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    iraq planning..., 2005-08-18 11:40:29 | Main | charles de menezes..., 2005-08-19 07:23:45

    the market liberalization road to democracy was paved with bad metaphors, many of them about tigers:

    One of the conjectures of market fundamentalists - the sorts of blokes who think property relations everywhere ought to be defined as they have been in the West, only without our massive levels of state intervention in the economy - is that adoption of their policies help spur the creation and growth of 'vibrant middle classes' who then have the resources to induce democratic reform. In it's more disgusting manifestations I would offhand point back to the Kirkpatrick Doctrine, used to justify numerous varieties of gross insanity. Clinton's rhetoric, or liberal rhetoric in general, on the idea hardly differed, and likewise washed over varieties of gross insanity serving rather more narrow interests (scroll down all the way, or in cartoon form). Ever with us, it now creeps into the Bush administration's mission statements.

    When they're not producing amusing indices about economic freedom they make political freedom into a sort of non-essential derivative of their policies, tacked onto economic discussions like democracy was tacked onto the Iraq war, just to stick the opposition in the eye and misdirect discussion away from, well, their actual policies, or any but non-anecdotal evidence (c.f. anybody who's ever read a Thomas Friedman column; anecdotes should illustrate evidence, without any they're just superstition).

    Since this crowd started influencing policy shortly after Bretton Woods collapsed, creating the "Washington Consensus" in its place, by their own inadequate measure growth collapsed too, and by others perhaps more adequate to the task it looks worse. In public the fundies either ignored or hysterically denied that minor point: the "neo-cons" and "supply siders" still refer to the Reagan era as the "age of prosperity" and their neo-liberal counterparts refer to the Clinton era with similar glowing nonsense [1]. Their policies haven't lead to the increased growth, here or abroad, they themselves rely on to create said vibrant middle classes.

    On matters of "globalization" you can point out that the investment theory that describes our modern "free trade" agreements predict that the benefits of the growth accrue to narrow stratas of the population in large industrialized economies such as our own, so rather than a broad middle class it helps promote a wealthy aristrocratic class, which is further able to promote itself domestically with its new wealth, creating spiralling wealth inequality and super-wealthy aristocracy. Furthermore the theory appears to be correct, and if so graphically dramatic even by historical standards. The trade isn't square: the prospect of a more stratified, less democratic industrialized world while encouraging the trade-promotion of middle class democratic movements (debatable itself) in the developing world, for the first world to then periodically wipe out, is setting the world up for a very sad repetition of history.

    But why piddle with economics when you can just point out the very obvious with a broad, detailed, studied survey [2]? Probably just to stick Thomas Friedman in the eye. An authoritarian government can survive a state-capitalist economy like our own? Surely not another tiger in Africa!


    footnotes:

    1. Off the top of my head Krugman, c.f. The Age of Diminished Expectations, is one of the few to point it out regularly in popular non-ficiton, before occasionally suggesting that the solution was more of the same - and I'm being somewhat too broad lumping him in with neoliberal policy makers of the Washington Consensus type. He apparently is considered "neo-Keynsian" by some. Nevertheless - as reflects his being hired by the NYT in 1999 to attack the "anti-globalization" groups - he typically finds some excuse to support their trade policies. He argues that "enduring weaknesses in Mexico's political and economic systems manifested themselves in 1994", which made NAFTA necessary, but the specific crisis he mentions was in response to NAFTA, so there you are.
    2. This paragraph should be telling, regarding what Western publics might learn from the study about their own governments:
      By limiting coordination goods, oppressive incumbents can have it all: a contented constituency of rich elites who benefit from economic growth; plenty of resources to cope with economic and political shocks; and a weak, dispirited political opposition.


:: posted by buermann @ 2005-08-18 19:15:07 CST | link





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