Thursday, September 20, 2007

If You Have a Big Column, Why Do You Blog?

That's a question for Paul Krugman, and a lot of other folks too. When do you actually get to think? Or read? Do you need more attention than you already have?

Maybe the idea is if that if you produce more words, you will have more influence over people with power. It is kind of amazing to see how little

More Krugman is generally a good thing, though his title is horrible - The Conscience of a Liberal. The allusion is to "The Conscience of a Conservative," a book by 1964 Republican presidential candidate and Arizona arch-conservative Barry Goldwater. Both "liberal" and "conservative" should be banned in America for 10 years, until people can have a few political ideas that don't involve either of them.

Good things about Krugman:
  • he hates economic oligarchy. When he's not stressing golden age bipartisanship, he's a class war kind of guy. Look at the chart, which shows the percentage of total income that goes to the top 10% in a given year. The post war period was when the top 10% only got about a third of national income.

  • he ties political democracy to economic equality. Can't have one without the other. He's right.
  • he thinks policies create both Gilded Ages (tax cuts, service cuts) and democratic ones. Yes again. He could be a lot clearer about how people don't first earn money and then the government either does or doesn't redistribute it. Governments - the rules of the economic game - largely determines who earns how much. No I'm not denying individual effort. I'm denying that life occurs in a vacuum, especially salary-producing life.
  • he implies we could have a more egalitarian and democratic US. It's a lovely thought.
If he were very clear about the limits of that period (racism galore, crazy, dangerous homophobia, Cold War militarism, gross gender inequality) - he'd be even better.

Perry Anderson addresses the ties between politics and economics in a great, long piece on Europe in the London Review of Books. He elaborates on absence of any kind of popular input into the operation of the European Commission, which elaborates endless rules that governments must follow. He then writes,
There was from the beginning a third vision of what European integration should mean, distinct from either federalist or inter-governmentalist conceptions of the Community. Its far-sighted theorist was Hayek, who even before the Second World War had envisaged a constitutional structure raised sufficiently high above the nations composing it to exclude the danger of any popular sovereignty below impinging on it. In the nation-state, electorates were perpetually subject to dirigiste and redistributive temptations, encroaching on the rights of property in the name of democracy. But once heterogeneous populations were assembled in an inter-state federation, as he called it, they would not be able to re-create the united will that was prone to such ruinous interventions. Under an impartial authority, beyond the reach of political ignorance or envy, the spontaneous order of a market economy could finally unfold without interference.
Unregulated markets and non-democracy not only work together, but are in Hayek and elsewhere advocated by the same people. "Freedom to Choose" conservatism means individual consumer choice, not collective sovereignty. The latter is something that the Right almost invariably fights.

I meant to say something nice about President Rupture for a change, and it's not too late. Sarkozy is trying to browbeat the European Central Bank into having some concern about the effect of its policies on France and its people. He has some bad reasons for this, but the basic idea is right - banks shouldn't govern people's economic lives like unapproachable dictators.

To see why this matters, read Anderson, and think about the ongoing thawing of the world financial system, which remains largely an invisible empire with real effect.

No comments: