Barack Obama, Stephen Harper, climate change, and Herbert Hoover
Anyone with a keen interest in American history will want to pick up this month's issue of Harper's magazine.
Writer Kevin Baker has written an amazing article called "Barack Hoover Obama: The Best and Brightest Blow It Again", which compares the U.S. president not to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but to Herbert Hoover.
Hoover was considered a brilliant candidate when he was elected as president at the head of the Republican ticket in 1928. As the Great Depression unfolded following the October 1929 stock market crash, Baker writes that Hoover was aware of the magnitude of the problem and tried to mobilize a global response.
In the end, however, Hoover was a captive of the thinking of the previous decade, relying heavily on business leaders who humoured him. But those executives didn't follow through with actions that would have alleviated the suffering of tens of millions of Americans.
Baker argues that Obama is a captive of 1990s thinking--an era that also celebrated business leaders as great problem solvers.
Witness his appointment of Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers--two great financial deregulators trapped in 1990s thinking--as his main economic gurus.
And Obama's incrementalism, infused by the ideology of the Clinton White House, will prevent the types of radical changes necessary to cope with today's monumental problems, including climate change.
During the recent G-8 summit in Italy, Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and other world leaders made a big deal out of funding the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.
This is precisely the type of initiative that will warm the hearts of the oilsands developers, who can tell everyone that we're studying how to solve the problem of excessive carbon emissions. It's a Hooverian response.
The reality, according to a 2006 Parliamentary Information and Research Service paper, is that carbon capture and storage will cost between $30 to $91 per tonne, which is "a comparatively high cost for mitigating carbon emissions".
In order to prevent millions of deaths linked to climate change, the industrialized countries will have to do a lot more than invest a few dollars into researching carbon capture and storage.
Obama and Harper could start by refusing to divert any more tax dollars to bail out troubled automobile companies, whose products have been a major contributor to the problem. Then they could try to raise global awareness of the consequences of peak oil--and develop appropriate policies in response to this reality.
Only then will Obama and Harper avoid comparisons to Herbert Hoover, who flubbed one of the greatest challenges of the 20th century.