janan.ganesh@ft.com on American Resilience. Almost Marx comments

The opening paragraph of Mr. Ganesh’s latest essay relies on two instances of potted history of 1979, with the appropriate links to a report in the Financial Times on The Hostage Crisis and a 2011 John Dickerson commentary on Carter’s ‘Malaise’ speech. And a comment on ‘The Deer Hunter’ as the low point of Hollywood ‘Mythmaking Power’: gone were the days of William Wyler’s ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’, script by Sherwood Anderson and MacKinlay Kantor , cinematography by Gregg Toland. This Movie was unafraid to focus on Post-War America’s problems.

In 1979, the US suffered the twin ignominies of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet capture of Afghanistan. Inflation took off as the helpless president evoked (without saying the word) a malaise. In garlanding The Deer Hunter, the bleakest film of Hollywood’s bleakest decade, the Oscar judges met the national mood.

The political answer to this ‘malaise’ was Ronald Reagan and his ‘Morning in America’ , ‘I believe in States Rights’ of the opening of 1980 campaign speech, and his repetition of of the racist canard of ‘Welfare Queens Driving Cadillacs’. And his secret negotiations with the Iranian Revolution Leaders, undercutting Jimmy Carter’s attempts at negotiation.

What follows this opening paragraph is a Ganesh Political Melodrama, in all its breathlessness narrative power. A selection from this mock- epic retelling, of the political moments ‘we’ have recently experienced, in situ:

To salvage the positives from such a year will strain credulity. To suggest that Americans can end it with enhanced confidence in their republic will test the boundaries of good taste. And still the case is there to be made.

In March, an allegedly irredeemable political class brokered the largest programme of fiscal relief in US history. It has been fitfully topped up ever since and a deal to the tune of $900bn passed Congress on Monday. Those who had hoped for more and better should concede that Washington has already outperformed dismal expectations.

It is one thing for China, or even a democracy as centralised as the UK, to take big and swift action in a crisis. For the US to do the same implies something good about its political model and the individuals who people it. To say so should not feel as subversive as it does.

It is customary at this juncture to say that a cannier populist might one day succeed where Mr Trump failed. But the idea that an autocratic nearly-man must prefigure the real thing is too often written up as a teleological inevitability. The Republicans who succeeded Richard Nixon were Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush, not a gallery of sublime rogues.

If this collection of apologetics for the now ascendant ‘Centrism’, post election 2020 – that ‘Centrism’ being the alliance between the Neo-Liberals and the Neo-Conservatives, in all its moral/political toxicity. Yet Mr. Ganesh celebrates ‘a grudging baton exchange’ as important to the ’cause of liberalism‘. On that ’cause’ , in all its malign iterations look to ‘Liberalism A Counter-History’ by Domenico Losurdo.

As China avoids recession, it was prudent to cite 2020 as a grudging baton exchange from an ailing superpower to a rampant one. And perhaps even from multi-party democracy to more hierarchical modes of government. It matters to the cause of liberalism, then, not just to American pride, to hail the US system’s quiet resilience. The alternative is to do down the institutions that made a potentially terminal year merely dreadful. The trouble with pessimism is that it can be self-fulfilling.

https://www.ft.com/content/f4a5ce0f-3ca5-4eb1-b71d-5305beed156e

Almost Marx

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Oren Cass takes on ‘Big Ed’ in The Financial Times. Old Leftist comments

 

The Financial Times offers its readership an early roasted Christmas goose, in the person of Oren Cass- let me offer a suggestion as to where that Yuletide sprig of holly might be placed!

Mr. Cass inauspicious opening paragraphs gives the game away in his vulgarity, which he attempts to soften in the next paragraph:  

The push by American progressives to have Joe Biden’s incoming administration forgive $50,000 of student debt per borrower is deeply stupid, but at least clarifyingly so.

More polite language fails to capture the absurdity of singling out college attendees for an unprecedented $1tn transfer of wealth — equivalent to the total spent on cash welfare in the last 40 years. The top sources of US student debt are professional business and law degrees.

American Progressives’, ‘Transfer of wealth’ and ‘cash welfare’ are the catch-phrases of his particular iteration of ‘Conservatism’. Yet read what that bastion of Conservatism, the Washington Examiner, in an editorial by Brad Polumbo, has to say about Mr. Cass and ‘American Compass’ :

A new group, American Compass, launched on Tuesday to much fanfare. The group’s mission is reportedly “going back and finding things that always were part of the American tradition that have been important to conservative thinkers but that seem to have gotten lost in the more market-fundamentalist mode of, especially, the last 20 to 30 years.”

Led by former Manhattan Institute scholar Oren Cass, the group has drawn impressive names to its nascent effort to charter an intellectual course for the nationalist Right.

There’s just one problem: The “market-skeptical” conservative movement is railing against an imaginary libertarian GOP orthodoxy that does not and, frankly, never really has existed. The idea motivating this entire project is completely detached from reality and all recent political history.

Cass posits that the GOP has “outsourc[ed] economic policymaking to libertarian ‘fundamentalists’ who see the free market as an end unto itself.” In this, he and his ideological allies are waging war on a straw man.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/oren-casss-new-anti-market-conservative-group-american-compass-wages-war-on-a-straw-man

The undeserving actors in Mr. Cass’ political melodrama are the utterly undeserving ‘students’ are those who hold ‘professional business and law degrees’. These very actors, who are, or will become the business, political and jurisprudential actors in the present and future of this country! Mr. Cass has a B.A. in Political Economy from Williams College, yet he just doesn’t campaigns against ‘Big Ed’, as he dubs it, he fulminates against it:

Perhaps this debt-forgiveness nonsense will shake the US from its complacency about higher education. Comprising the thousands of colleges and universities that together receive more than $150bn a year in public subsidies, Big Ed is among the nation’s most powerful but toxic forces. It thrives on the carefully cultivated myth of campuses as citadels of learning and on the mistaken notion that enrolment is the sine qua non of a successful life — that college, as Barack Obama was fond of saying, is the “ticket to the middle class”. Debt acquired in the ivory tower obtains talismanic status.

In fact, Big Ed’s performance is woeful, which is how a student debt crisis emerged to begin with. Its deformation of the cultural expectations and economic incentives facing young people at the formative stage of their adult lives is wreaking havoc. Higher education costs more than $30,000 per student per year in the US, roughly twice as much as in Germany or France. Still, more than 40 per cent of recent graduates land in jobs that do not require them to have degrees. And that’s among those who do finish. At two-year community colleges, barely one-quarter of enrollees complete the programme within six years. University leaders are notably reticent to measure or report whether students learn anything at all. Yet the students continue to pour in.

As Mr. Cass showers scorn on ‘Big Ed’, the reader just might ask where Mr. Cass stands on the question of free college tuition? How might that fit into his support for Mr. 47%, Mitt Romney? Mr. Cass ends his screed with an attack on ‘Progressive’ myopia that ends in a grim prediction of American intolerance.

This is the dynamic that yields “progressives” arguing with a straight face that student debt forgiveness should be a top priority, while making no effort to hold these institutions more accountable in the future. It is not a dynamic the American people are likely to tolerate much longer.

https://www.ft.com/content/bbfbb99e-3d82-47ed-9bcc-b441ffd2d8ce

Old Leftist

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Martin Wolf on the ‘Pluto-populists’ threat. Almost Marx comments

I read and commented upon Mr. Garton Ash’s seemingly interminable essay here:

https://wp.me/p14oRe-hxv

This section of Mr. Wolf’s essay is instructive :

Demagogic authoritarian capitalism is a hybrid. As in the Chinese system of bureaucratic authoritarian capitalism, the ruler is above the law and democratically unaccountable — elections are a sham. But power is personal, not institutionalised. This is corrupt gangster politics. It rests on the personal loyalty of sycophants and cronies. Often the core consists of the family members, viewed as most trustworthy of all. This is the political system Mr Trump wished to install in the US.

https://www.ft.com/content/47144c85-519a-4e25-9035-c5f8977cf6fd

In the above paragraph ‘demagogic authoritarian capitalism’ is the cornerstone of Chinese capitalist iteration. Yet Werner Bonefeld in his 2010 paper titled ‘Free Economy and the Strong State: Some notes on the state’  offers this:

What is needed is … honest and organised coercive force.  (Wolf, 2001)

However distinct the political response to the crisis of 2008, the apparent emergence of neoliberalism during the 1980s did not entail a weak state. It entailed a ‘strong state’. Andrew Gamble’s book on the Thatcher period was thus aptly entitled The Free Economy and the Strong State, which made clear reference to the ordo-liberal conception of the relationship between the national state and the global economy.2 Susan George (1988) characterized the 1980s as a time in which everything was privatized, except the losses, which were socialized by means of debt-bondage and repressive labour market and welfare state reforms. Ernest Mandel (1987) characterized the political economy of the 1980s as ‘military Keynesianism’, a Keynesianism that refinanced a financial system on the brink in the face of the then debtor crisis and bad debt exposure. Its rescue took the form of pro-cyclical global deficit financing based on the US dollar, expansion of the military industrial complex, privatization, and financial deregulation. Military Keynesianism sought to balance the books by taking money out of the pockets of workers, and by attacking conditions. Redistribution of wealth from labour to capital was such that by the early 1990s, ‘about two-thirds of the world’s population have gained little or no substantive advantage from rapid economic growth. In the developed world the lowest quartile of income earners has witnessed a trickle-up rather than a trickle-down’ (Financial Times, 24 December 1993). This one-quarter has since expanded to include more than half the world’s population, creating an unprecedented gap in incomes, domestically and on a global scale (see Glyn, 2006).

‘Military Keynesianism’ sustained capitalism on the basis of an accumulation of potentially fictitious wealth. Debt expanded to such a degree that, according to the Financial Times (27September 1993), the IMF feared in the early 1990s ‘that the debt threat is moving north. These days it is the build-up of first-world debt, not Africa’s lingering crisis, that haunts the sleep of the IMF official’. In the face of recurrent crises since 1987,3 and various stock market fears, the USA emerged as the biggest debtor country. Magdoff et al. (2002) argued that, by 2002, outstanding private debt was two-and-a-quarter times GDP, while total outstanding debt—private plus government—approached three times the GDP. Deficit spending sustained a global economy that became completely dependent upon a mountain of debt. Throughout the last thirty years, the accumulation of potentially fictitious wealth in the form of money, M…M’, and the coercive control of labour, from debt bondage to new enclosures, and from the deregulation of conditions to the privatization of risk, have belonged together. In the context of a global economy plagued by debt and threatened by the collapse of debt, Martin Wolf argued that the guarantee of global capital required stronger states. As he put it in relation to the so-called Third World, ‘what is needed is not pious aspirations but an honest and organized coercive force’ (Wolf, 2001).

In relation to the so-called developed world, Soros (2003) argued, rightly, that terrorism provided not only the ideal legitimation but also the ideal enemy for the unfettered coercive protection of debt-ridden free market relations ‘because it is invisible and never disappears’. The premise of a politics of debt is the ongoing accumulation of ‘human machines’ on the pyramids of accumulation. Its blind eagerness for plunder requires organized coercive force to sustain the huge mortgage on future income in the present. Wolf’s demand for the strong state does not belie neoliberalism. Neoliberalism does not demand weakness from the state. Laissez-faire is no ‘answer to riots’ (Willgerodt and Peacock, 1989: 6). Indeed, laissez-faire is ‘a highly ambiguous and misleading description of the principles on which a liberal policy is based’ (Hayek, 1976: 84). That is, the neoliberal state is ‘planning for competition’ (1976: 31), and there can therefore be no market freedom without ‘market police’ (Rüstow, 1942: 289). For the neoliberals, there is thus an ‘innate connection between economics and politics’ (Friedman,1962: 8): not only does the free market require the strong, market-facilitating state, but it is also dependent on the state as the coercive force of that freedom.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247788715_Free_economy_and_the_strong_state_Some_notes_on_the_state

Almost Marx 

 

 

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My comment on ‘Space — architecture’s final frontier’

Edwin Heathcote a new and welcome voice on the civic nature of Architecture- and in The Financial Times! Or, perhaps I’ve not paid attention to his other essays? It  reminds me of Aline Saarinen, on the Today Show, on NBC, in the early 1960’s. An actual Architectural Critic on morning television? She was an opinionated critic of architecture, and of the arts. Television once aspired to …

Not to forget Ada Louise Huxtable’s ‘The Tall Building Artistically Reconsidered’ and ‘Goodbye History, Hello Hamburger’ that reinforces the necessity of the architectural critic’s role, in making a place, not just for the notion of connesership, in all its self-congratulatory iterations, but about the spaces we occupy. and the buildings we confront in our daily lives: the good, the bad and indifferent products of builders/financiers, and their attachment to the current styles and their practitioners.

StephenKMackSD

https://www.ft.com/content/a69a7046-89be-429a-8911-c2ef0d8678a5

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Gideon Rachman on G John Ikenberry’s ‘A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crisis of Global Order’ : Old Socialist comments

Headline: A World Safe for Democracy by G John Ikenberry — free thinking

Sub-headline: This thoughtful and profound defence of liberal internationalism looks at the political philosophy as a guide to future actions

Is Mr. Rachman’s enthusiasm for one of The American Foreign Policy Mandarinate a surprise? G John Ikenberry is the co-inventor of the catch phrase of ‘Liberal International Order‘ :




There are few political scientists who can claim to have come up with an idea that has shaped real-world politics. G John Ikenberry, a professor at Princeton University, is a member of that small group. Together with his colleague Daniel Deudney, he coined the notion of a “liberal international order” in 1999. Within a few years, the phrase had been adopted by the western foreign-policy elite as shorthand for the world they were seeking to build and defend.

Mr. Rachman describes not a ‘Liberal International Order’ but American Hegemony in a bespoke suit! All carefully tailored, to sooth the fractured political nerves, of an electorate waiting for the Inauguration of ‘Liberal Hero’ Joe Biden.

For Ikenberry, the idea of a liberal international order describes a situation in which powerful countries agree to work together, in their mutual interests, through international institutions. It is a world in which principles like open trade and international law are firmly embedded.

Prof. Ikenberry, ‘the poet laureate of liberal internationalism’ plays a featured role in Perry Anderson’ s ‘American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers’ of 2013: From page 128 etc. of the print copy of New Left Review.

 Mandelbaum’s edges are too sharp for either requirement, as his relations with the Clinton Administration showed. Their perfect embodiment is to be found in Ikenberry, ‘the poet laureate of liberal internationalism’, from whom the dead-centre of the establishment can draw on a more even unction. In 2006, the Princeton Project on National Security unveiled the Final Paper he co-authored with Anne-Marie Slaughter, after some four hundred scholars and thinkers had contributed to the endeavour under their direction.footnote21 With a bipartisan preface co-signed by Lake and Shultz, and the benefit of ‘candid conversations with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Madeleine Albright’, not to speak of the ‘wisdom and insight of Henry Kissinger’, Forging a World of Liberty under Law: us National Security in the 21st Century sought, Ikenberry and Slaughter explained, to offer nothing less than ‘a collective X article’ that would provide the nation with the kind of guidance in a new era that Kennan had supplied at the dawn of the Cold War—though nsc–68, too, remained an abiding inspiration.

Ikenberry’s subsequent theoretical offering, Liberal Leviathan (2011), revolves around the idea that since the American world order of its subtitle ‘reconciles power and hierarchy with cooperation and legitimacy’, it is—emphatically—a ‘liberal hegemony, not empire’. For what it rests on is a consensual ‘bargain’, in which the us obtains the cooperation of other states for American ends, in exchange for a system of rules that restrains American autonomy. Such was the genius of the multilateral Western alliance enshrined in nato, and in bilateral form, of the Security Pact with Japan, during the Cold War. In the backward outskirts of the world, no doubt, the us on occasion dealt in more imperious fashion with states that were clients rather than partners, but these were accessories without weight in the overall structure of international consent it enjoyed.footnote22 Today, however, American hegemony was under pressure. A ‘crisis of authority’ had developed, not out of its failure, but from its very success. For with the extinction of the ussr, the us had become a unipolar power, tempted to act not by common rules it observed, but simply by relationships it established, leaving its traditional allies with less motive to defer to it just as new transnational fevers and forces—conspicuously terrorism—required a new set of responses. The Bush Administration had sought to meet the crisis with unilateral demonstrations of American will, in a regression to a conservative nationalism that was counter-productive. The solution to the crisis lay rather in a renewal of liberal internationalism, capable of renegotiating the hegemonic bargain of an earlier time to accommodate contemporary realities.

That meant, first and foremost, a return to multilateralism: the updating and refitting of a liberal democratic order, as ‘open, friendly, stable’ as of old, but with a wider range of powers included within it.footnote23 The expansion of nato, the launching of nafta and the creation of the wto were admirable examples. So too were humanitarian interventions, provided they won the assent of allies. Westphalian principles were outdated: the liberal international order now had to be more concerned with the internal condition of states than in the past. Once it had recovered its multilateral nerve, America could face the future confidently. Certainly, other powers were rising. But duly renegotiated, the system that served it so well in the past could ‘slow down and mute the consequences of a return to multipolarity’. The far-flung order of American hegemony, arguably the most successful in world history, was ‘easy to join and hard to overturn’.footnote24 If the swing state of China were to sign up to its rules properly, it would become irresistible. A wise regional strategy in East Asia needs to be developed to that end. But it can be counted on: ‘The good news is that the us is fabulously good at pursuing a milieu-based grand strategy.’footnote25

At a global level, of course, there was bound to be some tension between the exigencies of continued American leadership and the norms of democratic community. The roles of liberal hegemon and traditional great power do not always coincide, and should they conflict too sharply, the grand bargain on which the peace and prosperity of the world rest would be at risk. For hegemony itself, admittedly, is not democratic.footnote26 But who is to complain if its outcome has been so beneficent? No irony is intended in the oxymoron of the book’s title. For Hobbes, a liberal Leviathan—liberal in this pious usage—would have been matter for grim humour.

https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii83/articles/3040?token=lz61Z8XvcWc6

G John Ikenberry is the newest addition to the apologists for, in his characterization, ‘liberal hegemony, not empire’.


Mr. Rachman describes the bad actors in the political present :

The idea of a liberal international order has also come under sustained ideological attack from three directions — the nationalist right, the “anti-imperial” left and from illiberal nations outside the west. For “America First” nationalists, grouped around President Donald Trump, liberal internationalists are simply “globalists” who had sold out US interests. For the left, meanwhile, the current world order is associated with the defence of an exploitative neoliberalism, and with an international power structure with its roots in the age of imperialism. Parts of this critique have also been adopted by nationalists in China, Russia and elsewhere, who argue that the liberal world order is just code for American hegemony.

Note, that by inference, ‘The Left’ acts as the accomplices of both Russia and China. This is The Financial Times, this kind of defamation of ‘Left’ political actors is part of the Old Cold War baggage, subject to a tactical historical revisionism. Note the ‘Left’s’ obsession with Neo-Liberalism, as narrated by Rachman: it rings hollow as this newspaper and its writers were and are its paid advocates/apologists.

The Rachman Political Melodrama gathers rhetorical momentum:

In response to this formidable political and intellectual assault, Ikenberry has produced A World Safe for Democracy, a thoughtful and profound defence of liberal internationalism — both as a political philosophy and as a guide to future actions. By tracing the evolution of liberal internationalism over the course of two centuries, he demonstrates that this is a set of ideas with deep historical roots, rather than triumphalist fluff produced after the west’s victory in the cold war.

For Ikenberry, the ideas of international co-operation, law, open trade and democracy have followed a “crooked trajectory” throughout history, advancing at times — but also experiencing many trials and setbacks. The point is made by the cover illustration chosen for the book: a picture of St Paul’s Cathedral, surrounded by the smoke of bombs, during the second world war.

The patient reader then confronts the central idea/construct of the Rachman/Ikenberry Alliance! That they are both Neo-Liberals – Free Trade, the sine qua non of this failed economic/political toxin. With ‘Liberal Internationalism’ as its newest window dressing. Except that it is just that moldering left-over of ‘Wilsonian Idealism’.

That suggests that future American governments are going to have to be more cautious about free trade. This is no small adjustment because, as Ikenberry demonstrates, support for free trade has been a core commitment of liberal internationalists stretching back into the 19th century.

https://www.ft.com/content/9259df30-4c0b-4f7f-aab7-cee195507b53

Old Socialist

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It’s hard to be patient with Timothy Garton-Ash. Old Socialist makes his way through his ‘The future of liberalism’

The first two paragraphs on Mr. Garton-Ash’s essay are …

Writers have interpreted the failings of liberalism in different ways; the point, however, is to change it. Self-criticism is a liberal strength. The very fact that there are already so many books diagnosing the death of liberalism proves that liberalism is still alive. But now we must move from analysis to prescription.

This is urgent. The victory of Joe Biden in the US presidential election gives a fragile opening for liberal renewal, but more than 70m Americans voted for Donald Trump. In Britain, a populist Conservative government faces a Labour Party with a new, left-liberal leader, Keir Starmer. In France, Marine Le Pen remains a serious threat to Europe’s leading liberal renewer, Emmanuel Macron. In Hungary, the EU has an increasingly illiberal and undemocratic member state. The likely economic consequences of the pandemic—unemployment, insecurity, soaring public debt and perhaps inflation—will probably feed a second wave of populism. China, already a superpower, is emerging strengthened from the crisis. Its model of developmental authoritarianism is challenging liberal democratic capitalism. For the first time this century, among countries with more than one million people, there are now fewer democracies than there are non-democratic regimes.


Mr. Garton-Ash presents what ‘writers’ have offered about the failings of Liberalism, and that Liberalism’s strength is its ability to engage in self-criticism, that precedes ‘renewal’. And that the diagnosis of ‘books ,on Liberalism’s demise proves that Liberalism is still alive. This diagnosis offered by ‘writers’ and ‘books’ are unidentified except in the broadest, most amorphous terms. Liberalism is able to engage in ‘self-criticism’: in Mr. Garton Ash’s telling ‘Liberalism’ is transformed into a volitional being. The other actors in this part of his essay:

Joe Biden as the instrument of ‘renewal’.

Keir Starmer as ‘a new, left-liberal leader

Marine Le Pen as ‘a serious threat to Europe’s leading liberal renewer, Emmanuel Macron.

Hungary as ‘the EU has an increasingly illiberal and undemocratic member state

China ‘already a superpower, is emerging strengthened from the crisis.

This cast of political actors is followed by this statements: ‘there are now fewer democracies than there are non-democratic regimes.

Some clarification:

Joe Biden is a Neo-Liberal, in sum, a New Democrat of the Clinton Era.

Kier Starmer is a New Labour and a ‘reformer’ against Jeremy Corbyn’s return to Left-Wing Social Democracy

Le Pen & Macron, who confronts the ongoing Rebellion in France, unreported in the corrupt bourgeoise press.

Hungary- After a long and utterly failed trans-generational experiment with Neo-Liberalism, Populists took over the remains of a Free Market Economy.

See Philipp Ther’s Europe Since 1989: a history‘ Chapters 4 & 5 for the devastating effects of Neo-Liberalism in Eastern Europe:

https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691167374/europe-since-1989

China- This state became the manufacturing hub of American Multinationals, seeking an exploitable work-force: its called off-shoring to increase obscene profits for the latest electronic trinkets.

Mr. Garton-Ash then adopts a poetic metaphor :

Like Neptune’s trident, a renewed liberalism will have three prongs. The first is the defence of traditional liberal values and institutions, such as free speech and an independent judiciary, against threats from both populists and outright authoritarians.

The second prong almost embraces Piketty’s Capitalist Critique?

The second is to address the major failings of what passed for liberalism over the last 30 years—a one-dimensional economic liberalism, at worst a dogmatic market fundamentalism that had as little purchase on human reality as the dogmas of dialectical materialism or papal infallibility. These failings have driven millions of voters to the populists. We must, then, be tough on populism and tough on the causes of populism. 

The third prong of the renewed Liberalism:

The third prong requires us to meet, by liberal means, the daunting global challenges of our era, including climate change, pandemics and the rise of China. So our new liberalism has to look both backward and forward, inward and outward.

Pay particular attention to ‘the rise of China‘ as part of ‘the daunting global challenges of our era‘! The Yellow Peril , in its various iterations and permutations is a standard Western trope!

Carefully camouflaged in his further explanation of his ‘three prongs’ is this example of barbarism in France.

The barbaric beheading of a French teacher outside Paris reminds us that, even in the oldest liberal societies, free speech has to contend with not only the heckler’s but now also the assassin’s veto. 

The reader need only look at the inherent barbarism, that existed in France in 1961?

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/paris-1961-9780199247257?cc=us&lang=en&

The Paris massacre that time forgot, 51 years on

https://www.france24.com/en/20121017-paris-massacre-algeria-october-17-1961-51-years-anniversary-historian-einaudi

The photographic archive:

For an illuminating History of ‘Liberalism’ see

https://www.versobooks.com/books/960-liberalism

And a history of The Economist , the leading ‘Liberal’ newspaper :

https://www.versobooks.com/books/3090-liberalism-at-large

Mr. Garton-Ash divides his essay into eight parts. I will offer quotations from his essay and comments on each section:

No liberalism without liberty:

The featured players:

‘Liberalism is, in Judith Shklar’s illuminating formulation, a “tradition of traditions.” There is an extended family of historical practices, ideological clusters and philosophical writings that may legitimately be called liberal. All share a core commitment to individual liberty. (Only in the weird semantic universe of contemporary American politics could it appear possible to separate liberalism from liberty.) Beyond this, as John Gray has argued, liberalism includes elements of individualism, meliorism, egalitarianism and universalism. These ingredients, however, appear in widely varying definitions, proportions and combinations.

In his opening paragraph he presents Shklar’s ‘tradition of traditions’ and John Grey’s collection of the ‘elements’ of Liberalism: in Shklar’s vision it is an agglomeration of capacious constituents. And in Grey’s case more of the ‘elements’ favored by Shklar. The five paragraphs of this section, of his essay, are a potted self-serving history of the ‘evolution of Liberalism’. With the addition of current ‘bad political actors’ added to enliven his polemic.

Equality and solidarity

A crucial staircase up from the floor is education. The expansion of university education was intended by mid-20th century liberals to augment life chances and social mobility, yet now the great American universities increasingly look like another means for existing elites to perpetuate their ascendancy. Leading US colleges regularly admit more students from the top 1 per cent of households by income than they do from the bottom 60 per cent. The Economist has coined the term “hereditary meritocracy” to describe this self-perpetuating new class. Universities like the two in which I am privileged to work therefore bear a major responsibility to widen access, but they cannot achieve social mobility on their own. We also need high-quality state schooling for all, from the crucial early years up, better vocational education and, amid a digital revolution, lifelong learning.

The featured players:

Philosopher Pierre Hassner, Leszek Kołakowski, ‘dramatic growth in inequality’, Ralf Dahrendorf , Milton Friedman, Oxford University, ‘expansion of university education’, The Economist , “hereditary meritocracy” . More riffing on Piketty? Or is it more argumentative Velveeta?

Redistributing respect

The players:

‘disparity of esteem’, ‘liberal elites’, East Germany, Ronald Dworkin,  ‘liberal political community’, ‘equal respect and concern’, ‘metropolitan liberals’, ‘US rustbelt’, ‘neglected communities of northern England’,  ‘taxi-loads of metropolitan journalists’, ‘Yorkshire coalfields’, ‘Appalachian mountains’, Martha Nussbaum ,  “curious and sympathetic” imagination , “recognise humanity in strange costumes” , Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, ‘imaginative sympathy underpins is solidarity’.

Call this collection just a brief and selective resume of the sins, and the victims of The Neo-Liberal Swindle!

Checking the “liberalocracy”

The players:

“levelling up.” ,  super-rich, globalisation, “comfortably off”, middle-class, Extreme inequality, “hereditary meritocracy.”, concentration of power, Anglo-American liberalism, “revolving door”,  “golden rule” , grotesquely distorting power of money, Rupert Murdoch, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Clintons, Tony Blair, Friedmanites and Hayekians,, Stephen Schwarzman, Financial Times, Mike Corbat, Citigroup, Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase, John Stuart Mill, “stakeholder capitalism”,  left-wing radical, Thomas Mann, Little Dorrit, Merdle.

In this collection of political actors, the reader needs to make note of Mr. Garton-Ash’s praise for Soros : ‘Yes, some rich and powerful individuals, such as George Soros, have truly earned our respect.’ Ass-kissing sycophants for the Plutocracy is another name for The Hoover Institution.

  

Identity and community

The players:

‘community and identity’, cosmopolitan liberals,  “the international community,”,  diverse minorities, multiculturalists, “white identity politics” , Trump and his ilk, Hillary Clinton, “the basket of deplorables.”,  post-1989 globalisation and liberalisation, Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto,  Joachim Gauck, zielwahrende Entschleunigung (goal-preserving deceleration,

Note the final framing, of this section of his essay, a painting by Eugène Delacroix – La liberté guidant le peuple . With the respectable bourgeoise notion of Gauck’s ‘goal preserving declaration’ -Note that the 37 million Refugees the product of America’s Wars of Empire is avoided at all costs by Garton-Ash! So much for the mythology of ‘Liberal Renewal’ that he advocates as a somehow!

The state-nation

The players:

uncomfortable territory for contemporary liberals, the stubborn persistence of nations, “internationalism versus the nation,”, Scruton , European liberals in 1848,  Covid pandemic, “liberalism for the liberals, cannibalism for the cannibals”, Martin Hollis, “identity politics,”, Feminism, Mill, George Eliot, “either/or”, “as-well-as-and”

These players followed his vision of a ‘Declaration of Liberal Faith’ offered as an alternative to the utterly toxic ‘identity politics’ of the multiculturalists?

Ours will therefore be an inclusive, liberal patriotism, capacious and sympathetically imaginative enough to embrace citizens with multiple identities. Membership of the nation is defined in civic, not ethnic or völkisch terms; this is not a nation-state, in a narrow sense, but an état-nation, a state-nation. Such an open, positive, warm-hearted version of the nation is capable of appealing not just to dry reason but also to the deep human need for belonging and the moral imperative of solidarity. While the coronavirus pandemic initially triggered a bout of national self-isolation, it has also showed us the best in community spirit and patriotic solidarity. Liberal patriotism is an essential ingredient of a renewed liberalism.

The challenge of the global

The players:

globalised financialised capitalism, territorially bounded, liberal democratic state-nation, What do liberals have to offer most of humankind, a moral question and a very practical one, John Gray,  John Stuart Mill, East India Company, Western universalism, violent conquest, torture, genocide, slavery, highest ideals of liberty, civilisation and enlightenment, colonial oppression, Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, Kosovo or Sierra Leone, abandon the universalist aspiration, a postcolonial openness, the west’s declining relative power, for a new liberalism, since 1945,predominance of western power, China, which is already a superpower, China’s unprecedented Leninist-capitalist version of developmental authoritarianism, an alternative path to modernity, the defining threat of the Anthropocene era: climate change, the Global North, to show them they are wrong,  Global South, Paul Collier argues that limiting immigration can actually benefit the societies from which immigrants come, that large majority of humankind, these global challenges, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Again no mention of America’s Wars of Empire, and its 37 million refugees! Conquest and subjugation of the lesser beings of the planet is central to the rehabilitation of the Liberal Mythology. Mr. Garton-Ash political/moral blindness …

Towards a new liberalism

The players:

Arnold Ruge, entitled “Self-Criticism of Liberalism.” It was published in 1843, FDR’s New Deal, Now we need a new “new liberalism.”, I do not pretend to elaborate a normative theory.’, It strayed too far from Karl Popper’s “piecemeal engineering.”, This new liberalism will be stalwart in the defence of liberal essentials, It will be experimental, proceeding by trial and error, This new liberalism will remain universalist, This new liberalism will remain egalitarian, historically informed meliorism, hope for a human civilisation,

For the patient reader of Mr. Garton -Ash, in both his Descriptive and Prescriptive rhetorical modes, at some points intertwined, and at others nearly free-floating: he has the particular talent of collecting clichés and catch phrases. Admittedly I have written a polemic, that features a not completely arbitrary collection of these self-serving rhetorical beings. Yet Mr. Garton-Ash’s concluding paragraphs, in a way, or even a perhaps, vindicates my exercise in polemics?   

Speaking only for myself, I hope I will then go down with the good ship Liberty, working the pumps in the engine room as we try to keep her afloat. But as I breathe my last mouthful of salty water—glug, glug—I shall find consolation in reflecting on one last, peculiar quality of Liberty. Some time after the ship seems to have sunk to the bottom, it comes back up again. Odder still: it acquires the buoyancy to refloat precisely through sinking. It is no accident that the most passionate voices for freedom come to us, like the prisoners’ chorus in Beethoven’s Fidelio, from among the unfree.

For liberty is like health—you value it most when you have lost it. The better way forward, however, for free societies as for individuals, is to stay healthy.

The future of liberalism

Old Socialist

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Thomas B. Edsall diagnoses ‘declining social status’ as the pressing American Problem. Political Skeptic contemplates the question.

Mr. Edsall writes a nearly 3,ooo word essay, that finds ‘declining social status’ as ‘the’ explanation for the present political crisis. Exacerbated by the ‘Populists’ of both the ‘Radical Right’ and ‘Left’: the ‘as if ‘ here is that somehow the ‘Centrists’ have an answer, to the Political Apostacy of those two extremes. While pretending that that ‘Center’ isn’t what it is, an alliance between the New Democrats/Neo-Liberals and the Neo-Cons, with the Respectable Republicans, in disguise as the once Blue Dog Democrats. Some brief illustrative quotation from this ‘Centrist Agitprop’:

Scholars are now rectifying that omission, with the recognition that in politics, status competition has become increasingly salient, prompting a collection of emotions including envy, jealousy and resentment that have spurred ever more intractable conflicts between left and right, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.
Hierarchal ranking, the status classification of different groups — the well-educated and the less-well educated, white people and Black people, the straight and L.G.B.T.Q. communities — has the effect of consolidating and seeming to legitimize existing inequalities in resources and power. Diminished status has become a source of rage on both the left and right, sharpened by divisions over economic security and insecurity, geography and, ultimately, values.



Gidron and Hall continue:

The populist rhetoric of politicians on both the radical right and left is often aimed directly at status concerns. They frequently adopt the plain-spoken language of the common man, self-consciously repudiating the politically correct or technocratic language of the political elites. Radical politicians on the left evoke the virtues of working people, whereas those on the right emphasize themes of national greatness, which have special appeal for people who rely on claims to national membership for a social status they otherwise lack. The “take back control” and “make America great again” slogans of the Brexit and Trump campaigns were perfectly pitched for such purposes.

Mr. Edsall has assembled a coterie of Academic Experts, that might put a Cecile B. DeMille Biblical Epic to shame, in all its cinematic hyperbole. His attempt at completeness, as the-in-order-too of silencing potential critics.

But for all the various quotations from these Experts, Mr. Edsall’s polemic fails utterly to address the vexing question of Neo-Liberalism, and it’s forty year dominance, in the economic/political life of America and Europe. And its toxic effects, on populations afflicted with the failures of this Utopianism-that might just be the cause of this anxiety about a ‘declining social status’. Not to speak of low wages and jobs lost to this failed economic/political ideology.

Mr. Edsall doesn’t even consider the possibility of such. Occupy Wall Street was representative of not just disenchantment with Neo-Liberalism. but a full scale rebellion, crushed by Bloomberg and Obama. And the publication of Piketty’s book “Capital” were the political events that were the aftermath of the Market Crash of 2008. Read the reception of Piketty’s book in The Economist, the short review . And the opportunism of Obama and his ‘lets put this behind us’ and the Neo-Liberal garbage of Simpson-Bowles!

Mr. Edsall his essay with this political kitsch:

These forces in their totality suggest that Joe Biden faces the toughest challenge of his career in attempting to fulfill his pledge to the electorate: “We can restore the defining American promise, that no matter where you start in life, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. And, in doing so, we can restore the soul of our nation.”

Trump has capitalized on the failures of this American promise. Now we have to hope that Biden can deliver.

Political Skeptic

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Edward Luce’s programmatic approach to Trump’s final days as President. And the fate of the Republican Party. Political Skeptic comments.

Here are some evocative quotations for Mr. Luce’s latest essay:  

The question is whether that kind of paranoiac, which, polls suggest, describes the overwhelming majority of Republican voters, will drift into atomised resentment or be a political wrecking force. 

The answer will shape the direction of American politics in the years ahead. Hofstadter’s observations point us in both reassuring and worrying directions. He developed his theory of “the paranoid style in American politics” having watched Joe McCarthy’s red scare, which convulsed US politics, media, academia and the entertainment industry for several years in the 1950s. 

 

McCarthy’s fall shows that America’s bouts of paranoia do subside. From the scare over the Illuminati in the 1790s, to the Free Masons in the 19th century, to the resistance to Catholic immigration in the late 19th century, each wave crashes. But they are followed by more. Sometimes, as with McCarthyism, they evolve. The year after McCarthy’s death, Robert Welch, a wealthy candy manufacturer, founded the John Birch society, which seeded today’s US conservatism. Welch was an ardent fan of McCarthy. He believed Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy”. 

 

Today’s conspiracy theory is supercharged by being led by the US president. To be sure, Mr Trump will have to move out of the White House on January 20. But he is giving clear hints he plans to run again in 2024. Even if he does not, it will be in his interests to keep everyone guessing. That will maximise his leverage over the Republican party and his ability to add to the more than $200m he has raised since November 3. 

 

It is entirely possible Mr Trump’s conspiracy theory will start to pall. It is also possible that his hold over the Republican party will solidify. One recent poll showed that Mr Trump was the party’s overwhelming favourite to be the 2024 nominee. Third place, behind vice-president Mike Pence, was Donald Trump Jr. There is one simple test of whether Mr Trump’s grip will loosen. Mr. Trump looks set to boycott Mr Biden’s inauguration next month. If senior Republicans follow his lead, the party will remain his. If they ignore him and show up, his spell will have broken. 

https://www.ft.com/content/5eb76ab8-f3fe-4abb-8efa-3bf934a7cfa6

A more historically accurate sketch of the post-war Republican Party might read like this:  

The New Deal as a ‘Generation of Treason’, The Nixon/McCarthy/Mundt/McCarren Witch Hunt, Barry Goldwater: ‘a choice not an echo’. Nixon & his ‘Silent Majority’ & Southern Strategy, Rehnquist appointment, Watergate and Impeachment, Kissinger. Ronald Reagan: ‘Morning In America’ ‘I believe in States Rights’ & ‘Welfare Queens Driving Cadillacs’. Bush I: ‘A Thousand Points of Light’ & ‘No New Taxes’. Bush The Younger: ‘Compassionate Conservatism’, 9-11, Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, CIA, NSA spying on American citizens. Read this as an alternative to Mr. Luce’s ‘History Made to Measure’, that ends like some maladroit pastiche of a fairy tale: 

‘Mr. Trump looks set to boycott Mr Biden’s inauguration next month. If senior Republicans follow his lead, the party will remain his. If they ignore him and show up, his spell will have broken.’ 

Hofstadter’s ‘Paranoid Style’ was the cudgel of choice, for a generation of ‘Liberals’ before they capitulated, en masse, to the Neo-Liberal Clintons: I am thinking here of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. , and his cadre at the ADA.

Political Skeptic

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The Economist attacks Alberto Fernández as ‘Argentina’s president without a plan’! Old Socialist compares Fernández with the President ‘with a plan’ Mauricio Macri, from the pages of this Newspaper

From the early days of The Economist’s Political Romance with Mauricio Macri.


From January 2, 2016


Headline: A fast start

Sub-headline: Mauricio Macri’s early decisions are bringing benefits and making waves


‘MAURICIO MACRI, who took office as Argentina’s president in December, has wasted little time in undoing the populist policies of his predecessor. On December 14th he scrapped export taxes on agricultural products such as wheat, beef and corn and reduced them on soyabeans, the biggest export. Two days later Alfonso Prat-Gay, the new finance minister, lifted currency controls, allowing the peso to float freely. A team from the new government then met the mediator in a dispute with foreign bondholders in an attempt to end Argentina’s isolation from the international credit markets.

This flurry of decisions is the first step towards normalising an economy that had been skewed by the interventionist policies of ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, who governed before her. They carry an immediate cost, which Mr Macri will seek to pin on the Kirchners. Some of the new president’s other early initiatives are proving more controversial.’

‘Touring northern Argentina, where 20,000 people have been displaced from their homes by floods, Mr Macri blamed the former president, saying she had failed to invest in flood defences (see article). For now, Argentines are likely to believe their new president. However, if the economic slowdown is prolonged, the honeymoon will not be.

https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2016/01/02/a-fast-start

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From August 11, 2016

Headline: It’s cold outside

Sub-headline: A battle over utility bills is Mauricio Macri’s first big crisis

THE most populous parts of Argentina are stifling in summer and bone-chilling in winter. The Kirchner family, which ruled for a dozen years until 2015, kept the cost of comfort low. An earlier government had fixed the price of electricity and natural gas in 2002 to help the economy out of a slump; the Kirchners barely raised it. As a result, Argentines pay a fraction of what their neighbours do for energy (see chart).

But they have paid in other ways. Energy subsidies jumped from 1.5% of government spending in 2005 to 12.3% in 2014. Partly because of such largesse, the budget deficit was a worrying 5.4% of GDP last year. Because energy is cheap, consumers use it with abandon; utilities lack cash for investment. Summer blackouts can last for hours. Mauricio Macri, who succeeded Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as president in December, said the energy crisis was the most complex of the “many bombs” she had left for him. Defusing it is proving to be perilous.

Mr Macri has little choice but to hope that the supreme court rules in his favour, persist with price rises and pay the political cost. “To find tariffs both attractive enough for investment and acceptable to society—without impacting inflation—is impossible in the short term,” says Carlos Marcelo Belloni of IAE Business School in Buenos Aires. Like chilly consumers, Mr Macri is waiting for balmier weather.

https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2016/08/11/its-cold-outside

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From September 23, 2016

Headline: How Mauricio Macri is trying to rehabilitate Argentina’s economy

Sub-headline: The president faces a vast task

FOR most of 2015 few gave Mauricio Macri much chance of becoming Argentina’s president. The pro-business mayor of Buenos Aires lagged in the polls behind Daniel Scioli, the candidate favoured by Argentina’s outgoing president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Pundits pointed out that no non-Peronist president had completed a full term in office since 1928. But in the end it was Mr Macri’s outsider status that clinched his victory. After scraping 51% of the vote in a run-off on November 22nd, his supporters at home and abroad looked forward to swapping political populism for economic prosperity. But, more than nine months after his inauguration, Argentina is still plagued by high inflation, unemployment and weak consumer demand. What has gone wrong?

The scale of the task confronting Mr Macri was formidable. Argentina had been a financial pariah for more than 14 years, cut adrift from international capital markets thanks to a long-running dispute with holders of its defaulted debt. Official government statistics were widely discredited, prompting the International Monetary Fund to issue a formal censure in 2013. A standoff with the agricultural sector meant that farmers preferred to stockpile grain and soyabeans rather than export them. Currency controls left the peso overvalued and foreign exchange reserves at a nine-year low. Years of chronic underinvestment in infrastructure had pushed the country’s energy network to the brink of collapse.

The new president favoured bold action. During his first weeks in office Mr Macri eased currency controls, reduced export tariffs on agricultural goods and oversaw an overhaul of the national statistics institute. In April he concluded a $9.3 billion deal with holders of Argentina’s defaulted debt, restoring the country’s access to credit markets. But the remedies, although necessary, have proved painful. The peso’s devaluation pushed up the already-high inflation Mr Macri had inherited to around 40%, the highest rate in Latin America outside Venezuela. The reduction of unaffordable energy subsidies and an accompanying rise in utility bills inflicted more pain on hard-pressed consumers. With unemployment at 9.3% and the economy in recession, union-organised protests brought tens of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets of Buenos Aires on September 2nd.

Mr Macri is desperate for good news. With legislative elections due in October 2017, his political fortunes will hinge on whether or not Argentines begin to feel tangible improvements in the economy. Inflation is finally slowing: in August prices rose by just 0.2%. But the flood of foreign investment Mr Macri promised would arrive following Argentina’s return to the markets has so far failed to materialise. For now at least, experts remain optimistic. Although the IMF believes the economy will shrink by 1.5% of GDP this year, it forecasts growth of 2.8% for 2017. Argentines also appear willing to give Mr Macri the benefit of the doubt. After months in decline the president’s approval ratings have stabilised at 56% over the past two months, according to Poliarquía, a pollster. As spring arrives in Buenos Aires, Mr Macri must be hoping that his fortunes have finally turned.

https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2016/09/23/how-mauricio-macri-is-trying-to-rehabilitate-argentinas-economy

From the latter days:

June 8, 2016

Headline: The IMF hands Mauricio Macri a vote of confidence

Sub-headline: But Argentines are more sceptical

THE timing took many by surprise. On June 7th, just four weeks after negotiations began, Argentina’s government declared that it had secured a three-year credit line with the IMF worth $50bn. The deal’s size is likely to reassure investors of Argentina’s solvency. Its speed is a sign of the fund’s confidence in Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s business-friendly president. But for ordinary Argentines, many of whom blame the IMF for the country’s disastrous $82bn default in 2001, the announcement carries echoes of a painful past.

An acute currency crisis meant Mr Macri had little alternative but to seek the IMF’s help. In April the yield on American ten-year Treasury bonds rose to 3% for the first time since January 2014. That prompted a widespread sell-off in emerging markets. The currencies of Turkey, Russia and Mexico were all battered; Argentina’s was particularly badly hit. Investors were spooked by the country’s large fiscal and current-account deficits, and a rapidly growing pile of foreign-currency debt. They also doubted the independence of the central bank, which in January had cut interest rates at the behest of the government, despite inflation of 21%.

It will be no easy task. Argentines are weary of austerity and are unlikely to thank Mr Macri for providing them with more of it, particularly at the behest of the IMF. In 2001 the IMF offered loans in exchange for commitments to cut spending. When the government reneged, the fund pulled the plug and the country defaulted. Although the politicians were chiefly to blame, the IMF’s reputation has never recovered. A poll conducted in May found that three-quarters of Argentines were opposed to any sort of arrangement with the fund. If Mr Macri is to stand a chance of re-election next year, he must convince voters that the alternative would have been far worse.

https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2018/06/08/the-imf-hands-mauricio-macri-a-vote-of-confidence

_______________________________________________________________

From July 5, 2018

Headline: Argentina’s currency crisis is far from over

Sub-headline: BUENOS AIRESA weak currency and punishingly high interest rates mean recession appears inevitable

ON A residential street corner in Buenos Aires, Van Koning Market sells imported beers to the city’s well-heeled. Since it opened in June last year costs have soared. The peso has plummeted, meaning wholesale prices have shot up. Inflation is running at 26%; the reduction of government subsidies means the monthly electricity bill has risen from 700 pesos to 4,000 pesos ($142). Already losing customers, Sergio Discenza, the manager, is reluctant to raise prices much. “In a normal country this would be a viable business,” he says. “But here everyone is struggling.”

The year started badly for Argentina when the worst drought in 50 years hit the harvest of maize and soyabeans, both important exports. In May a stronger dollar and higher US Treasury yields prompted international investors to flee risky assets. Most emerging-market currencies suffered, Argentina’s especially. Its twin fiscal and current-account deficits have seen the peso lose more than a third of its value this year, making it the world’s worst-performing currency (see chart). A recession, the fifth in a decade, appears inevitable.

Mr Macri was elected because Argentines, sick of populist economic policies, supported his plans for reform. Now many are wavering. A recent poll of Buenos Aires residents found almost half saying they had been happier under his populist predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. “We would probably have sold more beer under the previous government,” says Mr Discenza, standing in his deserted shop. Until recently, political analysts felt confident that Mr Macri would win a second term. His hopes rest on convincing Argentines that their glasses are still half full.

https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2018/07/05/argentinas-currency-crisis-is-far-from-over

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Here is the ‘free fall’ of the peso as reported in the New York Times:

From August 12 , 2019:

Headline: Argentine Peso Collapses as Macri’s Re-election Chances Drop

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s currency collapsed on Monday and stocks and bonds crashed to a degree not seen in 18 years as voters flirted with a return to interventionist economics by snubbing President Mauricio Macri and his market-friendly approach in favor of the opposition in the country’s primary vote on Sunday.

The Argentine peso initially dropped 30.3 percent, to a record low of 65 per one United States dollar, after Alberto Fernández, the opposition candidate whose running mate is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the former president, dominated the primary by a 15.5 percentage point margin that was much wider than expected. The currency recovered some of its value later in the day, reacing 55 per dollar.

Mr. Fernández has said that he would seek to “rework” Argentina’s $57 billion standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund if he won the general election in October.

Argentina’s local Merval stock index was down 31 percent and bonds also fell. Argentine stocks, bonds and the peso had not recorded a simultaneous decline since its economic crisis and debt default in 2001, according to data from the research firm Refinitiv.

________________________________________

From December 3, 2020:

Headline: Argentina’s president without a plan

Sub-headline: Alberto Fernández is muddling through

In death, as in life, Diego Armando Maradona represented his country to the full. The funeral of Argentina’s most famous footballer on November 26th was as passionate and chaotic as his country’s affairs (see Obituary). In defiance of his own government’s health rules, President Alberto Fernández ordered that Mr Maradona’s coffin lie in state in the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. Like the president, El Diego was a lifelong supporter of Peronism, Argentina’s populist-nationalist movement. When the wake was curtailed, with thousands of fans queuing, pandemonium ensued.

Mr Fernández’s craving for popularity by association is a sign of his weakness. The funerary disorder extends to the economy, too. A social democrat, the president took office a year ago, at the head of an uneasy Peronist coalition in which much power lies with his vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (no relation), a leftist who ruled from 2007 to 2015. Within three months, the pandemic struck. Mr Fernández was quick to impose a lockdown, which brought a surge in his approval rating, but which delayed rather than prevented a severe outbreak of covid-19. Argentina is among the top ten countries for recorded deaths as a proportion of the population. Only now is the lockdown being eased. Mr Fernández’s popularity is below its starting point.

Economic recovery will be slow. The exchange controls and the wealth tax are discouraging investment. This year several multinationals (such as Walmart) have packed up. Much of the software industry has departed. Argentina, once Latin America’s most developed country, likes to live by its own rules, although that has engendered a long decline. In that, too, Maradona represented his nation. He had “so much football wealth that he thought he could squander it and it would not end”. That is Argentina, wrote Martin Caparrós, an Argentine author, in El País, a Spanish newspaper. “He fell, he got up, he fell again. He delighted in his past glories for lack of future ones: Argentina, perhaps.”

https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2020/12/03/argentinas-president-without-a-plan

The death of Maradona frames the whole of this scolding essay, against Fernández as a ‘president without a plan’. In this melodrama, a Political Telenovela, Maradona is hero and Fernández is the leader ‘without a plan’! Yet, the President ‘with a plan’ Macri ‘s Neo-Liberalism Lite, precipitated a peso in ‘free fall’ and an onerous IMF intervention!

The anonymous author of this essay quotes Martin Caparrós on what Maradona represented: ‘past glories and lack of future ones’, as representative of political fate of Argentina. Which resonates with the author’s notion of ‘a long decline’ , the sine qua non of Conservatism, in its many toxic permutations and iterations.

Old Socialist

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The Financial Times and the vexing question of ‘fishing rights’! Old Socialist comments

While Neo-Liberalism is still in its seemingly endless state of collapse, exacerbated by Covid-19, this newspaper continues to quote the Think Tank dullards, who sold this Utopia as the ‘Radiant Future’, to borrow from Zinoviev!
The combat between Johnson & Macron, over the vexing question of fishing rights, takes up valuable newspaper space, as the in order too of what? Here are some answers!

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Headline: Why is France’s new national security bill controversial?

Thousands of protesters gathered at demonstrations across France on Saturday to protest a controversial new bill that would ban police images and increase surveillance.

The legislation, which is pending in France’s parliament, intends to protect police officers from online calls for violence, according to the government.

What does Article 24 stipulate?

The new article would amend current legislation to make it an offence to show the face or identity of any officer on duty “with the aim of damaging their physical or psychological integrity”.

The offence would carry a prison sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of €45,000.

The amendment to France’s global security legislation was proposed in October by President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche! party and its ally, Agir.

https://www.euronews.com/2020/11/28/why-is-france-s-new-national-security-bill-controversial

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Headline: Thousands protest in France against new security bill

Sub-headline: Anger against bill, which would make it illegal to share footage of on-duty police, fanned by video of Black man being beaten by cops.

Thousands of protestors hit the streets of France Saturday to demonstrate against a controversial draft security law that would criminalize sharing images of police officers if done for “malicious purposes.”

In Paris, 46,000 people gathered against the bill, according to the interior ministry. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades as some protesters lit fires and hurled rocks and fireworks at the security forces during an otherwise peaceful march.

Protesters also demonstrated in other French cities, such as Lille, Rennes and Strasbourg.

Many were also demonstrating against police violence, after the brutal treatment of Black music producer Michel Zecler at the hands of the police last weekend.

The focus of much of the anger on Saturday, fanned by the violent beating of Zecler caught on video, is the law’s 24th article, which says that those who distribute either video footage or photographic images of on-duty police officers with the intention of causing them harm could face prison sentences and fines.

A wide range of critics across French society say the controversial new security bill will curb press freedom, but President Emmanuel Macron and his Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin have pushed ahead with it nonetheless, hoping it would cast them as tough defenders of the French police, and law and order.

After the bill was passed by the lower chamber of the French parliament earlier this week (senators are yet to scrutinize the bill), Prime Minister Jean Castex said an independent committee would revisit the contentious article. However, Castex was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on the scope of the committee Friday, after a backlash from MPs and senators.

On Friday, Macron condemned the treatment of Zecler. “The images we all saw of the beating of Michel Zecler are unacceptable. They shame us,” the French president said in a statement posted on Facebook and Twitter. 

Saturday’s protests were attended by a mix of journalists, civil liberties activists, and Yellow Jacket protesters, Reuters reported.

https://www.politico.eu/article/france-protests-security-bill-police-violence/

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Headline: Protest Against Macron’s Security Law Turns Violent In Paris

Violence erupted in Paris on Saturday during a march against a controversial new security legislation that would ban the publication of images of police officers with intent to cause them harm.

Turmoil erupted at about 4 p.m. local time on Saturday during the march, which was near the Bastille square where as many as 46,000 people gathered. Some protesters dressed in black — a regular fixture in France in recent years — overturned a van on a street leading to the square, while others used steel pedestrian barriers as shields against the police, AFP reported.

A brasserie and a newspaper kiosk on the square were set alight, the city’s police tweeted. Meanwhile at least 37 police officers were wounded, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who condemned the violence in a tweet.

Activists and journalists are concerned the “global security law” will allow police violence to continue unchecked at a time of growing calls for more oversight. Anger has been heightened by videos that showed police using unwarranted force against a black man and migrants on two separate occasions this past week.

President Emmanuel Macron, whose party pushed for the legislation to help protect the police as the government presses on with its promise to improve security and crack down on crime, said the police brutality videos “shame us,” and condemned violence both by and against officers, in comments posted on Facebook and Twitter on Friday evening.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-11-28/macron-under-pressure-as-thousands-expected-to-protest-new-law?sref=bfOwbK4O

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All these news stories are from late November! In sum, the Rebellion against Macron gathers strength for his ‘Jupertarian Security Law’. Should the reader look to ‘Paris 1961: Algerians, State Terror, and Memory’ by Jim House and Neil MacMaster as a brutal object lesson, of the power of a Leader and his Police?

Checked the front pages of this newspaper since Nov. 28, 2020 and no report on the demonstrations in France, quelle surprise!

Old Socialist

https://www.ft.com/content/e0f0d580-77e5-4a9b-8839-20fb80277231

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