Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where Europe Works

by Anders Åslund

Project Syndicate

May 30, 2013

With Swedish cities roiled for weeks now by rioting by unemployed immigrants, many observers see a failure of the country’s economic model. They are wrong. The Swedish/Scandinavian model that has emerged over the last 20 years has provided the only viable route to sustained growth that Europe has seen in decades.

Europeans should remember that perceptions of strength and weakness change fast. In the 1980’s, Scandinavian countries stood for chronic budget deficits, high inflation, and repeated devaluations. In 1999, The Economist labeled Germany “the sick man of the euro” – a monument of European sclerosis, with low growth and high unemployment.

Now, however, the specter of devaluation has disappeared from northern European countries. Budgets are close to balance, with less public expenditure and lower tax rates, while economic growth has recovered. The transformation of the old European welfare state started in northern Europe, and it is proceeding to most of the rest of the continent.

Today, it is difficult to imagine the mindset that prevailed before Margaret Thatcher came to power in the United Kingdom in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in the United States in 1981. Thatcher’s greatest achievement was the liberalization of the overregulated British labor market, while Reagan turned the tide with his inaugural address: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The moral superiority of high marginal income taxes suddenly waned. Free-market ideas took hold.


The strange rebirth of liberal England

June 1, 2013

For the past 170 years The Economist has consistently advocated free trade, punctured government bloat and argued for the protection of individual liberties. It has also been consistently disappointed. Irksomely, political parties tend to plump either for economic liberalism or for social liberalism. Sometimes a small party boldly tries to combine the two—and is rewarded by becoming even smaller. In the United States our creed is so misunderstood that people associate liberalism with big government, when it advocates the opposite.

Yet now Britain, The Economist’s home, the land of Adam Smith (on lead guitar), John Stuart Mill (bass) and William Gladstone (vocals), there is reason for hope. Young Britons have turned strikingly liberal, in a classical sense (see article).

They are relaxed, almost to the point of ennui, about other people’s sexual preferences, drug habits and skin colour. Although, like older Britons, they do not think much of mass immigration, they are tired of politicians banging on about it. As for the row over gay marriage, soon to trouble the House of Lords, they can hardly see the problem.

The young want Leviathan to butt out of their pay cheques as well as their bedrooms. Compared with their elders, they are welfare cynics. Almost 70% of the pre-war generation, and 61% of baby-boomers, believe that the creation of the welfare state is one of Britain’s proudest achievements. Under 30% of those born after 1979 agree. The young are deficit-reduction hawks. They worry about global warming, but still generally lean towards Mill’s minimal “nightwatchman state” when it comes to letting business get on with it: they are relaxed about the growth of giant supermarkets, for example.


Generation Boris

June 1, 2013

A group of 17- and 18-year-olds assembled in their lunch hour at a diverse London school offers a cross-section of political views. Some are more left-wing than others; some are more apathetic. But they are not as different as they seem. When pushed to describe their politics, they agree that the state’s primary role is to protect individual freedom. For them, social and moral causes such as gay rights and sex equality loom larger than things like welfare and health. Asked whether any had joined recent protests against government spending cuts, they respond with raised eyebrows, laughter and effusive denials. One admits to going, “but only for a look.” The pavement-pounding youth of past decades this is not.

“Any man who is under 30 and is not a liberal has no heart; and any man who is over 30 and is not a conservative has no brains.” So Winston Churchill, among others, is supposed to have observed. Young Britons are still liberal today. But not in the way that Churchill meant, or in the common sense of the word. Nor, probably, will they grow out of their liberalism.

The young are less likely than their elders to consider themselves part of any particular religion, less likely to join a political party or a trade union and, according to the long-running British Social Attitudes survey (BSA), less likely to have a “high or very high opinion” of the armed forces. As far as they are concerned, people have a right to express themselves by what they consume and how they choose to live.

Predictably, that translates into a tolerance for social and cultural difference. Polls show that the young are more relaxed than others about drugs, sex, alcohol, euthanasia and non-traditional family structures. They dislike immigration, but not as strongly as do their elders. And they are becoming ever more liberal. The BSA has tracked attitudes for three decades. It shows that the young are now far more tolerant of homosexuality, for example, than were previous generations at the same age.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Οριζόντιος φιλελευθερισμός Versus εθνολαϊκισμός

του Γιώργου Σιακαντάρη

Athens Voice

29 Μαΐου 2013

Στην Ελλάδα της κρίσης και του Μνημονίου έχει καταρρεύσει όχι μόνο το πολιτικό σύστημα της μεταπολίτευσης, αλλά και ο λαϊκισμός αυτής της περιόδου. Αυτός ενσωμάτωνε στο λόγο του ιδεολογικές εγκλήσεις που επιδίωκαν να ενισχύσουν τους κυρίαρχους συνασπισμούς εξουσίας (ΠΑΣΟΚ, ΝΔ) συνδέοντας την πολιτική ελίτ με τους ψηφοφόρους της. Ήταν ένας λαϊκισμός της ενσωμάτωσης και όχι της διαμαρτυρίας, γιατί επιδίωκε να «δέσει» οργανικά τις ελίτ με τους «μη προνομιούχους» και όχι να καθοδηγήσει τη διαμαρτυρία των μαζών έναντι των ελίτ (Περόν, Λεπέν, Τσάβες).

O σημερινός λαϊκισμός στην Ελλάδα δεν θέλει να συνδέσει τις ελίτ με τις «μάζες», αλλά να υποστηρίξει πως οι κοινωνίες δεν χρειάζονται ελίτ ή να αποδείξει πως μόνο ο αγνός, αδιαίρετος, αδιαμεσολάβητος από τους θεσμούς της απατηλής αντιπροσωπευτικής δημοκρατίας λαός είναι ελίτ. Η κύρια όμως διαφοροποίησή του από το λαϊκισμό της μεταπολίτευσης είναι η κυριαρχία της εθνολαϊκίστικης διάστασης έναντι αυτής της ενσωμάτωσης (Νίκος Μουζέλης) ή της απλής διαμαρτυρίας.

Σίγουρα ο τρόπος συγκρότησης του μεταπολιτευτικού συστήματος εμπεριείχε αρχές του εθνολαϊκισμού (μακεδονικό, στήριξη των σφαγέων Μιλόσεβιτς-Κάρατζιτς, μάχη των ταυτοτήτων, Ίμια, στήριξη Οτσαλάν, στάση έναντι θρησκευτικών-εθνοτικών μειονοτήτων, άρνηση του δικαιώματος ατομικού και εθνικού αυτοπροσδιορισμού κ.ά.). Μεταξύ άλλων είναι οι βραβεύσεις των διαφόρων Κάρατζιτς που σήμερα παράγουν Κασιδιάρηδες. Απ’ αυτό τον εθνολαϊκισμό, όμως, απουσίαζε η ταύτιση των «απέναντι ξένων» με τους «από πάνω». Εξηγούμαι.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Διεθνής Αμνηστία: Διαπιστώνει κλιμάκωση της ρατσιστικής βίας στην Ελλάδα

Το Βήμα
23 Μαΐου 2013

Κλιμάκωση των εγκλημάτων ρατσιστικής βίας στη χώρα μας διαπιστώνει στην ετήσια έκθεσή της η Διεθνής Αμνηστία.

Η έκθεση υπενθυμίζει και τις δύο περσινές καταδίκες της χώρας μας για τον βασανισμό μετανάστη και τον αποκλεισμό παιδιών Ρομά από την εκπαίδευση.

Πέρα από την επισήμανση για εμπλοκή ακροδεξιών συμμοριών στα καταγεγραμμένα κρούσματα ρατσιστικής βίας, στην κατηγορία για τα εγκλήματα μίσους υπάρχουν δύο αναφορές για τη Χρυσή Αυγή.

Η μία αφορά στην έβδομη αναβολή δίκης τριών Ελλήνων, μεταξύ των οποία και μίας υποψήφιας βουλευτού της Χρυσής Αυγής που κατηγορήθηκαν για τον ξυλοδαρμό τριών Αφγανών και το μαχαίρωμα ενός από αυτούς το 2011. Η δεύτερη αναφορά γίνεται για την άρση ασυλίας δύο βουλευτών του κόμματος που συνδέθηκαν με επιθέσεις σε πάγκους λαϊκών αγορών που ανήκαν σε μετανάστες στη Ραφήνα και το Μεσολόγγι.


Διάβασε την έκθεση

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Barack Obama’s Political Philosophy

by Fernando Tesón

Bleeding Heart Libertarians

May 21, 2013

(Author’s note: this is a post about ideas, not politics. It is unrelated to current events. It simply examines the philosophical views expressed by our Chief Executive.)

In a number of speeches, the President has outlined his views on the legitimacy of government. Following the Tea Party success in 2010, he resolutely responded to those who attack government. In his words:
The democracy designed by Jefferson and the other founders was never intended to solve every problem with a new law or a new program. Having thrown off the tyranny of the British Empire, the first Americans were understandably skeptical of government. Ever since, we have held fast to the belief that government doesn’t have all the answers, and we have cherished and fiercely defended our individual freedom. That is a strand of our nation’s DNA… But what troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad…For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it conveniently ignores the fact in our democracy, government is us. We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders, change our laws, and shape our own destiny. (Michigan 2010 speech)
And again recently:
Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted. (Ohio State 2013 speech)
In a sense, there’s little that is new. The President’s view is not necessarily statist in the sense that everything must come from government. He holds the fairly standard view that markets should be robust, but that market failures and other societal needs require government action. His views about the size of government are of course more expansive than that of most readers of this blog, but they are not out of the mainstream: they summarize the standard progressive position.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Sad Decline of the Word "Capitalism"

by Alejandro Chafuen


May 1, 2013

Late last week in Orlando, a passionate champion of economic freedom, Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fl.) said, “Capitalism has turned into a dirty word” to a gathering of 500 pro-capitalist think tank operatives during the closing speech of the 36th Resource Bank. The conclave is one of the two largest annual events for U.S. market-oriented think tanks; the other being organized by State Policy Network.

If “capitalism” is viewed as a dirty word, should think tanks “clean it up” or abandon it? Like other Americans who were not born in the United States, I still mourn the loss of the word “liberal.” In most of the world the word means nearly the opposite of what it means here. I doubt that the word capitalism will be “stolen” but should we mind if it gets lost? During my college years I was more than satisfied with the arguments in favor of capitalism provided in Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand, and Ludwig von Mises’ The Anti-Capitalist Mentality. In his great treatise, Human Action, Mises recognized that “the system of free enterprise has been dubbed capitalism in order to deprecate and to smear it.” He chose nevertheless to keep the word and redeem it.

Although Karl Marx did not create the word, it was after his work Das Kapital (1867) when the term “capitalism” began to be widely used to describe an economic system based on private property as the means of production. Marx remains the great labeler: “capital,” “the capitalist” and “the capitalist system of production” appear repeatedly in his writings.

Ludwig von Mises was never shy about engaging in intellectual battles with the other side on their turf and with their choice of words. He wrote that the concept of capitalism “if it means anything, it means the market economy” and that modern capitalism is “essentially mass production for the needs of the masses.” Audiences view terms such as “a system of free enterprise,” the “market economy,” and “mass production for the needs of the masses,” much more favorably than “capitalism.”