A year ago, as the “Greek Tragedy” was unfolding, I posted on my blog, Is this the Beginning of the End for the European Union? The outcome of the EU membership referendum in UK suggests that the break-up process is gathering steam. I didn’t predict a vote of “yes” in the “Brexit” referendum (I thought it would be narrowly defeated). But as I pointed out in last week’s post, Will the European Union Survive its 60th Anniversary?, written the day before the referendum, Brexit is only one of many signs of how the political landscape within Europe has been tilting. A disintegrative tendency has been gathering steam over the last 5-10 years, well before UK Prime Minister David Cameron had rashly decided on the referendum on whether UK should leave the EU in motion.
Now, in the aftermath of the referendum, the main question is, what’s next? In the following I propose some answers suggested by the new discipline of Cultural Evolution and my research on historical dynamics (Cliodynamics). My proposal is quite radical. Rather than trying to fight the disintegrative trend, we should allow it to run its course, destroying the EU as it is now. But we need a European Union. Thus, what I hope will happen is another integrative project within Europe, one that will learn from the mistakes of the last one.
In other words, the EU is dead; long live a new and better EU.
Social Cooperation is Key
We live in huge societies of hundreds of millions of people, but we don’t really understand what makes them possible. It is not often appreciated that well-functioning—peaceful, prosperous, and just—societies are possible only on the basis of effective cooperation (for more on this, see Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth).
The overall trend over the last 10,000 years has been for humans evolving to cooperate in ever larger societies—from living in farming villages of a few hundred people to nation-states of today and even supra-national formations like the EU. But cooperation is fragile. We know from studying history that cooperation tends to go up and down in cycles. Currently, and according to all the indicators, both the United States and the European Union are in a downward, disintegrative, phase of the cooperation cycle.
There are several interlocking reasons why the EU, in particular, has entered the disintegrative phase. Let’s discuss them in turn.
Betrayal of the Elites
The political elites in UK were overwhelmingly in favor of staying, but the majority of the population voted to leave. We see similar fault-lines develop between the elites and people in other European countries (notably, Germany). Why? Some answers are suggested by The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, published 20 years ago by Christopher Lasch. Lasch’s book is a powerful social critique of the American elites, but many of his charges now apply to the European leaders—self-serving, globalist, and disdainful of people they govern.
This development is, in large part, a result of the spread of the corrosive ideology of neoliberalism from the US to Europe. As the European elites adopted the neoliberal views en masse, it changed their attitudes and behaviors in several ways.
First, neoliberalism freed them to pursue self-serving policies, such as reducing corporate taxes:
Second, the reference group for European elites became other wealth- and power-holders in Berlin, London, and Washington, not their own populations.
The treatment of Greece last year is a vivid illustration of the new elite behavior. The Greeks were forced to swallow the neoliberal recipe for fixing the mess, in which they found themselves. Note also that it was not the elected (and completely ineffectual) European Parliament that imposed austerity on Greece.
The European Union was born in 1957, when the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community was signed by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany. If you trace the signing countries together on the map, they will closely match the extent of the Carolingian Empire. Why is this important?
Large-scale societies are not simply huge sloshing bags of people. Instead, they’re groups of groups of groups. Unlike ants, humans cooperate in societies that are organized hierarchically. Cooperation is important at all levels: we cooperate in families, we cooperate in towns, we cooperate on a regional level, in nation-states, and supranational organizations, like the European Union or the United Nations. At each level you need an identity. Who is that “us” who is cooperating? Most people have multiple nested identities, for example, one can be an Ingoldstadter, Bavarian, German, and European.
Here I am interested in cooperation at the level above the nation-state. So where do supranational identities come from?
In my cultural evolutionary view, such identities come from very deep history. Often, they are “ghosts” of powerful and prestigious empires that are long gone—“charter polities”, to use a term proposed by the historian Victor Lieberman in Strange Parallels. For the European Union such a charter polity is the Carolingian Empire (eighth and ninth centuries AD).
After the Carolingian Empire broke apart it left behind the idea of Europeanness that still survives today, although naturally it underwent a lot of evolution in the last thousand years. Initially the idea of Europe was known as Latin Christendom (note that excludes Orthodox Christian areas as well as Islam). Latin Christendom had two important unifying institutions, Empire and Papacy. Of course, the French and Germans fought each other all the time, but when they were faced with outsiders (for example, during the Crusades), they actively cooperated with each other.
There were internal tensions within the precursor of the EU, the European Economic Community, but these problems were resolved in cooperative manner. But then, and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the EU started acting as a typical expansionary empire, gobbling up more and more states. This is a typical imperial disease, known in historical sociology as “imperial overstretch.” The problems mounted, willingness to cooperate waned, and the integrative trend reversed itself. In addition to the spread of neoliberalism, which, as I stated above, is an ideology corrosive of cooperation, different EU members found it difficult to cooperate with each other, because they did not share a well-defined common identity. Additionally, different groups evolve different institutions that promote cooperation. This is why, as the political scientist Robert Putnam found, ethnically diverse groups find it more difficult to cooperate. It’s a coordination problem.
Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder recently expressed this idea as follows: “In southern Europe, there are notions of solidarity that differ from ours.”
Identities are not fixed in stone; they evolve. The idea of Europeanness has evolved quite a lot since the day of Charlemagne. But evolution takes time. You cannot build an identity and a common set of institutions in one fell swoop. The rapid expansion of the European Union far beyond the area where Europeanness was born (the Carolingian Empire) was, in my opinion, a big mistake. Positive social change is gradual and slow; breaking apart, on the other hand, can occur quite rapidly.
But breaking apart is also an important aspect of social evolution. When social formations become dysfunctional they must be somehow swept away and be replaced with more cooperative, more functional formations. After all, that’s how free market economics works. Unprofitable firms go belly up, and more efficient ones grab their market share. Joseph Schumpeter called this “creative destruction.” For reasons I explain in Ultrasociety I prefer to reverse the order, “destructive creation”.
In the past, political formations—chiefdoms, states, and empire—were usually discarded by violent means, either as a result of external conquest, or of internal revolution and civil war. I very much hope that the dissolution of the European Union will unfold in a non-violent manner. In fact, the faster the political elites decide that the EU must go, the better chances are that it will happen without people getting killed.
I actually don’t expect such an outcome. Instead, over the next years the European elites will invest a lot of effort in trying to reform the European institutions. That effort is likely to fail, because it will not address the deep reasons for disintegration that I have discussed in this article.
What will probably happen is that the EU will gradually fade away by becoming increasingly ineffectual and then irrelevant. A historical example of such a fade is the League of Nations.
Where could a new and better EU come from? There is already some talk about “Core Europe” (Kerneuropa) perhaps consisting of the six founding nations, or some other subset of the EU. Such an incipient supranational political formation has a much better chance of promoting integration in Europe, now and in the future, than an attempt to reform the current EU. It can borrow those EU institutions that worked well, and replace the “bad” ones, which demonstrably didn’t work, with new versions.
Much has been learned during the last 60 years. But the architects of the new Europe should not limit their sights to the past experience of just Europe and only the last six decades. We have a rich history of human attempts to build large-scale societies over the last 10,000 years. The rise of the new discipline of Cultural Evolution, which uses evolutionary theories and historical data (see Seshat: Global History Databank), provides us with new tools and ideas for evolving peaceful, prosperous, and just societies.
“decided on the referendum on whether UK should leave the EU in motion.”
not really a referendum, as it has no legal force in a parliamentary monarchy. only a plebiscite.
and that’s the problem. there is no democracy in europe, with the limited exception of helvetia. do you marvel if oligarchy generates elite mentalities and economic injustice?
meet homo not so sapiens.
How is asking people a direct question on a referendum not democracy? I thought that making decisions in smoke-filled back rooms was the sign of oligarchy.
(1) How do you define “neoliberalism”? Most of the academic writing on so-called “neoliberalism” is of very poor quality because they never seriously interact with people of the opinions they are critiquing. Indeed, I have seen academic definitions of “neoliberalism” which do not accurately describe any actual people.
(2) Feral managerialism is surely much more the problem. Particularly when manifested in poorly accountable technocratic institutions. Academics have had a fair bit of feral managerialism inflicted upon them, which they misidentify as “neoliberalism”.
(3) The Progressivist belief that history has a direction has been well on display. Also has nothing to do with neoliberalis, as does the belief that a person’s moral worth is set by their opinions. This short post by Frederik de Boer about the effect of linguistic progressivism makes some apposite comments. Those involved cannot remotely be called “neoliberal”. http://fredrikdeboer.com/2016/06/30/can-you-rocker-romany-can-you-fake-a-bosh/
(4) Australia is a polity with a highly “neoliberal” (in the sense of the application of mainstream economic policy to theory to attempt to create a sustainable welfare state) and displays few if any of the pathologies that are attracting attention elsewhere. And with high levels of migration too.
Here’s one of the best explanations of what neoliberalism is, and where it came from:
Tax rates did not fall for ideological reasons, they fell because they were in the range were lower rates raised more revenue. If governments could get higher revenue from higher rates, they would.
Monbiot squeezes ideas and outcomes together in a fairly dubious way.
A major issue is that the state apparats and range of action has expanded beyond the level at which reasonable accountability can be managed. A rather perverse political equilibrium has been created where a mess of (generally increasing) land rationing, environmental regulation, labour regulation, occupational regulation and safety regulation burdens relatively small economic players while a mixture of regulatory-access advantage and market liberalisation benefits larger players. It is a nice fairy story that “neoliberals” are to blame, but a rather more complex interaction of interests is in play.
There is a rather robust connection between economic freedom and prosperity. Indeed, Australia manages to have a generally highly “neoliberal” economic regime with OECD-record levels of downward redistribution of income. Getting beyond the “neoliberals did it!” fairy story would aid analysis.
This interview with economist James Bessen from Boston University refers to his work finding rising rents from increasing regulation to be a major factor in recent trends. The “neoliberal moment” in US politics was actually quite brief, as can be seen from the regulation data.
Naive belief that “deregulation” has (continually) happened provides cover for extracting more rents from the US political system by increasing regulation. Regulation which almost certainly impedes the innovation which (not capital accumulation per se) is the true engine of long run economic growth.
Actually, I would have thought Bessen’s story was much more in line with your own long term historical analysis than this segue into “evil ideas”.
It is a preliminary look, but this paper is full of useful data and, even more importantly, asks the right questions about what neoliberalism really implies.
Free movement is what people find attractive about the concept of a European state because an up-scaled society and economy would offer much more opportunity and variety of options – but free movement only works when freedome of movement only occurs within well-defined zone that has imporous borders.
Without protected borders you have free movement in Europe but you don’t have a European state. You don’t have any state. What you have is a vehicle for elite interests, spinning on the wheels of the big media.
The EU version of a “European state” is a failed state not just because it has unaccountable and anti-democratic elites but because it has no borders. The EU, and their member states, have not only over-reached into Orthodox Eastern Europe but also into the Islamic Middle East (Iraq, Syria, complex relations with Israel) and North Africa (Libya). Refugees and economic migrants have been allowed to flow into Southern Europe unrestricted (e.g. Merkel’s million).
From Southern Europe, immigrants take advantage of free movement to move to the richer Northern member states. Here the ethnocentrism of the incomers antagonises the lower classes who find the elites don’t help them (and neither does that fashionable middle class who do not have to rely on their local community as a support system, and have the money to move to an expensive functional one).
Lower classes discover that elite power holders and their mainstream helpers have the unsustainable arrogance to claim they only object to their broken communities, and to the increase in police state laws, because they are racist, nazi facists who are not morally sophisticated to understand why it for the best. The divide between the top where elites “couldn’t find a coconut on a coconut island” and the bottom where people understand reality and are going nuclear is getting wider.
The problem the elites have is not that they are perceived to be this way or that, it’s that the people now have a real understanding of them and are looking to politicians that really oppose what they understand about them – their corruption, their lack of sincerity, their betrayal, their fakeness. Brexit shows we are beyond the age when politicians could “spin” shit to get their way; people now not only see what is flying into their faces is actually shit, they know where that shit came from.
The European Union is not a state. It does not try to be “European” or a “state.” It is a vehicle for supra-national elites, and an increasingly diminishing number of misinformed helpers, to pursue an agenda for which actual borders that would define a successful European polity would get in the way.
A new European polity would be possible but it would have to solve the problem of internal free movement between states first – which would require cooperation to close, or at least maintain strong control over, the inward movement of outsiders.
I do not believe that Europeans need to become “racist” to solve that problem. The decision to maintain border control would rest on a better understanding of how societies function effectively. Cooperation between people, between elites and majority, is only possible when the elites aren’t constantly selling out the majority. There’s no race in that logic. This polity, with border control, would be able to participate in international organizations to help neighbouring societies scale-up in ways that benefit them, rather than go to war against them. That will provide real opportunities for the elites and middle classes to demonstrate courage against racism.
From Lin Ostrom’s 8 Principles for Managing a Commons:
The key, if violence on a grand scale in Europe is to be avoided, is for France and Germany (possibly with Benelux as well) to coalesce in to a superstate with fiscal and military as well as monetary integration. And yes, with fixed boundaries and immigration limits.
Then again, even that may not avoid bloodshed.
Later on in the 21st century, we’ll see a Polish-led Catholic Slav coalition and Turkey become militarily powerful in Eastern Europe. NATO likely will split apart. However, those 2 will remain opposed to Russia.
The US will soon be entering a period of limited immigration (and consolidation) as well (in any case, Mexicans aren’t emigrating to the US any more).
All this is very well said and very convincing, and I agree in general, but there is another and much darker dynamic. The US and England, and much of the rest of the world, have been seeing a steady rise of racism, religious bigotry, and other divisive, irrational, hateful forces for a long time now. The US is in political shambles, like England. Increasingly hatred-based governments dominate many of the world’s largest countries. I think what’s happening is that as resources get scarcer, people get more crowded, inequality of power as well as wealth gets more extreme, and everyone gets more stressed, accordingly, group hatred takes over from rational action. That wonderful human cooperation turns evil, as groups increasingly see their future lies only in keeping other groups down. I don’t see any way out of this unless people (elites and others) see it’s happening and do something about it.
Gene, that’s bubble thinking which is a dangerous caricature of reality which takes us back to Ibn Khaldun’s urban/rural dichotomy – which doesn’t bode well for the elties.
Due to the bubble provided by a life of comforts and luxury elites begin to consider themselves to be morally sophisticated (unprejudiced, caring) and intellectually superior minority, while looking out the majority (Khaldun’s nomads) appear as a nasty (racist, uncaring) and backward rabble.
Today the elites project their bubble-thoughts onto the majority through the many institutions of power they control – media, research institutes, corporations, charities, governments etc.
The elites intend to improve and teach the unsophisticated majority through these great institutions of power; but what happens is an opposite effect, because outside the bubble this elite are nothing but the worst hypocrites.
Bubble history has been full of examples of elite bigotry, hatred, racism etc. Stupid and unnecessary wars begun by elites, which, topically given the recent anniversary, can be epitomised in what happened at the Somme 1916. Tens of thousands of an obedient majority on the first day took ridiculous orders from leaders who had no humanity or grasp on reality to sacrifice their lives for no territorial gain whatsoever. Over the next few months hundreds of thousands died for no “gain”.
When elites take it upon themselves to “do something” to bring about a “new day for humanity” the outcome is nearly always tragic for humanity. Hitler. Stalin. Mao. Pol Pot. Not an illustrious history.
I don’t necessarily believe outside the bubble there has been a “steady rise of racism, religious bigotry, and other divisive, irrational, hateful forces”. How do you measure this stastically over a long period, such as 100 years (that witnessed civil rights movement, fall of aparthied in South Africa etc?).
What’s perhaps happened is inside the bubble the means of measuring current levels of “racism, religious bigotry, and other divisive, irrational, hateful forces” has suddenly increased exponentially with greater funding and interest in them.
If you consider that elites conside these metrics the key ones for understanding their reality, to be suddenly exposed to all that data would be terrifying – and it would certainly reinforce the walls of bubble.
But bubbles are always pricked and it would be better for everyone that it was done so by a hand-out rather than a fist-in.
The EU is simply an attempt toward “socialism of the German pattern” for the economy with the aggressive foreign policy and eugenics removed. Unfortunately, this interventionist march toward the “compulsory economy” is also happening in the US. It is given the dissembling name of the Regulatory State. The Soviet pattern of socialism collapsed under the failure of the “socialist methods of production” to generate wealth for the masses. The same is happening in the EU with the German pattern.
The Brexit supporters, sadly do not support a collapse of this socialism, but instinctively know that if the interventionism is pushed by local democratic means, as it was with Thatcher’s election, it will continue to a most likely violent collapse when the full control is foolishly attempted.
This passage from von Mises’ ‘Planned Chaos’ describes the EU economic program almost completely:
“2 The Dictatorial, Anti-Democratic and Socialist Character of Interventionism
Many advocates of interventionism are bewildered when one tells them that in recommending interventionism they themselves are fostering anti-democratic and dictatorial tendencies and the establishment of totalitarian socialism. They protest that they are sincere believers and opposed to tyranny and socialism. What they aim at is only the improvement of the conditions of the poor. They say that they are driven by considerations of social justice, and favour a fairer distribution of income precisely because they are intent upon preserving capitalism and its political corollary or superstructure, viz., democratic government.
What these people fail to realize is that the various measures they suggest are not capable of bringing about the beneficial results aimed at. On the contrary they produce a state of affairs which from the point of view of their advocates is worse than the previous state which they were designed to alter. If the government, faced with this failure of its first intervention, is not prepared to undo its interference with the market and to return to a free economy, it must add to its first measure more and more regulations and restrictions. Proceeding step by step on this way it finally reaches a point in which all economic freedom of individuals has disappeared. Then socialism of the German pattern, the Zwangswirtschaft of the Nazis, emerges.”
–von Mises, Ludwig (1947). Planned Chaos (LvMI)
There is plenty of economic freedom in the EU, you just have to be a very large multinational corporation to take best advantage of it.
I don’t consider the term “socialist” or “fascist” to appropriately describe it at all. “Socialist” and “fascist” are archaic terms that are used as shock adjectives for certain agendas, and do not describe polar opposite political conditions.
They’re a complete distraction. “Neoliberal”, “elitist”, “globalist”, “technocratic” are all closer to the mark.
The EU is not a state and is a tier lower, and receives laws from, international-governance organizations. So in anycase one cannot understand it in isolation as any other state. The EU “polity” is the European elite class which also is represented in IGOs, NGOS, multinational corporations etc.
The fact EU usually doesn’t make its own law is why membership of it is particularly unnecessary. There is no reason why the UK cannot send its own representatives to UNECE or ISO to negotiate international standards of law with the rest of the world where currently the EU sends representatives on our behalf.
The EU is a layer of elite networking that needs to justify itself by efforts to work toward full statehood. The problem is that, while a European state with borders might sound nice, the EU is an anti-democratic organization and people, in full knowledge of it which they increasingly have, do not by choice want to give that particular organization that power.
One thing about your theories that might cause many to resist them, is the sense that unifying ideas that can actually modify human behaviour to create the coordination and mass cooperation most people would define as ‘progress’, are the result of mechanistic processes over which the rational human mind has little control. This seems to dramatically reduce the role and power of the intellectual, or of expert elites, to an historical epiphenomena of institutions that they had no role in creating, and no real agency over–in fact such people seem to play a destructive role in many historical circumstances, accelerating the loss of cooperative group norms. Rationalist ideas or moral progress a la Pinker seems to have little part to play, while the role of tradition in human affairs is dramatically increased.
I can imagine a moral or philosophical worldview that takes into account cultural evolution, and there are certain things about it, such as its sensitivity to the limitations of human nature, that I find refreshing, but I think many people, educated as they are in the modern humanities–fields that tend to take ideas and ideologies at face value–will strongly resist evolutionist theories. What would you say to this?
This is a big topic. For now, let me just say that I don’t believe that disintegrative processes cannot be reversed by human agency. Social change integrates a multitude of individual human wills, as Tolstoy wrote in the afterword of War and Peace. Generating collective action for positive change is difficult, but possible. A necessary precondition is that we have a good understanding of dynamical social systems, otherwise our intervention may result in an opposite, unintended, and negative result. That’s why Cultural Evolution and Cliodynamics are so important.
It’s like a ship navigating the stormy seas. The team needs to pull together and work cooperatively, and the helmsman needs knowledge how to steer in the best way. So disaster is not inevitable.
We don’t need a political union nor the politicians and elitists that have blatantly abused the EU concept to line their own pockets and feed their insatiable hunger for absolute power. An embarrassingly drunk Juncker on tv is but one of the many disconcerting examples of the considerable contempt our elitist overlords have for the EU’s citizens.
What we do need is going back to the EEC (the European Economic Community). The EEC worked very well and resulted in economic growth and increased prosperity for all. European citizens welcomed the EEC as the effects were clearly visible and had a positive impact on their daily lives.
Ever since the politicians and their henchmen decided to move from an Economic Community that worked very well to a political union things went downhill quickly. So lets get rid of the incompetent politicians, lets vote against their power grab, against their contempt for Europe’s citizens, against their never ending failures and let the European political union (figuratively) burn down and take with them the unelected politicians and elitists who created this political union atrocity.
Will that mean an economic setback? Maybe. Maybe not. In the end the threat of a negative economic impact of e.g. a Brexit didn’t keep people from voting for a Brexit. Simply because they were done with the politicians. Think about that for a moment. People rather accepted uncertainty than having to live another day being ruled by the politicians responsible for the EU atrocity.
The King is dying. Long live a very different and elected King.
Yes, In think stepping back to the original EEC, which indeed worked quite well, might be a good move, and then evolving forward by avoiding the mistakes that resulted in overstretch.
I agree with several of your broader points — the EU is in a disintegration phase, and that a new and better form of integration is needed.
But your explanation that this is due to the European adoption of “neoliberalism” is absurd. In your supplied link, neoliberalism is specifically defined as the label being applied to what is commonly known as “classical liberalism”. See below for its actual definition.
As Lorenzo correctly points out above, the term neoliberalism is in the most part a pejorative phrase used by the enemies of the Enlightenment values of classical liberalism. By using a term no longer in use, it allows the progressives to frame the debate and to define any policy or idea which rejects the progressive ideology in a derogatory and often deceptive manner. It is a catch-all phrase which allows the user to win the argument by deceptive rhetorical framing. Google “Motte and Bailey” arguments for an illustration.
If you think I exaggerate, just read the rhetoric used by Monbiot, in his hit piece which you link to as the case against the supposed term. He starts by suggesting its anonymity is a sign of its evil, hoping that it escapes readers attention that the very anonymity he rails against is a matter of his changing the name of a well known philosophy — classical liberalism — into a nebulous term. Is this not obvious to you as rhetorically corrupt?
He then refers to it as a “utopian, millenarian faith” (seriously?) which promotes “eating disorders, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia”. He goes on to do every deceptive rhetorical trick and illogical argument in the book to malign classical liberalism — supported by rich people… caused the Great Depression… promotes the freedom to poison rivers. I am shocked he didn’t mention the Kochs and erectile dysfunction.
I could go on to refute just about every paragraph Monbiot wrote. Any person familiar with economics and 20th century history could. So the question is, why are you endorsing this?
Let me be crystal clear on the issue. Monbiot takes a well defined political philosophy which is commonly known as classical liberalism and defined (as per Google) by actual classical liberals and impartial outsiders as:
“a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government. It developed in 18th-century Europe and drew on the economic writings of Adam Smith and the growing notion of social progress.”
“the term used to designate the ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade.”
He then reframes classical liberalism as “neoliberalism” (with reference that some classical liberal once called himself a neoliberal) and then has free reign to now redefine this unclaimed and undefended term any way he likes — specifically including ways which are at complete odds to the actual philosophy itself (crony capitalism, pro-pollution, millenarian, utopian, or that the Bureaucratic monstrosity of the EU somehow encapsulates this philosophy.)
Now, back to your essay. Here you too seem to believe that the EU is a representation:
“This development is, in large part, a result of the spread of the corrosive ideology of neoliberalism from the US to Europe. As the European elites adopted the neoliberal views en masse, it changed their attitudes and behaviors in several ways.”
Stop right here. What part of the giant, bureaucratic, regulatory behemoth known as the EU represents anything resembling classical liberalism? The answer is of course nothing, other than the alignment between the statist, almost mercantilist, mentality of the EU of sharing the same economic reality of the benefits of division of labor, free movement of goods and services and such. Any society, to be successful, has to deal with the knowledge problem (if you aren’t familiar with the issue, see Hayek).
You then try to illustrate the evils of the “corrosive” philosophy with a graphic on German corporate tax rates. I guess you assume that higher corporate tax rates are self evidently better than lower tax rates, or that lower tax rates on corporations benefit the capitalist at the expense of the non capitalist (also assuming the two are distinct classes).
I don’t want to derail the broader conversation to an argument over the socially optimal form of taxation, or the fallacy of zero sum logic, but I do want to point out that economists in general are not the biggest fans of high corporate taxes. Granted there are arguments on both sides, but there is a strong contingent of economists who believe that higher corporate taxation is inefficient, ineffective, and harmful to long term growth and prosperity for all. The fact that you just assume the opposite is a clear sign that you are unfamiliar with the complexities of the issue.
You then go on to argue that proof of the classical liberal corrosiveness is revealed in the solution forced upon Greece. Would you care to instead let us know what great solution you have in mind for Greece? Greece was arguably the least classical liberal state in the EU. It self destructed in pretty much the exact way classical liberals warn. The EU tries to solve it, but because some of the solutions don’t support progressive ideology, you guys malign it as neoclassical corrosiveness. This is exactly what I mean by deceptive rhetorical sleight of hand. Rather than arguing for the pros and cons of market reform and lower government intervention you dismiss it as a corrosive effect of a secret corrosive ideology supported by bad people.
Your article, thus, like Monbiots, is a perfect example of the progressive* rhetoric of coming up with a new term, using Motte and Bailey techniques to demonize any position which opposes your position. It is not an academic argument. It is rhetorical propaganda which effectively obscures and deceives rather than enlightens.
In reality, we see greater cooperation globally today than any time ever before. The enlightenment philosophy of classical liberalism is a major though incomplete part of this accomplishment, with its recognition of the values of Liberty, property rights, economic competition in pursuit of economic cooperation (effectively competition to cooperate better), and free trade. In no place is this philosophy ascendant, however those places where it is the norm have tended to flourish and those places where it has been put down by elites, religious authorities and socialists have tended to stagnate.
The last forty years has seen classical liberalism and the enlightenment project gain ground in many once less developed parts of the world. Every place that adopted them quickly stopped being undeveloped, usually within decades. The result has been a BILLION PEOPLE rise out of poverty along with longer and healthier lives, more freedom and literacy.
In the developed world, the trend has actually often been toward MORE bureaucracy and more regulatory and governmental interference and not less. In addition we see MORE crony capitalism, more rent seeking, more exploitation by government bureaucrats (check out the pension fiascos in Illinois). On the good side of the ledger we have less effective rent seeking by private industry union cartels, and less inefficient state owned industries. In both cases, they died in great part due to creative destruction, as they are clearly forms of less efficient cooperation.
Yes, cooperation is starting to decay in developed nations in many ways. But to understand it, I suggest reading Mancur Olson, McCloskey, Bernstein, Mokyr, Rosenberg, MacFarland, Birdzell, Beinhocker, Eric Jones, Landes, Hayek, and North.
NOT Monbiot and Marx.
Note that most economists (especially classically liberal/libertarian/neoliberal/whatever-term-you-like ones) tend to prioritize maximizing efficiency and productivity. And certainly, we all need some of that for advancement in society. But efficiency and productivity shouldn’t be considered the end-all and be-all either. The distribution of rewards also matter. So does stability, economic security, and the reduction of uncertainty (booms and busts). Just waving away the effects of a major financial crisis/bust really doesn’t cut it in the real world. As I mentioned in the previous thread, just a few bad years of the economy in Weimar Germany brought untold suffering and death to tens of millions in Europe and around the world.
Note also that it wasn’t hyperinflation that brought the Nazis in to power but the deflationary and credit-contracting policies of Bruning.
Thanks for the comment, Richard.
Are you assuming I was arguing that efficiency and productivity are the end all and be all? (I don’t, and I doubt many good economists or classical liberals do either)
Are you assuming that I am waving away the harmful effects of the financial crisis? (I am not and again am not familiar with either most classical liberals or most economists assuming this either)
Or were you just adding these on as in a “yes, and” additional considerations sort of way?
Does it matter?
There were points that you didn’t address that I addressed.
If you agree with them, then we are in agreement.
Of course it matters that people communicating with each other understand whether a person is 1) agreeing and adding on or 2) disagreeing due to a misunderstanding.
I don’t see it would change whether we agree or disagree on different points or not.
As to saying that crony capitalism is Not True Capitalism, I wish to ask what counts as crony capitalism. Also who are the biggest crony capitalists.
As to being pro-pollution, nobody claims to be that. But some people go into hysterics about the evils of government regulation of business when anyone brings that up.
It also must be noted that law is a form of government regulation, with law enforcement a form of coercion. Also that property claims depend on coercion, unless one believes that laws and property claims are universally respected on the honor system.
I don’t like using labels as short cuts for meaning like acronyms. UN means United Nations. That’s easy. You can look that up in a glossary. It means United Nations today and it should mean United Nations in 1000 years time (unless it becomes the “UN” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DueSvcjn810). But socialism, capitalism, fascism, conservativism, liberalism, neoliberalism = means whatever you want it to mean, within a set of goalposts that widen and contract, and also completely move over time! Futile.
I understand the need to reach out to people who use these terms all the time and try to influence the discussion. But usually discussion among elites resembles more of a food fight than an intellectual exchange and any academic wading into it will immediately get pasted. The elite culture is an “oral culture” where status of the speaker is everything to whether an idea is heard than references and sources. So generally the idea is to get one or two individuals who have status on the inside interested in the idea to push it forward.
This is how Richard North at eureferendum.com has been influential. Most recently with the rigorious exit plan document “Flexcit” that is the text book for the civil service. His ideas get picked up by “cloggers” (corporate bloggers at the Telegraph, or research institutes) inside the bubble who steal bits and pieces of the ideas (usually critically misinterpreting the whole) and succeed in getting them to a level of respectability for discussion by mainstream politicians who then throw them about like food.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the goal of the Paris Conference on the Western Balkans, which is taking place on Monday, 4 July 2016, is to facilitate the accession of Western Balkans states to the European Union and strenghten in a practical sense the stability and peace in the region.
Paris Conference, which is organized under the auspices of the “Berlin Process” is the third such event connecting leaders of Western Balkans states – Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, and representatives of several EU states – Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia. The previous two conferences were held in Berlin and Vienna in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Merkel has stated that she does see an European perspective for Western Balkans states, but that their EU acession process will have “different speeds”, which should mean that they will integrate into the EU at different stages without a Western Balkans “enlargement Big Bang”.
If somebody is determined to commit suicide, you can’t do anything about it.
While I support your stance–isn’t it moot already with young Europeans being mostly of Muslim migrant descent in many EU countries?
I know it’s not the main point of the blog piece, but to say the EU was taken over by neoliberal ideology is overwrought hyperbole. The EU may be a bloated and inefficient bureaucrac but it’s not a neoliberal body. And I’m saying this as someone who is hostile to neoliberalism.
hi. i have a question for you. here in Italy next october we have a referndum on a costituional reform the eliminate 200 MP of the high chamber (there are others important point not only this). we have popular immiseration and elite overproduction.as the others fisrt world country. what you think can be the effects of the cut according to yours model?
On the subject of social cooperation, journalist Colin Woodard has written a very interesting book: American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good.
CW points out that both extremes are bad. He had lived in some Communist countries, and he noted that they had taken concern for the common good to grotesque extremes.
On the other end, he proposes the pre-Civil-War US Southern states had taken individual liberty to grotesque extremes. Those states had rather wimpy governments, to the point that a lot of law enforcement was handled by vigilantes and private militias. Those states’ elites considered liberty to be their exclusive privilege, and they restricted the liberties of those who were poorer than them. Like having steep property qualifications for public office and effectively exempting themselves from a lot of taxes.
The Southern states’ elites were very big on property rights, including their claimed right to own other members of their species as if they were domestic animals — slavery. By the mid 19th cy., they were spending a lot of effort on defending slavery, arguing that it was legitimate and for the good of the slaves, and so forth. One big slaveowner and defender of slavery, James Henry Hammond, argued for the “mudsill theory” of society, that society depends on having a miserable lower class to do much of its work.
During the Civil War, the Confederate government ended up drafting soldiers and requisitioning supplies. That was taken by some Southerners as proof that President Jefferson Davis was a horrible dictator. Also, many plantation owners preferred growing cotton for export rather than food for the Confederacy’s army, because they got more money that way. The aforementioned JHH had this interesting response to an army officer who requisitioned some crops. JHH stated that it was like “branding on my forehead ‘Slave'”.
So the Southern elite’s love of liberty got in the way of its self-defense.