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Revisionist history: the English + liberalism made Europe and will save it

by Jerome a Paris Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 05:12:03 AM EST

By Martin Wolf, no less, in the Financial Times: Why liberalism is the right future for a declining Europe


The great achievement of the EU is to establish the co-operative "service state" as the norm across the continent. Such a state sees its purpose as serving its citizens, not dominating them, and as co-operating with other states, not dictating to them. The genius of the founders was to realise that a law-governed market economy was the means to this end. It would do so by binding the discretionary interventions of each, thereby creating predictability and stability for all.

These were liberal ideas (in its traditional European sense, not its strange American one) that drew heavily on the ideas of postwar German thinkers and policymakers, such as Ludwig Erhard. The EU's great successes have been those of liberalism: the customs union; the competition policy; the single market; the abolition of exchange controls; and the creation of a single currency managed by an independent central bank.

While this is not completely off the mark, Martin Wolf fails to note the utter inconsistency of what he writes: "binding the discretionary interventions" of others is the exact opposite of what he exalts, i.e. weakened governments, because it requires an entity with the power to "dictate" terms - not just to citizens, but to member countries as well. Of course, acknowledging this would require abandoning the revisionist gloss that Europe is about less government and more market - and more generally that markets are themselves about less government. Both are utterly false, but as every body, starting by the high priests writing on a daily basis in the FT, pretends otherwise, it becomes the established truth.

But it's utterly fascinating to see such a history of the EU not even mentioning France, and not acknowledging the EU Commission's bureaucratic power, initially modelled on and by the French administration. As DoDo argued in an important diary to which I unfortunately could not take the time to participate to then (Are Neoliberals Eurosceptic?), the neoliberals have no qualms to use the tools of public policy provided by the progressive integrationists to further their "reformist" ends, and this is quite an extraordinary display of this.

From the diaries - afew



Liberalism was not the only possible basis for Europe's unification. But it was the only basis for voluntary unification. Unification through war, happily, failed. The intervention of the "Anglo-Saxons" in successive great European wars ensured that. These liberal powers finally defeated the continent's army of poisonous anti-liberal ideas: ultra-nationalism; fascism; Nazism and communism.

This history puts in context one of the most common false propositions about the EU: that it has ensured peace. Europe neither created the conditions for the postwar peace nor preserved it. US power did both. Yet the prosperity created by European integration, under the US umbrella, made the free and democratic west an irresistible magnet to the east.

Note that the moniker of "Anglo-Saxon", despite the quotation marks, is found by wolf to be sufficiently meaningful and understandable to be used - and to be claimed as a badge of honor. This is the traditional Thatcherite line (the problems of the world are coming form Continental Europe and the solutions from the English-speaking world), but it's yet anothet step to claim that the success of the EU, a Continental European venture if there ever was one, is really to be credited to the Anglos as well.

Expect this to become common wisdom soon, unless reality intrudes loudly enough soon enough...


But I do not understand why a constitution should be a priority. Nothing is going to turn the EU into a United States of Europe. In the end, the EU will remain a structure for co-operation and competition among states embedded in a shared institutional framework.

Further political integration is presented as absurd and unthinkable. Just like being a social democrat, being pro-European is insidiously associated with extremism, unless it takes the clothes of its exact ideological opposite. Just like Blair can promote deregulation, a good European promotes "competition among States", without asking how this is compatible with "binding the discretionary interventions of each." But of course, the binding interventions they like (lower taxes) are natural exercises in national sovereignty, while those they dislike (say, labor laws) are anti-competitive.


So what are the priorities for the EU and, far more, its member states over the next half century? Let me stress the economic ones. I do so not because economics is all that matters. But if Europe does not create widely shared prosperity, it will fail.

Economics is all that matters to these people. When he says the opposite, Wolf sounds like Le Pen saying that he is not racist.


First, create jobs. The European economy is now on an upswing. But many countries still suffer from high unemployment. This is particularly true for the young, the unskilled and ethnic minorities that are disproportionately young and unskilled. Liberalising jobs markets and making the welfare state employment-friendly is the priority.

Because someone that works 20 hours per week in the wee hours of the morning of the evening is not unemployed, is not in a position to bargain about wages, and is not about to unionise.

Because, of course, it's not the socialist policies of Jospin that actually created jobs in France in the past 10 years, and it's not the public spending binge that created jobs in the UK in the same period:

The rest is just boiler plate platitudes, with a few insults and big ifs delicately inserted.


Second, modernise welfare states.

Third, liberate enterprise.

Fourth, invest in the creation of ideas. (...) Continental Europe's show the disastrous effects of nationalisation [of universities].

Fifth, promote development.

Sixth, curb carbon emissions efficiently.

Finally, embrace the future. Nothing short of a catastrophe will stop China, India and the rest from developing.

Europe is great (thanks to Anglo-Saxon influence), it's declining (it's Europe, after all), but it's not so bad (provided that it keeps on liberalising).

Amen.

Display:
Aiieeee. You beat me too it after I wrote my sarcastic comments about Wolf's latest little wonder.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:35:20 AM EST
I half expected a post to pop up from you while I was writing mine. I guess I decided to adjust my expectations in the short term about the probability of you posting a story during day time. You seem to be even busier than me.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:55:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I seem to be recovering, so I should be able to do more stuff, especially giveaways like this one!
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:08:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Martin Wolf has a fascinating piece in the FT.com. Unfortunately, the fascination lies in the mindset that it exposes more clearly than I've seen recently. Entitled " Why liberalism is the right future for a declining Europe" it proposes six commandments - create jobs, modernise welfare states, liberate enterprise, invest in the creation of ideas, promote development,curb carbon emissions efficiently - that will allow Europe to enjoy its old age.

The article makes it very clear why, despite often agreeing with many of us on the technical economic basis of the universe, the likes of Wolf manage to drive us to shrill insanity.

This, for a start:

For almost half a millennium, the western promontory of the Eurasian landmass was the locus of the world's intellectual, artistic and economic energy. It had all the good new ideas and all the bad ones.
An interesting view of history, to say the least.

This history puts in context one of the most common false propositions about the EU: that it has ensured peace. Europe neither created the conditions for the postwar peace nor preserved it. US power did both.

All hail our American overlords!

The EU's great successes have been those of liberalism: the customs union; the competition policy; the single market; the abolition of exchange controls; and the creation of a single currency managed by an independent central bank. Nor is the market economy the only liberal idea embodied in the EU. So, too, is representative democracy.

Liberalism was not the only possible basis for Europe's unification. But it was the only basis for voluntary unification. Unification through war, happily, failed. The intervention of the "Anglo-Saxons" in successive great European wars ensured that. These liberal powers finally defeated the continent's army of poisonous anti-liberal ideas: ultra-nationalism; fascism; Nazism and communism.

Having saved us all from our poisonous ideas, it is now the role of the Anglo-Saxons to lead us into a graceful retirement. He casts the growth of other economies, China and India in particular, as Europe's relative decline rather than as others finally catching up with us. His vision of Europe seems reasonable and so generous:

My ideal of Europe is different. It is of a zone of stability and co-operation that ultimately includes even Turkey. It is of a zone of freedom and the rule of law. It is of a living example of the proposition that the interests of states lie in co-operation, not in conflict.

Even Turkey! From reading his list of commandments I rather suspect that Wolf is using "freedom" exclusively in the sense of "freedom from" rather than "freedom to". Freedom from regulation and restraint, and who really cares about the freedom to eat.

He supports the welfare state as an unfortunate necessity, making it clear that the fear of violence from the dispossessed is what created it and keeps it necessary.

Europe's economic modernisation emerged, painfully, from a feudal, agrarian past. The violent tensions this created were resolved only by commitments to state-provided welfare. This will not disappear.

But for the fear of the guillotine or the firing squad ...

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:40:35 AM EST
your version focuses on other points that mine (or maybe that's because you cut it that way...)

But I missed a few other infuriating comments.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:57:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Naturally: I find slightly different things head-melting! I don't even live in the same world as Wolf.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:11:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't even live in the same world as Wolf.

Because we each see the world through our own conceptual frames.

There is no real disagreement on facts, but on selection and interpretation of facts.

All history is revisionist compared with the previous generation of historians.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:13:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, the strange American "liberals" who had no influence on post-war Europe - insignificants like FDR, Marshal, and so on.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:48:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have to look back further than that. WWII was a combination of punitive measures at Versailles - which were a combined US and Euro mistake - and the dead-hand of the Depression, which was almost entirely a US-led calamity.

Elements in the US were also notoriously supportive of Hitler.

Without both of those influences we'd still have an old Europe. It's possible that Weimar, France and the UK might have reached an accomodation more quickly. (That's not entirely convincing because the UK would have had to give up its empire. But it might well have fallen apart eventually anyway - it would have just taken longer.)

So it's ridiculous to suggest that the US saved Europe. What the US did was help destroy Europe, and then build a pro-US buffer zone to contain the USSR. Washington has always considered Europe important strategically, but a struggling backwater economically, and current narratives are an extension of a half century of this paternalistic bias.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 05:36:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, my point was that the thesis that "liberal" in the sense of Hayek and friends was influential on Europe while "liberal" in the "strange American sense" was not, was ahistorical.

However, your analysis seems to me to be all too typical of post-war "we know nothing" Euro-excusism. The US was founded as a European colony and is currently the successor state in a series that goes something like Portugal, Spain, Holland, UK, US in which various European states take the lead in pillaging the rest of the world. The WWI period involves Germany attempting to take the lead role from the UK and failing as the US pushed its way to the front. UK Post WWI leaders, like Chamberlin, considered re-armed Germany to be a bulwark against the USSR and, to be crass about it, there was no support for Hitler in the US on the level of e.g. the Petainists.

The current tendency of Europeans to look around the planet, wide-eyed, and waving their hands in disgust at that nasty US engaging in hitherto unknown practices, is truly silly.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:04:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think once the US becomes an ex-empire there will be no nation left in the world that hasn't had a fall from hubris and maybe, just maybe, a better international system will ensue.

Europeans are just sick and tired of empire, and the two world wars were the nail in the coffin of that.

Though I do agree pretending we had nothing to do with it is silly. I hope I don't, I just think "been there, done that, done with that". For what it's worth, Spain is not fully recovered from the moral disaster that was its Empire, and it's been 300 years since it fell from hubris.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:10:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think once the US becomes an ex-empire there will be no nation left in the world that hasn't had a fall from hubris

There is still China...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:24:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You've got to be joking.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:26:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that China has had a long enough rest to be ready to wear the hubristic crown, but perhaps you are right.in which the depredations of the internal robbers helps generate a desperation that can be pointed at the project of reducing the rest of the world to the same situation

Empire is a wonderful Ponzi scheme .

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:30:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Edited into total senselessness above. Perhaps I'll try to make it into sense sometime.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:31:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was in China watching TV when their Secretary of State made their announcement that they were not going to back the US in its incursion into Iraq. She made quite a erudite and wonderful speech - largely ignored I presume, anyplace except there. There didn't seem to be a trace then of any empire building.

My theory is that China is going out of its way to avoid the situation that Japan got itself into when it was first in-the-money in the 80s. They certainly are creating enough engineers to attack any problem that they have with resources, and they certainly have enough problems to deal with internally to keep them busy creating solutions for a working society.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 04:42:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Relative decline is only important because they're stuck in the mindset of a once precocious bully who mourns for the days when he ruled the playground by strength and is upset that his old victims are now equally strong.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:51:03 AM EST
But if Europe does not create widely shared prosperity, it will fail.

I think we can all agree on this. But does he?

by Torres on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:01:10 AM EST
For some reason he believes the Free Market™ will provide the sharing mechanism.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:03:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Invisible "Robin Hood" Hand. Yes, i've heard of it...
by Torres on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:26:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Treaty of Rome involved Germany, France, Italy and the BeNeLux. We have always been told by French and German politicians that the motivation of the EU was to ensure peace. To the likes of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman in the 1950's, to be living under the US umbrella didn't seem reassuring enough because they claimed that the Coal and Steel Community was necessary precisely in order to prevent France and Germany from getting into a war over those resources. This is the old narrative, and Martin Wolf dispatches it thus:
This history puts in context one of the most common false propositions about the EU: that it has ensured peace. Europe neither created the conditions for the postwar peace nor preserved it. US power did both. Yet the prosperity created by European integration, under the US umbrella, made the free and democratic west an irresistible magnet to the east.
As for the role of the Anglo-Saxons, never mind that the Anglo-Saxons didn't join the EU until 20 years in, and that they did so because of the failure of the EFTA, the European Free Trade Agreement to measure up to the economic success of the European Economic Community.

Free trade vs. Economic Community... Hmm.

Anyway, a famous quip about scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts is that the way new scientific ideas gain acceptance is that the old scientists die off and the old ideas die with them.

What is happening here is that the generation that built the EEC in the post-war period has died off, taking the old narrative with them. We are inheriting the narrative built during the Reagan-Thatcher years, because there was no other alternative developed since then. Wolf's article is a prime example of the new narrative.

So, I suppose we have to do two things:

  1. build and forcefully press for an alternative narrative to the one presented here;
  2. wait for the Thatcherite generation to die off.


"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:11:37 AM EST
How do we accelerate your item 2?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:35:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By getting rid off all benefits for the elderly?

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:42:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Forget about that and get cracking on #1. And it's not about facts, it's about narratives. You have to have tons of charts at your fingertips so you can bury your opponennt in a debate if necessary, but the message is not the facts.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:43:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Re:#2:

People like the Jackal cost money. Sell a lot of wind deals, and factor in inflation:

The Jackal: Half a million. In cash. Half in advance, and half on completion.

Montclair: Half a million francs?

The Jackal: Dollars.

Montclair: Are you mad?

The Jackal: Considering you expect to get France in return, I'd have thought it a reasonable price.

I'll think up a few questions about EEC and hit you folks with them on an open thread.

Much behind the learning curve here, but am interested in how&why EEC came about, and why any sovereign nation would want to give up even a portion of its sovereignty.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 02:30:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EEC has its origins in the work of Robert Schuman an Jean Monnet and in the European Coal and Steel Community. At least that's what we continentals have been led to believe, which thanks to Martin Wolf we now know is a lie.

As for why anyone would want to give up part of their sovereignty, I suggest the Inca empire, the Swiss Confederation, the Continental Congress (and, later, the Texas Republic) as famous examples of voluntary (partial) surrender of sovereignty.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 02:43:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see the roots of the EC even further in the past: the first true European was Napoleon Bonaparte, who unified all continental Europe under a single rule by force. In the course of just a decade, he lifted all the legal systems (which where often fragmented inside countries and directly inherited from feudal middle ages) to the standard of the Code Civil (which most have kept under slightly different names although they only grudgindly acknowledge it of course, ask an international lawyer...), normalized all units of trade with the metric system, and eventually paved the way for other heroes of each national folklore who had a ball uniting their countries later (talk about Bismarck, Victor Emmanuel... for all the good it eventually did to France and Europe)

Of course, he resorted to politically incorrect ways like e.g. behead 10 000 until no-one disagrees anymore, but clearly the worst of all was his mania for a Strong State. Ergo, he can't be on the radar of the liberals: as we all know, strong states never have any durable and tangible results, only bloated spendings (this may indeed happen).

Pierre

by Pierre on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 04:25:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I've pointed out before, it was interesting to realise that among the 20's and 30's Irish political elite it was assumed that European unity was coming, and not not necessarily by military force.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 04:52:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fourth, invest in the creation of ideas. (...) Continental Europe's show the disastrous effects of nationalisation [of universities].

Really I shouldn't let this kind of comment get me going, but it's incredibly depressing. A clear majority of innovation in the world has been enabled by publicly funded research. That is as true in the US as anywhere. They have lots of private universities, but the successful ones are all suckling at the DARPA and DoD teats.

I think there are huge difficulties in the EU university sector, but virtually none of them can be solved without introducing US levels of government spending on research.

Certainly people who recommend privatisation betray a complete lack of understanding of the role of universities, including US universities, in the past 50 years of innovation.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:29:23 AM EST
Just in case: I wonder where the decline is...



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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:34:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome: Clearly you are not aware of the "factesque" information that China has embraced free enterprise and that it is solely due to the operation of the invisible hand that the Chinese economy has taken off - creating universities, public works programs, and some type of equivalent to enclosures, all without the knowledge or intervention of the Chinese government, an organization that now spends its time sipping tea and marvelling at the activity let loose around them.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:11:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately I can't get to the original article since it's for subscription only, but I wanted to get the (...) that Jerome deleted and hack it to bits. The strength of the public education systems and of the public universities with national standards is undeniable in the quality of the education it produces.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:41:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fourth, invest in the creation of ideas. Europe was the centre of the
intellectual world. Now that centre is the US. The reason is the
dominance of the latter's great universities. Continental Europe's
show the disastrous effects of nationalisation: enforced equality;
entrenched mediocrity; and lack of innovation. Without radical
reform, Europe risks becoming an intellectual backwater.
All I have to say is that the research university model is disastrous for everyone except those at the very top. Sounds familiar?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:56:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and BTW, after 9/11 the US has stopped attracting foreign talent (and erecting barriers to access for that talent it does attract) and is clearly in decline.

In the case of Spain, the problem is not the universities, but that there is nowhere for the large number of excellent graduates to go but low-paying service jobs.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:59:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I ranted about this in response to a Guardian column one day.

The fact is that the US has been the major industrial power of the post-WW2 period. It would be shockingly unusual if this hadn't led to significant portions of the world's innovation and research also being based in the US.

Quite why anyone thinks that the opposite situation is (or was) magically going to change, even with the holy power of the unicorn-fart propelled "Invisible Hand" I don't know...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:45:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean, you've reported on this before, but are there any numbers on this?

During my MSc, I dedicated some time to look up the numbers of public spending in Europe for research and compared it to the goals of the Lisbon Strategy. There is the metric again: GDP. In 2002 - 2003, the Netherlands were complete laggards - just like most of Europe. I think we we're even under the benchmarked lower limit of 3% of GDP. So I raved then quite extensively.

There's a lot of reading to do...

On education, the EU in general seems to do fine. Recently, I found a Progress Report (pdf) at the EC website on the eduction program.


The EU has a higher proportion and
larger absolute numbers of tertiary graduates in these areas than the USA or Japan. However,
it does not fully capitalise on this potential, as it has fewer active researchers (both in absolute
and relative terms) in the labour force than the US or Japan. Europe needs to develop and
increase the attractiveness of its research labour market, in order both to retain and make use
of its own talent and to attract researchers and scientists from outside Europe.

It also concludes, page 21:

As regards research posts, MST graduates face bottlenecks in the labour market,
partly a result of insufficient R&D financing. This also contributes to the tendency
of some of the best brains to leave Europe.

There is more - so at the least it's being noticed and Member States are urged for "strategies". That's a plus.

So I feel the most acute problem for the EU Lisbon strategies is the one you flag - at the very end of the educational chain: Research development. Trouble is, I'm not convinced whether the Research approach of the EC is all sound... There's enough stuff for a whole slew of diaries.

But hell. I am working on the African Renaissance so I should stay out of this anyway...

by Nomad on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 02:30:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As a soon to be alumnus of a Finnish university, I have no complaints with the education I've received. Funding of research projects and the like is a lovely mix of public and private financing, which works out quite well most of the time. YMMV.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:46:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There seems to be a conceptual gap between what the writer of the FTs article means by liberalism and what I understand by the term.

My understanding is that liberalism opposes unjustified concentrations of power. Thus the liberal tradition opposed royal absolutism and disproportionate power for landed elites. It proceeded (at least in the UK) to a critique of mercantalism and protectionism, because it represented an inefficient use of resources and thus did not maximise the happiness of the community. Classical laissez faire liberal economic theory did promote free trade, but theorists like Adam Smith were not blind to the problems of unregulated markets (a meeting of people engaged in a particular trade is likely to end in a conspiracy against the public).

There was a tension between the economic and social aims of liberalism. This was, in practice, addressed by the use of the power of the state to regulate trade so as to protect the general public (for example the legislation in the 1840s to control the liquidity of banks) and the use of government to provide for the destitute (the new poor law of the 1830s, which harsh as it may have been was a breach in the principle of laissez faire economics and limited state power).

Developments in social liberalism eventually extended the role of the state, in the line of development which led to the welfare state.

A critique of big government as a danger to liberty has developed since the Second World War. However it seems the theorists of this approach have emphasised economic freedom at the expense of social liberty, without which for most people freedom is a pretty meaningless concept.

 

by Gary J on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:55:50 AM EST
Martin Wolf clearly hasn't read any of the original works of the 19th century English liberals like Smith, Ricardo or Mill. Which is only natural considering he's an Oxford-trained economist.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:01:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oxford liberalism seems to come down to:

  1. I can do whatever I want
  2. Fuck you

Obviously, you don't need to read much to understand that as a philosophy.

But I think people need to understand that FreeMarketTM ideology is neither about markets nor about freedom.

What it's really about is centralisation and the building of oligopolies.

It's really bureaucratic Sovietism in an expensive suit. Often it's as state-funded and state-directed as anything you'd have had from a five year plan.

We have some of the best examples in the UK, where - for example - NHS privatisation has been based on legally locking in certain suppliers on a monopoly basis, so that local trusts have no choice about who they buy services from.

The resulting monopolies are hugely profitable for the service suppliers, because they've effectively eliminated all competition and the customers have no leverage to negotiate better prices elsewhere.

You'll see the same pattern repeating itself over and over. FT-style marketistas hate real competition. What they want in practice is state-sponsored monopolies that suck resources from those with less political power.

This is probably what Wolf means by 'law governed.'

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 05:51:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's really bureaucratic Sovietism in an expensive suit.

Ah, IngSoc!

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:05:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Braudel points out that Capitalists traditionally hate markets.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:14:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So did Adam Smith:
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.


"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:22:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was under the impression that a Master of Philosophy degree from a respectable humanities university like Oxford would mean something. I'm so hopelessly naïve.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:20:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is someone who shows that you can not only get degrees, but even teach at Oxford without knowing a single true thing.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 06:36:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It does mean something. It means you can get a job at the FT writing nonsense like this.

In terms of philosophical credibility though - maybe not so much.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 07:13:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And here you are giving Jospin all the credit for those jobs, when Les Echos are telling me, today, in eulogizing the President sortant, that

(Chirac) a entamé des réformes indispensables comme celle des retraites...(et) il a engrangé quelques résultats indéniables comme la décrue du chômage.

I bet Pearson plc is more than happy to find folks to translate its drivel into French language, and suspect they have a relatively easy time of it, and not just in French. All this inevitability, after all. And it is inevitable, of course, until it is no longer.

Man, it's hard to fight doublespeak when it's in so many languages.


The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:04:45 PM EST
Les Echos isn't aware of the controversy over the INSEE employment survey? What a pity...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 04:19:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what are the priorities for the EU and, far more, its member states over the next half century? Let me stress the economic ones. I do so not because economics is all that matters. But
because that's all he knows about and all that the FT is interested in.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:06:37 PM EST
Words fail me...

What a pompous priggish pedant pouring out propaganda with precious pretentiousness!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:10:29 PM EST
A tribute to Pi Day!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:14:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You remind me of:
You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, fuck-face, dickhead, asshole.


"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 06:05:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Alltime best pot ever.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 06:56:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
errrr, that would be post.

ah, if only...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 06:57:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / Columnists / Martin Wolf - Why liberalism is the right future for a declining Europe
These liberal powers finally defeated the continent's army of poisonous anti-liberal ideas: ultra-nationalism; fascism; Nazism and communism.

Fascism is "continental" and democracy is "Anglo-Saxon"? So, Oswald Mosley was French? Henry Ford, Italian? and Montesquieu English?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:28:20 PM EST
The intervention of Anglo-Saxons?  I suppose that's true of Britain, of course, but I'd hardly consider (more Irish and German than English) America, or the Soviet Union, in the case of WWII, to be Anglo-Saxon countries.  So what's Wolf on about?  It doesn't make sense on the Cold War side either, since, last I checked, America -- granting Wolf, for simplicity, his premise that the US is Anglo-Saxon -- and the UK were hardly the only members of the anti-communist West.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 02:18:26 PM EST


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