Sunday, December 25, 2011

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.
Con George-Kotzabasis 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.
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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Obama's Plan for Withdrawal Replaces Living Victorious Strategy with Dead Strategy

I'm republishing the following article for the readers of this new website.
By Con George-Kotzabasis
Obama is no leader but a pretender! The sentence in the first paragraph of his Op-Ed in the NT on July 14, 2008, says it all. “The phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated,” which he trumpeted before the surge, he continues to consider as being wise in conditions when the surge has been successful in subduing the insurgency and decisively defeating al Qaeda in Iraq (his goal), and the Iraqi government meeting 15 out of the 18 benchmarks set up by Congress.
Further, he fabricates a grand fiction when he states that “nearly every threat we face-has grown.” If this was true one would have expected that America would have been attacked at least once since 9/11. And he distorts the real goal of the surge which was to win the war, and inevitably that would involve some strain in the overall number of U.S. military forces, and not because, the reason why he opposed the surge, it would not ease “the strain on our military.” Did Obama expect to win a war without perforce some strain on the military?
Obama’s op-ed is redolent with hypocrisy and cant to justify his pro-surge position, and to transpose this position in the new situation of a victorious war in Iraq as continuing to be politically and strategically viable is laughable. It is no less than the attempt of someone to resuscitate a dead carcass which unceremoniously is fit for burial and to give it a ‘second life’ in the overwhelming liveliness of victory.
Obama’s plan for withdrawal rides on the ignorant and obtuse brain-wave of populism that is against the war justified to an extent by the initial mistakes of its strategists in the conduct of the war. But now that these mistakes have been addressed and corrected by the new strategy of the surge which is defeating the insurgency, for Obama to stick to his populist promise to pull out U.S. troops from Iraq within two years in this new situation, is to lead from the tail and not from the front the American people.
And in American history Obama, if he ever became president, will be everlastingly cursed for being the only Commander-in-Chief who ignominiously and doltishly withdrew his magnificent brave soldiers from a war at the threshold of its victory. Can you imagine President Lincoln after the Battle of Gettysburg ordering General Ulysses Grant to withdraw his troops from the field of battle and stop pursuing the army of Robert Lee whose ultimate defeat, at astronomical cost of men and materiel on both sides, led to the end of the civil war? Obama is making a mockery of the tradition of great, wise, intrepid American presidents. He was wrong in his prediction that the surge would fail, wrong in his assessment that Iraq is not presently the frontline of global terror and al Qaeda, and wrong in his strategy to pull out U.S. troops from a war that the latter are winning. On this score alone, he does not deserve to be the Commander-in-Chief of a Great Nation.
Over to you