Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Question of Failure

Last night, during a political discussion fueled by a combination of alcohol and vitriol, we came to the subject of hoping that a certain President should fail. Irrational partisanship aside, the question was whether or not hoping for the failure of an administration is wrong. My position was and is that the answer depends on what one means by failure.

Is it purely a matter of partisan politics? I want the other party to fail, just because I don’t like the other party. Or is it a matter of policy? I want the other party’s policy to fail, because I think it dangerous and want a better policy to prevail. In fact, I fall into the latter category.

During the G. W. Bush administration, I wanted some policies (costly and unnecessary war in Iraq) to fail and other policies (Social Security reform) to succeed. President Bush got his war and suffered only a little disengenuous opposition for it, but he gave up on fixing the great American pyramid scheme as soon as the Democrats raised the slightest complaint.

Now, during the B. H. Obama administration, I will continue to hope for the success of the good and the failure of the bad. If he can disentangle us with honor from Iraq, then I hope that he succeeds. If he can prevent the current recession from turning into a depression, then I wish him success for the most part. If he can bring the efficiency, compassion, and quality of the typical Department of Motor Vehicles to the American health-care system, then I hope he fails.

Beyond that, though, I have to wonder why failure has become such an anathema in American society. We used to learn from our mistakes and failures. Now, we protect and bail out failing industries. We continue to pursue failing social policies. We pour more and more money into failing institutions. We reward failure and demand that American taxpayers foot the bill.

We must have the moral courage to let some fail … or risk ruin for all.