janan.ganesh@ft.com on the Coronavirus & the Administrative State. Political Observer comments

Headline: Coronavirus and the comeback of the administrative state

Sub-headline: Terms of political discourse have moved unmistakably in favour of government over just a few weeks

The regular reader of the ideologically inflected political myopia of Mr. Ganesh, just has to laugh, while drinking the last of her/his morning coffee, at these snippets mined from his latest essay:

…’a vindication of the state’…, …  ‘the necessity of public expertise, public infrastructure, brute public coercion.’…

And then this ludicrous disclaimer. The ‘as if’ of this sentence is that somehow Mr. Ganesh isn’t a ‘churlish’ Neo-Liberal, not quite of the Randian variety, but nonetheless a member of  Blairite coterie.        

Only a churl or an ideologue, their Ayn Rand novels frayed through overuse, could pretend any one of these shocks was amenable to a market solution.

Perhaps Mr. Ganesh has missed this Ben Jackson’s  essay in The Historical Journal ,53 I (2010) At the Origins of Neo-Liberalism: The Free Economy and the Strong State, 1930–1947 ? ( https://bit.ly/2wQjBwR) ? In his essay Mr. Jackson makes the case , as conceived by Neo-Liberals, to protect the Free Market as the political/economic/moral singularity, that uses state power to exact conformity.  In that regard both the Welfare State and the Neo-Liberal State share a commonality. The Welfare State acts in the interest of the whole of the citizens, while the Neo-Liberal State acts in the perceived interests of The Market.

Mr. Ganesh use of the Randian Ideologues, to presents himself as the rhetorical voice of political reason, the antithesis of the ‘churlish’ voices of the ‘Randians’. Yet the reason d’etre of Neo-Liberalism, in an American context, The Clinton’s and the whole of the New Democratic phalanx, and their ‘Reform Agenda’ : 

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, H.R. 3355, Pub.L. 103–322 

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) 

The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999

The above ‘reforms ‘ are Neo-Liberal reforms, at there most draconian, in sum’ a Reaganite Agenda. But note in this paragraph Ganesh describes ’tilt in the balance between the public and private realms’ 

In all likelihood, coronavirus will bring about a similar tilt in the balance between the public and private realms. The terms of political discourse have moved unmistakably in favour of government over just a few weeks. We are living through a reputational comeback for what conservatives have disdained as the “administrative state”.

Should Mr. Ganesh consulted the Neo-Conservative Cassandra Francis Fukuyama’s  2013 essay? 

Headline: The Decay of American Political Institutions

Sub-headline: We have a problem, but we can’t see it clearly because our focus too often discounts history.

Many political institutions in the United States are decaying. This is not the same thing as the broader phenomenon of societal or civilization decline, which has become a highly politicized topic in the discourse about America. Political decay in this instance simply means that a specific political process—sometimes an individual government agency—has become dysfunctional. This is the result of intellectual rigidity and the growing power of entrenched political actors that prevent reform and rebalancing. This doesn’t mean that America is set on a permanent course of decline, or that its power relative to other countries will necessarily diminish. Institutional reform is, however, an extremely difficult thing to bring about, and there is no guarantee that it can be accomplished without a major disruption of the political order. So while decay is not the same as decline, neither are the two discussions unrelated.

There are many diagnoses of America’s current woes. In my view, there is no single “silver bullet” cause of institutional decay, or of the more expansive notion of decline. In general, however, the historical context of American political development is all too often given short shrift in much analysis. If we look more closely at American history as compared to that of other liberal democracies, we notice three key structural characteristics of American political culture that, however they developed and however effective they have been in the past, have become problematic in the present.

The Decay of American Political Institutions

The cast of characters, in Ganesh’s dramatic political meander is large, one might call it bloated, but focus on the pitch made on behalf of Garett Jones’ ‘cheeky’ new book 10% Less Democracy. The whole title gives the game away 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less’.  Walter Lippmann, the good, grey liberal prophet of The American Century, placed his faith in Technocrats, a cadre of experts, that could manage the state, and protect against too much democracy. Yet they managed the Cold War, and two disastrous wars, in Korea and Vietnam. Can Trump, and his ever-changing sets of ‘managers’, perform better than that generation of such managers?

Political Observer





About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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