In one sense, the Administration is bound to disappoint, and Brooks’s “epistemological skepticism” is bound to be vindicated. If the test for Obama is whether “highly trained government experts are capable of quickly designing and executing top-down transformational change,” what are the chances that in a year or two Brooks will have to admit he was wrong? History never produces such clear outcomes. The results of government attempts to deal with huge systemic crises, like the ones we face today, are always dissatisfying, especially in the short-term, and leave most of the old problems unsolved. Brooks’s standard is so high that it sets liberalism up for certain failure.
Here’s the test Brooks should set: will Obama’s efforts lead to worse than the alternatives? Will they be worse than his predecessor’s?
I will be candid and say my own fear is that the stimulus, although cushioning the worst, may also extend the pain by softening the landing. Sometimes, you get a bigger bounce from a hard landing. But, like David, I don't know. And I don't see the political feasibility of using this moment as a test-case for Austrian economics. So Obama, dealing with ideology the way a good central banker deals with inflation, is slowly forcing us to ask the real and practical questions. I think the crisis demands that kind of leadership. Moreover, I think it is in good faith.