors should not be allowed to conduct Mozart until they were 50—they simply didn’t, in his view, have the depth of experience or understanding to appreciate the complexities of the music before then. Walter didn’t say this directly, but I would add, that without that experience, they would likely impose their ego on the music and, in so doing, diminish the music.
Perhaps Walter’s rule should be applied to Presidents, Secretaries of the Treasury, and other wannabe masters of the universe. Barack Obama and Timothy Geithner were born with two weeks of each other in August 1961.
Today, as I listened to Secretary Geithner testify before the House Ways and Means Committee, I heard a man who was in far over his head and had not one shred of humility to realize it. Almost every sentence was peppered with phrases such as “There is no alternative,” “Everyone agrees,” “No choice,” and “Absolutely, the right judgment.” He pulled every trick in the playbook to stifle dialogue. He appealed to authority (Obama); he appealed to predictability (absolutely will work); and he appealed to unquestioned agreement (who wants to be the one who doesn’t know?).
In all, his was a disgraceful performance. Now, it could be that some unschooled in logic are taken in by such verbal tricks. Perhaps. But those that are have already been convinced that Geithner and Obama can do the impossible—namely, control what is forever uncontrollable. They have been convinced that the cure for the drugs of credit and budget deficits is still more credit and budget deficits. The rest of us can only shudder that such “talent” has been given the power to wreck the economy—perhaps for a generation.
Those who defend such incompetence are reduced to saying “we must try something” or “give him a chance.” Give him a chance? Would you give your supermarket check-out clerk a chance to perform heart surgery on you? Would you give the neighborhood boy down the street a chance to play center field for the Yankees (they could use a good one)? Would give your child’s junior high school classmate a chance to design a new bridge over the Hudson River?
These are unfair comparisons. There is at least some chance that the neighborhood boy could catch a ball in center field; there is no chance that a human being can ever have the knowledge to direct the uncontrollable, modern, market economy. That is why in the place of real logical arguments, we will be hearing many more “everyone knows.”
Poor Caroline Kennedy! She was roasted by the press for saying “you know” too often in interviews during her attempt to be appointed to the Senate seat of Hillary Clinton. If only Kennedy was coached better—she could have substituted “everyone knows” and been lionized by the media.