"It would be a mistake to believe that the voters, in rejecting social democrats, are rejecting the middle-class welfare state that social democratic parties built in the 20th century. On the contrary, center-right parties like David Cameron’s Conservatives and the ruling Moderate party in Sweden have been forced to limit their libertarianism in order to win office.
The truth is that voters have not turned against the old-fashioned social democracy of the mid-20th century. In Europe as in the U.S., universal social insurance programs for the middle class, as opposed to means-tested welfare programs for the poor, remain popular among voters on the right as well as the left. Voters in Europe are not voting against public pensions and universal healthcare. Instead, they are tossing out a more recent generation of social democrats who went too far in their embrace of markets.
The greatest assault on traditional social democracy in the last generation has come from "Third Way" leaders of center-left parties like Tony Blair, and their continental European counterparts. Like the Clinton Democrats, these "modernizing" social democrats embraced free markets with a convert’s zeal, celebrating globalization and deregulating finance, while seeking to privatize or dismantle parts of the older welfare state. The politicians of the Third Way were far more libertarian than the voters in their own parties and their actions helped to make possible the global economic crisis.
Having given up traditional social democratic economics for a watered-down version of libertarian conservatism, the Third Way social democrats in Europe, like the Clinton and Obama Democrats in the U.S., sought to replace the traditional bread-and-butter concerns of working-class voters with idealistic campaigns about multiculturalism, climate change and obesity that appealed to more affluent, college-educated voters.
In general the parallels between the U.S. and Europe are striking. In the U.S., as in Europe, the right is divided between a pro-business right promoting policies of austerity and a populist, nativist right energized by opposition to immigration and multiculturalism, particularly where Muslims are involved. In the U.S., as in Europe, the upper-middle-class activists and intellectuals of the center-left devote far less energy to traditional social democratic issues like social insurance and the minimum wage than to non-economic causes like renewable energy, mass transit, the new urbanism, gay marriage, identity politics and promotion of amnesty for illegal immigrants. On both continents, conservatism is becoming more downscale while progressives are increasingly upmarket."
mandag 8. november 2010
torsdag 28. oktober 2010
"The sudden death of Néstor Kirchner is a great loss, not only to Argentina but to the region and the world. Kirchner took office as president in May 2003, when Argentina was in the initial stages of its recovery from a terrible recession. His role in rescuing Argentina's economy is comparable to that of Franklin D Roosevelt in the Great Depression of the United States. Like Roosevelt, Kirchner had to stand up both to powerful moneyed interests and to most of the economics profession, which was insisting that his policies would lead to disaster. They were proved wrong, and Kirchner right.
In September of 2003, the battle came to a head when Kirchner temporarily defaulted to the IMF rather than accept its conditions. This was an extraordinarily gutsy move – no middle-income country had ever defaulted to the IMF; only a handful of failed or pariah states like Iraq or Congo. That's because the IMF was seen as having the power to cut off even trade credits to a country that defaulted to them.
No one knew for sure what would happen. But the IMF backed down and rolled over the loans. Argentina went on to grow at an average of more than 8% annually through 2008, pulling more than 11 million people, in a country of 40 million, out of poverty. The policies of the Kirchner government, including the central bank targeting of a stable and competitive real exchange rate, and taking a hard line against the defaulted creditors – were not popular in Washington or among the business press. But they worked.
Kirchner also earned respect from human rights organisations for his willingness to prosecute and extradite some of the military officers accused of crimes against humanity during the 1976-1983 dictatorship – reversing the policies of previous governments. Together with his wife, current president Cristina Fernández, Néstor Kirchner made an enormous contribution in helping to move Argentina and the region in a progressive direction. These efforts have not generally won him much favour in Washington and in international business circles, but history will record him not only as a great president but also as an independence hero of Latin America."
onsdag 27. oktober 2010
"Jeg kan ikke fri meg for mistanken om at energimangel er et mål i seg sjøl. Hvis menneskene ikke har nok energi til å produsere de varene som trengs for å opprettholde dagens forbruk, vil forbruket måtte gå ned. Og det er ønsket om å redusere forbruket som er det viktigste, ikke miljøsaken. Når miljøforkjempere med stor økonomisk, sosial og kulturell kapital insisterer på at forbruk er et onde, er det de andres forbruk de mener. Vanlige folks bilkjøring, plastleker, charterferier og ferdigmat må reduseres. I stedet for dette miljøfiendtlige forbruket burde folk heller gjøre som dem: lese bøker, trimme og gå på teater. Energimangelen blir et virkemiddel for å sikre gjennomslag for egne livsverdier.
Det ville vært lettere å få gjennomslag for å bygge ut alternative energikilder om man ikke nevnte miljø som begrunnelse i det hele tatt. Behovet for energi, økonomisk gevinst og arbeidsplasser er gode nok argumenter i seg sjøl. I stedet går man alltid omveien om det abstrakte, om klima og prinsipiell oljemotstand. Denne omveien gjør at saker som i utgangspunktet kunne hatt brei oppslutning, blir gjort til mindretallsposisjoner. Det siste eksempelet er bygging av nye jernbarnelinjer, såkalte lyntog, i Norge. Ut ifra debatten kan det se ut som om disse jernbanelinjene skal bygges utelukkende som et sonoffer for miljøet. Tog er redusert til miljø og miljø til moral."
Han er ikkje den fyrste som kjem med ein slik kritikk:
"De er mot uansett.
Kan du nevne en eneste olje- eller gassutvinning de har vært for? Eldar Myhre, konserntillitsvalgt i Kværner, har lite til overs for miljøbevegelsens argumenter.
–Naturen, fiskeriene, alt ville gå til helvete i Nordsjøen, der var det dommedagsprofetier fra dag én. Men hvor ville vi vært i dette landet om vi ikke hadde startet med olje? Myhre mener motstanden er forutsigbar, det er samme leksa hver gang.
–For noen år siden hadde vi et seminar i Kværner med miljøbevegelsen om hvordan man kunne legge til rette for en så miljøvennlig produksjon som mulig. Vi fikk til svar at teknologiutvikling var knekkende likegyldig, for de var mot uansett. Myhre mener argumentet om at vi ikke må bruke opp ressursene for framtidige generasjoner er et argument for å stå stille.
– Skal vi fordømme våre forfedre som tok ut sølvet i gruvene på Kongsberg, fordi vi ville tjent mer på det i dag?"
"Det er en fortvilt situasjon. De som klarest profitterer politisk på det voksende gapet er Fremskrittspartiet, fordi de øvrige partiene ikke går inn i tomrommet. Arbeiderpartiet er blitt sosialøkonomenes parti og SV mellomsjiktenes talerør. Det er symptomatisk at hver gang det reises en industridebatt i Norge, får vi en miljødebatt. Middelklassen må forstå at den er avhengig av produksjonen. Midlene som skal opprettholde skolene må komme et sted fra."
Eg kan ikkje anna enn å seie meg samd.
søndag 31. januar 2010
* William Pfaff om Al-Qaida, USA og NATO:
"It is not widely understood that the policy objective of al-Qaeda is not to attack the Western countries, which in itself accomplishes nothing. Bringing down a Western airliner or blowing up a building in the United States or Britain is of no interest in itself, since the Islamic radical does no good by simply killing unbelievers. The ultimate purpose of al-Qaeda is to bring about an upheaval in the Islamic world in which Islam can be rescued from corrupted governments and degenerate practices.*Glenn Greenwald om årsak og verknad av den amerikanske og israelske politikken i Midtausten og elles i den muslimske verda:
When Gordon Brown or Barack Obama say that Western soldiers have to fight terrorists abroad so that they will not have to fight them in their own hometowns, they’re being silly, as such sophisticated men ought to know."
"The principal problem is that by pretending that we do nothing to fuel Islamic radicalism, we stay unaware -- blissfully ignorant -- of the staggering costs of our actions. I defy anyone to find a political figure in either major party's leadership who has, in the context of discussing U.S. policy towards Israel, ever even mentioned the fact that undying, endless American support for Israel -- making all of their conflicts our own -- increases the risk of terrorist violence aimed at the U.S. But it so plainly does. The fact that Israel is now explicitly vowing that its "next wars" against its Muslim neighbors will be "much harsher" than even the grotesque atrocities in Gaza and Lebanon means these costs are almost certain to increase even further."*Andrew J. Bacevich om korleis krig stort sett ikkje funkar:
"Since 1945, the United States military has devoted itself to the proposition that, Hiroshima notwithstanding, war still works—that, despite the advent of nuclear weapons, organized violence directed by a professional military elite remains politically purposeful. From the time U.S. forces entered Korea in 1950 to the time they entered Iraq in 2003, the officer corps attempted repeatedly to demonstrate the validity of this hypothesis.
The results have been disappointing. Where U.S. forces have satisfied Max Boot’s criteria for winning, the enemy has tended to be, shall we say, less than ten feet tall. Three times in the last 60 years, U.S. forces have achieved an approximation of unambiguous victory—operational success translating more or less directly into political success. The first such episode, long since forgotten, occurred in 1965 when Lyndon Johnson intervened in the Dominican Republic. The second occurred in 1983, when American troops, making short work of a battalion of Cuban construction workers, liberated Granada. The third occurred in 1989 when G.I.’s stormed the former American protectorate of Panama, toppling the government of long-time CIA asset Manuel Noriega.
Apart from those three marks in the win column, U.S. military performance has been at best mixed. The issue here is not one of sacrifice and valor—there’s been plenty of that—but of outcomes.
An alternative reading of our recent military past might suggest the following: first, that the political utility of force—the range of political problems where force possesses real relevance—is actually quite narrow; second, that definitive victory of the sort that yields a formal surrender ceremony at Appomattox or on the deck of an American warship tends to be a rarity; third, that ambiguous outcomes are much more probable, with those achieved at a cost far greater than even the most conscientious war planner is likely to anticipate; and fourth, that the prudent statesman therefore turns to force only as a last resort and only when the most vital national interests are at stake. Contra Kristol, force is an “instrument” in the same sense that a slot machine or a roulette wheel qualifies as an instrument.
To consider the long bloody chronicle of modern history, big wars and small ones alike, is to affirm the validity of these conclusions. Bellicose ideologues will pretend otherwise. Such are the vagaries of American politics that within the Beltway the views expressed by these ideologues—few of whom have experienced war—will continue to be treated as worthy of consideration. One sees the hand of God at work: the Lord obviously has an acute appreciation for irony."