Richard Epstein on Obama:

Libertarian University of Chicago law Professor Richard Epstein has some interesting thoughts about Barack Obama in this column:

My Obama number is one. I know him through our association at the University of Chicago Law School and through mutual friends in the neighborhood. We have had one or two serious substantive discussions, and when I sent him e-mails from time to time in the early days of his Senate term, he always answered in a sensible and thoughtful fashion. And yet, for assessing the course of his likely presidency, I don't know him at all....

The dominant trope is that he will be a pragmatic president who will move in small increments toward the center, not in bold steps toward the left.

But is it all true? The short answer is that nobody knows. Virtually everyone who knows him recognizes that he plays his cards close to the vest, so that you can make your case to him without knowing whether it has registered. At this point, my fear is that the change in office will not lead to a change in his liberal voting record, as reinforced by a hyperactive Democratic platform. My great fear is that a landslide victory will give him solid majorities in both Houses of Congress, so that no stalling tactics by Republicans can slow down his legislative victory procession. At that point his innate pragmatism will line up with his strong left-of-center beliefs on issues that have thus far been muted during the campaign.

Put otherwise, Obama's vague calls for change that "you can believe in" are, to my thinking, wholly retrograde in their implications. At heart, he is an unreconstructed New Dealer who can see, and articulate, both sides on every question--but only as a prelude to championing the old corporatist agenda with a vengeance.

Unlike Epstein, I don't know Obama personally. But his fears are similar to mine. I don't believe that Obama is some kind of ogre, socialist, or terrorist sympathizer. He seems like a skillfull leader and a thoughtful person. And he has repeatedly shown that he is willing to prioritize his own political success over any ideological or personal agenda; in that respect, he's not much different from most successful politicians. I do, however, fear that the combined impact of Obama's left-wing policy views, decisive Democratic control of Congress, and a crisis atmosphere will lead to a large, difficult to reverse, expansion of government. If Obama were checked by a Republican Congress, as Bill Clinton was, I would be less concerned. But such is not likely to be the case. The danger of an Obama presidency is not so much the man himself as the political environment he is likely to have around him.