Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The modern orthodoxy tells that it is enough for everyone to look for own interests, and the common matters will self-organize themselves. Thinking of possible collective consequences and choices is seen as Marxist, socialist or even fascist - how convenient to dismiss any ideas of social organization!

Taking care of collective fate does not necessarily meads that rigid "engineering" are sought. The approach could be very evolutionary: do not reform or discard something working just because of an ideological ideal; let countries and societies decide they own pririties and methods; realize what choices are available.

I am (still) slowly reading Taleb's "Black Swan". Beside philosophical line, Taleb still shows his political-economic preferences which we could challenge. In his terminology, we are leaving Mediocristan, and the world gets increasingly Extremistan, meaning that a lot of events, fortunes and fates are determined by random fluctuations and self-enforcing advantages. The free and wild capitalism has to be mostly thanked for that. According to Taleb, that is great - if more people can achieve a wealth nirvana, the better.

But what is the real historic perspective of this Extremistan drive? If this is such a new phenomonon, why this glorious fun was not discovered earlier? If people were that smart before... why they need to re-discover the same, why so much convincing is needed to cure "naive" good wishes? We can reckon that this capitalism can make some people prosperous for long time; it evidently can make most people more prosperous for some time (hello, bubbles and pyramid schemes!). But can it really do all the good all the time?!

Does everyone really has to agree that this Extremistan tendency is inherently good? Is it really good that, thanks to the scalable pyramid distribution of wealth and power, a Texan family and, say, a couple of Saudi families could, in principle, run and fool all the world just for their own benefit and joy?

Can't we look around and see, how much variation is there in the scalable Extremistan distributions? How much do those 80/20 statistics differ in Mexico and Norway, for example? How do our choices and discussion manners affect society and world distributions? How much do people really want that Extremistan excitement, how much they could do to find a comfortable balance?

Say, I believe I could be one lucky winner of world's financial, academic or publishing games, but even then, I would prefer less Extremistan rules and customs, at least in every day life and work? What if what scares me is not a personal failure but a global Black Swan calamity, of some trivial environmental supply variety - "unpredictable" but calmly foreseeable, even if masses of "empirical" ideologues deny it full time?

What if I can find other people with the same concerns and preferences, and we can do together something to make the world less crazy... Would our collective determination be very unfair to all private Extremistan lovers?

by das monde on Thu Jul 24th, 2008 at 02:54:07 AM EST
das monde:
The modern orthodoxy tells that it is enough for everyone to look for own interests, and the common matters will self-organize themselves.

You only have to stop and think about that for a minute or two to realise what a bizarre and surreal view of the world it is.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jul 24th, 2008 at 02:46:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately this "modern orthodoxy" is alive and well in the US (libertarianism based upon Ayn Rand and others).

I've been arguing that it doesn't really exist in Europe except for a pocket in the UK. Am I mistaken?

I also have been arguing that it continues to exist in the US because the think tanks that put forth this type of selfish propaganda exist only due to the continual funding they get from a core group of super wealthy plutocrats. Since there aren't the same types of people in Europe the think tanks don't get the life support needed to keep up this barrage.

Is this also a mistake on my part? Are there really places that parallel Cato Institute, Hoover Institution, Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute, U of Chicago and George Mason U in Europe (among others)?

If you are interested in the US specific funding details go to MediaTransparency.org and put in any of those place in the search field. The core list of funders will be revealed as the same names keep coming up with each institution.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Jul 24th, 2008 at 03:32:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It exists as an outreach/missionary program of the business community, but it's not endemic and institutionalised in the way that it is in the US. But it's becoming increasingly influential outside of the UK, and there really is a rightward trend towards the kind of 'reform' that these noobs are so obsessed with.

The funded think tank angle has been mentioned here before. I don't have a problem with accepting that it has been a major driver of the rightward shift in the US. Not everyone agrees, but the evidence looks convincing to me.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jul 24th, 2008 at 06:48:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the UK there is certainly very strong support for free market orthodox views - "modern orthodocy."

In matters of political-economy, where the US leads, the UK tends to follow.

And there are influential conservative thinktanks in the UK as well:

Adam Smith Institute
Policy Exchange

Policy Exchange is a more recent one, used by Cameron a lot, I believe.

I am not sure if they are at all on the same scale as in the US, but they exist. I do believe they also serve as a kind of employment insurance for politicians, as they do in the US.

In the UK some thinktanks have charitable status, which is weird considering charities are supposed to be apolitical.

Here's a link to a list of thinktanks:


by BenDisraeli on Thu Jul 24th, 2008 at 08:39:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Lithuania there is a Free Market Institute (LFMI) doing quite a consistent job of imposing Milton Friedman's orthodoxy. Other Eastern European countries probably have similar institutions.

It all goes pretty classic in Lithuania. After a credit and real estate boom, harder times are pressing. Inflation is geared in double digits since the last autumn - and free marketers, of course, are blaming rising wages. The wages are still pretty low by European standards: the 1000 euro level is a prevalent wish but seldom a reality. Even so, the LFMI pundits speak of "enormous inflationary pressure" due to rising wages. But why would rising wages, which is actually just an adjustment of the profits vs wages ratio rather than a monetary influx, should cause inflation, while the recent credit novelties did not raise inflation noticeably at all? The monetary mass comes from that concentrated "capital" that can't find a purpose in the modern climate. The real estate in Vilnius dropped some 10% in price (and 30% in volume) last year, rather modest loss so far if your forget inflation.

The global conditions are laughably ignored in LFMI comments: the difficulties are all because of hapless government, that dares to keep requirements of night shift minimal wages, and never allows a "truly" free market. Never mind that the "social-democratic" ("former-communist") governments favored substantial business interests over workers' weight better than any other "liberal" party in the country.

Wage rises are also bad because they harm "competitiveness" of Lithuanian enterprises - you may think, capitalism is not viable without cheapest labour. According to LFMI, wages may rise only with rising "productivity" - which probably means that all work and services must be directed to the rich class, as only they can offer a "productive" price, while just helping each other cheaply is so unproductive. But workers have the (still exceptionally popular) option of emigrating - and who is to blame then for entrepreneurs' headaches of little labor choice?

If LFMI latest predictions or higher unemployment come true (because entrepreneurs "have to cut"), the fun of foreclosures and credit defaults will start in full. We won't be surprised as well.

by das monde on Thu Jul 24th, 2008 at 09:08:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, it's worse: The modern orthodoxy tells that it is enough for everyone to look for own interests, and the common matters will self-organize themselves in pretty much the optimal possible way for everyone.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 05:57:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Top Diaries

Occasional Series