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Insights from conservatives

by cagatacos Tue May 17th, 2011 at 07:38:19 AM EST

A small entry just to link to a (in my most humble opinion) insightful piece from Toby Young at the Torygraph.

It's not just the Labour Party - the Left is in meltdown all over Europe

While most of the piece is about emigration (an argument that I would recommend reading), I cite here the part that I think is most interesting:

Ultimately, the reason for the left's political failure is the intellectual vacuum at the heart of the Left-wing project, the absence of an intellectually robust alternative to free-market capitalism.

I actually disagree with this, but it is a good start. The vacuum is not intellectual, it is moral: The modern left is mostly concerned with giving more access to consumer goods to the supposedly "have-nots". Considering the standard of living in Europe, I speculate that most of the Euro middle classes have more consuming goods than the fair share that can be possible distributed with resources of Earth divided by 7 Billion.

frontpaged with minor edit - Nomad


Having lived myself (with reasonable confort) with less than 900 euros a month for a couple of years, I am forced to ask it demanding for more money for the European middle classes (and 900 Euros is clearly Euro-low, not middle) is not just a variation of greed?

Shouldn't the main priorities be completely different: more free time, less unemployment (very compatible with more free time - work sharing), economic security, pleasure at work being more important than ever-increasing productivity, ...

At the suggestion of cutting salaries of 2500 Euros for 20% (Note: in a country where the minimum wage is 500!) in exchange for employing a proportional number of people (to cut unemployment), "left wing" people that I know get shocked at this suggestion. With such moral deviation it is quite normal that right wing parties are gaining: there is no moral misalignment. It is all variations of greed.

Wake me up when unions are common workers are fighting for the right of their fellow citizens to gainful employment (even if at the expense of their own financial advantage).

Until then I see two alternatives:

  1. We question some of our historical beliefs - e.g. a) ever eternal increase of purchasing power in a affluent society b) The atomization of relationships c) Conceiving Humans as anything more than consumers

  2. We perish.

Clearly, it is pretty obvious where this is going...

Display:
In my country, from the extreme right to the extreme left, all talk about strategies to reboot economic GROWTH. The unions want to maintain or increase salaries. The conservative party thinks (and probably correctly) that it can gain votes by promising no salary cuts to civil servants (in exchange of only 1 admission for every 5 retirements).

1 admission for every 5 retirements. Think about the impact of that in the quality of public services and unemployment. But it is seen as a good strategy...

by cagatacos on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 01:57:02 AM EST
And before somebody says that an alternative solution would be for the upper classes to contribute more, I say:

  1. That battle seems to be lost (for now). The backup strategy seems to be the how to better share the crumbles. To avoid desperation of parts of the population.

  2. Even if the battle is won in the future, I believe that the idea of making an effort (and being directly involved in) for the community is fundamental for any society based on solidarity.
by cagatacos on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 02:00:21 AM EST
That battle seems to be lost (for now).

Actually I think that battle - or war, rather - is just getting started.

It's one thing when it happens in far-off barely European places like Greece. It's another when it's affecting you and your friends personally.

Even if the battle is won in the future, I believe that the idea of making an effort (and being directly involved in) for the community is fundamental for any society based on solidarity.

You can't legislate solidarity. Perhaps the main intellectual failing of the Left is the lack of understanding that some people want to be exploitative predators. They'll be predators under whatever political system happens to be around at the time.

If it's nominally left-wing, they'll simply use that as a cover, with a different set of narratives to the ones we have now.

Until you define predation as a recognisable set of behaviours and relationships rather than a political position it's going to be difficult to prevent this.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 12:35:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Under what definition of "community", by the way?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 12:41:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Something local. Not easy to define. But I would be tempted to put it a the town level. Or a the city level. Not much bigger.
by cagatacos on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 10:38:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As if free-market capitalism was intellectually robust!

The problem is not the lack of an equivalently robust alternative, but that the left fears, probably correctly, that the alternatives simply can't survive the media environment that exists. And/or they themselves don't want to pay the price of the alternatives. All politics is personal, and the personal cost in a world where ones  status is directly linked to ones material display is too high for most people.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 05:27:20 AM EST
In the early '90s when I observed that the company for which I worked could survive even if we just maintained current contract volume I was given to understand that, if I persisted in such views, I might be looking for other employment. In fact, they did cut back when required by reduced work volume, but they always maintained the attitude that growth was necessary, even if it did not involve hiring more "core" high wage individuals. I suspect it will take at least a decade of high unemployment to dent this presumption.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 09:52:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A few years ago I was talking to a friend who ran his own business. He admitted he didn't know any other way to run a business than to grow it.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 09:54:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I get that kind of things very often.
We get objectives, of course. Then I point out that it's impossible to achieve them with the current structure -or indeed with a slightly bigger one.

I keep getting answers that "oh but you need to sell so much, but they can be produced next year". Yes, but well since everything is over a year... we can probably use that as a proxy? But no, because we can grow!
The thing is, to reach the objectives, you need to more than double in size. They don't seem to see the problem

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 04:48:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh my I can see it's impossible to understand.
We must win projects, and we must produce projects. So we have a number of days for that -and over a certain rate you simply don't win projects anymore, so you have some sort of maximum daily rate.

And we have nowhere enough production days for the sales objectives.
I'm told: "but you can hire". But of course, new recruits will have commercial objectives too...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 04:54:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A new hire is like a new child in a family. Overall productivity drops as the newcomer absorbs attention.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 05:59:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, I suppose you agree that all humans should have access to the same living standard?

So, we give them the average living standard than average Europeans enjoy (from your words I assume that you do not agree that scaling down is needed, neither morally nor environmentally...)

3 billion cars (and the oil to go with it, plus the metals), Ipads, Playstation 3, flight vacations, ...

I suggest that maintaining the current standard of living is neither possible NOR desirable.

I remember playing checkers with my grandfather when I was a kid. I now have a Wii. Interestingly I derived more pleasure from playing checkers.

And what about learning a simple musical instrument instead of listening to the latest fad (mainstream or alternative)? Play it to your neighbours. Play it to yourself. In case of simple instruments you can even learn to build it yourself.

A completely different view of the world. On what fullfills life.

Less Prozac.

by cagatacos on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:01:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
from your words I assume that you do not agree that scaling down is needed, neither morally nor environmentally...

That is not what Colman said.

What he said is that the politics of the left need to survive in the current media environment and need to satisfy the expectations of the politicians about their own personal position.

Which makes "degrowth" a hard sell to the public and a hard bullet to bite for the politicians who would push it.

Which has nothing to do with the necessity or morality of scaling down, just with its political expediency.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:13:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, then let me rephrase that: I do not see "the left" in general defending degrowth. Unions here protect teachers that make 3000-5000 Euros (The salary of a Uni teacher can go up to 5000, maybe less now with 10% cuts).

I never saw a union here suggesting: "OK, if we cannot get more salary mass, then cut individual salaries, but employ the unemployed".

The degrowth, pain sharing approach simply does not exist.

It is moral very similar to what the right proposes. It is just a question of which group gets more money.

I have to dash now, but later I would also like to comment on the "media thing".

by cagatacos on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:21:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
cagatacos:
I never saw a union here suggesting: "OK, if we cannot get more salary mass, then cut individual salaries, but employ the unemployed".

The unemployment persists under leftist governments because they accept a neolibierlad dogma about the necessity of unemployment. For a state, there is no lack of fiat money, nor can there be a lack fiat money other then by political rules. So there is no need to either lower salaries in order to be able to employ.

If the recently hired does not delivered goods and services in proportion to what they are awarded by their new salary you get some inflation. But compared to the resource scarcity inflation it should be small change.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 03:06:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The thing is that hourly wage has to keep pace with hourly productivity. Otherwise, you get into bubble territory.

So the only way you can reduce total wages if productivity is increasing is to reduce hours worked. And since productivity increases mainly due to capital accumulation and gains from scale, this will tend to reduce productivity gains, and thus reduce the gain in free time compared to the possible gain in goods produced. And raw material shortages happen to "someone else." Usually - not always, but usually - someone who has no name and has no face and lives in some far-off place.

Is it possible? Yes. But politically very difficult.

And we have low-hanging fruit from efficiency gains that we can harvest before we need to make genuinely difficult decisions.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 04:59:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is missing from many people's lives is a sense of completion, and the celebration of completion. I've worked all my life on creative projects that at some point are 'finished'. The blood sweat and tears are there in the end product - there is a positive, visible result to creative effort. It is an enormous satisfaction and one I've always felt privileged to enjoy.

Of course it's not confined to the 'creative industries': I was driving round Helsinki with a builder once and he was proud to point out all the building projects he'd worked on - and he was a plasterer. There are lots of examples of the pride that people have in what they do, but for many also there is no end result, no completion, no celebration. The job goes on from year to year, and there is little sense of progress or achievement - little sense of "I helped do that". There is little 'dignity' in doing such work without end.

The frustrations of playing computer games come from a computer's indefatigability - it never ends, it never gives up: it's you against the machine, and, ultimately, you are going to lose.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:26:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You haven't played computer games much in the last decade or two, have you?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:35:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's part of my work to track the market. I play most of the key games at least once. The latest has been the new Nintendo 3D. I do a lot of voices for Finnish games, and I am particularly involved in MMORPG systems.

My comment still stands.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 01:25:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I will certainly being playing LA Noir in the near future, but I probably won't be interested in it as a game - more for the potential impact on moviemaking.

My guess is that within 5 years we'll be watching movies in theatres generated in RT, with the action and characters influenced interactively by the audience. If I knew how, I could be another worthless millionaire, but someone will solve it.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 01:34:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That was the good part of being a trial lawyer; I got the completion from the final arguments (and the "feedback" from the jury.)

Same thing with investigations or even writing a screenplay; a completed report or script is a very good feeling (though screenplays are never really finished, especially if you don't market them and they aren't produced.)

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 01:41:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, I suppose you agree that all humans should have access to the same living standard?

Yes.

So, we give them the average living standard than average Europeans enjoy

Grief no. Rather better than that if we can manage it.

(from your words I assume that you do not agree that scaling down is needed, neither morally nor environmentally...)

I have no idea what you mean by "morally" here: it appears to be a misanthropic judgement on how other people live.

The question of resource constraints is another matter. To a first approximation it seems that a standard of living more-or-less equivalent to mine (probably not with horses though) isn't unreasonable. We drive one small car (which we'd rather not, really) we travel a little, not a lot, we use public transport when possible, we have a modest house, eat well, buy nice things but not a lot of them. Various calculators claim that if everyone were like us we'd need about double the resources we have.

Here's the thing: the system we live in is terribly wasteful in ways I can't fix directly. It takes huge amounts of water to provide us with our tap water because of underinvestment in infrastructure. We drive more than we would like to because the public transport is inadequate. Our carbon footprint is large because fossil fuel power generation was the expedient choice for decades. Efficiency and changing our practices would probably account for half our footprint. The details would change, I suppose, but the standard of living wouldn't drop.


3 billion cars (and the oil to go with it, plus the metals), Ipads, Playstation 3, flight vacations, ...

None of which is an obvious problem if we weren't grossly wasteful.


I suggest that maintaining the current standard of living is neither possible NOR desirable.

Whatever about possibility, you'll find that 95% of people disagree on the desirability.

I remember playing checkers with my grandfather when I was a kid. I now have a Wii. Interestingly I derived more pleasure from playing checkers.

You're playing the Wii with the wrong people then. And confusing tools with experiences.


And what about learning a simple musical instrument instead of listening to the latest fad (mainstream or alternative)? Play it to your neighbours. Play it to yourself. In case of simple instruments you can even learn to build it yourself.

Romantic nonsense.

A completely different view of the world. On what fullfills life.

Go tell that to the rest of the world. They don't want your view of the world, which is the point.


Less Prozac.

Arguable. It always seems to me that the utopias of the puritan anti-technologists are places I'd hate to live. If they'd even suffer my existence.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:34:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

And what about learning a simple musical instrument instead of listening to the latest fad (mainstream or alternative)? Play it to your neighbours. Play it to yourself. In case of simple instruments you can even learn to build it yourself.

Romantic nonsense.

You haven't played much music in the last couple of decades, have you?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:40:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, not what I do. But it's not what I must do either.

The idea that huge numbers of humans ever did it is romantic nonsense. Maybe 20% of people at peak?

The implied vision I get here - and this is the fault of having been exposed to Irish national mythology no doubt - is of lots of lovely little villagers gathered around their fires playing music and lovely lassies dancing reels at the crossroads. We're rapidly heading for Father Ted territory.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:45:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is to say: feel free to learn a musical instrument. Go play with your friends, if they can bear it. But don't try to claim moral superiority on that basis.

I'll listen to it when it becomes the latest fad.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:47:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the point wasn't that everyone should go buy a drum, more that everyone should stop considering consumption a valid substitute for a life.

It's the idea that civilisation always means Moar Stuff, and the inalienable right to buy same, that's suspect.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 12:38:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Here's the thing: the system we live in is terribly wasteful in ways I can't fix directly. It takes huge amounts of water to provide us with our tap water because of underinvestment in infrastructure. We drive more than we would like to because the public transport is inadequate. Our carbon footprint is large because fossil fuel power generation was the expedient choice for decades

like waking up to find you're stuck in amber...or alive in a coffin.

sins of the fathers...

'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 Wed May 11th, 2011 at 08:11:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would like to have more time to answer (silly me of putting up a diary in the middle of a massive workload).

But the short story is:

If liking to play music is "romantic". If people want always "more". If people want to be "consumers". Then we, as a species, are screwed. Maybe we are (in that case, good riddance).

I thought I was the uber-pessimist around, but clear I am not.

I believe most of our current "desires" were invented (See Edward Bernays - There is a Beeb mini-series about this guy, mostly).

The reason we are Over-Prozaced is precisely because this "modern lifestyle" is at odds with our nature.

by cagatacos on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 10:49:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most cannot really control how their behaviours develop: that's the main problem. It takes quite an effort to avoid being programmed by a reinforcing environment. Sadly, the tools to avoid being programmed are taught poorly, if at all.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 12:03:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No one can, as far as I can tell.

Tools can help you soften the impact, but I don't think they can negate it entirely - see the effects of being exposed to propaganda even when you know it for what it it.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 12:22:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly to the extent that new behaviours themselves evolve from previous sourcing behaviours. But the cerebellum et al don't always come up with clear cut behavioural responses. There are after-the-fact options that are open to apparently conscious choice.

Of course you can argue that those options are not chosen, but also behaviourally driven.

It's a mindfield out there...

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 01:50:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the "revolutions" that I think it is needed is one on education. Let me explain.

Education seems to be mostly defined by "enlightenment" values: Humans are capable of full knowledge, society is there to help and so on.

Humans are actually quite limited creatures (from a cognitive perspective). And easily manipulated. There should be massive educational time dedicated to teach people to deal with their shortcomings and how they can be manipulated.

Bias, self-delusion. Use of misleading arguments. Coping with uncertainty. Coping with lack of knowledge (and the possible inability to acquire such knowledge). Falacies. This things can be taught to a large extent.

Spend much time not on knowledge based learning, but the opposite: learn how not to be (self) deceived, learn how to learn. Learn how ones feelings can cloud judgment. And so on.

Teach people on how to deal with their own shortcomings.

It is not perfection, but we can do better.

by cagatacos on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 01:29:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"None of which is an obvious problem if we weren't grossly wasteful."

Er... really? 3 billion cars? 6 billion flight vacations? I can't see that being manageable. You may try to avoid being wasteful but a plane needs to lift close to a ton per passenger, 10kms high. That alone is a huge energy consumption -and it won't ever be solar...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 06:24:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Individual cars are wasteful. Why don't we have shared ones and good public transport?  

You don't need to fly for your vacations, in the main. You just need a good train service. (I might need to fly - it may never make economic sense to run a train from the UK to Dublin, but that's another matter.) Not flying wouldn't affect the quality of life.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 06:26:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With good boat and train services it would probably be feasible to go about anywhere in the world but Australia in a dozen days, meaning that with labor time reduction allowing long vacations long range travel would still be thinkable...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 04:40:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That too.

The point is that the details may need to change, but that doesn't really change the standard of living.

We don't need to kill air travel completely, just stop using it for pointless short-haul and overland stuff.

Anyway, I haven't flown anywhere in two years or so.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 03:35:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Anyway, I've heard this speech before.
The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit - a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live. With the tidings that make such an Ireland possible, St. Patrick came to our ancestors fifteen hundred years ago promising happiness here no less than happiness hereafter. It was the pursuit of such an Ireland that later made our country worthy to be called the island of saints and scholars. It was the idea of such an Ireland - happy, vigorous, spiritual - that fired the imagination of our poets; that made successive generations of patriotic men give their lives to win religious and political liberty; and that will urge men in our own and future generations to die, if need be, so that these liberties may be preserved.

A land of enforced conformity, of subservience to all authority, of hidden abuses and of massive inequality is what we got. Excuse my cynicism.  

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:58:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
our historical beliefs - e.g. a) ever eternal increase of purchasing power in a affluent society b) The atomization of relationships c) Conceiving Humans as anything more than consumers

These are all results that flow from making the society a function of the economy rather than insisting that the economy be a function of the society. In The Great Transformation Polanyi notes that successful resistance to these demands has, in the past, served to slow the process to a rate at which the social fabric can be preserved through the changes.

While Polanyi's work was published in 1944 it remains highly relevant and is an easy read. I guess lessons not learned often remain relevant.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:00:28 AM EST
European Tribune - Insights from conservatives
At the suggestion of cutting salaries of 2500 Euros for 20% (Note: in a country where the minimum wage is 500!) in exchange for employing a proportional number of people (to cut unemployment), "left wing" people that I know get shocked at this suggestion.

It is not true that socialists didn't try to reduce the work week before they got a severe case of neoclassic fungal brain infection

And I don't think such a scheme is a reasonable on the union level. In a way that is already the implied quid for pro that German unions signed up for the last decade. Keep your job, work for less.
It lead to surging profits invested in bubbly financial gambles, huge imbalances in the Eurozone including exported unemployment and in extremis state sponsored consumption like the car exchange program.

by generic on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 11:29:46 AM EST
The issue is with income differentials and the differences in political power they create.

Where status is measured by the ability to consume and dominate, suggesting to people they should consume and dominate less without also undermining that culture and the people who represent it, sell it, promote it and try to personify it doesn't seem like an entirely good plan.

Shrinking the differentials on its own isn't a bad idea. But voluntarily increasing them is unlikely to work, unless there's major shift in the value narrative at the same time.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 12:41:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt | The New York Review of Books

Many European countries have long practiced something resembling social democracy: but they have forgotten how to preach it. Social democrats today are defensive and apologetic. Critics who claim that the European model is too expensive or economically inefficient have been allowed to pass unchallenged. And yet, the welfare state is as popular as ever with its beneficiaries: nowhere in Europe is there a constituency for abolishing public health services, ending free or subsidized education, or reducing public provision of transport and other essential services.

I want to challenge conventional wisdom on both sides of the Atlantic. To be sure, the target has softened considerably. In the early years of this century, the "Washington consensus" held the field. Everywhere you went there was an economist or "expert" expounding the virtues of deregulation, the minimal state, and low taxation. Anything, it seemed, that the public sector could do, private individuals could do better.

The Washington doctrine was everywhere greeted by ideological cheerleaders: from the profiteers of the "Irish miracle" (the property-bubble boom of the "Celtic Tiger") to the doctrinaire ultra-capitalists of former Communist Europe. Even "old Europeans" were swept up in the wake. The EU's free- market project (the so-called "Lisbon agenda"); the enthusiastic privatization plans of the French and German governments: all bore witness to what its French critics described as the new " pensée unique."

Today there has been a partial awakening. To avert national bankruptcies and wholesale banking collapse, governments and central bankers have performed remarkable policy reversals, liberally dispersing public money in pursuit of economic stability and taking failed companies into public control without a second thought. A striking number of free-market economists, worshipers at the feet of Milton Friedman and his Chicago colleagues, have lined up to don sackcloth and ashes and swear allegiance to the memory of John Maynard Keynes.

This is all very gratifying. But it hardly constitutes an intellectual revolution. Quite the contrary: as the response of the Obama administration suggests, the reversion to Keynesian economics is but a tactical retreat.

by Nomad on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 05:13:15 PM EST
Also includes:

Well worth a read. (Although is it enough to publish books now?)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 05:35:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
(Although is it enough to publish books now?)

whatever you're doing, it is patently not enough, just look at the state of things!

(c)rap videos are The Way Forward

'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 Wed May 11th, 2011 at 08:30:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jimmy Carter demonstrated the problem with telling the public unpalatable news. It is possible, I believe, to have a moral position without leading with the hair shirt. We still do, (just?), have the possibility of a sustainable future and the fact that we have been unable to convince the obtuse majority of the dangers of the path we are currently following does not mean we are exempt from the duty to continue to do and to attempt what IS possible. After all people of the age of the younger cohort on ET will potentially be around for another 50 to 60 years and it is impossible to say what kinds of societies the extremely complex world system will we have now will produce in even another twenty five years, which, optimistically , I could live to see.

Those with children and grandchildren often become more concerned with the world those children and grandchildren will inherit. This should be encouraged. Building a sustainable future IS a moral position. We do not have to know how quickly fossil fuels will be depleted or how high the seas will rise to advocate for the most sustainable future possible, especially when it is only a little more expensive than the least sustainable future possible. Nor would it be inherently repugnant to advocate for the most sustainable future with the highest possible standard of living. Better to fall short in attaining a desirable goal that CAN be sold to the public than to fail to sell the idea that we have to expect and settle for less.

The only thing we have to use less of is non-renewable resources. It is lack of vision that would condemn us to a markedly bleaker future. We have not seriously, as societies, attempted to find out how well we can live renewably. Advocating to find out IS a moral position.

Likewise, it is conservative to maintain rule of law in our societies and that is manifestly failing due to the disproportionate power and influence of the very wealthy. Better to advocate for enforcement of the law on the grounds that the alternative is either anarchy or dictatorship and succeed than to argue that it is only fair that the wealthy be taxed and their power diminished on grounds of fairness. We can make a good argument that THERE IS NO ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE TO THE RULE OF LAW.

Current events provide ample arguments that there are no good alternatives to rule of law and that, at the highest levels of our society, behavior has become so lawless that the norms of our society preclude lawful behavior in many areas of business and government, per Gresham's Law. And it is not as though this lawlessness is producing a stable, growing economy. Allowing our societies to be run by pirates is inherently wasteful and indulgent of the excesses of the piratical elites. Stopping that lawless squandering of precious resources and the resultant blighting of lives IS a moral position.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 10:22:53 PM EST
European Tribune - Insights from conservatives
The vacuum is not intellectual, it is moral: The modern left is mostly concerned with giving more access to consumer goods to the supposedly "have-nots". Considering the standard of living in Europe, I speculate that most of the Euro middle classes have more consuming goods than the fair share that can be possible distributed with resources of Earth divided by 7 Billion.

There is an intellectual and moral problem that makes the left loose elections: the acceptance of sacrificing some as unemployed to the angry god of markets and the lack of an economic narrative confronting this practise. As long as the left refuses to use the state as employer of last resort, the existence of a large unemployed group will be used as an argument against the position of the employed as well as a starting point for various campaigns against the lazy poor.

I agree that the living-standard of Europe is unsustainable, and I think that radical change is needed. But I do not think this is why the left is losing elections. The idea of down-sizing is not that popular.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:00:08 AM EST
I have seen quite enough to descend to a most basic suspicion: total corruption or suicidal collusion of the left leaders in the West, and then by "expert" advice or intimidation everywhere else basically. Yeah, that reeks of New World Order stepstones. But even a shallow conspiracy is feasible: infiltrate the leftish parties, push through media and from inside own men to the top, lull their core and base to a comfortable feeling of being represented, and then slowly turn around.

This looks like a helpless picture. But let's face it: the push towards this free market capitalism was very consistent, well organized and rather unopposed in the last 20-30 years. The left politics just stopped evolving - it actually reversed its holdings and sophistication, devolved. This makes most sense as an artificial, directed process. Now, we nerds here can hardly do anything to reverse the tide (if we ever tried to act). We just have a chance to foresee more objectively whether this is going further, take care of ourselves, and perhaps a bit more.

by das monde on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 03:04:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
how we envision the good life. it needn't be defined by wastefulness or gadgets or keeping up with the joneses. it doesn't even have to be hard to attain, if defined right.

most of our waste is done at the top, anyway, so redistributing the crumbs doesn't really deal with the problem. what is needed in a combination of levelling, and then a rethinking of life for us peons as well so that the good life works for most people, and is not dependent upon overconsumption of scarce or shrinking resources.

not rocket science, really. it's a matter of how to force those changes through a system that doesn't want to.

by wu ming on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 03:16:27 PM EST
Hilarious.
by Trond Ove on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 09:11:36 AM EST

  I applaud your posting and raising such an important set of issues as you have in this thread.  

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge
by proximity1 on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 09:17:31 AM EST
  I agree that the contemporary Left (like the Right, by the way) is suffering from a moral bankruptcy or, as you put it, a "vacuum" but I don't see how that could happen without, at the same time, there aslo being something of an intellectual vacuum, too.

  As I see the problem, unlike Toby Young, the Left had both intellect and morals (of a sort, at least), and gradually abandoned them, such as they were in favor of what amounted to the sole principle of being constantly on-the-make, with the only allowed principle being that of crass expediency.  This is how I think of the disaster known as "New Labour" and the nightmare years of government administered by Tony Blair and his morally-bankrupt crowd.

   I don't know what Mr. Young's politics are but from the sound of his article it seems to me that he's recommending that the Labour party, in order to save itself and return to vote-winning, should take steps concerning its policies on immigration control which make the Labour party more like the Conservative party.  How convenient--in case Mr. Young is in fact a Tory--to recommend that the opposition party save itself by refashioning itself to be more like its own political opponents.

   Better still, why not just give up, throw it in and have just one party, the Conservative party, with competing factions within--a red-in-tooth-and-claw ultra-ultra-ultra extreme-right-wing conservative faction and other factions, the merely ultra-extreme-right-wing in opposition.  Then Thatcher-like candidates can oppose even harder-core, harder-line ultra-Thatcher candidates, etc.

   I can find other explanations for the perceived voting trends toward the Right.  People, having been brutalized and terrified by political, social and economic policies which were perhaps designed and intended to brutalize and terrify them, policies  akin to putting someone in a box and then gradually shrinking it on him.

   So, Mr. Young counsels,

   "What the Left needs is an intellectual colossus, someone capable of articulating a vision that re-unites the liberal intelligentsia with the traditional working class and persuades them to put the interests of the collective - whether the nation state or something larger and more abstract - before those of their family and their tribe. Ultimately, the reason for the left's political failure is the intellectual vacuum at the heart of the Left-wing project, the absence of an intellectually robust alternative to free-market capitalism."

 and warns that, unless the Left does so,

  "In the meantime, Right-wing and nationalist parties will keep on making gains at the Left's expense."

   But there are entirely worthy alternatives to what Young very disingenuously refers to as "the absence of an intellectually robust alternative to free-market capitalism"---implying at the same time that free-market capitalism as we've known it now for some forty years has given us something other than a stunning series of disasters which have only recently been capped by the still-smarting market debâcle of 2009.  The trouble, I fear, is that Young and his crowd want nothing to do with helping along the very robust alternatives to his ideas of free-market capitalism.  

   His essay puts me in mind of a concentration-camp Kommandant who, surveying the crowded and miserable lot of the prison population, criticizes and deplores the prisoners' shocking morals and selfish behavior, their greedy, cut-throat attempts to stay alive by selling each other out, as he, the Kommandant, orders further cuts in the prisoners' food and clothing rations and demanding from them longer, harsher enforced labor.

 

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 04:39:30 PM EST


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