The conflicting concepts of cosmopolitan within Europe – Part 2

In the blog post earlier this week – The conflicting concepts of cosmopolitan within Europe – Part 1 (January 29, 2019) – I juxtaposed two concepts of ‘cosmopolitanism’ which appeared to be part of the early moves to achieve European integration. On the one hand, there was a Kantian-style desire to create, through cooperation between previously warring states, a peaceful and prosperous future for a ‘one’ Europe. This construct would be welcoming to outsiders, progressive, and celebrate ethnic and cultural diversity. It was a rights-based conception of citizenship and democracy, which closely aligned with the growing popularity of the social democratic polity. On the other hand, the early moves to overcome the resistance to creating a supranational entity that would increasingly compromise national sovereignty – the so-called “functionalist” approach of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, created a pragmatic, free market-based cosmopolitanism, which set the Member States against each other as competitors. As I demonstrated, over time, the economic cosmopolitanism channeled the burgeoning neoliberalism of the 1980s and compromised the rights-based, political cosmopolitanism, to the end that we now talk about democratic deficits as the European Commission and its unelected allies such as the IMF trample over the rights of citizens across the geographic spread of Europe. Europhile progressives hanker for the first conception of European cosmopolitanism and proffer various reform proposals, which they claim will tame the economic dimensions and restore the ‘European Project’ as a progressive force in the world. In this second part of the series I will argue that from the outset the cosmopolitanism embedded in the ‘Project’ was deeply flawed and it is no surprise that democracy is now compromised in the European Union. I argue that reform is not possible such is the extent of the failures.

If the conjecture entertained in this series of blog posts is credible then the cosmopolitanism that the Europhile Left is motivated by is not operational and was compromised from the start.

This has significant ramifications for the large national debates that are alive in Europe (Gilets) and Britain (Brexit) at present.

For example, Philip Cunliffe’s Op Ed – Phoney Cosmopolitanism versus Genuine Internationalism – considers the deeper currents that are running through the Brexit divide in Britain.

He writes that:

… the continuing friction between Leavers and Remainers show that this dispute concerns people’s personal identities – how they think of themselves and their relation to the world.

The Remainers hold dear to the first construction of cosmopolitanism that I referred to in the Introduction:

The EU is held to stand for a cooperative vision of a harmonious future between different peoples. To Europhiles, the EU is an institution that helps to create solidarity and peace across borders.

This is a “powerful cultural identity which is “deeply entrenched in numerically small but highly influential sections of the elite and the liberal professional classes”.

The supremacy of the Leave vote challenged this identity.

The question is whether this identity is rooted in any known reality.

Philip Cunliffe joins a long line of analysts (including yours truly) who argue that:

… the EU is none of the things that are projected onto it by cosmopolitans.

Think about border issues – “internal freedom of movement comes at the cost of its bloody external borders, with Brussels paying Libyan warlords to imprison migrants and bribing the Turkish government to host refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East”.

Think about movement within the EU – “It is not seen as a right of citizenship but as supporting the interests of business”

Think about the much talked about ‘solidarity’ – the EU’s most advanced conception, the Eurozone, has created massive divergence across the geographic space and “amplified regional disparities”.

Many Europhiles agree that the ‘liberal, market-oriented cosmopolitanism’ that is dominant in modern Europe has compromised its solidaristic ambitions embedded in the rights-based political cosmopolitanism.

But they still hang onto the hope that reform of the former is possible to bring it into line with the latter.

The only explanation that Philip Cunliffe can provide for this apparent conflict between the Europhiles’ ideal and the reality is that:

… their cosmopolitan ideal itself that is phoney. The cosmopolitanism of the EU is a thin form of solidarity, the “cosmopolitanism of the front of the aircraft” … It is a petty cosmopolitanism, whose grandest political and institutional vision is the bureaucratic convenience of not being stopped at the passport barrier while travelling for a holiday or an academic conference. For the cosmopolitan, travel is inconceivable without the EU, as if mass tourism and travel in Europe only started in 1992. Purporting to celebrate difference, the cosmopolitanism of the EU is in fact the embrace of sameness – the same middle classes and elites interacting seamlessly across Europe. It is the cosmopolitanism of subsidised gap years and university partnership schemes with people of similar backgrounds, the cosmopolitanism of identical hipster quarters of cities throughout Europe and holiday villas in Tuscany and Provence.

As I noted yesterday, the anti-European uprisings (Leave, Gilets) have emerged from the disadvantaged economic classes who indicate they have nothing more to lose by opposing the EU orthodoxy.

The issue for them is basic survival not whether they have border controls or not when venturing on ski holidays or the Meditteranean islands for beach and dance parties.

And it goes further than that even.

The phoney cosmopolitan doesn’t really have a strong “attachment to foreigners or other peoples” but rather harbours a “desire to differentiate oneself from the people of your own country, to flaunt one’s cultural and moral superiority”

For example, how else do we explain the apparent support for an institutional structure that inflicted untold socio-economic brutality on the Greek people?

By way of contrast, the Leave (Gilets) are the voice of those who have “been economically abandoned by neoliberal policies pursued by a cosmopolitan elite”.

And as Thomas Fazi and I argued in our latest book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017) – the struggle to reclaim national sovereignty is nothing to do with abandoning globalist ideals.

Rather it is empowering the democracy to re-enfranchise all citizens and as Philip Cunliffe surmises “offers the basis for creating a real internationalism in Europe”.

We can only build solidarity up from the foundations – in each community, in each region, in each nation state and then allow these enriched geographies, which reflect the will of the people rather than the neoliberal technocracy – to reach out and create binding relationships across borders.

First, we reinstate social contracts, then look outwards.

But to see how this fundamental conflict between the different conceptions of cosmopolitanism has emerged we have to step back in time.

James Alexander (2016) talks about the universal and the particular. He writes that (p.171):

Until the eighteenth century all cosmopolitans distinguished two cities, and considered the higher city to be the one which concerned them. The higher city was universal; the lower city was particular, that is, composed of many cities. The higher city was ideal; the lower city was actual.

So when Europhiles hold out that they are ‘citizens of the world’ they are indicating a movement towards the “higher city” that lies beyond the border of the particular to which they were born into.

[Reference: Alexander, J. (2016) ‘The Fundamental Contradiction of Modern Cosmopolitanism’, The European Legacy, 21(2), 168-183.]

We are born into one particular cosmopolitan assignment and some aspire to a “great and truly common” cosmopolitan membership (p.171).

The problem that James Alexander points out is that we become torn between the “universal and the particular” (p. 174). The entire history of European integration is about that contradiction.

Member States have been reluctant to cede their particularity and so the universal construct that emerged was deeply flawed and now damages the particular.

Further, paradoxically, “the universal itself may be a particular” (p.174), which means that no global cosmopolitanism emerges anyway.

This conception of cosmopolitanism, invariably leads to the universal as a particular, which is then “separate from other particulars, which it excludes, and the set of particulars, and thus includes all particulars within itself.”

An early example of this contradiction within the context of the European Union was the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

In his 1995 Foreign Affairs article, Noel Malcolm juxtaposes the grand ideal of a united Europe and the practical functionalism that Monnet and Schuman instigated to start bringing the nations together.

He writes (p.56) that:

The argument for “Europe” switches to and fro, from claims about practical benefits to expressions of political idealism and back again. If one disagrees with advocates of “Europe” about the practical advantages, they say, “Well, you may be right about this or that disadvantage, but surely it’s a price worth paying for such a wonderful political ideal.” And if one casts doubt on the political desirability of the ideal, they reply, “Never mind about that, just think of the economic advantages.” The truth is that both arguments for “Europe” are fundamentally flawed.

[Reference: Malcolm, N. (1995) ‘The Case against “Europe”‘, Foreign Affairs, March/April, 52-68.]

He illustrates this with respect to the early development of the CAP. I noted in Part 1 how attempts to generalise the handouts under the latest version of the CAP are being deeply resisted by Germany, the Netherlands etc.

But the contradictions within the CAP go back to its inception.

In the Treaty of Rome, Article 39 states the objectives of the CAP, include increasing “agricultural productivity”, ensuring “a fair standard of living for the agricultural population” and “increasing of the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture”, “stabilising markets”, and ensuring “reasonable prices in supplies to consumers”.

From the start, the CAP was a device advanced by the French to extract financial transfers from the Germans for their farmers, and the Germans tolerated it because they wanted to expand its industrial export market.

To achieve their goals, the Germans agreed to provide subsidies through the CAP to French farmers: a gnawing tension that remains today.

Once this arrangement was introduced, Europe locked itself in to maintaining fixed exchange rates for administrative ease given the multitude of agricultural prices that had to be supported across the Community. The CAP could not function effectively with sudden or significant fluctuations in the currency values of the Member States.

Trying to maintain fixed rates proved unworkable and provided ample warning that any move to a common currency would only shift the tensions to domestic prices and wages – the so-called ‘internal devaluation’ necessity of the Eurozone.

But the CAP violated the political cosmopolitanism that the European Project was allegedly based on from the start.

By shoring up the incomes of farmers in France and elsewhere, the CAP has had a series of “the embarrassing consequences” (Kamminga, 2017: 2), including “high external tariffs, high export subsidies, and internal price support.”

The upshot was that (p.2):

This policy of food self-sufficiency has distorted the world food market, undermined the ability of poor countries to export their own agricultural products, and seriously contributed to global poverty.

Simon Caney (2006) discusses the “punitive tariffs employed by the USA and the European Union” (p.127), which have been incredibly damaging to low-income developing countries.

His examples include (p.127-128):

… two-thirds of the revenues that developed countries raise by tariffs comes from those that they levy on goods imported from developing countries even though those countries are responsible for less than a third of their imports …

cows in the European Union are subsidized to the tune of US$2 each every day – a sum which is twice that of the average daily salary in Africa …

And so on.

[Reference: Caney, S. (2006) ‘Global justice: From theory to practice’, Globalizations, 3(2), 121-137.]

See also:

[Reference: Caney, S. (2005) Justice Beyond Borders A Global Political Theory, Oxford University Press, Oxford]

So the EU as a universal construct which is itself a particular, has undermined the prosperity of others (particularly poorer citizens in Africa and beyond.

[Reference: Kamminga, M.R. (2017) ‘Cosmopolitan Europe? Cosmopolitan justice against EU-centredness’, Ethics and Global Politics, 10(1), 1-18.]

At the same time, Noel Malcolm (1995, 58) noted that by 1967 “EEC farm prices had been driven up to 175 percent of world prices for beef, 185 percent for wheat, 400 percent for butter, and 440 percent for sugar. The annual cost of the cap is now $45 billion and rising; more than ten percent of this is believed to be paid to a myriad of scams.”

So the EU created one set of recipients within its system (the farmers, many of who were among the wealthiest citizens) at the expense of consumers, many of who whom were among the poorest citizens.

That sham cosmopolitanism runs through the EU from the start.

The subsequent reforms to the system have merely shifted the burden from the consumers of agricultural products to the general public purse.

As Noel Malcolm (1995) writes (p.58), Europhiles like to:

… wax lyrical about European achievements such as the German highway system or the French railways – things that were built by national governments. Almost the only major achievement of the EC – the only thing it has constructed and operated itself – is the CAP. It is not an encouraging precedent.

Of course, his Foreign Affairs article came out before the Eurozone monstrosity came into being. The second ‘thing’ that ‘Europe’ has constructed and a total failure.

Kamminga concluded that the “primary EU goal” is not concerned with “global distributive justice” (reducing world poverty and inequality) and is thus “incompatible with cosmopolitan justice” (p.2).

So it is hard to see what those who tout the cosmopolitan credentials of the EU as something to be revered are actually thinking about.

We see that EU integration is about creating a selective particularism by establishing the Single Market – a common set of tariffs which exclude the rest of the world.

Just think about the way the EU is dealing with one of its own which has democratically opted to leave the Union. Once it was clear that Britain would try to leave, the EU negotiations have been particularist and discriminatory. Britain is to be excluded and punished.

As Kamminga notes (p.6):

… a large-scale protectionist system has been created in order to protect the economic interests of European countries better than the prewar system did … Although the EU aims to transcend national egoisms and sovereignties, it effectively stretches the member states’ particularisms to the boundaries of ‘Europe’ … and continues to include and exclude people. Internally, borders between states have been eliminated for free movement; externally, the EU has reinforced boundaries.

The discussions concerning free movement are relevant here.

First, over the last two decades or so “the EU has strengthened its outer borders by more restrictive immigration policies towards third country nationals” (Kamminga, p.7).

The Europhiles hold out that the EU protects human rights but ignore the harsh treatment of those not included.

Kamminga again (p.7) “citizens have obligations to each other that they do not have to people outside the borders”, a violation of the basic principles of a meaningful cosmopolitanism.

Even within the EU, the rich nations resent aid to the poor nations (viz the treatment of Greece).

A “selective solidarity” (Kamminga, p.7) rules.

Remember back to the Libyan disaster. Italy told the world that the numbers of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking refuge in Italy had fallen dramatically in 2017.

It was held out as a good sign. The reality was different.

As the Irish Times article (September 21, 2017) by Patrick Smyth – Lighter exodus from Libya comes at morally dubious price – reports, the EU was deploying harsh and “morally compromised” strategies to protect the EU border.

The article documents how the EU was:

… paying off Libyan warlords and militias linked to people-traffickers and turning a blind eye to the confining of refugees in detention, “concentration” camps where they have been left hungry, brutalised, raped and tortured.

Further, within the EU, free movement has a special meaning in this neoliberal world.

As Philip Cunliffe writes “freedom of movement is not a right of citizenship but the by-product of inter-state agreement to facilitate the movement of factors of production within the Eurozone. It is not seen as a right of citizenship but as supporting the interests of business …”

That is clear given that a French citizen, for example, in not allowed to vote in German national elections. If they have been living in Germany for more than three months they can vote in municipal and city council elections only.

So the concept of ‘citizenship’ and free movement is a compromised one within the EU and only advanced to help capital not to expand democracy.

The Europhile Left ignore that reality.

They hold out ‘free movement’ as some progressive ideal as part of their sham cosmopolitanism.

The early development of the cosmopolitan ideal and the form in which support for the European Union is framed by the Europhile Left can be traced back to German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

But, Kant’s cosmopolitanism took the form of a “universal hospitality”.

In Perpetual Peace (cited in Part 1), Kant outlined what he considered to be the conditions for sustainable peace.

The “third definitive article of Perpetual Peace” was that (p.137):

The rights of men, as citizens of the world, shall be limited to the conditions of universal hospitality.

What did that mean?

Kant said that (p.137):

… hospitality signifies the claim of a stranger entering foreign territory to be treated by its owner without hostility. The latter may send him away again, if this can be done without causing his death; but, so long as he conducts himself peaceably, he must not be treated as an enemy. It is not a right to be treated as a guest to which the stranger can lay claim.

So when Europhiles promote the idea of ‘free movement’ as a progressive element of the EU and suggest this was embedded in Kant’s cosmopolitanism, they are wrong.

Kant did not think cosmopolitanism extended to having open borders for all to penetrate and remain.

His concept of ‘hospitality’ makes it clear that while all people are equal members of a “moral community of humanity” and “share the qualities of freedom, equality, and independence” (Zavediuk, 2014: 170) they are not entitled to permanently move wherever they choose.

[Reference: Zavediuk, N. (2014) ‘Kantian Hospitality’, Peace Review, 26(2), 170-177.]

Kant wrote that “It is not the right to be a permanent visitor that one may demand … It is only a right of temporary sojourn, a right to associate, which all men have.”.

To be continued.


I will write Part 3 in this mini-series next week sometime.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Bill wrote or quoted:
    The “third definitive article of Perpetual Peace” was that (p.137):

    The rights of men, as citizens of the world, shall be limited to the conditions of universal hospitality.

    What did that mean?

    Kant said that (p.137):

    “… hospitality signifies the claim of a stranger entering foreign territory to be treated by its owner without hostility. The latter may send him away again, if this can be done without causing his death; but, so long as he conducts himself peaceably, he must not be treated as an enemy. It is not a right to be treated as a guest to which the stranger can lay claim.”

    So when Europhiles promote the idea of ‘free movement’ as a progressive element of the EU and suggest this was embedded in Kant’s cosmopolitanism, they are wrong.

    Kant did not think cosmopolitanism extended to having open borders for all to penetrate and remain.

    His concept of ‘hospitality’ makes it clear that while all people are equal members of a “moral community of humanity” and “share the qualities of freedom, equality, and independence” (Zavediuk, 2014: 170) they are not entitled to permanently move wherever they choose.
    [end quote]
    I would go further to be more precise.
    When Europe’s workers cross borders, not only do they not become guests, they don’t become family either.
    Here my analogy is to persons invited into a family’s home. Guests are not treated as members of the family while they are living there. For example, if they need new shoes because of a new hole in the sole of their right shoe, they must buy their own shoes. They don’t get welfare (i.e., the family buys new shoes for them).
    Here in America, we have full right to move anywhere. This means that we get welfare soon after we move to a different state. We get the right to vote there soon after also.
    Now, I’m not telling Europeans how to create their future. I’m just expanding on Bill’s point about what Kant said and, therefore, likely meant.
    And let me say again, in the US it is taken as a given that some states pay more in Federal taxes than is spent back into their state. I claim this is necessary, because over many years the normal flow of dollars due to market forces would otherwise impoverish some states while making other states richer. See the effect of a new WalMart store on a small town as the old small shops who bank locally are replaced by/with the box store sending the nightly receipts out of state to Walmart’s national bank.
    In Europe the richer nations resist this as being contrary to their interests.

  2. In Europe the euro flows due to trade imbalances are mostly ignored by economic theories.
    I have seen the resulting problems being blamed on the “profligate spending of the importing nation”. This is blaming the victim.
    Prof. Dr. Blyth says that the Greek problem was in large measure caused by French and German banks buying every pre-EZ Greek Gov. bond that paid about 25% interest that they could buy. They did this after Greece joined the EZ because it was assumed that all the various EZ members bonds would be treated as one set of bonds. They did this by selling French bonds that paid 7% to get euros to buy the 25% Greek bonds because if they were all the same risk then 25% was a better return than 7%. He doesn’t say, but I will, that many of those bonds were owned by Greek citizens, banks, or insurance comp. Obviously, this was pumping euros into the Greek economy. Greece used these euros to off set their balance of payments problem. This was a mistake, but so was buying the Greek bonds thinking they had the same risk as French bonds. When the GFC/2008 hit, the ECB, EC, and IMF put the pain onto the Greek people, and they paid off the French and German bond holders to save the system from crashing. Why didn’t they just give the euros to Greece instead of loaning them to Greece and demanding austerity? It was because of the rules. Now can Greece ever pay those new loans back?
    But, I can ask the first question in the US. Why did Pres. Obama bail out the banks and not even spend the few dollars appropriated by Congress to help the homeowners who then lost their homes? Bailouts for the rich and bankruptcy for the middle-class. Seems fair right?

  3. Steve, Without going into Obama’s psychology, it is the case that he didn’t need the appropriated dollars to help the homeowners. He could have provided assistance even had he appropriated not a single dollar. Obama’s principal failure re TARP is that no conditions were placed on any bailout. It was the same in the UK. And no high hanging fruit went to jail for fraud either. As Charles Kindleberger, channeling Balzac, said, many years ago, behind every massive bubble, there is a great fraud.

  4. @Larry,
    Thomas Frank is one of my favorites. He says that Obama was a 3rd way sellout Dem.
    That he identified with the Wall St. bankers. That is the top 19%, cutting off the top 1% which the Repuds own. They (top 19%) were the people he went to college with.
    They are the new winners.
    So, he bailed them out.
    To Obama the bottom 80% of US earners are ‘losers’. They didn’t get into an Ivy League school, so it is their own fault and so they don’t deserve *handouts*.
    This is why the Dem Party has been losing for decades. They ignore 80% of Americans, asking ‘Where else can they go?” Well, they stayed home in 2016. And, they stayed home in 2010 when the Repuds took over the state houses all over the 50 states. The Dem leaders are still in denial.

  5. I think the “ad-Kant” pro-EU argument is based on his “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” (1785), not on the concept of “universal hospitality”. In that work, the categorical imperative is formulated:

    “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

    I think most of the “cosmopolitans” associated in political discourse to “open borders” (regardless of them ever actually demanding borders be opened) show compassion for the plight of migrants and, from their perspective, act in a way that could suffice the categorical imperative: help those in need of help. At this point it is not considered whether it helps in the long term or what would be the best means to achieve that. I personally have nothing but respect and admiration for those who engage in the care and support of people in need, regardless of their nationality and current location, even though I’m well aware that their efforts will neither stop migration nor end poverty. However, neither would not helping.

    Ultimately, the ideological, political and economical aspects in the heads of most people are so tightly knit, that most seem unable to isolate them. This leads otherwise “lefties” to turn into fiscal hawks on Greece or deride popular revolts by the modern proletariat as the work of xenophobes and simpletons so the EU can “save face”. Merkel’s Mantra “If the € fails, Europe fails.” is, in my opinion, the perfect example of how a politician purposefully conflates the european ideal and it’s faulty economical and fiscal system. In my opinion, the values at the core of liberalism have been succefully highjacked. Somehow, the modern “lefty” European has come to the conclusion that it boils down € or barbarism.

  6. Steve, I would not deny any of that. Thomas Frank is also a favorite of mine.

    Hermann, thanks, my friend, for the Kant clarification. The categorical imperative is one of Kant’s principal principles, if I may put it this way. It also relates, as you undoubtedly know, to his means-end schema, where other people should be treated as ends and not means, something neoliberals do not seem to understand. Or if they do understand this, reject it on what Kant would have considered to be faulty grounds.

    I tend to agree with you about odd thought processes of certain europhiles, and Merkel’s odd deception. I wonder whether you would agree that it is unclear whether Europe has reached what I have called its 1933 moment. That, you no doubt know, is the year Hitler became supreme leader as Chancellor of the Third Reich — the election was in March, two months after the Nazis seized control. If one thought previously that it might be possible for Germany to change direction, that was the year when it should have become clear that the likelihood of that happening was approaching zero.

    In drawing this analogy, I am not saying that the EU is anything like Nazi Germany, only that there was a moment when probabilities for change altered irrevocably. Bill believes they have. I am not convinced, and the 1933 moment is my barometer. Has the EU reached it? I am not convinced it has. But maybe my barometer is not reliable or is too extreme an indicator. And possibly it is also difficult to apply in real time, as opposed to historical time. You may feel my barometer inapplicable for different reasons, I expect.

  7. Hello, larry!

    I like the phrasing with people as ends and not means very much. I suspect many neoliberals don’t even consider themselves neoliberals and have never heard of or ignore the categorical imperative. Alternatively, maybe they do and are “cheating”, living examples of Kirkegaards criticism of “Kantian autonomy”:

    “Kant was of the opinion that man is his own law (autonomy) – that is, he binds himself under the law which he himself gives himself. Actually, in a profounder sense, this is how lawlessness or experimentation are established. This is not being rigorously earnest any more than Sancho Panza’s self-administered blows to his own bottom were vigorous. … Now if a man is never even once willing in his lifetime to act so decisively that [a lawgiver] can get hold of him, well, then it happens, then the man is allowed to live on in self-complacent illusion and make-believe and experimentation, but this also means: utterly without grace.”

    I’m honestly undecided in regards to the “1933 moment”. Especially since you ask for a European moment. So I will procede in parts.

    I would certainly think that Brexit (if and when it finally occurs) will constitute a pivotal moment for the UK, be it good or bad, and the event to have hurt the pan-european “feeling” the most ever. I do belive we could talk in 50 years about it having been the first dominoe piece to fall. Maybe not as a 1933 event but as a “Treaty of Versaille” moment, where the political/economical stage is set for the tragedy (?) to play out.

    As for continental Europe, such an event would have to directly involve either France or Germany. Without at least one of them, nothing goes.

    In my opinion the emergence of the extreme right in Germany only strengthened the existing centrist forces. I need to clarify here, that I consider the Greens, the CDU/CSU (the conservatives), FDP (liberals) and the SPD (formally Social Democratic Party) to be those forces, since one needs to look hard for real discrepancies between their programmes. With exception of the greens, the individual parties registered electoral losses, but they represent by far the biggest voter block. With die Linke hovering below 10% nationwide, you get a political map that has those <10% to the left, around 75% in the center parties and about 15% to the right with a considerable amount (maybe up to 5% of those 15%) in the extreme right. Maybe I'm utterly wrong, but I interpret this "flight to the middle" as a push for the status quo to remain as it is, so I foresee no radical change, thus no "1933" anytime soon.

    For the last couple of years my money was on prolonged social unrest in France as the detonator of such a moment and maybe the yellow vests are the first sign of if not "it". If the people react like this to a comparatively mild trangsgression, imagine how they'd ract to the full neoliberal austerity treatment. Macron is a lame duck anyway and could very well end up France's Barrack Obama: a handsome and eloquent technocrat doing his donor's/financers bidding at the expense of his voters. That might set Marine Le Pen for an electoral win next time around and that, larry, I would certainly consider a pivotal moment.

    Please excuse the longwinded answer. Cheers!

  8. No problem, Hermann. Thanks. I like your Treaty of Versailles analogy for Brexit. I am thinking it would probably not end in the same way with no one signing off on it some 8 or so years later.

    What albatross does Macron have hanging around his neck? Obama had being the first black president hanging around his. He was not going to mess that up. Sadly, he mistook what he needed to do. While he probably didn’t screw up the possibility of there being another black president in the future, he missed his possible Martin Luther King moment. Macron kept Le Pen out of office. It doesn’t look at though Macron is going to have any positive moments, certainly in the near future. I agree that a Le Pen win could be a seismic moment. What a thing to contemplate.

    Trivia moment. Did you know that OMG stands for the Order of St. Michael and St. George? The acronym was apparently first used by a British admiral during the WW1 years. I learned this by watching a quiz show. It wasn’t Pointless, though it could have been, as you may well think the info pointless. 😀

  9. larry,

    I hadn’t considered Obama’s ethnicity much, too be honest. Probably because I’m so “woke” I’m colorblind 😉
    I concede it might have compelled him to act more as a teamplayer and less as a rebel. Indeed, the crticism he faced from the rightwing media was ludicrous at times (A tan suit?! Dijon mustard?! Come on…)

    If, and I hopfelly hope I’m wrong on this one, it all plays out as I portrayed, then Macron will have but delayed the election of Le Pen, who might even come out in a stronger position than she would have gotten the las time around. Either way, Macron will go down as either ineffective or just plain bad and Le Pen could proeve an actually effective partner to the other nationalists in Europe. Interesting times and all that…

    No trivia is never pointless if it can be used to maintain my carefully engineered, albeit dangerously labile, intellectual facade during the next dinner party 🙂


  10. Use the trivia in good health. I hope you are wrong about le Pen, but I suspect you may be right. Unless the oaf does something right in the meantime, which looks less likely the more time goes by.

  11. Planet Earth is not waiting for humanity to decide if it is going to move to the right or the left.
    Liberals like to say that revenge is not right. I like to say that it is probably all that is left.

    I hope that there are still people around in 25 years who can laugh at my attempts to be funny.
    Maybe someone in a JV program will be reading that joke out loud for a funeral on St. Patricks Day in 2044.

    Does that date conflict with anyones Calendar?

  12. ALTRUISM seeking a home:

    If Brexit represents in constituency in the UK it is communal FEAR: anxiety at employment prospects, distress at relative declines in sustainable living standards, alarm at increasing foreign economic and political dominance, and trepidation at what lies ahead for an aspirant middle-class now feeling under constant siege.

    There are so few left who can recall the horrors of WW2 and the Great Depression that preceded that cataclysm; the community spirit of those far-off days have become mere historic records, devoid of emotive meaning. But they were arguably the essence of modern institutions like the NHS and the crux of many ideological battles to secure a more just society; the foundation of demands for greater equality in lifestyles and living standards.

    Much of the post-war era cemented this drive throughout the Western world, riding on the back of growing global markets and the insatiable demand for consumer goods. A side-effect of this materialistic addiction was the growth in individualism and the slow decline in family bonds as people moved further and further away from parents and siblings.

    We are now seeing some of the results of this cascading independence as health and social services struggle to cope with growing populations of the struggling aged and younger misplaced. How severe this burden is can be derived by measuring it against the monumental advances in clinical and technological facilities that have taken place during the last half-century.

    Turning back to Brexit; there have been many attempts to measure voting patterns in terms of urban v rural constituencies, affluence v poverty, net immigration movements at local level.
    None point to decisive conclusions. But one thing is fairly clear, the electorate are appalled at the state of the nation and their prospects in it.

    There is real fear – it is fear of politicians and what they stand for. And no-one is inclined to believe the rhetoric of altruism.

    There is no dominant dialogue that draws the electorate together under inspired leadership; Right and Left wing politics relies more on populism than vision – and this seems to be spreading in a way that recalls the 1930’s

  13. The MMT believers know the most important policy levers are currency issuance by the national government working in unison with the central bank and operating in coordination with national taxation along with national legislation in general. Most would agree that the only legitimate system of political control is democracy. The two must therefore be connected and for geographical areas like Europe that cannot function satisfactorily as federations this can only optimally mean a return to complete national rule and independence with a return to national currencies.

    Some form of political cooperation along with a preferential trade zone for Europe as a whole would still be desirable and should be attainable under the ‘family of independent nations’ model. This could also help with trade and geopolitically when dealing with the global ‘gorillas’ like the US, China and Japan.

    Eventually Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the other CIS nations, Turkey and even Britain could conceivably join such a preferential trade zone but one would hope that defined minimum democratic, human rights and judicial independence standards be first attained before membership and additionally the exit door be shown to those nations that later breach these standards. This implies some level of inter European political control and perhaps the UN governance model has some suitable attributes? Britain could well prove to be the first member of such a European preferential trade zone.

    We also know that the democratic process has been corrupted to varying degrees by those that own a disproportionate share of wealth, that control a significant share of the mass media, associated vested interests and by the established political elites that have in general abandoned the populace.

    The pressure in the cooker is rising in many ways such as ongoing high unemployment and underemployment, stagnant or declining net incomes for the masses, rising wealth inequality, harsh government austerity and degrading or sociopathic social services and infrastructure, large trade imbalances, increasing regional wealth imbalances, record levels of personal debt, the financialisation of economies, off shoring of manufacturing, excessively trade exposed markets, scams and exploitative market manipulation by business elites, tax evasion by the wealthy, influxes of desperate foreigners undercutting locals for scarce jobs, rising political extremism, environmental destruction and biggest of all the global warming crisis.

    This rising pressure must bring change. The restoration of functional democracy that acts in accordance with the wants and best interests of the populace at the national, regional and local level is the desired form of change, even for the business sector if they could look beyond their noses.

    The wealthy neoliberal power brokers that currently pull most of the strings in most nations may however use the populist extreme right as their next tool to maintain hegemony, for example Trump, once the populace finally cast off the old conservative and progressive neoliberal political elites that long ago abandoned them. The populist right however refuses to address most of the factors that are increasing resentment amongst the populace which means that path is likely to also be rejected eventually or that path will probably lead to some form of dictatorship.

    A worrying sign in the US is the considerable support for political distractions like libertarianism, Christian fundamentalism, citizens militias, white nativism, racism and other forms of chauvinism such as against women, liberals, environmentalists, scientists, state employees, experts, unionists and various minorities as well as extremism and intolerance in general. Such distractions are clearly being promoted by some of the wealthy elites such as the Koch brothers, and Trump and his backers are clearly a subset of this process, so it is conceivable that not only will the democratic process in the US be sufficiently manipulated to become ineffective but that a substantial and sufficient proportion of the electorate will actually support this transition knowingly or not. In this scenario democracy will be lost and yet violent dictatorship may not be necessary to maintain control by the wealthy elites and allied vested interests. The 2020 US presidential elections could prove to be a decisive moment in history.

  14. As Christopher Lasch described “them” already 1996 in “The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy”

    “Those who covet membership in the new aristocracy of brains tend to congregate on the coasts, turning their back on the heartland and cultivating ties with the international market in fast-moving money, glamour, fashion, and popular culture. It is a question whether they think of themselves as Americans at all. Patriotism, certainly, does not rank very high in their hierarchy of virtues. “Multiculturalism,” on the other hand, suits them to perfection, conjuring up the agreeable image of a global bazaar in which exotic cuisines, exotic styles of dress, exotic music, exotic tribal customs can be savored indiscriminately, with no questions asked and no commitments required. The new elites are at home only in transit, en route to a high-level conference, to the grand opening of a new franchise, to an international film festival, or to an undiscovered resort. Theirs is essentially a tourist’s view of the world-not a perspective likely to encourage a passionate devotion to democracy.”

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