Radical Liberals Condemn and Disparage Technocrats

The following exchange took place between an American radical liberal and me on the appointment of the two technocrats Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos as prime ministers of Italy and Greece.

Bruce Wilder says,

You seem to have lost the essential premise: the “looming economic catastrophe” is largely the creation of the technocrats, and “all the misery that implies” has been embraced by the technocrats with all the enthusiasm an 18th century physician had for purgatives and bleeding.

Con George-Kotzabasis says,

Bruce Wilder, your “essential premise” walks on crutches. In a physical crisis in which you might lose your leg you don’t stop from going to a surgeon just because there are bad surgeons about. To label all surgeons (technocrats) as incompetent and refuse to go under their knife is to lose your leg. That is why your argument, factually and intellectually, waddles on crutches.

Bruce Wilder says, 11.13.11 at 6:09 pm

Con George-Kotzabasis @ 105

If your life was threatened by a growing cancer, affecting your lungs or your kidneys, and you went to a surgeon, and the surgeon said, “To save your cancer, I recommend amputation of your leg,” I would hope you would run from the room, with your legs still intact.

These particular neo-liberal technocrats are just these sorts of mad incompetents, prescribing senseless maiming in place of a treatment plan. There are, apparently, no politicians available, to stand up and veto the insanity, “brave” and “charismatic” or otherwise.

The corruption and incompetence of the politicians—indeed, the whole polity—in Greece and Italy—played nearly as critical a part in the epidemiology of crisis as the neoliberal technocrats. It is worth remembering that the popular support for the European project has often rested on the hope of improving the quality of governance and institutions. For all the grousing over the minutiae of Brussels and the trivia of Strasbourg, the hope of European Union was always to promote high-minded, principled liberal institutions as a prophylaxis against authoritarianism and populist corruption. This was, I suspect, always a very big part of the appeal of the euro: German monetary policy for the South, an internationally respected currency immune to runaway inflations, etc. The Italians, as I recall, embraced the euro ahead of every other country; they were overjoyed to be rid of the lira, the joke currency of Europe, so inflated in value that coins were impractical—phone booths required a special token and street vendors gave candies in place of change. The euro is very popular in Greece as well, and I suspect that that popularity, as much as the fecklessness of politicians, is a factor in preventing Greece from taking the obvious step of unilaterally embracing default in abandonment of the euro. (Purely from a technocratic point-of-view, the equivalent of a competent surgeon would be a technocrat doing the preparations in secret, which would make a unilateral return to the drachma feasible. That’s the “right” thing to do for Greece, from a “technical” standpoint and from the standpoint of protecting Greece from the “amputation” of privatisation and a prolonged deflation. An efficient calculating machine would have been crystal clear from the outset that, on the numbers alone, Greek default was inevitable; delay could only prolong and intensify the suffering.)

The Big Picture, here, may well be that economic and institutional centralization has found its limits, at least for the moment. Certainly, the neoliberal architectural principles employed over the last 25 years are a bust. Are we so stupid that neofascism must follow? Many would say that authoritarianism was always an implied part of the neoliberal agenda.

110

Con George-Kotzabasis says,11.14.11 at 2:10 am

Bruce Wilder
In serious discussion it is wise to enter it carrying a sieve in one’s hands to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Your crystal clear “efficient calculating machine” that would implement your proposal of default, would be no other than a wise, brave, imaginative, and humane TECHNOCRAT. So what exactly you have against technocrats? They are OK if they adopt your plan and only transported to Hades in toto for their mortal sins, if they don’t! Default was and is always an option. The distinguished economist Deepak Lal and exponent of the Austrian School of economics, long ago suggested such a schema. Lucas Papademos and Mario Monti both presumably have this option in their arsenal to be used as a last resort if everything else fails. But before they use this ‘nuclear’ option, they must try, and be given the right by all objective analysts and commentators, to resolve this economic crisis by ‘conventional’ means that could avoid a default which would open a big hole in their countries GDP and throw their people into pauperization for decades to come.

111

Bruce Wilder says, 11.14.11 at 2:37 am

Instead of “support the troops”, we are now asked to support the neo-liberal technocrats.

Con George-Kotzabasis, are we to take no account of the part the technocrats played in “designing” the euro? Are we to take no account of the failure of the ECB to carry out bank supervision or to regulate derivatives? It is a little late in the progress of neoliberal disaster capitalism to be attributing good faith, let alone expertise, to these bozos.

 
 
 

The Intellectual Cheating of Liberals

A short reply to a Liberal –By Con George-Kotzabasis

Clearly your vocation in the ‘market of argument’ is to be a peddler in non sequiturs. Why are you shifting the ground of the argument, is it because your pockets are empty of all coins of counter reasoning on the issue? The question as was initially put by Clemons’s use of the Bolton quote was not whether Israel’s and America’s wars were self-defensive or not but whether there was “moral equivalence” between the deliberate and non-deliberate killing of civilians. Clemons by cheating intellectually, by speciously transforming this argument of moral equivalence into an argument of devaluation of “Muslim and Arab lives” has made himself intellectually and morally persona non grata.

Talleyrand, eloquently and boldly said the following in the face of Napoleon, when the latter deposed the legitimate Ferdinand II and placed his own brother Joseph on the throne of Spain, “Sire, un enfant de famille may gamble away his last farthing—the heritage of his ancestors—the dower of his mother—the portion of his sisters—and yet be courted and admired for his wit—be sought for his talents and distinction—but let him once be detected in cheating at the game, and he is lost—society is forever shut against him.” You likewise, in partaking in this Napoleonesque cheating of Clemons “at the game,” have become your own ‘guest’ as an intellectual and moral pariah.

 

 

Neo-Conservative’s Cognitive Power Haunts Liberals and Obama

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The concept of the “Axis of Evil” had a politically pragmatic Machiavellian sense in the context of religious-riddled America, and not a metaphysical one. Religion can also be used not only as “glue” to societal values that binds people and commands them, as the French sociologist Emile Durkheim suggested, but also as glue to certain critical foreign policies that are vital to the security of a nation. Apropos the Axis of Evil in the context of global terrorism and the rogue states which support it overtly or covertly. Statesmanship does not govern in a vacuum; it has to rally its people, like Churchill did, by certain concepts that appeal to them behind its policies and strategies. Neo-conservatives as pragmatists are amoral, and have no relationship with any kind of Manichaeism, of good and evil.

Interestingly, WigWag’s first comment in The Washington Note, ironically as a past opponent and slightly diminishing opponent presently of the neocons, has loosened all the “demons” of neo-conservatism from their “caves” to come and haunt all liberals in their wishful thinking that Obama was a game-changer. From the “prince of darkness,” Richard Perle, who presciently said in 2002 that “we are all neoconservatives now,” Wolfowitz, Feith, Frum, the Kristols and the Kagans, Cheney and Bolton, have taken the centre stage of American politics by “winning the argument,” according to WigWag, and shattering the unrealistic, idealistic, nursery rhymed policies of the liberals, and especially Obama’s.

And presumably even the White House is presently neo-conservative turf as Obama himself has become their disciple, according to WigWag. But Obama is the bastard offspring of the neocons as he was conceived not by their spiritual virility but by the impotent idealistic policies of his own, which in a profligacy of ‘many nights stands’ on the domestic and international arena proved to be total failures, as the neoconservatives had predicted they would be. The clang sound of the chain of failures in health care, in climate change, in his toothless supine diplomacy in the Middle East, in his hope of changing the view of America’s enemies by practicing American values and asking for penance from those wronged from America’s past ‘sins’, have forced President Obama to semi-adopt the policies of the neocons. Being a ‘pragmatic chameleon’ he had to change his colors purely for his own political survival. Obama is no voluntary convert to neo-conservatism. He is perforce adopting and implementing some of the policies of the neoconservatives because they are the only reasonable policies in town and the only ones that can save his political scalp. It’s due to the poverty of liberal policies that Obama is ostensibly attempting to become politically a ‘nouveau riche’ from the wealthy and fecund policies of the neo-conservatives.

WigWag responded to the above as follows:

Kotzabasis, I enjoyed this comment and think you made some excellent points; especially when you characterize Obama as the “bastard offspring” of the neoconservatives.

At the risk of sounding wishy-washy, I’m not sure that it’s a question of whether I was once an opponent of the neocons or am slightly less of an opponent now.

I thought the war in Iraq was a mistake for the United States and the West. Whether it was a mistake for Iraq is an open question. Clearly the Kurds are delighted that the United States invaded and eliminated Saddam Hussein; presumably the Shia are too. The Sunni, not so much.

I think it’s hard to argue that the War in Iraq has not left the United States and all of its allies worse off than they were before the invasion…

But opponents of the neoconservatives will be making a serious mistake themselves if they think that the failures in Iraq or other errors in judgment by leading neoconservatives prove that as a philosophy neo-conservatism is wrong.

After all, the serious tactical blunders that the United States made in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia didn’t prove that containment was the wrong strategy to confront the Soviets.

All Cynical and Defeatist Liberals of War Repudiated by Words of Great Revolutionary

By Con George-Kotzabasis

To all the cynical and defeatists Liberals of The Washington Note and to all those resplendent pundits, like Paul Krugman and Frank Rich of The New York Times, who staked their political insights and cerebral reputations on a military failure in Iraq, the triumph of the surge and the military victory of the US against deadly foes is a bitter intellectual taste that has pervaded their whole political organism. Their continued denial of US victory, that covers by a see-through veil their abysmal ineptness in political and military affairs, can only be expressed in the inimitable words of a great but misguided revolutionary, “clumsily cunning, knavishly naive, doltishly sublime…a pathetic burlesque…a world historical piece of buffoonery.” (Karl Marx, The Class Struggle in France)

Liberals Call for Dismissal of ‘Politicized’ General

By Con George-Kotzabasis
WigWag surprisingly is on a fool’s errand. While he acknowledges the importance of victory in Afghanistan that could be delivered by the “proper course’ of McChrystal and the multi-dimensional effects such a victory would have on global jihadists, at the same time he would be willing to pull a “MacArthur” on a ‘politicized’ McChrystal and hence diminish the chances of the U.S. winning the war in Afghanistan. Alas, according to his ‘dismal’ logic, politics should trump military victory.

Moreover he unimaginatively disregards the totally negative political repercussions such an injudicious dismissal would have on Obama himself, in the current political climate in America that as Kervick notes, in an unusually correct insight, to make McChrystal a “martyr” would be a political calamity for Obama. And it would be the greatest of ironies if the ‘dismissed’ Commander-In-Chief himself by the world by its representative body the International Olympic Committee for sponsoring and promoting Chicago for the summer Olympics, which for a president to be involved directly in its bidding was politically most imprudent, will be dismissing his commander on the ground General McChrystal for his professional and prudent recommendation how to win the war in Afghanistan.

Posted by WigWag, Oct 02 2009, 9:33AM – Link

“WigWag surprisingly is on a fool’s errand”

Don’t be surprised Kotzabasis; I’m afraid that sometimes I think that fool’s errands are my specialty.

Cheers!

Posted by kotzabasis, Oct 02 2009, 10:48PM – Link

WigWag

Only a ‘fool’ who has your strength of character can laugh at himself.

Cheers!

Appease! Appease! Is the Clamour of American Liberals

By Con George-Kotzabasis

This is a question that I was to put to Clemons from another thread but at the time I was under the surgeon’s knife. Since my question, however, is not completely unrelated to the present thread, I’m posing it here.

The question is related to Clemons ‘sweet’ emotional rapprochement to the leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, in the face of the ‘bitter’ realities of the Middle East. Is the West including that outpost of Western civilization, Israel, and especially the U.S., currently engaged in a mortal fight with a hard core fanatical Islam which includes its terrorist satrapies Hamas and Hezbollah or not? If the answer to the question by the “hybrid” realist Clemons, to use his term, is in the affirmative, then the latter is the grand appeaser toward fanatical militant Islam. If he answers it in the negative, with all the expected equivocations that he is capable of, then he is afflicted by an incurable virus of political necrophilia.

But in my humble opinion, Clemons will go down in the chronicles of American history, if he ever makes its footnotes, as the mini American Chamberlain in contrast to Churchillian mettle and sagacity. Appease! Appease! Is the clamour of the prophet.