At The Financial Times: Martin Wolf on the Failure of The Elites x 3, a comment by Almost Marx

Let us look at Mr. Wolf on the Elites:

January 14,2014

Headline: Failing elites threaten our future

Sub-headline : Leaders richly rewarded for mediocrity cannot be relied upon when things go wrong

Mr. Wolf describes the three visible failures of the Elites:

Here are three visible failures.

First, the economic, financial, intellectual and political elites mostly misunderstood the consequences of headlong financial liberalisation. Lulled by fantasies of self-stabilising financial markets, they not only permitted but encouraged a huge and, for the financial sector, profitable bet on the expansion of debt. The policy making elite failed to appreciate the incentives at work and, above all, the risks of a systemic breakdown. When it came, the fruits of that breakdown were disastrous on several dimensions: economies collapsed; unemployment jumped; and public debt exploded. The policy making elite was discredited by its failure to prevent disaster. The financial elite was discredited by needing to be rescued. The political elite was discredited by willingness to finance the rescue. The intellectual elite – the economists – was discredited by its failure to anticipate a crisis or agree on what to do after it had struck. The rescue was necessary. But the belief that the powerful sacrificed taxpayers to the interests of the guilty is correct.

Second, in the past three decades we have seen the emergence of a globalised economic and financial elite. Its members have become ever more detached from the countries that produced them. In the process, the glue that binds any democracy – the notion of citizenship – has weakened. The narrow distribution of the gains of economic growth greatly enhances this development. This, then, is ever more a plutocracy. A degree of plutocracy is inevitable in democracies built, as they must be, on market economies. But it is always a matter of degree. If the mass of the people view their economic elite as richly rewarded for mediocre performance and interested only in themselves, yet expecting rescue when things go badly, the bonds snap. We may be just at the beginning of this long-term decay.

Third, in creating the euro, the Europeans took their project beyond the practical into something far more important to people: the fate of their money. Nothing was more likely than frictions among Europeans over how their money was being managed or mismanaged. The probably inevitable financial crisis has now spawned a host of still unresolved difficulties. The economic difficulties of crisis-hit economies are evident: huge recessions, extraordinarily high unemployment, mass emigration and heavy debt overhangs. This is all well known. Yet it is the constitutional disorder of the eurozone that is least emphasised. Within the eurozone, power is now concentrated in the hands of the governments of the creditor countries, principally Germany, and a trio of unelected bureaucracies – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The peoples of adversely affected countries have no influence upon them. The politicians who are accountable to them are powerless. This divorce between accountability and power strikes at the heart of any notion of democratic governance. The eurozone crisis is not just economic. It is also constitutional.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cfc1eb1c-76d8-11e3-807e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz4EaXdjrIB

May 17,2016

Headline: Failing elites are to blame for unleashing Donald Trump

Sub-headline: A healthy republic requires a degree of mutual sympathy rather than equality

My interpolation: ‘mutual sympathy’ is not a substitute for equality. The ‘benign  paternalism’ of both Burke and Disraeli: an unsurprising conservative gambit.

Mr. Wolf quickly reaches full scale Trump hysterics:

Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president. He might even become president of the US. It is hard to exaggerate the significance and danger of this development. The US was the bastion of democracy and freedom in the 20th century. If it elected Mr Trump, a man with fascistic attitudes to people and power, the world would be transformed.

Mr Trump is a misogynist, a racist and a xenophobe. He glories in his own ignorance and inconsistency. Truth is whatever he finds convenient. His policy ideas are ludicrous, where they are not horrifying. Yet his attitudes and ideas are less disturbing than his character: he is a narcissist, bully and spreader of conspiracy theories. It is frightening to consider how such a man would use the powers at the disposal of the president.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f27340fc-1848-11e6-b197-a4af20d5575e.html#axzz4EaXdjrIB

Mr. Wolf goes badly off course when he quotes notorious political poser, if not charlatan, Andrew Sullivan, who then quotes Plato as some sort of expert on Democracy, rather than his actual status as a staunch defender of an Oligarchy: The Philosopher Kings. And unmentioned is Plato’s cowardice in the face of Socrates’ death sentence! A reading from Plato must always be selective. Mr. Wolf’s last paragraph is a marvel of Neo-Liberal self congratulation: ‘Some of what has happened was right and so should not have been avoided.’ and the public scolding of an Elite, in which Mr. Wolf enjoys emeritus status.

Mr Trump has called forth new political possibilities. But it is not mainly an excess of democracy that has brought the US to this pass. It is far more the failings of short-sighted elites. Some of what has happened was right and so should not have been avoided. But much of it could have been. Elites, particularly Republican elites, stoked this fire. It will be hard to put out the blaze.

July 19,2016

Headline: Global elites must heed the warning of populist rage

Sub-headline: Real income stagnation over a longer period than any since the war is a fundamental political fact

Is one of the measure of political desperation a quotation or paraphrase from that old American reactionary H.L. Mencken?

For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” H.L.a report by a  Mencken could have been thinking of today’s politics. The western world undoubtedly confronts complex problems, notably, the dissatisfaction of so many citizens. Equally, aspirants to power, such as Donald Trump in the US and Marine Le Pen in France, offer clear, simple and wrong solutions — notably, nationalism, nativism and protectionism.

The remedies they offer are bogus. But the illnesses are real. If governing elites continue to fail to offer convincing cures, they might soon be swept away and, with them, the effort to marry democratic self-government with an open and co-operative world order.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/54f0f5c6-4d05-11e6-88c5-db83e98a590a.html#axzz4Eyha4ERL

Mr. Wolf uses as his starting point of this essay a report titled  Poorer than their Parents? by a subsidiary of McKinsey & Company called McKinsey Global Institute: On the parent company:

McKinsey & Company is a worldwide management consulting firm. It conducts qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to evaluate management decisions across the public and private sectors. Widely considered the most prestigious management consultancy,[4] McKinsey’s clientele includes 80% of the world’s largest corporations, and an extensive list of governments and non-profit organisations. More current and former Fortune 500 C.E.O.s are alumni of McKinsey than of any other company, a list including Google C.E.O. Sundar Pichai, Facebook C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg, Morgan Stanley C.E.O. James P. Gorman, and many more. McKinsey publishes the McKinsey Quarterly, funds the McKinsey Global Institute research organization, publishes reports on management topics, and has authored many influential books on management. Its practices of confidentiality, influence on business practices, and corporate culture have experienced a polarizing reception.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McKinsey_%26_Company

Mr. Wolf is, as always, a good corporate citizen. Nothing too outside the mainstream.Mr. Wolf again touches on the sore subject of inequality:

Thus people preferred becoming better off, even if they were not catching up with contemporaries better off still. Stagnant incomes bother people more than rising inequality.

Piketty is again the absent protagonist in the Wolf Melodrama! All this followed by advocacy for  Global Governance for essential global public goods allied with Capitalist Reform, international co-operation, taxation reform, acceleration of economic growth, but of most importance ‘fight the quacks’!

The last paragraph is where Mr. Wolf hits his rhetorical stride :

Above all, recognise the challenge. Prolonged stagnation, cultural upheavals and policy failures are combining to shake the balance between democratic legitimacy and global order. The candidacy of Mr Trump is a result. Those who reject the chauvinist response must come forward with imaginative and ambitious ideas aimed at re-establishing that balance. It is not going to be easy. But failure must not be accepted. Our civilisation itself is at stake.

Given the above is Hillary cast, in this melodrama, as an American Savior?

Almost Marx

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer.
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