Commenter Dagny T. points us to a near-perfect distillation of the do-something mentality in The New York Times: Stanley Fish talking about what President Barack Obama should say (and do) in this week' jobs speech. Stand back and marvel at the authoritarianism:
Like most non-economists (and most economists, for that matter) I don't really understand how the economy works and I have nothing to offer in the way of substantive suggestions. No doubt, the president and his advisers know more than I do (at least let's hope so), and one must assume that they are busily trying to figure out what he should say when he speaks to the Congress and the nation on Thursday. […]
After all the boiler-plate points have been made, and the array of policy suggestions has been presented, and the ritual blaming of everyone under the sun has been performed, do something immediate and peremptory. At the end of the speech, in the context of the obligatory call to action, act. Don't just recommend initiatives, perform a few, right there and then.
If we have learned anything in the past few years (and decades), it is that presidential powers are elastic. Often it's a matter of what the president can get away with. […] I haven't the slightest idea of what they might be, but I would bet that there are things Obama could do immediately without Congressional consultation or agreement, things that might arguably free up credit or create jobs or stimulate spending or jump-start the housing industry. […]
The point is not to offer something that is invulnerable to criticism (not a possibility anyway); the point is to display leadership by taking unilateral action, by delivering a succession of sentences that begin, "I hereby…." Whatever the content of those sentences and however effective or ineffective the initiatives they at once announce and perform, the mere fact that they have been spoken on a national stage will do considerable work, including the work of reminding Americans — and perhaps Obama himself — what presidential authority looks like.
There are plenty of similarly pure expressions of statism discussed within these past writings from me:
* The Cost of Doing Something
* David Brooks Surveys Economic Wreckage, Redoubles Patriotic Battle Against the "surge in vehement libertarianism"
* David Brooks: Who Let the Dogmatists Out?
* Andrew Sullivan Defends TARP, Criticizes Libertarians for "utter disengagement" with "political reality" (Like That's a Bad Thing)
* No Labels, and the Ideology of Post-Ideology