You'd never know it from all the hype that has been flooding the media, characterizing the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States as the virtual culmination of civilization, western and eastern, but an "inauguration" isn't the end of anything, much less the solution to some rather serious problems that Mr. Obama has given no sign of preparing to address effectively. The solution to the serious problems that beset us today is not found simply in a determined hope and a firm commitment to change, but through empowerment of people, not government, through the pursuit of justice, both individual and social.
Unfortunately, President Obama's only mention of "justice" was in a reference to "the justice of our cause" in making the United States a world leader once again through the use of alliances rather than force of arms. The main emphasis seemed to be on the "spirit of service," stressing the obligation that each of us has to work for the "common welfare." This is all very well, and a clear sign of Mr. Obama's goodwill and intentions, but it is not enough, and could even be misleading.
The implication is that duties, not rights, provide access to the common good; that we participate in the common welfare (not common good) by giving to others as generous benefactors. Not mentioned was the possibility of reforming our social structures — our institutions — so that we are empowered to meet others on equal ground as co-participants in just exchanges. Justice would mean that both sides exercise rights and imposing the correlative duties in balanced transactions to which all have the right of access, whether as producers through ownership of both labor and capital, or as consumers receiving an adequate and secure income from the sale of labor and profits from ownership.
The benediction by the Reverend James Lowery was the most positive statement during the entire ceremony, making strong comments in support of the pursuit of justice. Rev. Lowery seems to have made the only mention of the importance of ownership of the means of production with his Biblical reference to each man sitting under his own vine and fig tree.
Once the euphoria wears off, President Obama has the task of proving that he is no mere superficial agent of change for the sake of change, rejecting all that has gone before simply because it preceded his coming. He cannot fall into the trap of assuming (as so many of his supporters seemed to during the campaign) that it is the man, not the plan that is important, and his taking of office is itself the victory. No, a genuine, lasting, and (above all) improving change cannot be effected simply by sheer determination to do something, particularly increasingly intense application of Keynesian remedies to economic and financial problems caused by those same remedies in the first place.
The only thing that will make President Obama anything other than a hollow shell of meaningless rhetoric and the slave of a defunct economist is to empower people through the pursuit of justice. A good place to start would be the immediate formation of a committee to study the earliest possible implementation of a full-scale Capital Homesteading program, designed to open up full access to direct ownership of the means of production by each and every American.
Without true empowerment through democratic access to the means of acquiring and possessing an adequate stake of productive assets, all the talk of "change" will remain just that: talk.