Project Syndicate carries the following essay by historian, James Livingston..
The Sense of an Ending
Three recent books
by elderly fools who must sense their end is nigh
combine theoretical sophistication and historical method in ways that enable us to rethink majority rule and thus re-imagine the future of democracy. And the most searching of the three calls into question whether that future is compatible with capitalism as we have come to know it.
who is 74
The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism (Penguin Press, 2023)
who is 71
Liberalism and Its Discontents (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022)
who is 84
A World of Insecurity: Democratic Disenchantment in Rich and Poor Countries (Harvard University Press, 2022)
The great bourgeois revolutionaries who invented modernity, from John Milton
who was neither a revolutionary nor bourgeois. He was a man of letters of sound yeoman stock.
to James Madison
a gentleman farmer from Virginia.
to Abraham Lincoln,
Not a revolutionary at all.
didn’t know they were laying the foundations of capitalism.
They weren't. The English 'farmer' was an entrepreneur who combined the other three factors of production. He paid rent to the aristocratic landlord and wages to his laborers. Farmers, like the Miltons, might become scriveners or lawyers or otherwise thrive in the City of London or other centers of Capital.
To be sure, they understood that a money economy – a social system animated by the impending commodification of everything, even labor power – was laying waste to inherited, mostly parochial hierarchies,
That had happened at the time of the 'Black Death'. As for Madison and Lincoln, they did not imagine that their ancestors had spent their time smoking peace pipes rather than chasing after the almighty dollar.
redefining liberty and making the idea of equality a live option.
just like the idea of inequality and the idea of buying a quart of whiskey.
But they would be appalled by a global civilization in which the market is the measure of all things, where everyone finally has a price and each must buy the right not to die.
Very true. It is appalling that James Livingston can be bought and sold by Chinese sodomites. On the other hand, the good news is that some nice God will sell him the right not to die.
No one would be more horrified than Adam Smith, the philosopher-king of the Scottish Enlightenment and the first court poet of bourgeois society.
Alexander Pope was regarded as a philosopher by the same Germans who rated Smith. Pope was a poet. BTW, the bourgeoisie wouldn't have a 'court poet'. They'd have a 'salon poet'.
The leading intellectuals of our time, by contrast, know that capitalism as most of us have experienced it is now in its death throes,
which is good news for Livingston who has been trafficked incessantly by sodomites of different nations.
and that what comes after strongly resembles the mode of production most people call socialism.
They know such things because Karl Marx – like Hegel an admirer of Smith – taught them how to understand modernity as that stage of civilization in which commerce would make constant change, transition itself, an everyday fact of life: “All that is solid melts into air,” as the Communist Manifesto put it.
Communist Revolutions meant peasants being slaughtered and their land collectivized. Then it was the turn of the proles to take it up the arse- unless they could run away.
Just as capitalism superseded feudalism, so capitalism would somehow, some day, give way to something else, because neither its spirit nor its social content reflected fixed properties of human nature.
Things can always turn shittier- that's true enough.
Meanwhile, because the avowed Marxists, at least firebrands like Lenin and Mao, have taught today’s leading intellectuals that the transition from capitalism to socialism would require a revolution, they have learned to fear what seems, especially now, to be an impending if not inevitable future.
Lenin and Mao had armies which slaughtered all opposition to them. Are there are any such revolutionary military forces in Europe or America?
Their consequent silence on the subject explains why it’s easier for the rest of us to imagine the end of the world than to plan on, and prepare for, the end of capitalism.
Which means the end of Academia. If Professors don't get paid, they will have to get by on manual labor.
But Marx himself wasn’t so sure that capitalism would end with the overthrow of the state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, or even armed struggle. As he saw it, “the abolition of capitalist property from within the bounds of capitalist production itself” was the obvious result of corporate capitalism, founded on the twin pillars of joint-stock companies and modern credit, both of which separated ownership and control of private property. A new “socialized mode of production” was already nascent.
But that 'divorce between ownership and control' would be reversed by Institutional Investors who backed a new class of billionaire robber-barons
In the United States nowadays, Republicans seem to agree: “woke” corporations and “traitorous” Democrats are imposing socialism – a “radical left” agenda – on the real America, which doesn’t cotton to welfare, public health and education, abortion, gay rights and same-sex marriage, gender pluralism, environmental protection, immigrants, or gun control. All of these policies are of, by, and for the snotty coastal elites and native-born people of color in the cities.
There are plenty of Black and Log Cabin Republicans. Clarence Thomas aint exactly a Pinko.
So, as the end of capitalism and the prospect of socialism have obtruded on normal, everyday political discourse, our very own transition question has become more or less unavoidable.
Only if you are very old and teach worthless shite.
have responded accordingly, by explaining – or trying to – where the transition might lead and what both the disintegrating past and the impending future have to teach us.
The situation confronting today’s intellectuals is, then, comparable to that which Madison faced in the spring of 1786, when he was reckoning with both the surprising success and probable demise of the American Revolution.
What America is faced with is China, leading a cohesive Eurasian block, becoming economically and militarily stronger than NATO by the end of the decade. Madison is irrelevant. There is no 'Shay's Rebellion' for America to worry about.
Since 1774, when the Continental Congress instructed the colonies to start writing constitutions, the revolution had been animated by local assemblies, town meetings, state militias, and a torrent of constitutional drafts that produced radical experiments like Pennsylvania’s unicameral legislature, a body elected by mere taxpayers (white males only, of course) rather than property-owning freeholders.
Three states had universal male suffrage by 1800. By the end of Andrew Jackson's reign, most states had it at least for Whites.
The Articles of Confederation were a diplomatic compact of sovereign states so conceived, not a blueprint for a modern nation-state, because there was no central authority that could demand compliance with its policies (the Continental Congress had no monopoly on the force of arms) or overrule laws enacted under the new constitutions. Nor had anyone conjured an identity for “Americans,” a body politic which transcended local boundaries. The States were not yet United.
Indeed. America still has 'dual sovereignty'. But this scarcely matters. No Civil War or secessionist movement is likely in the foreseeable future.
By the mid-1780s, this dispersal of power among the states had devolved into what Thomas Jefferson called an “elective despotism,” or what Madison perceived, from a more distant intellectual remove, as a dearth of republican legitimacy, that is, a lack of justification for majority rule. His question had become: what, exactly, is the point of insisting on the sovereignty of the people, as against the state or the government (whether embodied in a benevolent monarch, a scrupulous minister, or a duly elected parliament), if the laws they enacted were as destructive of natural right as any tyrant’s arbitrary command?
The problem was that a tyrant's arbitrary command might be better than what issued from reasoned discussion. America was menaced by both France and England. Napoleon was a smart dude. He had reacquired a claim to the Louisiana territories from Spain. Fortunately, the Blacks in Haiti proved doughty fighters and so the US was able to buy that claim from Bonaparte.
The two great innovations of the revolution thus far were this unprecedented insistence on the locus of legitimate power “out of doors” and the correlative notion that liberty was impossible in the absence of equality. But what if equality permitted, or even promoted, the tyranny of majorities?
This is mere hot air. The American Revolution was about getting rid of the Brits. Subsequently, the French and the Spanish and the Mexicans and the Rooskies in Alaska had to be squared so that Americans could get on with the truly revolutionary business of exterminating Injuns and whipping slaves.
Madison knew that the traditional resources of the statesman – prudence, custom, and reason – offered no answers, so he ransacked the thin, scattered history of republican governments, to see if earlier experiments composed a usable past. To his astonishment, they did not. Every previous republic had tried and failed to escape the corrosive social effects of historical time embodied, literally and metaphorically, in “commerce,” which typically manifested as class divisions and conflict.
but not the extermination of indigenous people and the grabbing of their territory.
At that point, the rights of persons and the rights of property, what Madison called “the two Cardinal objects of Government,” had become the terms of an either/or choice, and the outcome was invariably decided in favor of property by property owners. In every case, “the poor were sacrificed to the rich,” Madison lamented, putting an end to popular government.
Madison had a very tender regard for dusky folk- thinks nobody at all.
How could a republic avoid this fate?
Killing Injuns. Also get in as many Black slaves as possible.
Madison’s solution was to enlist historical time – “commerce,” development, and class division and conflict – in the creation and stabilization of republican government, by “extending the sphere” of the polity to take in more diverse populations and interests, and by devising a constitutional structure that made the rights of persons and the rights of property the terms of an undecidable choice.
because a choice that we can decide just wouldn't be fancy enough for Livingston.
He modified the sovereignty of the people
by sticking their crowns up their rectums
– he divided them against themselves
by chopping their arms off
– in order to postpone or prolong the formation of majorities, not to thwart them.
But majorities can kick ass during their formation. Prolonging that formation just means ending up with a bigger majority.
In doing so, Madison made equality the fundamental condition of liberty.
Which is why he freed the slaves.
It was a radical departure from received wisdom, and it made for the kind of change that was so revolutionary that Americans still doubt and debate it more than two centuries later, almost always by invoking “the founders,” whether reverently or ruefully.
Fuck off! Madison was nothing special. Anyway, in the sort of movies I watch, Madison is a mean girl. Also she has small tits.
OUR MADISONIAN MOMENT
Martin Wolf, Francis Fukuyama, and Pranab Bardhan have put themselves in Madison’s place, by publishing manifestos that combine theoretical sophistication and historical method in ways that enable us to rethink majority rule and thus reimagine the future of democracy.
Wolf's book is okay- he's of European Jewish heritage and had kittens coz of Trump & Brexit. Bardhan's is stupid. Fukuyama's may be some sort of in-joke. It is difficult to tell.
All three acknowledge that the parasite called neoliberalism has just about killed off its capitalist host by spawning authoritarian alternatives with global appeal.
Coz Trump be debil. Also BoJo is actually Hitler. Don't get me started on Modi. It is obvious that Rishi Sunak is taking orders from him.
And all three adopt the unfinished American experiment
of exterminating the First Nations? Were they not thorough enough?
as the template for the new thinking they propose. Each quotes Lincoln to define democracy, and two actually cite Madison
to address the possibility of “civic” rather than ethnic nationalism in managing the diversity that inevitably follows from economic globalization.
Diversity could also rise just through invasion.
But Wolf goes much further than Fukuyama and Bardhan, not so much auditioning for Madison’s role as reprising it. His book offers both a brilliant summary of the received wisdom concerning the troubled relationship between democratic politics and free markets – a difficult marriage, as he puts it – and a radical departure that combines unfettered imagination and extraordinary erudition to summon a different, less contentious kind of partnership.
Of the Ashley Madison type. Trump and Putin can give each other golden showers without actually running their countries.
Fukuyama, who identifies as a right-wing Marxist in the tradition of the Russian-born French philosopher Alexandre Kojève,
a Euro-crat. Leo Strauss rated him which is why Fukuyama regurgitated his nonsense.
has written the least ambitious of the manifestos. He aims merely to restate and clarify the claims of “classical” liberalism, then test them against recent criticisms from the left and the right. The result is a “fair and balanced” treatment of the doctrinal triangulation, but one which leaves the reader wondering for most of the book where the author stands.
Or whether he is lying down and letting ChatGPT write his book for him.
Indeed, it is only in the book’s last two chapters that the “need to restore liberalism’s normative framework, including its approach to rationality and cognition” is announced as the real agenda. The key word here is “restore.” Fukuyama seems to think that, when compared as theories of governance, the alternatives residing in the various critiques of liberalism just don’t measure up: they’re intellectually inferior as well as practically unworkable – and obviously so. But he acknowledges that the right-wing, ethno-nationalist, religiously inspired alternatives have actual or potential majorities waiting on their enactment.
Wolf, Fukuyama and Bardhan feel themselves to be alien to the nations in which they live and work. They won't admit that those countries are 'ethno-nationalist' and religious at their core. They may have made a little money by virtue signaling or appearing political but nobody gives a fart about them. Now they are old and will soon die. Sad.
By this accounting, the right learned its new know-nothing parochialism from the radical left’s critique of liberalism’s “primordial individualism,” from its valorization of particular group experience as against Enlightenment universalism, and from its mistrust of the scientific method that both forms and reflects modern liberal rationality.
The truth is that the identity politics of the Left pissed everybody off- especially those they claimed to champion. Virtue signaling is obnoxious to those who value genuine virtue.
The middle ground, where classical liberalism survives – barely – as paleo-conservatism, has been hollowed out by intellectual incursions from the left and the right.
Fuck off! Classical liberalism is dying because very elderly people die.
And even here, only the “traditionalist” variant of conservatism, represented by the likes of Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School,
a Catholic convert.
the self-exiled (to Hungary) conservative polemicist Rod Dreher,
how can the dude not be a cross-dressing dyke? Say what you like about the Roman Catholic Church, nobody does high camp better.
and Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame,
seems to be intellectually alive.
but only thanks to the Zombie magic of Baron Samedi.
Fukuyama won’t let us mistake classical liberalism for modern democracy, but he insists that by enabling free markets, it authorizes autonomous individuals
autonomy don't need no stinkin' authorization
and thus the possibility of a politics informed by equality and the consent of the governed.
as opposed to a politics informed by actual information and the enthusiasm of the voters.
Fukuyama’s invocation of Lincoln tellingly concludes his discussion of these “traditionalists,” Vermeule, Dreher, and Deneen, in keeping with the suspicion he shares with them of majority rule as the measure of legitimate governance, and the doubts he shares with them about the strictly utilitarian logic of neoliberalism. Lincoln rejected Stephen A. Douglas’s program of “popular sovereignty,”
because Lincoln was running against Douglas. As a Republican, Lincoln was against slavery but not for racial equality. He said ' I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making voters of the negroes, or jurors, or qualifying them to hold office, or having them to marry with white people.'
which allowed the majority of settlers in the federal territories to decide whether slavery would be lawful there, for two reasons. First, it excluded most of the heirs to that frontier legacy of free land,
There was no 'free land'. The First Nations owned it.
a vast population composed of generations to come. Second, it violated what Fukuyama would call the normative, regulative principle at the heart of the liberal American experiment, expressed in the imperative phrase from the Declaration of Independence: “all men are created equal.”
But the First Nations must be massacred and their land confiscated for the benefit of European immigrants.
Lincoln insisted that the South did not have the right to do what is wrong – to enslave human beings by making property of them – regardless of the majorities it could muster in the electorate, the Senate, or the Supreme Court.
But immigrants from Europe had the right to kill the indigenous people and take their land.
Fukuyama likewise insists that neither the utopian neoliberals nor the right-wing populists, the true believers in the church of capitalism, have the right to do what is wrong – to suspend the individualism, egalitarianism, universalism, and rationalism inherent in the liberal tradition – even if they represent solid majorities.
It is not wrong to suspend things which don't exist or which can't be suspended if they do exist. Solid majorities can change the laws in a democratic country. There is a 'right to be wrong' for both sovereign legislative and independent judicial bodies.
A VIEW FROM BELOW
Bardhan is less certain of that legacy, partly because he studies those parts of the world, particularly South Asia, where
the indigenous people were not wiped out
liberalism was never a birthright
The birthright of the First Nations was to be massacred by European immigrants
because it arrived as a foreign import, a dimension of colonial rule.
If my grandfather imported a Swiss watch and bequeathed it to my dad who, in turn, bequeathed it to me, then that Swiss watch is my fucking birth-right even if I'm from South India.
He is also much more attuned than Fukuyama to the possibility that the centrifugal social logic of classical liberalism fueled the nihilism common to neoliberalism and authoritarian populism.
as opposed to the nonsense inside his own cranium. The plain fact is that classical liberalism was about gentlemen who owned rich agricultural estates and who had a diversified portfolio of stocks and shares and had received a classical education- Cicero & all that jazz- who acted as Honorary Magistrates and who chose one of their number to represent them in the legislature. Neo-liberalism dispensed with this elite class. Authoritarian populism was based on the tenant farmer and the petit bourgeoisie. It was seldom 'nihilistic', but had a cult of the Soil and the Saints and castigated the unspeakable sexual depravity of furriners and folks wot talk posh. Neo-liberalism had a vague Michael Polanyi/Hayek type belief in the mysterious economy of the Katechon or a Deist belief in 'progress' or things yet more New Age and trippy.
An economist by training and occupation,
a shitty economist from a shithole part of the world which has been in continuous economic and political decline for over a century
Bardhan is more interested than Fukuyama the political theorist in the politics of the impending transition from capitalism to social democracy,
which occurred long ago only to be reversed because the working class rebelled against virtue signaling cunts who were fucking over their material standard of living in the name of equality or diversity or some other such shite
and more cognizant than Wolf the economic journalist of how inequality registers in populist revolts as cultural resentment.
Bengal's 'populist revolts' turned the place into a shit-hole. What Indians resent is the Bengali's pretensions to cultural superiority.
The great virtue of Bardhan’s approach is that this transition appears as an untidy, ongoing, even measurable process,
very true. Muslims drove Hindus out of East Bengal and are now the majority in parts of West Bengal. Still, Sheikh Hasina runs things better than Mamta so maybe the best thing is for Muslims to take over Kolkata.
rather than a distant prospect to be outlined, for now, as a theoretical model. Half of the book is devoted to close scrutiny of the social-democratic possibilities and policies that already reside in and flow from existing practices, in both rich and poor countries
But those possibilities get destroyed when the country in question goes off a fiscal cliff. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are having to dismantle their 'social-democratic' policies. West Bengal will have to follow suit. The US is losing its 'exorbitant privilege'. Like the Silicon Valley Bank, it will have to give up 'Diversity' and 'Inclusion' because 'marking to market' will reveal it is bankrupt.
(Bardhan, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, was chief editor of the Journal of Development Economics and is an esteemed authority on the political economy of India).
He is not esteemed in India because he knows shit about its political economy.
In this sense, it usefully complements Fukuyama’s skeletal intellectual anatomy of liberalism; for it proposes that liberalism’s ethical principles – its normative claims – are still as palpable today in our present historical circumstances, in the political ruins we call neoliberalism and populism, as they were at their origin in the seventeenth century.
How does this relate to South Asia? You have dynasticism & 'Socialist' thuggery on the one hand and you have Religion and the Market on the other. Nobody gives a toss about the seventeenth fucking century.
Bardhan’s most intriguing chapter, “The Slippery Slope of Majoritarianism,” is also the shortest: at only eight pages, it could pass for a footnote. But it’s here that he makes the two claims that announce the book’s originality. On one hand, he suggests that the origins of democracy lie in a welter of competition, either between elites and subaltern social strata or among elites themselves.
Whereas, the truth is, the origin of democracy lies in a type of nationalism which might require a levee en masse. Every citizen gets a vote if every citizen might be called on to fight. India did have democracy for a different reason- viz. the Hindus felt they needed to hang together irrespective of caste and region, otherwise the Muslims would take over once again. Furthermore, only elected legislatures would have the incentive to get rid to caste based status competition of a stupid and unproductive kind.
Both prototypes play out as ideological struggle over civil rights, as per Madison’s “Cardinal objects of Government,” because each party to the resulting social contract had enough leverage to threaten the others’ standing.
Nonsense! Everybody can be for 'civil rights' if no fucking remedies are provided or are providable because the country is as poor as shit. Ideology is just 'cheap talk'.
On the other hand, he fleshes out the idea that such competition has been, and can continue to be, ethnic and/or religious, that is, cultural, both at its source and in its expressions, whether in rich or poor countries.
Plenty of Bardhan's relatives had to run away from East Bengal. It remains to be seen whether they will have to run away from West Bengal as well.
This idea can be read as a corrective or a supplement to Wolf’s emphasis on the broadly economic causes of subaltern resentment and revolt, which have led us to the brink of democracy’s global extinction by majoritarian means.
Very true. Biden plans to abrogate the Constitution and to crown himself King-Emperor. His son, Hunter, will be declared the Crown Prince.
PERSONS AND PROPERTY
The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism is the most searching of the three books –
because its author isn't utterly stupid. Still, the kids of Jewish refugees did get rattled by Brexit. Should they take German citizenship just in case BoJo starts organizing pogroms?
or any other study of our current condition – because it is the most pointed in asking a contemporary version of Madison’s question, and the most ecumenical in canvassing possible responses that are consistent with the freedoms specific to modern market societies. Wolf’s version of the question could be paraphrased as follows: If markets (“commerce”) are essential to both liberty and equality as we have come to understand them since the advent of capitalism, and if neoliberalism has reduced liberty to an individual’s license to profit from the exploitation of anything, thus blocking the once-broad avenues to equality, what kind of markets would reconcile the rights of property and the rights of persons, and, in so doing, serve the cause of democracy?
Those markets which best fit the future fitness landscape. But that landscape is unknown. There has to be a discovery process. One might as well ask 'which markets should I invest in so as to be sure of doing much better than average?' The answer is 'we don't know'.
In any case, something like Kuhn's 'no neutral algorithm' argument applies. Even if we know the future landscape we would still have to make trade-offs.
The assumption here is of course that majorities are not the sole measure of democracy.
Only majorities can change the nature of democracies.
As Madison and Lincoln often insisted, only the consent of the governed – their willingness to abide by the laws they have participated in making, directly or by virtue of their citizenship – can ensure the legitimacy required by the modern republican standard of equality before the law.
Why bother with consent when indifference is just as good? As for 'equality before the law'- it can obtain under any sort of political regime. A Republic would have more capacious Hohfeldian immunities than an Autocracy.
Otherwise, the states that imposed the terrorist yet constitutional and majoritarian Jim Crow regime on Black people in the post-bellum South could be defined as democratic polities.
That is how they defined themselves. Apartheid South Africa was a multi-party democracy as far as Whites were concerned.
The age of democratic capitalism, according to Wolf, commenced about 1870 and ended around 1980.
Which did Mrs. Thatcher kill? Was it Capitalism or was it Democracy? The fact is, Marxism as a political force rose in the 1880s (in England) and died around the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But Marxism is neither democratic nor capitalist.
By his accounting, then, capitalism has continued to develop since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher dismantled the postwar Keynesian consensus in the West
Jim Callaghan dismantled it with his 1976 speech- ' We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession, and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting Government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists, and that in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step. Higher inflation followed by higher unemployment. We have just escaped from the highest rate of inflation this country has known; we have not yet escaped from the consequences: high unemployment.' Callaghan knew that even the Scandinavians were rejecting 'solidarity wages' and that his own Incomes Policy was pissing off 'Dagenham Man' without placating the low paid NUPE. The big question was whether Labor could manage inflationary expectations. The answer was nobody could. Friedman wasn't really a wizard. What fueled Thatcherism was Supply Side measures- ending exchange controls, high real exchange rates to shake out manufacturing industry, breaking the power of the Unions, Privatization, and Big Bang for the City.
and Mikhail Gorbachev dismantled communism in the East,
the silly man surrendered Party control over the economy. Predictably, there was a 'scissors crisis'. Then the drunken buffoon, Yeltsin, took over.
but democracy has stalled. In fact, capitalism in the West has by now devolved to a baroque, rentier stage (Wolf abjures the label of neoliberalism) recalling the grotesque caricatures of the late nineteenth century, when bloated monopolists were rendered as vampires or cephalopods, all teeth or tentacles.
this evolved into more recognizably Jewish figures. The British Labor Party, under Corbyn, succumbed to 'the Socialism of fools'- albeit in anti-Zionist guise.
Meanwhile, the growth of democracy has been stunted by the rise of state/authoritarian capitalism in Eastern Europe and Asia (particularly in China), and of angry, ethno-nationalist populism in Britain and the US.
This is like saying- 'the growth of cats has been stunted by the rise of dogs and of angry people saying 'woof, woof' in Guatemala and Poland.'
As with Bardhan’s book, the bulk of The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism is devoted to a programmatic outline of ways to reinvent the system,
coz that's what happens after you turn seventy. Peeps come to you and say 'kindly reinvent the system before you kick the bucket you senile tosspot, you'.
not to “restore” some lost golden age, or to reinstate the first principles of free enterprise, or otherwise to treat the past as prologue to an acceptable, inhabitable future. Wolf is more ambitious than that,
coz he isn't as old as fuck. He is actually younger than Rishi Sunak and can stay hard all night.
and, in view of the actually existing crises he charts so relentlessly and meticulously, from climate change to the con game we know as the banking system, he has no choice. But he cloaks his radical ideas in the persona and language of a centrist, buttoned-down journalist out to save capitalism from its excesses, not to promote revolutionary change.
Very true! The guy should dress up like Che Guevara and hijack planes.
No one should be fooled by the sheep’s clothing. Like Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, and Willem Buiter, a former chief economist at Citigroup and currently one of the world’s leading authorities on central banking, Wolf thinks that private control of bank assets is an absurdity. Magnified by “elite malfeasance” in every other sector of the globalized economy, this is warrant enough to complete the socialization of private property foretold in the formation of joint-stock companies that separated ownership and control of corporate capital. In effect, he implores us to act on Marx’s insight into the revolutionary possibilities of corporate capitalism – that is, into the “socialized mode of production” it made possible, and now necessary, as the solution to a worldwide crisis of democracy.
Governments can take over the Banks and run them into the ground easily enough. How would that help democracy?
This conclusion will no doubt seem ridiculous to most readers of The Financial Times,
unless they suspect that the City needs the taxpayer to bail it out yet again and Wolf is preparing the ground for this by pretending that, this time, it is Democracy which is on the line.
where Wolf has presided as an associate editor for three decades, sometimes sounding like the cheerleader-in-chief for globalization. But consider his summary of our situation:
“The insecurity that laissez-faire capitalism generates for the great majority who own few assets and are unable to insure or protect themselves against such obvious misfortunes as the unexpected loss of a job or incapacitating illness, is ultimately incompatible with democracy.
It is the direct result of Social Democracy which creates entitlements, in good times, which, however, it reneges on when the country goes off a fiscal cliff. This is 'moral hazard' pure and simple. The Chinese don't trust their government and so they save a lot. Still, there is a definite asset mismatch in advanced economies such that wealth, which ought to be a hedge, has itself become a work disincentive. The question is whether fiscal policy can reverse this outcome- e.g. by getting early retirees back into the work force.
That is what Western countries had learned by the early to mid-twentieth century. It is what they have learned again over the last four decades. Only autocracy, plutocracy, or some combination of the two is likely to thrive in an economy that generates such insecurity and a polity that shows such indifference.”
If you are indifferent to insecurity, no actual insecurity obtains. In any case, the cost of moving from one type of regime to another is very high. Crying wolf about some supposed Fascist takeover is self-defeating. The true danger is that Biden declares himself King-Emperor and Prince Harry joins Princess Leia so as to lead a Jedi insurrection against Hunter's Evil Empire.
Moreover, The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism offers a vision of the future that is radical because it gives priority to democracy (the rights of persons) over capitalism (the rights of property).
Any type of regime can do that. Emperor Hunter Biden can pass a law saying that all homeless people must be fed and housed by anybody with the means to do so. Also, all History Professors must give beejays to and disabled people of color in the vicinity unless they are card carrying Republicans.
And yet it is also practical, because it enlists markets in the recreation of citizenship.
It is not enough to enlist markets. You must also enlist carpets- especially flying carpets so as to enable Aladdin to restore Democracy to the good people of Agrabah.
Wolf’s notion of citizenship carries echoes of the classical republican (Aristotelian) kind, because it entails a “positive” definition of freedom: liberty consists not merely in the absence of external constraint, as per modern liberal (utilitarian) ideals of “negative” freedom, but in access to the resources necessary for a “fulfilled life.”
Flying carpets for everybody!
Accordingly, he posits “an economy that allows citizens to flourish in this way” as the condition of equality, and thus democracy.
Not to mention the condition for everybody sucking each other off on public thoroughfares.
Wolf refuses to call what comes of this vision socialism,
Coz the word was synonymous with shit
because, like Bardhan and presumably Fukuyama, he still equates socialism with Soviet-style central planning and statist command of all resources.
No matter. Call it peas and carrots: it still rhymes with hope rooted in the knowledge that the social, economic, and intellectual changes we desperately need to solve the crisis that now besets us are already underway, already within our grasp.
I've got a carpet. Now all I need is to teach it to fly.
This book is a record of them. The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism never says that the choice before us is either socialism or barbarism. But it comes close enough to suggest that the moderate Martin Wolf has become just the radical we need to address our own transition question.
If you need him so much why don't you marry him? The plain fact is, Democratic Capitalism either means
1) the median voter receives a net transfer from Capitalists as a sort of Tiebout manorial rent
2) the median voter gets stuck with the downside risk of Capital markets.
The first option means competing for footloose Capital such that your country turns into a bunch of family offices for plutocrats. The second is untenable because the median voter goes broke.
Capitalism has crises because the fitness landscape has Knightian uncertainty. Democratic Capitalism is about the Condorcet Jury theorem leading to a Hannan consistent strategy. This is stuff only smart peeps, not assholes nor the Socioproctologists who point fingers at senile assholes, understand. Let them sort things out while stupid and useless people write for Project Syndicate.
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