“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, November 10, 2008

fantasy politics and the new deal

LI has enjoyed the round-the-blogs discussion about the New Deal, which started with Eric Rauchway’s takedown of Amity Schlaes country club revisionism regarding Roosevelt (here and here and here ) and the Marginal Revolution’s Alex Tabbarok’s attack on Rauchway (here)

LI’s notion is that Rauchway is, obviously, right about the success of the New Deal – if one judges success as ‘did this get entrenched into the economy’ – in the same way that neo-liberalism succeeded after Reagan. In the thirties, the depression in the U.S. was prolonged not because Roosevelt was too radical, but because he was too timid. Oddly, although the Great Depression was an international slump, nobody has expanded the frame of the argument to compare the U.S. performance to other economies – which would tell us, trivially, that the 1937-1938 period was a slump elsewhere as well, but would also give us a larger picture about the Great Transformation of the Great Transformation. Among the developed countries, the U.S., during the twenties, was rather unique in producing a recognizable social welfare net – even the Conservatives in the U.K., however viciously they squelched the General Strike, did not even try to go back to classical liberalism. And this turned out to be their ace in the hole. In fact, in parts of England, there was actually a consumer boom in the thirties. Why? Well, partly because of the Conservative Party’s break with free trade doctrine. Instead, Chamberlain’s government came in on a promise to raise tariffs – which, in the U.S., we’ve all been taught is the devil’s instrument. This contributed to the relative healthiness of the British economy – although the tariff policy has to be viewed in the context of Britain’s special place at the center of a worldwide empire, the Imperial Preference policy, which was knocked down at the end of WWII by the Americans at Bretton Woods, who treated Britain as a defeated country. The import restrictions, as a matter of fact, acted as a stimulus to domestic industry, which had lagged in the twenties, and – in the end – Britain actually imported more goods, even with the tariffs in place. This doesn’t mean Britain escaped the Slump unscathed - the North of England, Scotland and Wales suffered enormously – but that the libertarian fantasy of responding a la Mellon by liquidating everything – letting markets clear – was adopted by nobody, on the sound principle that it was insane.

And, of course, it is now an historic relic, which is why the argument against the country clubbers has a musty smell. The Republican party has long relied on combining one of the responses to the Depression – military keynesianism, perfected by Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany and with us ever since – with the entrenched social welfare net for the middle class (the attitude towards which is best exemplified in the Bush Pill Bill – basically, adding more to the pile) – while retaining a Hooverite rhetoric about small government. From one view, this is a chaotic amalgam of differing ideological positions – from another view, that of class analysis, this is a perfectly coherent program to reward the wealthiest, which has always involved using the Government – the largest holder of money, after all – for largescale peculation, while talking against it in order to lower upper tax rates. Pragmatically, this has positioned borrowing at the center of conservative politics, and slowly that has exerted such a gravitational pull on conservative policy that it has shaped a freerider ethos.

Long ago – in November, 2001 – LI wrote an article for the Statesman about big government conservatism, in which we predicted that Bush would bury the Clinton mantra that the era of big government was over. I should dig that thing up one of these days. There’s nothing sweeter or more elementary schoolish than a good I told ya so.

10 comments:

northanger said...

tried googling that up, but all i could find was you delving into bookstores' shelves of smut to investigate the collective Gestalt of erotica.

you should do a post on that new Bretton Woods thingy.

roger said...

B-B-B-But wouldn't you rather read me on erotica, North?

You've just crushed my heart.

northanger said...

no no no no no! surely you can find the Bretton Woods erotica angle Woggia?

roger said...

Now you are just rubbing salt into my wounds! Although probably there is something in that line in Gravity's Rainbow....

northanger said...

your pain is self-inflicted (some sort of conversion disorder). i'm not rubbing anything here.

northanger said...

i know! you can do a erotica differential or something.

roger said...

Ah, eroticism in the zona! Here it is.
A little tornado...

northanger said...

AQ 169 = INSIDE MAN (AQ-270 CHAIYYA CHAIYYA, AQ-270 MYOFASCIAL PAIN) = BRUXISM (GRK-815 Βρυγμος ~ AQ-134 BRUGMÓS; AQ-293 GNASHING OF TEETH, AQ-362 PARAFUNCTIONAL HABIT, AQ-706 BETA RHO UPSILON GAMMA MU OMICRON STIGMA) = ENCHANTER (AQ-70 ONN {AQ-160 MEONENIM}, AQ-103 HOSEA 6:4).

AQ 422 = RELIGIOUS PROFESSION (AQ-354 PROFESSION OF FAITH) = MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.

AQ 2691 = DANIEL: DU, O FÜRST, HAST WIEDER UNSERN GOTT DICH FREVELND AUFGELEHNT, DESS' KELCHE DU ZUM FEST BEGEHRET, WORAUS DU SELBST, DIE FRAU'N, DAS HOFGESIND' IN WEIN GESCHWELGET! (AQ-306 BELSHAZZAR (HANDEL)) = THE QUESTION IS: WHY PLAY THIS PERVERSE GAME, WHEN IT'S ALMOST CERTAINLY THE SECOND TIME, AT LEAST, AND TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS IS ALREADY AN ARTIFICIAL MEMORY?

AQ 878 = WE ARE BOUND TOGETHER IN A SINGLE GARMENT OF DESTINY (In the final analysis the weakness of Black Power is its failure to see that the black man needs the white man and the white man needs the black man. However much we may try to romanticize the slogan, there is no separate black path to power and fulfillment that does not intersect white paths, and there is no separate white path to power and fulfillment, short of social disaster, that does not share that power with black aspirations for freedom and human dignity. We are bound together in a single garment of destiny; AQ-387 WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?) = YOUR ILAAH (GOD) IS ONLY ALLAH, THE ONE (LAA ILAAHA ILLA HUWA) (AQ-251 SOORAH TAAHAA (20):97-98, AQ-406 BADEE-UD-DEEN SHAH AS-SINDHEE).

AQ 2528 = SAYYID BADEE-UD-DEEN SHAH IBN EHSAANULLAAH IBN RASHIDULLAAH SHAH IBN RASHEED-UD-DEEN SHAH IBN MUHAMMAD YASEEN SHAH IBN MUHAMMAD RAASHID SHAH AR-RAASHIDEE AL-HUSSAINEE (AQ-406 BADEE-UD-DEEN SHAH AS-SINDHEE) = THERE IS, BY NOW UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED, A SPECTRE HAUNTING CAPITALISM, AND THE HEART OF THE OLD EMPIRE IS EXPERIENCING SOME DISQUIETING MURMURS.

AQ 2977 = IN OTHER WORDS, FOR THE SOCIOLOGICAL OR ANTHROPOLOGICAL EVALUATION OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DATA, THE CONVENIENT TECHNOLOGICAL CRITERIA ARE NO LONGER USEFUL BUT ACTUALLY MISLEADING ({p90} AQ-598 FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL ARCHAEOLOGY; AQ-296 THREE-AGE SYSTEM, AQ-296 VESCHEVEDENNIYA {AQ-230 CYCLONOPEDIA, AQ-255 RELIQUOLOGY}) = THE CRUDEST, MOST BARBAROUS THEORY THAT EVER EXISTED, A SYSTEM OF DESPAIR WHICH STRUCK DOWN ALL THOSE BEAUTIFUL PHRASES ABOUT LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AND WORLD CITIZENSHIP (AQ-626 ENGELS CALLED MALTHUS'S HYPOTHESIS; AQ-354 WORLD CITIZENSHIP) = THOU, O KING, HAST LIFTED UP THYSELF AGAINST THE LORD OF HEAV'N, WHOSE VESSELS THEY HAVE BROUGHT BEFORE THEE, AND THOU, THY LORDS, THY WIVES, AND CONCUBINES, HAVE DRUNK WINE IN THEM! (AQ-109 DANIEL 5:23, AQ-109 MERCY, AQ-109 PSALM 120; AQ-306 BELSHAZZAR (HANDEL)).

AQ 350 = 1/480TH POUND STERLING (AQ-182 HALFPENNY, AQ-281 HOT CROSS BUNS) = LOVE AND DEPRESSION ('We sat opposite on the Met line. You had just lost your job. I tried to cheer you up. Would love to try again with less people around - Anon') = LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR.

AQ 1000 = HOT CROSS BUNS, ONE HA' PENNY, TWO HA' PENNY, HOT CROSS BUNS (AQ-281 HOT CROSS BUNS) = THE TIPPING POINT: HOW LITTLE THINGS CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE.

AQ 480 = GENETICALLY-MODIFIED BACTERIA (AQ-178 PHANTOMS, AQ-392 ANANDA MOHAN CHAKRABARTY, AQ-392 ANTITHESIS TO CAPITAL, AQ-392 BACTERIAL COMMUNITIES, AQ-392 IN THE EYE OF THE STORM, AQ-392 NATURAL CROSS-LINKER, AQ-392 STRANGER THAN FICTION).

P.M.Lawrence said...

Does "...in parts of England, there was actually a consumer boom in the thirties" actually mean England? Some USAians sometimes use "England" erroneously (and offensively) to mean the UK. Your later geographically and culturally specific remarks suggest you are not doing this.

"...military keynesianism, perfected by Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany..."

Well... Keynesianism does cover what happened there, but they didn't actually pursue Keynesian policies. They mostly used high tax and spend policies, without precisely going into deficit. Those produce stimulus effects similar to but smaller than the same amounts of deficit finance, according to Keynesian analysis. In their, ah, special circumstances they were able to overcome political objections to the high taxes, aided partly by the militarism and partly by disguising much of the revenue as savings schemes. In James Buchan's Frozen Desire he describes much of what was involved in sterilising what would otherwise have been straight inflationary deficit finance.

The USA wanted to treat liberated France as a defeated country too, trying to introduce occupation money that would end up a charge on France, only De Gaulle nipped it in the bud. Only a little went into circulation, repudiated ab initio.

Anonymous said...

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