11-dimensional deck chairs on the Titanic
The Economist has some interesting data relevant to political economy:
The General Social Survey has been polling Americans about their confidence in major institutions (among other things) since 1972. The preliminary data for 2008 show a marked drop in confidence in every American institution since 2000 except military ones and education. The proportion of people expressing “a great deal of confidence” fell from 30% in 2000 to 16% in 2008 for big business, from 30% to 19% for banks, from 29% to 20% for organised religion, from 14% to 11% for the executive branch and from 13% to 11% for Congress. It was up, to 52%, for the armed services.
That's quite a groundswell of opinion. Versailles under Bush took a ton of good will off the balance sheet (as it were).
These figures are the stuff that nasty movements are made of.
Maybe yes, maybe no.
Populism poses serious problems for both political parties, not least because the very institutions which they spend their lives squabbling over are some of the least respected in the country, just above television and the press. The danger for Mr Obama and the ruling Democrats is that the administration is relying heavily on private investors and Wall Street banks to implement its various rescue plans. This inevitably means rewarding some of the people who were responsible for the crisis. The president hopes that his budget will channel destructive anger into support for his policies. But he could also find his administration blown off-course or even swept aside by popular outrage.
We need a way to combine outrage and The 198-fold Way. Versailles is slowly but surely being eaten away from beneath, so while it is important that the courtiers there be as sane as possible, and the sane encouraged and the insane mocked, that may turn out to be not as important as being... Well, where the puck looks like it's going to be next.