The run up to the US Presidential Elections last year seemed to buck the trend of entrenched cynicism and apathy that had come to characterize contemporary politics. Barack Obama's rallies were often more like pop concerts or festivals, and many young people were mobilized to vote. Beyond broad generalities such as 'hope' and 'change' however, critics noted that specific political ideas and broader party principles seemed to be absent.Now the US is in the midst of a severe recession: financial institutions and flagship businesses like GM are in crisis and jobs are being lost. So can President Obama deliver on his promise and deliver the change necessary for economic recovery?The global political climate has changed dramatically in recent years. The traditional debates between right and left, capitalism and communism -- the interplay of which shaped the thinking of economic thinkers like Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes -- lack salience today.So what ideological resources, if any, does Obama have to draw on? It often appears few politicians and commentators even understand what has happened and why -- let alone how to resolve the problem. Many have sought to blame 'greedy bankers' or 'greedy consumers' and neglectful regulators -- but is this a case of scapegoating rather than serious analysis?Western economies have become increasingly dependent on credit rather than production. Will attempting to kick-start these economies with a stimulus bill that is predicated on more credit creation get to the heart of the problem? Or do we need a more comprehensive, honest debate about the fundamentals of the economy, what is and is not working, and what has changed?Given all the failed experiments of the past, is there no alternative to how things are? Can citizens make a difference to these complex issues?moreless
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