Sunday, November 27, 2005
To have a war of choice in these conditions was guaranteed to split the West and in effect leave the US to go solo. No strings attached. And that was not seen as an unavoidable cost by the neoconservatives but, incredibly, as a welcome bonus. Talk about hubris. So, intelligence was cynically manipulated, a purely Goebbelsian propaganda campaign was started, Iraq was attacked and then occupied in a criminally negligent fashion. It seems that if you break it, you don't nowadays own it, not if it would mean a draft and a costly, real commitment for decades. Instead what you hoped for was a friendly strongman that would keep the oil flowing and take care of the housekeeping efficiently, should I say, in a quite Saddamian fashion.
And then, and then, after having ended up in the predictable bloody mess, you say to your critics that let bygones be bygones: what is done is done and we are all in this together. No, we are not in this together. This is what you get when you go it alone: you get to be alone. I am not totally convinced that a speedy US withdrawal would make things worse. It might actually help the situation. What I am totally sure about is that we can't make a success of this morally corrupt, disgusting imperial adventure. Now that state of affairs would be an imminent threat to the West.
There are certain moral positions we have to defend to the last - one of them is that we are not torture loving pirates. We have been lucky in that evil means have led to disastrously bad concequences. Yes, lucky, and yes, evil. With a capable, adult administration the situation would be even more horrible: the naked aggression would have succeeded and the ends would have ended up justifying the criminal means - and would been corrupted by them. We can only hope that one of the characteristics of capable and adult administrations would be not to engage in morally corrupt and criminal wars of choice.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
We have reached a comfortable plateau in the West: there is unprecendented wealth, unprecedented material progress, internal peace, societies where people can concentrate in their private matters, relationships, amusements – we can forget history even if still subject to biology and accident. Yes, there are the occasional follies of imperial adventures, worries on terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction, and on the horizon rise majestically the warning signs of environmental collapses to come, of climate change, pandemics, natural disasters. But at the moment things are fine: we have recovered from the nightmares of the world wars and the looming, oppressive threat of the Cold War one day turning hot and ending the whole world with it (suprisingly little is nowadays said or remembered of that atavistic fear that endured for so long time). No matter, we are now comfortable.
And it is so obvious to see that even in this fragile stability the engine of history has been blind passion, not reason. Capitalism has proven to be the mechanism that can use our base, grasping human nature for a kind of general advancement, for a kind of stability and progress – fundamentally, of course, based on unstability, on purely materialistic values, on this blind competition for growth and profit. So far it has worked: we have advanced, not because of our ethics and moral dispositions but despite of them. That advancement no doubt won’t last for ever. But aside from that immediate point, history looms very dark: at heart we are still animals, still mortally afraid of the night, acting reflexively to gain short term security and comfort, motivated by passion, not reason, being subject to biology and accident. With this world, these tools, this cleverness and these blind, destructive instincts: for how long can our luck hold?
Monday, November 21, 2005
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Well, over 10 years is a long time - one would think that you would start wondering why nothing ever happens, why it is the factual case that economics are outside of ideology and ethics and uninfluenced by public debate and national consensus. To me it appears fairly straightforward: the Nordic welfare model never was anti-capitalist, rather it relied on capitalism to produce continuous growth which made it easy to redistribute wealth and provide humane safety nets and easy access to essential and highquality public services. Now the dilemma is clear: the essential motor and foundation of the welfare state must be modified in order for it to continue providing growth. But this time in this era of globalization and decontrol of the capital the modifications that are needed are mostly hostile to the principles and aims of the welfare state. Of the two I suspect the welfare state needs much more the market economy than vice versa: the servant has become the master (probably it always was the case). In this situation the old mechanics don't work - but how can we ever fix the situation if we don't first acknowlege this crucial bond between the free market economy and the Nordic model? Though, chillingly, this endless moaning might be the only - and totally useless - tool we are left with.
To me it begins to look as if the Social Democratic compromize was just a brief phase: we tied ourselves to a far too dynamic and destructive force - and we proved unable to control it, unable to control the forces of history. So, economic growth is no more automatically beneficial to the welfare structures, rather the opposite, but the welfare state will still desperately need growth to stay viable. That's why we are paralysed and unable to do what we would want to do: there is no mechanism to do that - to turn back would need a global, rational consensus to control capital and investment. I can't see that happening. The crux of the matter might be that we simply are fundamentally not able to direct our path in the way necessary - destructive capitalism is the only mechanism that delivers but it functions because we are not capable of rational and ethical control. If we were capable of that, we would abolish much of the present economic structures, much of the present autocontrol and blind, destructive change. But we can't. This is no doubt quite a bleak view but then times are bleak.