Monday, May 14, 2012

The end of the euro and the end of reason

Paul Krugman's latest predicts that the crisis in Europe may well lead to the end of the euro -- within months. Even if the European currency manages to stay intact, Greece will pull out of the system.

What interests me is the reaction of one of his readers, whom I will call Mr. Crank:
Paul Krugman, LOL!
what else are you going to claim now?

You are one clueless Keynesian economist, nobel prize became a joke after you award and Obama's...
Mr. Crank goes on and on like that, spewing forth about everything except for the euro. Which was, of course, the subject of Krugman's column.

The Crank reaction is unimportant in and of itself, but to me it seems emblematic of a much larger problem, one which makes all of our other problems unresolvable. Rational discourse has become a scarce commodity in the United States.

George Soros, whom the rightists consider an incarnation of Satan, backs the euro. Thus, Krugman is saying that Soros has chosen poorly and that Britain's Conservative party (which opposes the euro) was right all along. You'd think that the right-wing's Krugman Response Team would pick up on that fact, maybe have some fun with it. They're too clueless.

One of the most vocal euro skeptics has been the former Conservative MP Michael Portillo, who recently appeared in a BBC documentary on the Greek economic crisis. Thanks to a sneaky little device called a VPN, I was able to see this show. It was quite good -- and very, very different from the kind of broadcast one would expect from an American conservative.

Throughout the show, Portillo presented his case in a calm and measured fashion. No histrionics. No propaganda. In fact, the lack of Fox-style propaganda made his argument stronger.

Nearly everyone he interviewed in Greece and Germany advocated sticking with a single European currency. Although Portillo disagreed, he politely allowed his interview subjects to have their say. He sympathized with populist anger at austerity measures in Greece. He even came that close to saying something nice about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Portillo is, in short, a reasonable man. Someone worth listening to. Why can't we have right-wingers like him in this country?

Compare Portillo-brand conservatism with the domestic variety.

In America, the right has been caught up in a frenzy that threatens to plunge the entire world into chaos. Many Republicans engage in rhetoric so outrageous as to make the BNP's guff seem comparatively tame. Conservatism in the United States has devolved into extreme paranoia, name-calling, demonization of all opponents, religious fundamentalism, disdain for science, outrageous historical revisionism, incessant propaganda, and the shameless embrace of underhanded tactics (such as using paid internet trolls and erecting barriers to keep minorities away from the ballot box). In conservative America, politics is not a matter of debate. The right wants Total War.

The world can, I think, survive the end of the euro. But we cannot survive the end of reason.


b said...

"George Soros, whom the rightists consider an incarnation of Satan, backs the euro".

He also backed Russian stocks, and then made (another) fortune from the collapse of the Russian stockmarket, which it turned out he'd been secretly shorting.

You have to realise that the discourse in the UK about the euro is often used to push the message that continental foreigners couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery, being so excitable, self-important, swarthy, etc., and basically so unlike their highly competent, well-spoken, reserved, born-to-rule British betters. For 10 years, "the euro" has been used to symbolise "bloody foreigners". It's pathetic. Meanwhile British people who go abroad can be losing about 15% on currency transactions. ("No commission - guaranteed", say the brokers. But they don't explain what a spread is.)

The British economy is far more dominated by finance capital than the French, German, and Italian ones are. It's standard here for many, if not most, people to buy food with borrowed money, for example. House prices are still sky high, and all the fucking pundits talk about how further rises are oh so healthy. Average personal debt is probably larger than in any other country in the world, except perhaps Ireland.

So when the shit hits the fan even harder, and currencies start collapsing, who's going to want fucking sterling?

You know those Zil lanes in central London, constructed for the Olympics? They go to Heathrow airport. Maybe soon they will get some one-way traffic, cf. Iceland.

Joseph Cannon said...

b, I wasn't really talking about Soros per se -- Soros the actual person. I was talking about what he represents in American right-wing mythology.

Neither was I truly talking about the pros or cons of the euro.

I was talking about the terms of debate. I was talking about the possibility of rational debate.

You absolutely have no idea how lucky you are to be living in a country where the national conversation is civilized. Before you scoff at the unimportance of the "reasonableness" factor -- well, try living in THIS country.

The U.K. has many problems. But even though solutions may seem far away, those solutions are actually much more attainable in your country than in mine.

In my country, a band of libertarians disguised as patriots want nothing less than the end of democracy and the sale of all public-owned goods, land, and services. They want, in short, the end of America and the installation of a new form of feudalism.

Through incessant propaganda -- of a sort that makes Streicher and Goebbels seem soft and subtle -- these libertarians have created a fever. Not only have the libertarians infiltrated the Dems and commandeered the GOP, they have also taken over the anti-government alternative. Our ill-educated young simply cannot conceive of an alternative to libertarianism. No matter what goes wrong, young people presume that the solution must involve a greater degree of libertarianism. And they are every bit as determined to see the triumph of libertarianism as the Nazis were to take over Europe.

Bad as things are in the U.K., be thankful that your country has not been infected with the kind of political rabies that we see in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

I could learn things from a guy like Portillo. The American link-bait noise machine makes it damn near impossible to learn anything.

Jotman said...

NewsCorp is largely responsible for having poisoned political discourse in both countries. Maybe the Brits can free themselves from this giant squid.

More than temperament, probably the key thing the UK has going for it now is the fact that failed austerity is helping to discredit right-wing ideology in the UK. Brits got to taste the right's medicine, and it came out of a bottle that had been properly labeled.

Monster from the Id said...

Don't click the "The REAL Conspiracy" link on the left side. My Chrome popped up with a warning that the link was deceptive, and would take me to a bad site. Mr. Cannon might need to check that out and remove the link.

Monster from the Id said...

In case this comment didn't get through (an unexpected page popped up):

Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means. The USAmerican Right considers the reverse to be true as well.

If they both got through, just delete the spare one.