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Article Deconstruction (vol. 8) - Europe 'has it too good', needs a crisis

by Jerome a Paris Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 03:14:08 PM EST

The Economist has a truly edifying lead editorial this week, conflating, as seems to be the fashion for the past few days, the 3 big European economies of France, Italy and Germany in one giant basket case, but going even further than the sad articles from the New York Times and the Spiegel, as it says - explicitly! - that things are going too well in Europe and that a crisis is thus necessary before liberalisation can finally happen.

The real problem, not just for Italy and France but also for Germany, is that, so far, life has continued to be too good for too many people: there is not yet a general consensus that their economies are in serious trouble. All three have also lacked brave political leaders ready to leap in and explain the case for reform. There is one depressingly certain way to remedy the failings in the core European countries: to bring on a more serious economic crisis. This week will surely have brought that a lot closer.

Yep, the real problem for people like the Economist editorialists is that life is too good in Europe. All the details below.



Things must get more hellish in Italy and France before they stand any chance of getting better

THEY are two seemingly unconnected events, but they yield a common, depressing conclusion. The events were the decision by France's government to tear up its controversial law creating a more flexible job contract for the young, and the razor-edge outcome of Italy's rancorous election. The conclusion: the core countries of Europe are not ready to make the economic reforms they so desperately need--and that change, alas, will come only after a diabolic economic crisis.

"its controversial law creating a more flexible job contract for the young" or creating yet another flexible job contract for the youth.

"the razor-edge outcome" has produced, as per the electoral law, a real majority in the lower chamber. Why does it need to be called "razor-thin"? The only thing that makes the election "outcome" a topic of debate is Berlusconi's refusal to recognise its results. Why on earth let him frame that debate?

As to "economic reform" - never forget, that means ONLY less regulation of corporations, lower wages, fewer rights for workers, and weaker unions

So, "the economic reform that they so desperately need" begs the question "that WHO needs?" The countries, or the business world alone?

If you accept, of course, that the health of a country is measured by that of its corporations, then the question is made irrelevant, of course.


Italy's dramatic election has grabbed the headlines, after the centre-left opposition under Romano Prodi was deemed the winner by the narrowest conceivable margin (see article). Mr Prodi has declared bravely that he will form a government, but it seems sure to be a hobbled creature dependent on the support of a rabble of far-left parties. His discomfort owes much to a final poisoned gift from the outgoing centre-right government under Silvio Berlusconi: an electoral system that restored proportional representation, imposed with the aim of recreating Italy's unstable politics of the past. But it must also be conceded that Mr Berlusconi did better than expected. For all his faults, he remains popular with many voters.

"Romano Prodi was deemed the winner"?? Why "deemed"? He IS the winner. Is the Economist trying to not-so-subtly undermine its legitimacy? Strange how they only do that with guys from the left...

"a rabble of far-left parties" - that's the real issue, right? Parties of the left are rabble rousers, communists, rioters, conservative, reactionary enemies of "reform" and must thus be demonised at every opportunity. Again, funny how a coalition of the left includes centrists and harder elements, just like the coalition of the right included extreme right elements (and borderline fascist ones, too). I don't remember Mr Berlusconi's coalition in government being called a "hobbled creature dependent on the support of a rabble of far-right parties" - and yet it clearly was. Do you?

Prodi was in an electoral coalition with the various leftist groups, so it's not like it's a surprise to see them as part of the coalition, is it?

Of course, what the Economist fears is that a narrow majority might allow every pressure group of the left to hold the government hostage. But that dynamic is never so simplistic. Oddly enough, narrow majorities are often more disciplined than wide ones, because they have to be - if they aren't, they fail, and the left knows all too well, from recent experience (in 1998, the communists brought down the first Prodi government - after 3 successful years), what failure can bring. So again, it is simplistic to assume, like the Economist does immediately, that the narrow majority in the Senate will cause Prodi's government to be led by the eee-vil communists.

As to the reformed electoral system, I am not a specialist, but from what I understand, it worked as hoped for by Berlusconi, by providing a governing majority to a coalition getting only a realtive majority of the votes - except that it wasn't his coalition!


That he lost, just, to the uncharismatic Mr Prodi must largely reflect growing dissatisfaction with the sluggish Italian economy. Many voters backed Mr Berlusconi in 2001 because they believed his promises to reform Italy and get its economy moving again. They deserted him this time because he so abjectly failed to deliver on those promises. Yet enthusiasm for the alternative was deafening by its absence. Mr Prodi understands the need for change in Italy. But he is no free-market liberal, and his 13-strong coalition includes two unreformed Communist parties that are viscerally opposed to economic reforms. Under their influence, an early pledge by the centre-left is to overturn parts of the centre-right's "Biagi" law, which has permitted a boom in temporary and part-time jobs.

According to the Economist, it's ONLY about the economy. Nothing about morality in politics, Berlusconi's focus on his private interests while governing, his populist and attention grabbing ways - which the Economist has extensively chronicled and violently (and rightly) criticised. No, the election was about the lack of reforms (less regulation of corporations, lower wages, fewer rights for workers, and weaker unions). Riiight...


It was an attempt to create a similarly flexible contract for the young that has just failed in France (see article). Dominique de Villepin, the prime minister, had come to accept that a main cause of France's high unemployment, especially among the young, is an overly regulated labour market, with a high minimum wage and fierce restrictions on firing people. But he also knew that a vocal opposition would hold up his attempts to change any of these rules. Hence his decision to push through the new contract not after full consultation but by decree, in the hope of facing down subsequent resistance.

Note this sentence: Villepin "had come to accept" - meaning: of course it's "rigid labor markets" that cause unemployment, but the French politicians took their time, stupid as they are, to acknowledge this simple truth - and subtly presenting what is only an ideological belief as established fact. Note also the use of adjectives: a "high" minimum wage (strangely enough the same as in the UK, and burdened in France with almost no social contributions after too many "reforms" to cut these); and "fierce" restrictions on firing - and yet they are about the same as in Ireland, the supposed economic model of the Economist.


In hindsight, Mr de Villepin made two big mistakes. The first was to reckon without the power of the street. Recent history is littered with examples of French governments that have backed off reforms in the face of large-scale protests. Mr de Villepin's surrender can now be added to the list. His second mistake was to count on the full support of his president, Jacques Chirac. Yet after 11 years in office Mr Chirac has shown beyond a doubt that he is a weak president who has no grasp of the urgency of reform. There is now no chance of change in France before next spring's presidential election.

That paragraph is totally wrong. The "power of the street" is usually triggered by unwanted reforms forced upon the populace with no explanation and no justification, when there is no other way to get heard. Villepin ignored both unions and the parliament, thus avoiding the expression of any opposition - but also preventing any early compromise that could have allowed the (slightly amended) law to sail through. Both institutions (unions and parliament) are actually quite weak in France, but when they are ignored, indeed the street may take over.

As to Chirac's lack of support, this is so silly that it's laughable. Chirac supported Villepin beyond all reasonable limits - and well after it was clear that the law was dead as most of the other politicians of the right - and the representatives of the business world - wanted it dead. Chirac's weakness is that he followed Villepin too long, our of fear of losing him to a resignation, not that he did not support him enough...

He is indeed a weak president, but not because he "has no grasp of the urgency or reform" (they really sound like a broken record, don't they. A one-track mind is a kind way to describe them, or a relentless one). He is weak because he has done nothing in 11 years, he had little legitimacy after being chosen by less than 20% of the French in 2002, he is utterly corrupt, and he has failed in everything while president, while playing the dirtiest kind of politics.

But no, this is only about "reform" (remember: less regulation of corporations, lower wages, fewer rights for workers, and weaker unions)


At first glance, the prospects for reform seem brighter in the third big member of the euro zone, Germany. Growth has resumed, business has recovered its zip, unemployment is falling and Angela Merkel has made a good start as the Christian Democratic chancellor of a "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats. Yet, as in Italy and France, the split result of Germany's election last September revealed that there was only a limited constituency for reform. Ms Merkel's government may be able to put right the public finances--but it shows little sign of readiness to embark on deeper liberalising measures.

Simple really: lower unemployment, growth, and even business "zip" are not enough. The only thing that matters is "reform", which they kindly translate as "deeper liberalisation", and which means less regulation of corporations, lower wages, fewer rights for workers, and weaker unions


In search of a crisis

The sad truth in all three countries is that their voters are not yet ready to swallow the nasty medicine of change. Reform is always painful. And all three have too many cosseted insiders--those with secure jobs, those in the public sector--who see little to gain and much to lose. They are ready to fight against change even though it would help outsiders--the young, the unemployed--and, ultimately, their economies.

Okay, that's the most honest paragraph of the article (talking about reforms as a nasty medicine bringing pain), and one with a reasonable argument: that there is too much difference between insiders and outsiders. But it of course includes the perspective of a bright future, after the pain.


Does that mean that Europe, especially the euro area, is unreformable? It is fashionable to answer yes, and to conclude that the continent's destiny is one of gradual decline into a genteel poverty, as populations age and economies lose their last remaining vestiges of dynamism. Yet that is surely too gloomy. In the right circumstances, and with a braver political leadership, even the three core members of the euro should be able to change their ways.

How condenscending is this? Seriously... Unreformable. Gradual decline. Genteel poverty. Last remaining vestiges of dynamism. But let us show you the way...(less regulation of corporations, lower wages, fewer rights for workers, and weaker unions)


One reason for believing that reform can happen, even in Italy and France, is that so many other European countries have shown the way. Britain faced economic and social meltdown in 1979; there followed a decade of Thatcherite reform. Admittedly, Britain is not in the euro, but the Netherlands is. That country had an acute case of what became known as the "Dutch disease" in 1982; a string of reforms were then made that led, a decade later, to talk of a Dutch miracle. Another small country now in the euro, Ireland, almost fell off the cliff into poverty and bankruptcy in 1987; yet, after some years of painful change, it had transformed itself into the "Celtic Tiger". Similarly, Finland became an economic basket-case in 1990; it then implemented reforms that have today helped to make it on some assessments the world's most competitive economy, ahead even of the (far bigger) United States.

Two things came together to make radical reform possible in these countries. The first was wide agreement, among voters, businessmen, trade unions and others that there was a grave economic crisis. The second were determined political leaders prepared to risk unpopularity.

I don't have anything smart to say here on the specifics of each country. But is the claim that their succes is linked to "reform" demonstrated in any way, or is it more of the "repeat it enough and everybody will believe it"?


 The real problem, not just for Italy and France but also for Germany, is that, so far, life has continued to be too good for too many people: there is not yet a general consensus that their economies are in serious trouble. All three have also lacked brave political leaders ready to leap in and explain the case for reform. There is one depressingly certain way to remedy the failings in the core European countries: to bring on a more serious economic crisis. This week will surely have brought that a lot closer.

So, Mr Economist, are you actually wishing a crisis on us? Life is good, so we need a crisis to convince us to "reform"? (to have less regulation of corporations, lower wages, fewer rights for workers, and weaker unions)

Basically, the Economist is admitting that "reform" (less regulation of corporations, lower wages, fewer rights for workers, and weaker unions) does not bring an outcome better than what we have now, only better than chaos and crisis. Well, don't worry, if there's a crisis in continental Europe, it will be the one brought about by the binge economies you love so much, those that have "reformed" most, according to you, when they drown in their ocean of debt.

Here's your dirty little secret: "reform" (less regulation of corporations, lower wages, fewer rights for workers, and weaker unions) works only on desperate people. And your only goal is thus to make us desperate. That's your ideology: make the other desperate so that s/he will be "free" to deal with you on your terms - choosing that over death, hunger or misery.

Display:
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 03:15:50 PM EST
Crossposted on dkos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/4/15/154722/226

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 04:02:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
drewfromct has a great comment


It needs to get worse for overpaid CEOs and execs before it can get better for the rest of us.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 04:03:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You had a good holiday then?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 05:10:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent, why?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 05:24:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A 2500 word rant ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 06:01:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... all charged up and ready to go.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 05:09:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, a good fraction of it was the article from the Economist itself...


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 06:08:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very interesting views stated here..

I wonder then.. Do you think the economies of France, Italy and Germany do not need reform? Or maybe they need it but not in the way the Economist suggests (liberalization and so on)? Then what kinds of reform can help?

Why is Germany so reluctant to open its borders to Eastern Europeans? Is it because the country will be flooded by such workers (unlikely, according to me) or because the economy will not be able to handle (not being flexible) a small number of migration workers? Ireland and the UK, though partly opting out from the Schengen, are open to workers from new member states..

-- Fighting my own apathy..

by Naneva (mnaneva at gmail dot com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 03:52:10 PM EST
I wonder then.. Do you think the economies of France, Italy and Germany do not need reform? Or maybe they need it but not in the way the Economist suggests (liberalization and so on)?

Both. But the issue is more basic than just "what is the reform": it is "what is the problem".

Part of what the business press (and sadly ever more people trusting them) believes to be problems aren't (they aremis-interpretations of data, or even baseless myths having a life by way of endless repetition), or they are less significant. For another part, the reforms are either no solution or would cause other, greater problems elsewhere.

What connects these two cases of 'reforms' is that the Economist (and other such outlets) has an agenda, an economics ideology called 'neoliberalism', which now managed to be en vogue (is Zeitgeist), something in the elites "everyone knows to be true", but which nevertheless is no more real and no less blindly dogmatic that 'communism' was.

Why is Germany so reluctant to open its borders to Eastern Europeans? Is it because the country will be flooded by such workers (unlikely, according to me) or because the economy will not be able to handle (not being flexible) a small number of migration workers?

You assume too much rationalism behind this reluctance. There really is no more behind it than an (according to both you and me) irrational fear of being flooded by such workers, and a misguided notion that foreigners would take jobs away from locals (whereas in truth foreigners don't just increase the workforce, but the domestic consumer base too, balancing the net effect on the job market in the first order).

(BTW, the way you posed your question, it doesn't make sense: opening borders to job-seekers from the East would itself constitute the 'flexibilisation' needed to take up more migration workers, the elimination of labour laws in other fields would primarily affect - and is falsely preached as having a positive effect on - 'native' workers.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 06:55:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read it.

Then I read it again.

Then I read it again.

Then I read it again.

and I still don't 'get' how someone could think or write that.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 03:57:39 PM EST

as i see it (from austria) things are heading south for the majority. same thing seen when talking with locals in france (paris) and spain (barcelona).

an interesting insight into the new "soft" fascism accosting us from all sides can be found in this blog

http://ponerology.blogspot.com/

be sure to read the clarifications under "overview", and check out the older postings. the author dissects our dear leaders and everything about them quite convincingly.

by name (name@spammez_moi_sivouplait.org) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 04:03:32 PM EST
The "urgency for reform" comes from one thing:  The way to increase dynamism and reduce the gap between so-called insiders and outsiders is becoming clear.  Economics as a science has progressed in ways that enable this.  Also there are a great many real-world examples that can be looked at.  Computer technology has also made this possible.

If the "reforms" aren't rushed through before long some creative thinkers will find ways to accomplish dynamism, job creation and general economic robustness WITHOUT cutting out the social contract.  Once that happens there will be a stampede of nations following that now proven model.

The French are to be despised at this time because they have shown the greatest potential to produce this result.

Interesting that Sego Royal has posted a blog-type "book" online as a way of developing a platform for her presidential run next year.  I suggest any Euro Trib posters who have good ideas on this matter submit them there as you may well have the ear or the next President of France.

by paving on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 04:10:07 PM EST
that needs to be written explaining why some people think like this.

I'd be the last to defend the neolibs, and the neolib agenda. But I've been finding out more about the origins of the belief system. It looks a lot like a product of its time, and there is an angle from which it's not just naked troughing for greed.

I'd guess most of the promoters are older than most of us on ET, and they will have had different experiences to draw on. Their problem now isn't that they're radical, it's that they're stuck in the past - specifically the 70s, when there was an economic climate in which their comments would almost have made some sense.

They're absolutely wrong today, but it could be useful for further debunking to understand why they believe these eccentric things. If I get time I'll try to put together a summary at some point.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 04:51:12 PM EST
A diary on this would be most welcome.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 05:13:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More than welcome, TBG, in view of our discussions about new mythical narratives in other threads. If we can succeed in portraying them as outdated, if we can steal a march on them...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 03:00:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's disgusting the way this article belittles the Italian Left's victory. If Mr. Berlusconi had won by the same slim margin, the Economist would surly have lauded the good judgment of the Italian people. What a rag! And it's especially popular in the U.S. What did the Economist say about Bush's 2000 election by the Supreme Court? Surly not that the people's votes must be counted, but that the Supreme Court has spared the people the suffering which would have been inflicted upon them if their majority vote in favor of Gore had been recognized, which includes Florida. The right wing is everywhere very suspicious of people feeling good and enjoying themselves. Instead they need to endlessly obsess about how the rich and the giant corporations are suffering because they increased their profits only by 25 per cent this year instead of the 50 per cent they racked up last year. The toads!
by Quentin on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 05:17:20 PM EST
Let's give the Economist merit where they deserve it. It has always been adamantly against Berlusconi. Unlike most of the main stream press they have always pointed out that B is unfit to be "prime minister" of Italy. The Economist has never glossed over Berlusconi's mafia ties as most journals do. In fact the longest dossier ever published on a public leader by them was a detailed analysis of Berlusconi's rotten past and incompetence.
Two days before the elections the Economist published a cover dossier called "Basta" once again attacking B as unfit and incompetent, an individual singularly responsible for the actual strife and woes brought on Italy in five years of mismanagement.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 05:58:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If Mr. Berlusconi had won by the same slim margin, the Economist would surly have lauded the good judgment of the Italian people

Yes, I'm sure they would. Right along with the editorial endorsing the demands of the anti-globalist movement and after Jerome writes his piece revealing himself as a neo-con, ultra economic liberal 'reformer', oil is dropping to $20 a barrel true believer;) I presume you haven't read the paper, but FWIW they absolutely loathe Berlusconi and have been campaigning against him since at least the previous election campaign.  You might want to be familiar with a newspaper before you attribute opinions to it.

by MarekNYC on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 06:05:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excuse me. I seem to have really made a prejudiced whopper this time. As they say somewhere, 'my face is covered with egg'.
by Quentin on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 03:40:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I find the Economist's analysis of Italy superficial and illogical. I agree with your points and will attempt to add a few comments.

The article makes the "conclusion" that Italy, "core country of Europe", is "not ready to make the economic reforms [it] so desperately need[s]" because of "the razor-edge outcome of Italy's rancorous election." Frankly I can't see how this arguably false premise would bring about their conclusion.

The left has a confortable majority in the Chamber of Deputies and a very small majority in the Senate. Berlusconi has ruled for five years despite the fact that he actually lost the popular vote in 2001 by a much larger margin than the present situation. Also, in 1994 Berlusconi lasted a year without a real majority. He formed a government in negative record time and got a confidence vote by two or three lifetime Senators plus crucial abstention.

Economic reforms don't depend on "razor-edge" popular vote outcomes. Reform depends on the will of the government and the eventual opposition to their initiatives within parliament.

The Economist points out phantomatic squabbling on the left, yet does not mention that Prodi put together a far too detailed program undersigned by all coalition parties. And an admirable one at that.

The so-called far-left parties are the only parties that actually introduced serious reforms under D'Alema and Amato, above all in streamlining bureaucracy, eliminating the general contractor crap and wasteful, irresponsible go-betweens. There was a very brief season of transparency and efficiency in the Italian state until B came to power and revoked key laws. B re-awarded contracts to his pre-1992 croonies and raped the state for hundreds of millions just in interest just on these old croony contracts.

I suggest the Economist take a hard look at some of the far-left economists. They might discover that as in the past they were far more "liberal" and sensible than anything the Italian right has been able to foster.

And a hell of a lot more concerned about Italy's well-being than the clique of mobsters that ran Italy for the past five years (and which The Economist has so well documented in the past.)

Your point on the new electoral law is correct. Although it reinstates a mock proportional system, it's outcome forces parties to form majoritarian coalitions before the elections- not after as in the past proportional systems. Parties are therefore far more endebted to the the coalition for their very existence and voter weight.

It is certainly one of the worst electoral laws ever made, especially for its timing, but it does have one good merit: it allowed the left to win and have a decent margin to govern.

It's very eloquent that B made all this possible with another outcome in mind, but as with most of the infamous laws he passed, the Italian adage applies, "The devil makes pots but not the lid."

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 05:49:34 PM EST
The Economist's quality is directly proportional to the page numbers.  Starts off with the heavy crap (leaders, US section, with the new lexington as grand crap-master); then you have the occasional high school essay (they call it "survey"). Then it gets better, culminating in the obituary, always the highlight of the newspaper.

Which is why the editorialists suffer from obituary envy. Unless they write about the US (the occasion for them to tell us their latest wet dream), they can't help pretending they're burying someone.

This week's shorter leader: Damn those French, Italians, and Germans for being alive. The fools don't even know how much better off they would be if they were all dead.

by Bernard Chazelle (Bernard Chazelle) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 06:00:38 PM EST
The Economist is the only publication that I ever subscribed to which I canceled before my free trial period was over.

I commend anyone who has the patience to read it. Every article is suffused with a rightist know-it-all attitude. When you don't have the facts on your side use snide remarks instead.

The question is (again) when do the rich and rentier classes finally have enough?

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 06:28:18 PM EST
Finland became an economic basket-case in 1990; it then implemented reforms that have today helped to make it on some assessments the world's most competitive economy

Finland was prior to 1990 one of the few countries that traded with both the east bloc and the west bloc. Their barter trade with the Soviet union was very profitable. That market almost completedly disappeared in 1991.

Finland has since with great help from the dotcom-boom (Nokia...) overcome most of that crisis, invested a lot in integration with the EU (only Nordic country with euro) but is still plagued by lower employment rates then the other Nordic countries.

Can the Economist say anything about a small country just because few people will know enough to challenge them on it?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 06:41:55 PM EST
I'm thinking that this notion of "the Economy" as something separate from the wellbeing of the actual population, is traditionally symptomatic of authoritarian thinking...

An early form of it is found in the King as the living embodiment of the nation, and the notion that the "national" wealth and pride is best and most legitimately expressed in the astonishing wealth and profligacy of the Royals.  L'Etat, c'est moi!  But another tendril of the root mass might be found in the notion of beating or destroying the body to save the soul -- as in the punishment of heretics or the "disciplining" of children:  "I am only doing this [beating, torture, humilation, starving] for your own good."

Then there is the rootlet labelled "dulce et decorum", the notion of Nation and Flag as a supranatural Entity to whom the citizen owes loyalty even unto the point of an obedient and meaningless death;  the notion that a grieving mother should, if she is a respectable right-feeling person, be suitably recompensed by a posthumous medal and a schlocky ceremony for the loss of the son she raised for 18 years.  She should be "happy and proud" that her son was blown to bits "in the service of" the nation-state.

And now we have the notion of the Economy as a kind of Moloch, something that is not "the collective benefit of the people as a whole" but a deity that the people must serve, propitiate, and sacrifice to.  If the people are too comfortable, too well-off, it is bad for them and they must be punished/disciplined to remind them that their happiness is not the point.

What is "the Economy", if it is not us?

Is it nothing but a euphemism for the unlimited accrual of wealth by the rentier/manager class?  Or do they (as did many governing classes throughout history) really believe that L'Etat c'est eux?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 11:56:18 PM EST
I'm not so sure about connecting "The Economy" to authoritarianism.  If anything, I'd argue that real authoritariam, like you found in feudal Monarchy, would be predicated upon the outright destruction of anything we would consider an "Economy" today, to be replaced with direct legal (as opposed to indirect economic) subjection of the masses.  Why bother with private enterprises and a political system when you can restrict all wealth to a small circle at the top, who rule over everybody else by legal fiat?  Why allow people outside the narrow circle to generate wealth through any sort of independent economic activity, when you can just rule it illegal and confiscate their holdings, and summarily execute them if they complain?

I'd be more inclined to attribute the earliest inklings of an abstract entity like the economy to be an analogy from daily experiences in pre-modern crafts and trade.  It's not a huge step from saying "business is good," meaning things in your trade are going well for reasons you may not understand and in ways over which you have no real control, to saying "the economy is good," when everyone is sort of doing okay.

In my past life as a grad student in history, this is more or less what I wanted to research.  My contention was that the ability to think of or imagine something like "The Economy" was a product of capitalism itself, and the wide range of separations that were tied up in its birth - the separation of work from family, the separation of work from morality (business ethics from personal ethics), the separation of work from religion (secularization and the domestication of religion).  Later on, you have the separation of personal responsibility from buisness responsibility (limited liability corporations).  Nowadays you have talk of the sepration of business from the state, perhaps the final separation.  

I wanted to look at all these things as part of a whole, to tie it all together in an analysis of the culture of capitalism.  Unfortunately, the topic was too big, too hard, and there was too much reading across too many fields, and not enough real interest to go around.

by Zwackus on Mon Apr 17th, 2006 at 10:09:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And now we have the notion of the Economy as a kind of Moloch, something that is not "the collective benefit of the people as a whole" but a deity that the people must serve, propitiate, and sacrifice to.  If the people are too comfortable, too well-off, it is bad for them and they must be punished/disciplined to remind them that their happiness is not the point.

BINGO!!!

the brass tits of moloch are where they suck their metallic milk.

great deconstruction, jerome! you are on to them...

i can't believe how schizzy the economist is on burlesquoni; they really want it both ways.... first he's a mafioso crook, now prodi is portrayed as impotent because of his coalition being potentially too conflicted to permit efficient government.

they should be ashamed of their puerile analyses, and it's great that you're holding their feet to the fire.

thank god that the people are smart enough to see this as destructive to their happiness, and vote and protest accordingly.

last night i watched wall street journal on fox...what a bunch of slimy creeps.

then a show on cnbc i am left gobsmacked by: the mclauchlin group.

i heard that in california folks watch the british parliament as cult comedy, which i can well believe...a kind of political 'monty python'!

well i watch the mclauchlin group for the same reason!

newt gingrich is always on, that poster boy for dyspepsia.

the funniest part is how effing rude the host is to his guests...autocratic isn't strong enough a word.... he's BRUTAL!

newt is slapped down royally, and has to suck it up, hilarious!

the woman from newsweek says some good stuff, watching her get interrupted and shouted down by the wingnut factor is quite revealing, as they can't sit and let her come out with her 'heresy', even though she maintains good manners as much as possible.

i cheer for her.

and how it makes me appreciate the finesse of the bbc talkshows in comparison!

you know, nuanced questions and unfailing politeness to the guests, silly stuff like that.

my fave is stephen sackur....hardtalk is pure pleasure with him at the wheel.

the tom 'someone' who started the show,( i forget his surname now) was a tad too abrasive for my taste, but he's doing a great job with the doha debates i've been lucky enough to catch a couple of times.

stephen sackur is perfect, polite, super astute, well-informed, and while respectful to the bigwigs he interviews, remorseless in his penetrating questioning.

my dad always read the economist. i always found it the voice of the 'little grey men' even though its coverage of world affairs was frequently better than the competition.

the burlesquoni report was a pleasant surprise, really; i would have expected them to have endorsed him for his money worship.

i guess they do have some standards sometimes, though this steaming c**p you sliced and diced is absolutely predictable.

ugh! they must really think we're stupid.

meanwhile the ads for folly continue... yesterday i heard the ad for the new mazda co2 spewer.

the man's voice states he has no bonds to tie him down, he's independent, free (of friends or conscience i guess), but he loves his new car, etc, etc.

f'ing lunatics.

more blabber how filling your average petrol tank has gone to E65 instead of E60, bla bla bla, and how someone should do something for the poor consumer, oil breaks the $70 barrier, with no descent in sight, and the solution (changing our energy sources) staring us in the face, and no-one in power vigorously doing anything about it.

i shudder to think what insanity kids are being taught in business school.

is man's folly so infinite?

i feel like i'm in some alternate reality, and so i come again to log on to see a little sanity...thank god for ET!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 05:37:06 AM EST
and that is good for now. However, the main thing for Europe is how to maintain an economy that supports the desires and wants of its general population in a WTO world when both mass manufacturing and now research are heading East.
by observer393 on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 07:15:20 AM EST


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