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A New Year resolution: no more "Anglo-Saxon model".

by Colman Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 07:51:34 AM EST

After some thought I have come to the view that we should stop using the tendentious label "Anglo-Saxon model" as shorthand for the unregulated corporation-subsiding model of economics being pushed on us by the common wisdom of the English language media and the free-market fundamentalists everywhere.

I've defended the usage before but after further thought I've come to the conclusion that it's a trap we should avoid for the following reasons:

  • As we've pointed out many times on this site, it paints a false picture of both the UK and US economies. Neither is run anything like the model suggested for the rest of the world - the UK has massive social welfare and public health systems and the US spends large portions of its GDP to subsidise industry, though they prefer to call it a defence budget.
  • It motivates people to react against criticism of the model on nationalist grounds - we've seen it here where criticism of the nonsense being marketed under that brand is taken as criticism of the UK.
  • It is a prime example of Newspeak - it hides good old fashioned laissez-faire capitalism behind yet another new label. It's not the anglo-saxon model that's being sold, it's unregulated corporate capitalism, red in tooth and claw, guaranteed to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a small elite. Calling it anything else hides the reality and helps the fundamentalists in their branding exercise. For that matter, calling it a free-market system or even a market system is what J.K Galbraith labelled one of his "innocent frauds" - hiding the reality that the US economy is largely run for and by the managers of large corporations.

I quite like Galbraith's term "corporate capitalism" which at least makes it clear for whose benefit the system would operate.

Update [2005-12-30 18:20:19 by Colman]: Just for the record, I'd completely missed the rambling Anglo-Saxon discussion on Christmas Eve.

Update [2005-12-30 18:26:55 by Colman]: And having scanned it now, I'm very glad I missed it.

Good to see you weigh in on this, Colman, and I agree with you. I've several times said that I don't like to use "Anglo-Saxon" because it's inexact. In fact all the ballyhoo around "models" is tendentious. We haven't got "models". What we've got is a quarter-century-old push to reduce (to impotence) the role of government, to do away with regulation and social policy, in favour of good old laissez-faire, free-trade capitalism.

However, no one on Eurotrib invented these "models", and I don't think anyone here is happy with them as a tool for discussion. The reason they have come up is that they are referred to by the media, by pundits, that they are part of the surrounding discourse. We don't have to use them. Otoh, I think we do have to look at the ways countries (or groups, like the EU) react, by resistance or acceptation, to the laissez-faire roll-out.

I'm increasingly finding laissez-faire a useful term because it's French. I mean, if the French feel targeted, it doesn't matter because we already know what a prickly bunch they are ;) ;) ;) <snark>

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 08:12:17 AM EST
Oh, in actual fact I think "corporate capitalism" is right.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 08:13:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't use laissez-faire. That attracted negative connotations ages ago. Wouldn't do at all. Irish history books blame part of the death-toll in the 1840s here on the belief in laissze-faire economices in the UK government.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 08:14:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was snark.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 08:20:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Corporate Capitalism sounds a better term to me
by observer393 on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 08:13:40 AM EST
Narhh, it's too nice. It misses the grip corporate interests have on governments. As, I'd speculate, most people and entities, I don't have a problem with rich, powerful people. I do have a problem when they try to skew public action to their exclusive benefit.

Plutocracy would do but the word was a staple of Fascist and Marxist orations in the past century, so it's a bit past its prime...

Or you can follow the lead of [gasp] Ralph [re-gasp] Nader and call it corporate socialism.

I'd rather go with corpocracy.
by Francois in Paris on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 09:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only problem with "corporate socialism" is that for some, socialism is considered a good thing and the term is a positive. I suppose you could say that corporate socialism is good for corporations... And "corporate capitalism" has the same problem in the other direction, for those who read capitalism in a positive light.

Plutocracy is what we have, and since people vote for it, perhaps it should be called "democratic plutocracy" or "representative plutocracy."

by asdf on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 09:13:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well looks like we are gonna av big trouble finding anything to label "X" with.
Hey lets just call it "X" and stop fighting
by observer393 on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 10:25:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd have trouble with "X". The problem is France is not "X", it is "ENA".

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 11:32:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's try "X"...

Down with X !!!

Let's hang the last Xer with the boyaux of the next-to-last Xer !!!

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Doesn't work that well, if you want my opinion. Moreover, I fear a confusion with Gen-Xers :-)
by Francois in Paris on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 11:33:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Everything you say is right, but I still disagree :-)

I compare this to 'communism'. What used to run on this side of the Iron Curtain also had very different versions (compare and contrast China under the Cultural Revolution with say Poland, or the East German police state with Kádár's "goulash communism" in Hungary), and neither of those was what it professed to be, not anything near what 19th century revolutionaries dreamt of. Still, given the general usage, I can't get around calling it communism - even if with scare quotes.

Similarly, as afew says, the term is in usage by the media worldwide. I think the best we could do would be to use the term always with disclaimers.

(Now I'm off to finally read through the Anglo-Saxon thread... see you in six hours :-) )

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 08:23:05 AM EST
Clearly we have to use it in direct quotes, but to use it in original writing is silly. Our talking about the Anglo-Saxon model is simply making it easy for the current rebranding.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 08:45:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'd much prefer to talk about state capitalism rather than either 'communism' or 'real-existing socialism', but I'd have to explain it every time.

Why not re-re-brand, the way Jérôme did? Or always write "so-called-Anglo-Saxon-model" etc.?

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 11:53:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isnt that a term that was used by the old British socialist Workers Party people to describe the old Soviet system, or am i getting confused as I age?
by observer393 on Sun Jan 1st, 2006 at 01:19:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
May well be, tough my source is possibly independent - an essay by a Hungarian-Romanian philosophist, an anarchist-turned-liberal-turned-far-left [further than me]. The way he introduced the term captured me for nailing precisely the contradiction I always felt between the (economic) rhetoric and reality here under the ancien regime.

Now my source may have got the expression from a Western communist first. I recently read in some off-hand comment, however, that a branch of Western European Trotskyists actually defended the Soviet system under this tag name, and wanted to realise Socialism in the same form... so I'm confused. Could you tell more about the WP's usage? (Is it not the precursor of the current SWP?)

(With all that said, I was never high on political dogma. Sometimes words limit thinking. Or, you could talk of the same things with different words or focus. For example, I find quite some some similarity between a branch of libertarianism and idealist communism...)

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

by DoDo on Sun Jan 1st, 2006 at 01:17:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The SWP used it as a term to label what they saw as the failed Stalinist attempt at socialism. An attempt that had failed because the Stalinists were economically state capitalists rather than socialists. I can't remember the exact arguement.
I think the SWP came from the International Marxist Group when it splintered. The Workers Party is/was different from the SWP. The WP were a lot smaller but listed Vanessa Redgrave as a member.
Its a while back and I dont remember it so well now, and I live elsewhere these days.
by observer393 on Mon Jan 2nd, 2006 at 12:33:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, so they used it in the same meaning (and the origin of my WP/SWP confusion. your small-case socialist was a typo).

I note the SWP still exists - they were very active behind organising the Stop The War Coalition in 2003, and many entered the Respect party.

I add one angle on this state capitalist thing possibly absent in the SWP's version: my philosopher's description of an angle of regime change here. In 1989/90, a lot of formerly state companies became private - but often with the new owners being the former state company heads or other apparatchniks, who used all kinds of legal loopholes and tricks. The result is that in formerly 'communist' countries, the larger part of entrepreneurs and businessmen were former Party members. (Our current PM is a prime example.)

This 1989/90 property grab by the cadre is commonly considered the Big Theft. This philosopher however posited that it was no theft - only a transformation from state capitalism (in which officially everything belonged to the people, but was in effect at the control and to the profit of the self-selecting elite) to private free-market capitalism, with the same capitalist class keeping and defending its property in a different legal framework.

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

by DoDo on Mon Jan 2nd, 2006 at 03:03:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It sounds like we are talking the same theory here, or at least your friend and the SWP are.
Interesting, and thank you for making me think back to earlier times, something I sadly do so little now.

PS my typos are hideous

by observer393 on Tue Jan 3rd, 2006 at 01:22:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally, I like kleptocracy:
A government characterized by rampant greed and corruption

Other possibilities are oligarchy:

Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families

Or, perhaps, (at least for the US) banana republic.

The real joke is that corporations are all run as dictatorships. The CEO has, essentially, unlimited power. To remove him or force a change of policy takes a difficult proxy fight. In a recent corporate case a majority of the stockholders voted for a new policy which the board ignored. They said the vote was just "advisory".

So, in the "democratic" west you get to work for a dictatorship, vote for one of two or three candidates selected by a political inner circle and have much of the rest of your life regulated by unelected special purpose quasi-governmental authorities. (The recent subway strike in NYC against the MTA is an example.)

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 09:39:30 AM EST
And 'corporate capitalism' will do fine in serious discourse, alternating with 'socialism for the rich' when the temperature rises a bit.

Along with your other reasons, the 'Anglo-Saxon' moniker ignores English Canada, which is both Anglo and once upon a time largely Saxon, but has universal health care, and no capital punishment. Bunch a freakin' radicals up there, eh?

So 'Anglo-Saxon model', R.I.P.


Pogo: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

by d52boy on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 10:45:52 AM EST
Could we use the "great Thatcher-Reagan pullback", or the Nothingham Sheriff model?

Thatcher is a good reference point, especially her quote that "in this century, all the problems on the planet have come from the continent and all the solutions from the English-speaking world". It does have a hint of the traditional British diplomatic priority to avoid (usually by dividing and ruling) the creation on the continent of a powerful enough entity that would endanger the kingdom.

Thatcher does allow to make the distinction between the country and the ideology. Her enemies were unions, labor regulations, public investment in anything but the military, and taxes, which suggests that all of these did take place in the UK...

So, how about "pervasive Thatcherism"?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 11:39:29 AM EST
Good ones - why not use them with the original in the snark version:

the Anglo-Saxon model (misnomer for the great Thatcher-Reagan pullback)


the Anglo-Saxon model (misnomer for he Nothingham Sheriff model)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 11:50:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
excellent improvement - together with your follow up post above:

the so called "Anglo-Saxon model" (misnomer for the great Thatcher-Reagan pullback)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 11:55:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New Improved So-Called ASM (misnomer for the great Thatcher-Reagan Reverse Robin Hood heist) ™
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 12:20:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While we're about it, how about the Locust Model?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 12:22:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I vote for re-coining that vexing expression in 2 different terms: "the limey/rosbif model" and "the yankee model".
by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 02:01:07 PM EST
And I suppose the alternative would be the "frog" model, non?
by asdf on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 05:15:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"froggy model" is even better :))

We could even go for "Gallo-Frankish", to be accurate on historical origins. Wouldn't that sound horrible? I can already here the experts talking on TV: "The "gallo-frankish" model is communism in disguise"

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 06:07:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, I definitely can hear them. "That damn gallo-frankishtein economic model".
by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 06:08:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MMMmmmmm. Froggy models.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 06:16:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And (drumroll) ... the jury nominates Kate Moss for Limey/Rosbif model of the year !!
by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Dec 30th, 2005 at 06:28:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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