In view of Trump’s Victory at The Elections, I’m republishing the following discussion between me and an American for the readers of this blog.
By Con George-Kotzabasis
A reply to a very clever American Open Salon
The Global Credit Crunch and the Crisis of Legitimacy
RCMoya, after your excellent and resplendent analysis I feel, if I captiously quibble about few points, like a bat squeaking in the dark. First, inequality might have “continued its forward march” but I would argue that it did so on a higher level of general economic prosperity in America following the up till now unassailable historical paradigm of capitalism and free markets that has made the poor ‘richer’ in relative terms, as Amartya Sen has contended.
Secondly, America’s “hectoring and ignoring” has its counterpart in Europe and in other continents whose countries were strong allies of the US during the Cold War but with the collapse of the Soviet Union have reappropriated their independence both geopolitically and culturally and expressing this in their own hectoring and ignoring against America, thus continuing the irreversible law of the political and cultural competition of nation-states.
Thirdly, I would argue that as long as America continues to be the centripetal force attracting the “best and the brightest” to its shores and not stifling the Schumpeterian spirit of entrepreneurship and “creative destruction”, it will be able to rise again even from the ashes of a comatose state and will continue to be in the foreseeable future the paramount power in world affairs.
And fourthly, the rejection by Congress of the funding plan that would have a better chance than none to prevent the economy from collapsing was inevitable in the present political climate where reason cannot compete with populist emotionalism and when a swirl of weak politicians, like Nancy Pelosi, and, indeed, Barak Obama, are its ‘slaves’. Only by cleaning out these wimpish politicians from positions of power will the political narrative reassert its legitimacy.
October 01, 2008 07:26 AM
Thanks for the points. Interesting thoughts.First, I’d be careful in praising the ‘unassailable historical paradigm’ of capitalism and free markets. That has never really been the case elsewhere in world–including Japan and Europe, and definitely not in the third world–and yet that has not stopped those countries from reaping the benefits of a globalised economy. Simply put, capitalism may have been successful–it is–but it is not the case that completely ‘free markets’ have played a central role in the enrichment of advanced economies. That was probably the result of a misleading analysis (an altogether too cheery one at that) of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’–which has monumentally failed more than once since the 1980s.
Second, Europe may have been an American vassal in the early parts of the Cold War–and yet still managed to create economic structures that were different from the United States. Britain, France and Germany have had distinct economic approaches–and that’s to say nothing of more interventionist Scandinavia–and in all of these countries (save for the UK) the post-war years were considered an extraordinary period of growth.You’re probably right that we’re now re-entering a period of political and cultural competition between states. I think this is a good thing, though it’ll take some time for Europeans to get used to the idea of a weaker America.Your third point is probably concedable…though only to a point. The ‘best and the brightest’ only go to America because of its perceived economic vitality. Take that away and there’d be less of a reason to head over. Also, buying into the ‘Americans are so entrepreneurial’ myth is rather problematic–because some European states, for example, have a greater slice of the economic pie coming from small and medium-sized business owners than America, land of the corporate shopper, has. Maybe it’s the contrary situation at present: maybe Europeans have ‘stifled’ entrepreneurialism here…and in any case releasing it would help, not hurt it.
I’d warn that nothing lasts forever, that nothing is ever guaranteed; if America’s financial system DOES go under even further America’s future role as a power would be substantially jeopardised.Your last point starts off well…until you reveal your partisanship. The Democrats certainly don’t have a monopoly on forceful politicking, to their detriment. I would argue that their greatest weakness is in their ‘social democracy light’-style of policies.Yet, all the perceived ‘strength’ in the world hasn’t made the belligerence of the Reagan-Bush-Republican era any more palatable to the world–and, in fact, has in the longer-term probably weakened America considerably.Strength alone cannot substitute for pragmatism, intelligence and good policy.
OK, but you have to answer the intruding historical questions under what economic system Japan and Europe developed and which was the motor of the globalised economy? One would be silly to say that capitalism is an ‘absolute monarch’ and free markets are the ‘Sun King’ of economic development. But we are talking here about basics and not the sometimes necessary state intervention which has been merely, if you allow me to use this metaphor, a changing of an occasional punctured wheel (excepting the present situation) of an omnibus that has been running quite well for a long time on all rough terrains.
And you have to be consistent with your own logic, if you accept the reality of a globalized economy, as you do, which was the offspring of a long gestation starting in the 1980s, how can you imply at the same time that this globalized economy was begotten by the “monumental” failure of the 1980s? The question of Europe is what cemented more the “economic structures” of Europe. Was it the working spirit of capitalism or the working spirit of socialism? And if a mixture of both is your obvious answer, I’ve to remind you that mixtures are not equal and on the scales of economic development capitalism continues to ‘tilt the scales’ in its own favour contra socialism, and that also applied to your economic model in Europe. Perceptions do not have a long life and for more than a hundred years now America continues to attract the best and the brightest on its shores. So its economic vitality must have more solid grounds than perceptions. Again you are inconsistent with your own logic; if the best and the brightest are in America, as you concede, then your “Americans are so entrepreneurial” cannot be a “myth”.
Needless to say “nothing lasts forever and… ever guaranteed” since man’s fate is to live and cope in a world of uncertainty.Lastly, I’m surprised that you consider my judgments on person’s characters, in this case of Pelosi and Obama, and on political parties as being partisan. Under your criterion only a person who made no judgments would be absolutely impartial. The facts are that the Democrats have cut their sails to the populist wind and are running their campaign on the emotional hate and animadversions many Americans have for the Bush administration and by association the Republicans.Pragmatism, intelligence and good policy are the offspring of strong genes.