Santorum: Any country which can name a nuclear attack submarine the Corpus Christi can probably reconcile itself to the Sanctum Santorum. Non-Catholics, as always, will shake their heads in disbelief, but who cares about them?
Gingrich: Dorian Gray.
From Dani Rodrik’s Europe’s Next Nightmare in Project Syndicate:
The challenge is to develop a new political narrative emphasizing national interests and values without overtones of nativism and xenophobia. If centrist elites do not prove themselves up to the task, those of the far right will gladly fill the vacuum, minus the moderation.
That is why outgoing Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou had the right idea with his aborted call for a referendum. That move was a belated attempt to recognize the primacy of domestic politics, even if investors viewed it, in the words of a Financial Times editor, as “playing with fire.” Scrapping the referendum simply postpones the day of reckoning and raises the ultimate costs to be paid by Greece’s new leadership.
A more moderately-worded view of Europe’s delusions. Then again, Rodrik doesn’t need to shriek — he isn’t looking directly down into the abyss. He’s over here on this side of the Atlantic, where we have our own problems with democracy. There are many pathways to the legitimacy conferred on a government by the consent of the governed. Europe can’t seem to find any of them, while we seem to have given up looking. Given that modern history hasn’t tolerated either form of benign neglect for very long, there doesn’t seem much point in preferring one over the other.
Today, in the Süddeutsche Zeitung online, an editorial by Heribert Prantly which makes, among others, the following point:
In der Spitzenpolitik wurde dieses Referendum diskutiert, als habe Premier Papandreou vorgeschlagen, die Demokratie in seinem Land durch ein russisches Roulette zu ersetzen – und als gelte es daher, dem Premier die Waffe wieder aus der Hand zu winden; das hat man denn auch getan. Dabei hatte Papandreou nichts anderes versucht, als die Demokratie in ihr Recht zu setzen: unzulänglich sicherlich, undiplomatisch, ohne zuvor an Angela Merkel und Nicolas Sarkozy wenigstens eine SMS geschickt zu haben.
Er hätte sein Vorhaben früher ankündigen, es besser vorbereiten, es hätte Teil des Euro-Rettungspakets sein müssen. Aber auch mit der falschen Verpackung und falsch dargereicht bleibt eine Medizin eine Medizin; man muss sie besser einsetzen, zur richtigen Zeit und in richtiger Dosierung. Eine Volksabstimmung ist kein Allheilmittel, sie ist aber auch kein Gift. Wer in einer Demokratie das Volk, den Demos, befragen will, ist zunächst einmal kein Narr, sondern ein Demokrat.
Or, as I translate it:
In senior political circles, this referendum was discussed as though Premier Papandreou had proposed replacing democracy in his country with Russian roulette, and as though it would therefore be appropriate to wrest the weapon out of his hands, which was in fact what was done. But in acting as he did, Papandreou had sought to do no more than give democracy its due — inadequately, to be sure, undiplomatically, and without having so much as sent Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy an SMS beforehand.
He should have announced his plan earlier, prepared it better, it ought to have been part of the Euro rescue package. But even in the wrong wrapper, and improperly administered, a medicine remains a medicine. One need only introduce it more properly, at the right time, and in the right dosage. A plebiscite is no cure-all, but neither is it a poison. In a democracy, he who wants to submit a question to the people, the demos, is first and foremost not a fool, but a democrat.
I agree completely, and can only add that it never ceases to amaze me how thoroughly people who consider themselves the intellectual and moral elite of their respective countries, the custodians of our modern, post-industrial civilization, discount this simple truth. Poke them a little, and none of them actually believes in democracy. That’s their right, I suppose, and no doubt they have their reasons, but I’d have more respect for them if they didn’t expend so much energy trying to convince me otherwise.
Listening to Noam Chomsky for the first time can be a little like discovering a new species of orchid sprouting in a Wal*Mart parking lot. We think we know where we are — everything looks and sounds the way it’s always looked and sounded — and then, suddenly, familiar perspectives seem to shift. It’s not that Chomsky’s take on things is entirely without precedent, but it’s a genuine shock to encounter anything like it in the familiar American here and now. If you’ve ever thought about looking for an antidote to all those hours of mindless pontification from Washington Week in Review, or Charlie Rose, this Noam Chomsky interview isn’t a bad place to begin:
According to Martin Wolf, Mr. Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. Does he really? Well, as someone who wishes to be a citizen of a country which does not exist — yet — I suppose I ought to feel some sympathy for a fellow traveler nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita. Sadly, I do not.
Bachmann: Why can’t somebody as ignorant as me make a good President? Think about it.
Perry: I’ve always liked tearing the wings off flies, and setting fire to cats. I’m exactly what America needs right now.
Romney: I only used to be somebody. Now I’m just like you, so it’s okay to go ahead and vote for me. Honest.
Paul: I don’t like black people, or women, or abstractions. I also don’t like war.
I could go on and on, but why bother? Fox News will take care of it.
Never mind. I definitely will NOT be calling you next Fall to urge you to vote for President Obama. He may very well be the lesser of two evils, but I just donated my shares in the evil-measuring business to the two Davids, Plouffe and Axelrod, who stand to gain far more from them than I ever will. (And they’re much better at phone-banking anyway, or so I’ve heard.)
Tinkering…. As good a word as any for a dearth of political will. I hate to bash Brad DeLong, who’s one of the good guys, and doesn’t really deserve a snarking, but he’s a classic case of the technocrat who believes in all the seemingly correct policy solutions, yet is left as helpless as the rest of us by the madness of Realpolitik, not to mention the madness of people who wouldn’t recognize realism if it bit them in the ass.
Here’s Professor DeLong, who’s as smart as we make them these days, waxing ironic:
And here we reach the limits of my mental horizons as a neoliberal, as a technocrat, as a mainstream neoclassical economist. Right now the global market economy is suffering a grand mal seizure of high unemployment and slack demand. We know the cures–fiscal stimulus via more government spending, monetary stimulus via provision by central banks of the financial assets the private sector wants to hold, institutional reform to try once gain to curb the bankers’ tendency to indulge in speculative excess under control. Yet we are not doing any of them. Instead, we are calling for “austerity.”
It may make for decent theater, but irony is hardly the best defense against the limitations of the intellect in situations like the one we all find ourselves facing today. Neither is cognitive dissonance, as in the governor of Wisconsin — Wisconsin, for Christ’s sake — threatening to use the National Guard to shoot public employees who object to being beggared by a nasty right-wing ideologue. Or, if you’d rather read about the problems of furriners, this: The Arab World’s Triple Crisis.
If Professors DeLong and Krugman can’t handle the political implications of our manifold current crises, who can? My answer is that no one can, not and remain unscathed. Our future is no longer strictly a mattter of policies good or bad, and no matter how much we might wish it to be otherwise, the outcome has become unpredictable.
The national coalition of misanthropes which is making war on me and mine clearly believes that honesty is a form of mental retardation. Unfortunately, liberal luminaries like Barack Obama, the Clinton dynasty, Rahm Emanuel, Jamie Dimon, and a glittering host of others in the Democratic Party and its affiliates seem to share that belief. They aren’t my allies. At best they’re placeholders; at worst, they’re part of the enemy’s baggage train.
As many of our disgruntled and downtrodden have already observed, this makes partisanship in the new American century something of a bore — when it isn’t downright dangerous to our future health, well-being and sanity.
So when I call you, and urge you to vote for President Obama next year — which it seems very likely I’ll feel compelled to do — please do consider the subtext.