Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
... this essay ... the international political economy of the 1950's and 1960's offered a better environment for economic development by low and middle income nations than the international political economy of the 1990's and 2000's. So it clearly can be better for middle and low income nations than it is today, so the conditions offered by the American Empire since it passed middle age and headed toward being old enough for Social Security can be bested: the current international political economy is clearly not the best of all possible worlds for middle and low income nations.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:19:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I think you are right. Does this really call for the collapse of the empire, though, or just a return to more sound policies than the neoliberal ones that have become so popular since the 1970's? America as a global, imperial type-polity has done rather well in both periods, even if various constituencies within it have fared better or worse at different times, so it would seem that a rejection of post-Reagan, rightist idealism in American politics may be sufficient for everyone involved and a bit less daunting to accomplish.
by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you assume that it will be easier to oust the neoliberal nutcases in Washington, reverse the decline of the American empire and implement sanity-based policies in the American empire than to topple the neoliberal nutcases in the local capital and implement sanity-based policies that the neoliberal nutcases in Washington will not have the capacity to suppress?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:58:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it's because if America really can be conceived of as an empire, that is as a transnational, institutionalized polity of some kind, then this means that the most effective arena for policy change is Washington -- it's core. Most of the rest of the periphery will eventually follow what happens in the core, allowing for various degrees of resistance and diversity among its constituents.  

And the space between neo-liberal policies and progressive-liberal policies is not really all that wide either. The institutional framework, I don't think, is the real problem.  It's just the present political leadership that needs tweaking and the institutions of the empire allow for a wide range of peaceful means for doing so within the present framework. I.e., it's the path of least resistance.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 06:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it's because if America really can be conceived of as an empire, that is as a transnational, institutionalized polity of some kind, then this means that the most effective arena for policy change is Washington -- it's core.

You assume that if nothing is done, the American empire will remain. It won't. Restoring the American empire to some semblance of sustainability will require active effort.

So in order to believe that the most effective arena for policy change in the periphery is Washington, you have to believe that the effort required to change policy in the periphery is less than the effort required to change policy in Washington plus the effort that must be expended to restore the American empire, plus the opportunity cost of the time lost between core policy propagating through the periphery, compared to changing policy directly in the periphery, minus the probability that the core resumes functioning on its own in time to salvage the empire.

We can quantify the time it takes for policy to propagate from Washington to Bruxelles, almost to the year, by looking at when Washington, resp. Bruxelles forgot how to resolve a systemic bankruptcy. Call it ten years (from the .com bust until today). Give or take a few years. Changing policy in Washington is likely to be harder than changing policy in Bruxelles, if for no other reason then because the American constitution is less amenable to grassroot efforts (and because the American government has far more deeply institutionalised corruption). Which in turn means that the imperial core is unlikely to resume sanity-based policies on its own. Add the effort required to restore the American empire to some semblance of viability, and the whole thing starts looking rather open-and-shut, unless you happen to be an American and therefore have to live with the America that actually unfolds.

the space between neo-liberal policies and progressive-liberal policies is not really all that wide either.

Well, compared to the space between Leninism and neo-liberalism, I suppose you might say that.

In practise, you'd have to purge half the top-tier civil servants, who have been drafted from the school of thought that grants corporations more rights than individuals, views paid-for speech as being equivalent to free speech and subscribes to fantasy-based economics. And then you'd have to destroy the neoliberals' sources of funding, academic support, media cover and intellectual foundations (OK, the last bit is easy enough), to make sure we won't be having this same discussion thirty years down the road. (The last bit was where American Keynesianism failed - it was insufficiently thorough in purging pockets of potential revanchists. It is noteworthy that the neoliberals have done their best to avoid repeating that mistake.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 07:11:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - that depends on your definition of viabilty.

The neo-fascist model is one where 1-2% of the population can survive at the expense of the rest. This is the sole foundation and aim of the current American empire.

And it works, and will continue to work, at least until such time that the Earth itself is barely habitable.

It might even survive for a while after that.

But that's a dispiriting and fantastically stupid excuse for something that calls itself a civilisation.

While the right enjoys its fantasies of Social Darwinism, the reality is that pure Darwinian competition leads to animal idiocies. Evolutionary competition is stupid. It has no strategy, no goals, and no predictive horizon longer than the next meal, the next pecking order status play, or the next fuck.

In comparison, the progressive model of government is strategic. The aim is the full expression of a population's creative, intellectual and physical talents.

Education, food management, social mobility, and wealth redistribution aren't just moral issues, they're also practical strategies. Done properly they create dynamic, diverse, inventive and resilient societies that are capable of innovation, strategic intelligence and far-sighted goal setting.

Neo-fascism in any form always regresses into infantile fantasies of omnipotence and practical disaster. To deal with reality effectively you have to accept that reality exists, and that's something the neo-fascists are simply unable to do - which is why their future prospects are so limited.

It's not just that they harm other populations, but that they're incapable of surviving without destroying themselves.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 08:02:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The neo-fascist model is one where 1-2% of the population can survive at the expense of the rest. This is the sole foundation and aim of the current American empire.

And it works, and will continue to work, at least until such time that the Earth itself is barely habitable.

But it is less than perfectly clear that it works well enough that it can sustain a society that is capable of projecting political and military power far beyond its own borders.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 08:08:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it need to? The only difference between local and remote aggression is that you're dealing with a bigger 98%.

The essence of the fascist mindset is extreme hierarchy. It's all about relative gradations and relative resource use.

Mugabe in Zimbabwe doesn't care that his country is a festering joke. As long as he has food on his table, clean uniforms to parade around in, a few guns and a prostitute or three, the starvation and horror are either irrelevant to him.

Who knows? He may even enjoy them.

The point is that this kind of implosion is inevitable in fascist economies. But it doesn't matter to the winners, because they don't care about the total size of the pie as long as they can maintain some semblance of being special and important, and they're personally comfortable.

It's the ironic poverty of fascism that makes it such a threat. It's implacably and relentlessly hostile to stable, genuine prosperity.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:47:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it need to?

If it wants to motivate the rest of the world to care about what happens in the US, beyond the fate of one's immediate friends (and the sort of general but rather vague pity most people feel for sub-Saharan Africa), then yes.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:58:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt that's been a serious consideration in Washington for quite a while now.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 10:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Occasional Series