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July 13, 2020

Comments

In what way, lj ?

(I think I originally posted her recent Atlantic article.)

To be honest, I'm not sure, but I didn't know the depth of her relations with figures in Eastern Europe. I had her in my mind as a historian, (I read her book Gulag) and didn't ever imagine that she would have been married to someone in the Polish government. Her departure from the US right was timely (the article says she stopped voting Republican in 2008, but I didn't really analyze her politics when I read Gulag in 2006 or so?) and I never clocked her as being a right idealogue. I'm not saying that she was, I think the only way I can explain it is if you are talking about some world famous event with someone and they speak knowledgably about it and you go away and then discover that they were actually in the room when the event took place. For both good and bad. Perhaps I'm the only one who didn't realize this.

lj, when Nigel first posted his link (on collaborators), I read it and thought it excellent, and important. Everyone I shared it with IRL thought so too. I speculated that Mattis's long overdue open break with the Trump regime might have been partly in response to her specifically naming him as one of those who had been more cowardly than examples she gave of brave Eastern Europeans who had defied intimidation and conditioning to oppose communist regimes. I then had a somewhat protracted fight with Donald, for whom the history of her political attitudes made her inadmissable as someone to admire, even for recent thinking. Neither of us changed our view.

Thank you for posting this piece, which I might not otherwise have seen. It confirms me in my opinion.

I must confess my ignorance with respect to Applebaum. Prior to the initial posting of the Atlantic article by Nigel, I was not aware of her or her work. I took no great issue with it, and thought it had some good insights. The Guardian piece cited by lj is also pretty good. Wry historians are usually good ones.

As to her political "awakening", I am reminded of the flight of many intellectuals from the Left during the 50's and 60's (Sidney Hook, Irving Howe, et al). Theirs was a path toward ideological opposition to socialism, and some of them wound up in another ideologically ugly place. Her political transformation is, um, a bit more restrained.

But I'll take (almost) any resistance to authoritarianism where I can find it.

...Her political transformation is, um, a bit more restrained...

One might even say that she grew up, while many in the social/political circle her husband once inhabited - including our current PM - remained stuck in perpetual adolescence.

Looking at Wikipedia, the attraction to right of centre politics is entirely understandable:
...She graduated from the Sidwell Friends School (1982). She earned a BA (summa cum laude) in history and literature at Yale University (1986), where she attended the Soviet history course taught by Wolfgang Leonhard in autumn 1982. While a student, Applebaum spent a summer in Leningrad, Soviet Union in 1985 which she has written helped to shape her opinions...

And in that context, the difference between the Britain of Attlee and that of Thatcher, or the between the US of FDR and Reagan, is immeasurably less than that between either and the Soviet regime.

Applebaum's latest on the depraved, disgraceful, fascist Republican Party-supported conservative movement in Poland:

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/polands-rulers-manufactured-a-rainbow-plague/614113/

I won't link to it, but today the ridiculous, orthodox fag-hater Dreher at TAC ridicules Applebaum on the way to going full-in for Duda's victory, as he does for Hungary's Orban, and as he does for Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church's treatment of LGBT in Russia.

Dreher, of course, elides the underlying anti-semitism of all three regimes, as he does the underlying subhuman rank racism of his hero Tucker Carlson, the latter of whom must be canceled in every sense of the word.

Must I add "F*ck Antifa, too" to show proper obeisance to the canceling rhetoric of the great both-sides-do-it fence sitters?

By the way, Applebaum's history of Stalin's genocide in the Ukraine, "Red Famine", is a bracing read at well.

It is interesting to contemplate the minimizing rhetoric of Stalin's "agricultural" policies in Ukraine with our current US fascist regime's pandemic denial.

What famine? These people have TOO MUCH grain is the problem.

I can, of course, agree with Applebaum in her current incarnation, as I can with David Frum's remarkable apostasy, without committing to agreement with her (and his) foreign and domestic policy positions in the past or the future, should we have the latter.

First, we remove the EVIL conservative Trump movement from the face of the Earth, and then, whatever misguided calamities the entirely human and humane Frum and Applebaum have up their sleeves for us can be dealt with on a first come, first serve basis under the messy business as usual in an imperfect world.

I can, of course, agree with Applebaum in her current incarnation, as I can with David Frum's remarkable apostasy, without committing to agreement with her (and his) foreign and domestic policy positions in the past or the future

Ditto. Not to mention that this is, as far as I can see, one of the advantages of the liberal, enlightenment approach. All or nothing seems to me a particularly reductive, or perhaps even puerile, view.

Self-described accountings of political journeys should be taken with the usual cautionary grain of salt (there is no such thing as NO bias, especially in recounting one's own apostasies .... we are the hero of our own story .... nor is there certainty, unlike conservatives and the KGB would have us believe; I wear my bias on my sleeve and I am frequently full of sh*t, but I try to tailor the degree of my biases and full of sh*tness to the other side's always final offer of all and nothingness, and even that statement is questionable and self-serving. We can balance, but if you haven't tipped over, you haven't lived), but this article reveals something of Annie Applebaum's journey away from the pure malignity of movement conservatism, of which she was a bit of a salon insider, over the past few decades.

That Applebaum anchors the article with Laura Ingraham is satisfying, given the faux Christian sadism of the latter's well-remunerated and country-destroying schtick.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/laura-ingrahams-descent-into-despair/614245/

I was taken by this quote: "...at its best it was energetic, reformist, and generous..."
It's difficult now even to remember that as being a possible description of even a small part of the conservative project.

I don't exactly share Applebaum's politics (so far as I have any real idea of what they are), but I will be buying her book.

When conservatism is exemplified by a governor not merely failing to mandate the wearing of masks in public during a global pandemic, but actually prohibiting local officials from issuing such mandates, when his state is in the midst of a surge of COVID-19 cases, there is nothing left but despair.

Well, Kemp wasn't an example of good governance in other ways as well.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/16/kemp-georgia-mask-mandates/

Worth reading (from a very different Republican governor)
https://washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/07/16/larry-hogan-trump-coronavirus/?tid=pm_pop&itid=pm_pop

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/15/trump-appointees-loyalty-interviews-364616?nname=playbook&nid=0000014f-1646-d88f-a1cf-5f46b7bd0000&nrid=0000016e-c680-d60d-ad7e-cece56620000&nlid=630318

Biden needs to conduct a thorough purge of all republican filth from my government.

And it needs to be violent.

You conservatives want authoritarian government with loyalty to you alone, ya effing cucks?

Move to Russia, assholes.

Those "deep state" employees under the gun to lick Trump's gold-plated anus need to go into those interviews with the subhuman McEntee fully armed.

Kemp is a genocidal murderer.

This country does not go forward until full vengeance is employed against its tens of millions of internal mortal enemies.

DeSantis: cold blooded murderer.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/7/16/1961280/-Everything-is-going-great-Florida-s-emergency-operations-center-closes-due-to-coronavirus-cases

He can't even keep his emergency management humans from inhaling his disease.

Any Republican who attempts to govern me at any level has signed his death warrant.

It's as if the virus is learning who needs to die and going there:

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/chuck-woolery-coronavirus-son-tested-positive-214332776.html

Game show host (so much better of a career choice in asshole conservative America than epidemiology), Christian, anti-Semite gun lover, stuck his dick in four wives .. whether prayer or guns helped that along is a toss-up.

Typical pigf*cking American. Republican.

Orthodox Dreher hearts him.

If Annie Applebaum dies of Covid-19, our Soviet Republican gummint ain't gonna let you know:

https://www.balloon-juice.com/2020/07/16/the-data-has-been-disappeared/

It has started:

https://www.opb.org/news/article/federal-law-enforcement-unmarked-vehicles-portland-protesters/#.XxD9y_CwH4w.twitter

More:

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a33347230/portland-oregon-protesters-detained/

I guess Putin explained to his BFF Trump how to deploy "little green men".

From JT's OPB link (emphasis added):

“It was basically a process of facing many walls and corners as they patted me down and took my picture and rummaged through my belongings,” Pettibone said. “One of them said, ‘This is a whole lot of nothing.’”

Was the "official" referring to the detainee's belongings or the situation generally, I wonder? Is there an enthusiasm gap?

From Applebaum, in the Atlantic, on Ingraham:


This wasn’t the nostalgic conservatism of the English, or the hard-right nationalism found elsewhere in Europe; this was something more buoyant, more American—an optimistic conservatism that wasn’t backward-looking at all. Although there were darker versions, at its best it was energetic, reformist, and generous, predicated on faith in the United States, a belief in the greatness of American democracy, and an ambition to share that democracy with the rest of the world.

So, a couple of thoughts.

First, contra Applebaum's comment comparing the Reaganites to UK conservatism, if there is one word that characterizes the "optimistic conservatism" of the Reagan period, it is nostalgia. Same for the toxic patriotism of the current time, for that matter.

Second, I generally agree that the collapse of the Soviet regime was seen by conservatives as proof that "we" had "won". Further, it was seen as something that entitled us to rule the whole freaking world. For its own good, of course.

It was the End Of History! Right?

That was an agenda that was destined for disappointment, because the rest of the world wasn't really interested in being ruled by us. Or probably anybody, really.

And we weren't that good at it, in the end, because we weren't as virtuous as we imagined ourselves to be. Because no-one is.

And now we are burdened with the Ingrahams and the Buchanans and the rest of that lot, threatening civil war and generally looking for ways to burn the whole place down if their weird ahistorical precious patriotic pipe-dream doesn't come true.

It was always a pile of self-serving bunk. We were the epitome and culmination of human history, and our time had come.

Well, we weren't. And we don't need to be, because nobody needs to be.

And we weren't that good at it, in the end, because we weren't as virtuous as we imagined ourselves to be. Because no-one is.

I think the biggest problem was hubris. If we had been willing to grant the rest of the world some respect, even just for those of their traditions which don't conflict with our ideas about economics and human rights, we'd have gotten further. Still not the total success some expected, but further.

Because, after all, those things actually work for the good of most people. So they'll support moving towards them, IF you haven't got their backs up by disrespecting everything about their culture.

Re JDT @8:54
The report I read said at least one guy got put in "a Federal holding cell" before being eventually released without charges. (Or even being told why he was picked up.) It seems to me that should have, however inadvertently, left a paper trail which could show who did it. And thus, eventually, who ordered it.

Probably we don't get to the bottom of it before the election. But just starting the digging effort may discourage a repeat eleswhere.

It has started:

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/usps-delays-elections-vote-by-mail-worries

World War III has started:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-21/barr-says-u-s-businesses-part-of-problem-in-battling-china

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-usa-carriers/u-s-aircraft-carriers-return-to-south-china-sea-amid-rising-tensions-idUSKCN24I19W

Expect an incident in the South China Sea. You'll get a clue of the timing by watching Trump's poll numbers.

Don't believe a word of the gummint's propaganda when it happens. Conservatives have desired the irrelevance, and the total canceling of the US government for generations.

Well, now you've got it, assholes. What are you going to do with it, besides count your tax breaks?

Donald Trump: "I learned everything there is to know about weapons in 90 minutes."

As with halting all investigation of his career corrupt business and tax evasion thuggery because the Presidency is his legal Barr-approved hidey hole, Trump has ideas about nuclear war and where would be the best place to try it out: from the Presidency of the United States, which has access to the most fortified and long-term provisioned (Goya produced lining the walls) bomb shelters on the US mainland?

His lackeys will be forced to pay emoluments to Trump and family to secure shelter from incineration for themselves and their families, if in fact there are any malignant republican lackeys who even give a shit about their families, except as props for one righteous fake Christian grift after another.

Why is an Attorney General of the United States horning in on State Department and Defense Department functions, if there is not a domestic security offensive, including shutting down access to the voting franchise, which is what the deliberate spread of a deadly virus is designed to do as well, about to go into operation?

While simultaneously rounding up "disloyal" (not to the country but rather to one psychopathic murderer) American career government employees for harassment and ultimate expulsion, to silence all dissent within our government as full-on fascism is imposed on this country.

Take a moment to cue some dissonant minor-keyed strains of music for the paranoia and then take a moment to chuckle.

We'll see.

The only limit to what these evil filth will do is our imaginations.

I think the biggest problem was hubris.

Agreed.

If we had been willing to grant the rest of the world some respect, even just for those of their traditions which don't conflict with our ideas about economics and human rights, we'd have gotten further. Still not the total success some expected, but further.

So, I have questions.

In what way does it matter if another country's traditions conflict with our own, about economics, human rights, or whatever? In what contexts does that call for some kind of response from us, and what kind of response does it call for?

What is the goal toward which we would have gotten "further"?

Briefly, what makes us - the United States - the measure of how a nation should organize and run itself?

Briefly, what makes us - the United States - the measure of how a nation should organize and run itself?

I'm not saying that we are the standard to which others should move. Because clearly we are not -- anyone who thinks we are perfect hasn't been paying attention.

On the other hand, we could encourage others to provide increased economic freedom, and improved human rights, regardless of whether we have achieved perfection there. And, for half a century, we did. The problem I was trying to address is why we were no more successful than we were. Why, as you put it, we weren't that good at it.

Looks like trump is going to need to replace another United States Attorney. This time for Oregon.

https://www.opb.org/news/article/us-attorney-oregon-investigation-portland-protester-arrests/

An antidote to Applebaum and Nick Cohen

https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n14/pankaj-mishra/flailing-states

Seriously. Just fire every freaking pundit in the US and hire this guy.

And no, it wasn’t written as a response to Applebaum, though he dismisses her essay at the end. But after the buildup you can see why.

Btw, I might have spoiled it by making it about Applebaum. It’s not. It’s more of a theory about how the US and Britain got to where they are now and it is generations in the making.

I must have read excerpts from that piece already. Me to myself: "I've read this paragraph before." It's a good read, though, so reading some of it twice is fine.

The ideal of democracy, according to which all adults are equal and possess equal power to choose and control political and economic outcomes, is realised nowhere. The fact of economic inequality, not to mention the compromised character of political representatives, makes it unrealisable. More disturbing still, voters have been steadily deprived, not least by a mendacious or click-baiting fourth estate, of the capacity either to identify or to seek the public interest.

Yes, that was an interesting piece. I found the history (particularly about Germany and Japan) very illuminating. You certainly can't argue with the final sentence of the excellently expressed excerpt above, and the viewpoint and analysis are valuable, particularly as a corrective to the reflexive triumphalism we are so very used to in the west.

nous pointed out the Mishra in the thread on Weber. I thought his history was a bit off in regards to Germany and Japan (though my take is probably more cynical in regards to the West). Also someone here recommended Mishra's Age of Anger, which I think does better at discussing Germany and Japan and seeing his name, it reminded me that I had read it (it often takes a few repetitions to have me remember these days)

In many ways, I found the Mishra piece incredibly offensive.

The ideal of democracy, according to which all adults are equal and possess equal power to choose and control political and economic outcomes, is realised nowhere.

Yes? And? The "ideal" of anything is realised nowhere. I guess we humans work with each flawed other, and with our own flawed human institutions. Assuming that we're "decent" people (as we sometimes like to describe ourselves here), we try to make things better as we limp along.

Applebaum aside (and I don't agree with a lot of where she has been in her political history, and apparently she also has some second thoughts), people are now in power who have never believed in even the attempt to attain "the ideal of democracy." To a certain extent they have used the cynicism and despair among so many to lead the country in the opposite direction. People like Mishra are helping that effort.

Some other quotes that were annoying:

"After the collapse of communism, and the moral challenge it presented, the corralling of African Americans was resumed without fear of international scrutiny; the new weapons for this purpose, honed to deadly effect under Clinton, and fully endorsed by Joe Biden in the Senate, were mass incarceration and a militarised police."

This rhetoric about the "crime bill!" during the '90's doesn't have much to do with the collapse of communism, it seems to me. Mishra is apparently a Bernie Sanders fan (for example, the silly statement: "Biden, abandoning his Obama-lite centrism, has rushed to plagiarise Bernie Sanders’s manifesto.") Why then doesn't he point out that Sanders also voted for the "crime bill!"? Was this also Bernie's reaction to the collapse of communism? I think he just wanted to get in the Clinton "crime bill!" dig.

The "they were all bad!" approach to American history is extremely dishonest, and very destructive. It ignores the substantial work that people did during the 20th century (and during Obama's administration) to make the US more equitable, to establish institutions to make the world more equitable, and to oppose authoritarianism.

I found the piece tiresome.

By the way, what was "the crime bill!" all about? Here's a blast from the past.

What I take away from Mishra is that, in Mishra's opinion, the tradition of laissez faire economics, running from Manchester liberalism, through to Friedman, and beyond to now in the UK and the US, is proving itself to be insufficient to the demands of the moment.

Or, of many moments, including the current one.

I find the argument persuasive.

Mishra also conflates that with democracy, which IMO is mistaken. It is, IMO, absurd to say that the nations with stronger social infrastructure - Japan, Germany, most of the EU for that matter - are any less democratic than either the US or the UK. The two things are distinct.

So, that argument, I don't find persuasive.

Mishra challenges the idea that a society is merely a collection of individuals pursuing their private interests. Or, more specifically, challenges the idea that a nation organized around the idea that a society is merely a collection of individuals pursuing their private interests is one that offers resources and institutions sufficient to address the kinds of challenges we are facing now.

Or, really, is one that is sustainable, at all.

That part, I agree with.

challenges the idea that a nation organized around the idea that a society is merely a collection of individuals pursuing their private interests is one that offers resources and institutions sufficient to address the kinds of challenges we are facing now.

Whether it was sufficient to the challenges of the day EVER is doubtful. And most people know it. There is a reason, after all, that throughput history all but the most benighted areas of the world have had some form of government, one which (among, admittedly, other things) conducted joint efforts to address the challenges of the day.

I guess what I'm saying is that what I take away from Mishra is that the prevailing doctrine of the last 40 years - that what this country is, or should be, about is unregulated capitalism - has failed.

For "unregulated capitalism" feel free to read "minimally regulated capitalism" or any variant of the same.

Manchester liberalism, "classic" liberalism, libertarian capitalism, Chicago School economics, the Friedman doctrine. Whatever label you want to put on it.

The idea that government's job is to stay the hell out of the way of money making more money.

It's failed.

And I agree with that.

I agree with that reading, russell, but I'd also add in a healthy dose of post-colonialist critique at the heart of why he thinks it's failed.

And I'd say that the Clintons have more than earned the mild jab that Mishra hit them with.

I guess what I'm saying is that what I take away from Mishra is that the prevailing doctrine of the last 40 years - that what this country is, or should be, about is unregulated capitalism - has failed.

I agree that unregulated capitalism has failed. But you and I weren't convinced of that by Mishra - we both thought that before we read the article. He may believe that, but he didn't make that case in the article - his diatribe is incoherent.

And I'd say that the Clintons have more than earned the mild jab that Mishra hit them with.

I am not going to convince anyone who believes that otherwise, but what was the point? What was the point of the jab against Biden "plagiarizing" Sanders? And while bringing up Sanders, where was an acknowledgment of his role in voting for the "crime bill!"? The story of crime in the nineties, and that legislation in particular, has been so dishonestly distorted that it really undermines Mishra's credibility to include it in an article that really had nothing to do with it. Also, did Obama "deserve" to be maligned for being "keen not to be seen as caring too much about black people"?

Probably my bedtime.

Mishra also conflates that with democracy, which IMO is mistaken. It is, IMO, absurd to say that the nations with stronger social infrastructure - Japan, Germany, most of the EU for that matter - are any less democratic than either the US or the UK. The two things are distinct.

There's a lot going on in the article in service of bolstering the social infrastructure thesis (which in of itself, I don't have a great argument with).

The eliding of the more inconvenient bits of history of (notably) Germany, Japan and China is pretty blatant - along with that of the considerable role the US played in the early postwar development of Germany, Japan and South Korea ( the latter of which would not otherwise have existed at all).

One might also add his conflation of the polities of the US and the UK, which is not entirely convincing.

I liked Mishra's book Age of Anger and I thought that the longer format gave him more room and it was more a question of the global environment rather than an analysis of the UK/US.

I do think that one problem is that he is an outsider to the US political scene and (and this is what I complained earlier about) his attempts to paint the US as one polity, all sharing the same opinion serves him poorly. The discussion of Biden 'plagiarising' was something I pointed out in the other thread and it seems that he fails to understand that Obama was quite trapped by being 'the first black president' and so was unable to push progressive notions very far (we can argue if he would have, but he and his advisors knew that he could not take his identity too far. For example, the Key and Peele routine about Obama's anger translator, which Obama liked so much that he used it at a Correspondent's dinner, shows that he was just as aware of the limitations that were placed on him. Here's an interesting article about the linguistic aspects of that sketch
https://wp.nyu.edu/compass/2019/03/28/african-american-english-aae-in-key-peeles-obamas-anger-translator/ )

But I hope the people rejecting this piece will still take a read of Age of Anger (his discussion of the roots of Hindu nationalism is really interesting)

I've been thinking of the piece since my cautious response last night.

I was grateful to read about the social infrastructure etc history in Germany and Japan, about which I knew nothing and which I found very interesting, but I accept lj's remark that the version he gives may be somewhat misleading.

I also agree with Nigel's two posts above, even more particularly the second, which is something of an understatement in my opinion.

I understand the wish to emphasise the impossibility of achieving the ideal of democracy, as in the part I quoted, since that is the weapon regularly (and rightly) used to neuter any argument about the utopian intention behind communism.

But, even while reading the piece last night, I kept thinking of the old Churchill quote about democracy being the worst possible system apart from all the others. Mishra seems to me not to suggest any constructive solution to the problem.

I do think that one problem is that he is an outsider to the US political scene and (and this is what I complained earlier about) his attempts to paint the US as one polity, all sharing the same opinion serves him poorly.

It seems more than this; it's also what Nigel said:

The eliding of the more inconvenient bits of history of (notably) Germany, Japan and China is pretty blatant - along with that of the considerable role the US played in the early postwar development of Germany, Japan and South Korea (the latter of which would not otherwise have existed at all).

I don't really trust a writer who distorts history in this way, and whose essay contained all manner of extraneous material simply meant (seemingly) to burnish his leftier than thou credentials. If his book is worth reading, it's likely that it benefitted from editorial intervention, which perhaps could have also improved the LRB piece.

But, even while reading the piece last night, I kept thinking of the old Churchill quote about democracy being the worst possible system apart from all the others. Mishra seems to me not to suggest any constructive solution to the problem.

This.

An antidote to Applebaum and Nick Cohen
...
Seriously. Just fire every freaking pundit in the US and hire this guy.

You're not a believer in the marketplace of ideas either, then ? :-)

A piece in the NYT you might have more sympathy with:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/19/opinion/coronavirus-germany-economy.html

But, even while reading the piece last night, I kept thinking of the old Churchill quote about democracy being the worst possible system apart from all the others. Mishra seems to me not to suggest any constructive solution to the problem.

This.

Ditto

A piece in the NYT you might have more sympathy with

Yes, I do like that one.

The fact that Merkel is smart and competent, and interested in the public good, as opposed to our anti-Democratic, corrupt stooge, who gets his marching orders from foreign strongmen and domestic white nationalists and conspiracy theorists, certainly goes a long way. That Germany had institutions in place to care for workers during this crisis was no doubt helpful, but a competent American government could have retrofit some of our established welfare institutions to the purpose as well. Unfortunately, our not-so-democratic Republicans have instead been devoted to tearing those institutions down.

Germany's success is largely thanks to a competent leadership.

Germany's success is largely thanks to a competent leadership.

The question is, though, how much does the robustness of German institutions lead to competent leadership being the result of their political process? Why did enough people in the US decide to elect a transparent charlatan to the highest office in the land? What is lacking in our social infrastructure that allows people to behave this way politically?

So very much in the Congressman Lewis tradition
https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/20/christopher-david-portland-protest-video/
Just standing there, arms at his sides, asking why the Feds aren't honoring their oath to defend the Constitution. And getting his hand broken. On video.

Here's hoping it has the same effect.

Neither the German chancellor nor the president are elected directly by the people (not even in the sense of the electoral college). The chancellor is elected by parliament (lower chamber, Bundestag) (and can only be removed by electing another one). The president is elected by the Bundestag and an equal number of people from the federated states (usually the members of the upper chamber, Bundesrat, plus people nominated by the parliaments of the federated states in proportion to population and political makeup).
So, in order to get a loony head of government one would have to have an absolute majority of loonies in federal parliament and an absolute majority of those in both federal and federated parliaments for the head of state. And that is a wee bit more difficult in Germany than the US due to a number of different reasons.

So, in order to get a loony head of government one would have to have an absolute majority of loonies in federal parliament and an absolute majority of those in both federal and federated parliaments for the head of state. And that is a wee bit more difficult in Germany than the US due to a number of different reasons.

Thanks, Hartmut. I was going to comment that the political system itself probably has more to with it than social welfare institutions (not that I don't support stronger welfare institutions). Our political system is hindered by our legacy of division between slave states and free states, and our Constitution still gives too much power to the Confederacy (now in a slightly altered form).

One might also add his conflation of the polities of the US and the UK, which is not entirely convincing.

I'm not Mishra, so apply grains of salt. But I think the point of discussing the two together is because, historically, the US and the UK have been the primary examples and champions of the kind of deregulatory / free market policies he is criticizing.

So, polities not the same, but having that in common. Where "that" is a lot of the substance of the piece.

Germany's success is largely thanks to a competent leadership.

hairshirt asks the relevant question here, I think.

The fact that one of the two major political parties in this country appears to be "devoted to tearing those institutions down" seems, to me, to be telling.

It's not some freakish aberration, it's a collection of policies that are enthusiastically supported by a hell of a lot of people, in and out of government.

It's an expression of our social and political culture. We might wish it were not so, but it is so.

Trump is the freaking POTUS, because a lot of people voted for him. He has the absolute support of the (R)'s in Congress, who make up more or less half of each house. Slightly more than half of the state governors in the US are (R).

"Tearing those institutions down" is not a fringe position, here.

From the Christopher David piece:

He found his way to a bench in the park, where a street medic aided him

"Street medic" is highly likely antifa or a similar organization. It's one of the things they do. Among other things, they provide first-responder care to people who get hurt. Whether they're "one of theirs" or not.

Not my favorite people, they start fights that don't need to be started. But there's more than one side to them.

Institutions and social infrastructure are more than social welfare. It's not simply a matter of safety nets. It's a matter of economic policies, educational policies, environmental policies, criminal-justice policies, electoral policies (not just the electoral college, but protection of voting rights and funding for electoral infrastructure), foreign policy (including military spending). It's about letting the market sort most of this out, except when the government intervenes on behalf of the biggest fish (deregulation, corporate bailouts, military spending, tax-rate reductions) and leaves everyone else to fight over the scraps.

what hairshirt said, +10

It's about letting the market sort most of this out, except when the government intervenes on behalf of the biggest fish (deregulation, corporate bailouts, military spending, tax-rate reductions) and leaves everyone else to fight over the scraps.

The idea of "letting the market sort it out" wasn't as popular before the social infrastructure started including black people. Take schools, for example. wj mentioned recently his positive experience with California public schools in the 1950's. The educational infrastructure was supported, and its improvement was popular with most people until, what happened? Class? Integration. Same with New Deal policies. All good until ... So, yes, big money saw an opportunity, but it wasn't big money that coopted people; it was racism. And the big turn-around started with Nixon's Southern Strategy, and reached a cultural revolution with Reagan's anti-welfare-queen Reaganomics. And, yes, then the grift started big time.

Germany has its own big money problem people. Let's start with Deutsche Bank. (I guess, by now, we've all read the sad news about Esther Salas's family. I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but her recent assignment to handle Deutsche Bank money laundering litigation seems suspicious and frightening.)

The idea of "letting the market sort it out" wasn't as popular before the social infrastructure started including black people.

A capsule history, almost certainly overly simplistic, and perhaps inaccurate. I'll welcome comments to expand and correct.

The idea of letting the market sort it out was not the dominant idea in the early days of the US.

Then, it was, especially at the end of the 19th C. and into the early 20th C.

Then, it wasn't, again, with the reforms of the New Deal.

Then, it was, again, from Reagan to now.

So, an issue somewhat orthogonal to race. I think.

I don't dispute the idea that race was used as a wedge to further the smaller-government/trickle-down movement, but I don't think it's remotely the whose story. And, even if it were, why would that be? What conditions made that possible?

..., except when the government intervenes on behalf of the biggest fish (deregulation, ...

Except for the big fish often preferring regulation. Especially if they get to craft it. Regulation can make their business environment more predictable, reduce risk, limit liability, lock out competition, and other reasons I haven't thought of. Big fish can afford to fill skyscrapers with regulation compliance officers. The compliance cost puts smaller competitors out of business.

Whether it's deregulation, in the strictest sense, or crony regulation doesn't really matter to me. It's all of a piece. The government working for those at the top at the expense of those at the bottom. Regulation isn't something I relish for its own sake. It's something that needs to serve a worthwhile purpose to be ... well, worthwhile.

But anyone who thinks it's not very often necessary can save their breath trying to convince me of that.

Then, it was, especially at the end of the 19th C. and into the early 20th C.

And what else was happening at this time? The rejection of Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow and the KKK, Confederate statues being erected, etc. Not orthogonal, not coincidental.

Then, it was, again, from Reagan to now.

It actually started with Nixon, although more nuanced. This piece, written in 1973, explains. Read especially the part subtitled "Civilian priorities ..." to the end.

There was a growing backlash to civil rights legislation and Johnson's Great Society. White people didn't want to support public programs with tax money, because it was a handout to "welfare queens". The shift away was explicitly racist.

What conditions made that possible?

The Civil Rights movement was threatening the privilege of white people, who no longer wanted to support the common good, when common included black people.

The compliance cost puts smaller competitors out of business.

This is true in some industries. The alcohol industry comes to mind.

I think one problem with correlating racism to other event in the United States is that you can always do it, because it's always there. That's not to say that it didn't play a role, because it's woven into the fabric of national psyche, but it's a question of whether a given event was particularly a matter of racism within the context of a country seeded with racism.

I'm also not sure what the argument is. Does the role of racism in American politics somehow negate the idea that the weakening of institutions and social infrastructure isn't also part of the problem? Isn't it also possible that the two are so intertwined that you can't untangle them?

Regulation isn't something I relish for its own sake.

Who does?

We live in a context where the only responsibility businesses are seen to have - socially and legally - is making money for their owners.

So, it's regulation, or it's every one for themselves.

a question of whether a given event was particularly a matter of racism within the context of a country seeded with racism.

I didn't realize we were talking about a "given event". I thought we were describing the social conditions that supported building a social infrastructure (which includes social welfare infrastructure because, in the end, it is society's welfare - generally speaking - that we're talking about here: health, education, economic means, etc.). Social Darwinism of the late 19th Century coincided with cheap immigrant labor (from Europe - including from Germany, that place that was building the great welfare state ... hmmm, suspicious), and black people who were no longer technically slaves. Exploitation of powerless people was obvious.

We built a strong and lasting social infrastructure with the New Deal, supplemented by the Great Society, which began the process of extending the New Deal to African-Americans.

That's when people started working to undermine the whole project. To quote from that 1973 article whose link I posted: "He told his public audience: 'What is at stake is, your job, your taxes, the prices you pay and whether the money you earn by your work is spent by you for what you want, or by Government for what someone else wants.'" Someone else? Who's that?

The rapacious rich people might have designed this program to con the racist masses (as they have more recently), but racism is why it worked out.

We live in a context where the only responsibility businesses are seen to have - socially and legally - is making money for their owners.

The problem, or at least part of the problem, is that legally the managers/executives of a business can be sued by "activist" shareholders if they give any attention to behaving responsibly instead of maximizing shareholder income. It's not that they aren't required to behave responsibly; it's that they are effectively prevented from doing so. Yeah, they are expected to give lip service to social responsibility. But heaven help them if they actually do much in that direction.

Isn't it also possible that the two are so intertwined that you can't untangle them?

Sure, which is why we have to solve both.

Capitalism and our homegrown genocidal fake Christianity don't have to be like this.

The genocidal, anti-regulatory state championed by conservatives and libertarians, some here:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/07/20/how-trump-is-helping-tycoons-exploit-the-pandemic

It's mass murder. State sponsered but paid for by murderous private capital.

There are 60 million, give or take, anti-regulatory, anti-union libertarians, conservatives, republicans, many of them fake Christian animals, in this country with the blood from these blasted lives on their guilty hands who reportedly will taste just like chicken in the near to middling future, if you can pick the buckshot out of their plucked carcasses.

Other countries' more enlightened regs may not accept the surplus of dicey conservative dead meat as up to snuff for import, given the source: dogsh*t fascist conservative movement America.

Nationalize all of the meat packers. Retool the factories with the latest safety and environmentally safe technology. Hire all of the workers as federal employees with decent salaries and benefits. Confiscate every cent of the wealth of the murderous owners and pay it out as reparations to the families of the employees the owners murdered and sickened. Then arrest and execute the owners and their families.

These conservative murderous ilk believe trump is the only thing standing between them and Communism and black, Mexican, Asian, Jewish, and Muslim men raping their white trash women.

What's more .... much more and its coming hard and fast and down our throats in weeks:

https://digbysblog.net/2020/07/as-long-as-im-the-dictator/

John Yoo. Subhuman. Vermin. Fascist. Republican. Conservative.

If Trump and Barr, the murderers, decide to declare that all gun laws are contravened and we all may carry anytime and anything we like, here's the firepower I'm looking for, as coincidentally, apropos of nothing, long range semi-automatic weapons technology innovation advances apace, so that one can social distance from murderous rotting crypto-Christian conservatism while delivering savage justice:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq5ZEwVGVh4

There are 60 million trump conservatives in America who are planning to murder all of us.

Trump's not leaving if defeated.

Decent conservatives, who ya gonna call?

The gummint you've destroyed?

It's not there anymore.


Social Darwinism of the late 19th Century coincided with cheap immigrant labor (from Europe - including from Germany, that place that was building the great welfare state ... hmmm, suspicious), and black people who were no longer technically slaves.

Someone who knows more European history than I do please help me out. Was Social Darwinism strictly a US phenomena? Or did Europe see it too? Because if the latter, that rather weakens the "cheap immigrant labor" feature.

The problem, or at least part of the problem, is that legally the managers/executives of a business can be sued by "activist" shareholders if they give any attention to behaving responsibly instead of maximizing shareholder income.

This, in my view, is fine, because corporations, not really being people, are morally neutral. But that's exactly why laws, regulations and enforcement are necessary. There's often no financial incentive or reward for behaving in a socially responsible manner, so society has to demand it with laws.

Mishra is not criticizing democracy, he's criticizing the Anglo-American narrative of democracy. The crucial paragraph is this one:

The escalating warning signs – that absolute cultural power provincialises, if not corrupts, by deepening ignorance about both foreign countries and political and economic realities at home – can no longer be avoided as the US and Britain cope with mass death and the destruction of livelihoods. Covid-19 shattered what John Stuart Mill called ‘the deep slumber of a decided opinion’, forcing many to realise that they live in a broken society, with a carefully dismantled state. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung put it in May, unequal and unhealthy societies are ‘a good breeding ground for the pandemic’. Profit-maximising individuals and businesses, it turns out, can’t be trusted to create a just and efficient healthcare system, or to extend social security to those who need it most. East Asian states have displayed far superior decision-making and policy implementation. Some (Japan, Taiwan, South Korea) have elected leaders; two (China, Vietnam) are single-party dictatorships that call themselves communist. They share the assumption that genuine public interest is different from the mere aggregation of private interests, and is best realised through long-term government planning and policy. They also believe that only an educated and socially responsible elite can maintain social, economic and political order. The legitimacy of this ruling class derives not so much from routine elections as from its ability to ensure social cohesion and collective well-being. Its success in alleviating suffering during the pandemic suggests that the idealised view of democracy and free markets prized since the Cold War will not survive much longer.

He's contrasting Germany and Japan to the US and UK specifically because of 1 - this notion of social welfare and 2 - the difference between early-developing and late-developing nation states, where the early developers amassed wealth and power through displacing the worst of the violence and exploitation onto other nations and peoples and thus being able to sustain themselves despite a weak central government and widespread inequality by plunder.

What made Germany such a compelling prototype for Japan? It is that Germany was a classic ‘late developer’ – the archetype of all nation-states in Asia and Africa. It unified only in 1871 and began to industrialise nearly a hundred years after Britain. Its leaders had to cope with the simultaneous challenges of rapid mechanisation and urbanisation, the disappearance of traditional livelihoods, the growth of trusts and cartels as well as trade unions, and an intensifying demand, articulated by a vibrant socialist movement, for political participation.

Buffeted by socio-economic changes and rising inequality, Germany faced early on what Japan and every other late-developing nation was forced to confront – the ‘social question’. Max Weber put it bluntly: how to ‘unite socially a nation split apart by modern economic development, for the hard struggles of the future’? Weber was among the conservative German nationalists who saw the social question as a matter of life or death. Military and economic rivalry with Britain was a daunting enough prospect for their fledgling state. But, as disaffection increased among the classes uprooted and exploited by industrial capitalism – a political party representing the interests of the working classes emerged in Germany decades before it did in Britain – the fear of socialist revolution also preyed on the minds of German leaders.

He's not excusing Germany and Japan for their imperialism, he's saying that both of those countries have had to find other ways to develop a strong economy and central state because their imperial designs were thwarted by established imperialists and thus had to find a different path to a global economy. And he's saying that both the US and the UK became global nations despite the weakness of their central government and their deep rooted domestic inequality because the head start they had was relieving pressure on the bottom of their society.

But now, lacking a strong central government built on the notion of social welfare, the US and UK are struggling to deal with collective problems and are also beginning to have to confront the deep societal inequality that they had relied upon to drive economic growth.

His shots at Blair, Clinton, and Obama arise out of this specific context.

He's not saying Obama was a bad person, he's saying that, good or bad, Obama could not be a transformative figure absent deep structural change in America's social contract and view of government.

legally the managers/executives of a business can be sued by "activist" shareholders if they give any attention to behaving responsibly instead of maximizing shareholder income.

Yes. Which is why I am saying that the basic dynamic we're discussing here is reflected in law.

It's an ethos, a culture. It is expressed in social norms, law, in everything.

This issue is about who we are, as a nation and a national community. It's about what we value, and what we don't value.

John Yoo. Subhuman. Vermin. Fascist.

You left out war criminal. Which his opinion on torture qualifies him for.

Does anyone know if a formal action on that is before the International Criminal Court? I realize that the US isn't a member. But it would at least make manifest that he cannot travel internationally. And who knows, someone might manage a little "extraordinary rendition" just for him.

Was Social Darwinism strictly a US phenomena?

US and UK mostly, like laissez-faire, I think.

There's often no financial incentive or reward for behaving in a socially responsible manner, so society has to demand it with laws.

But even before you demand it, you could at least stop effectively forbidding it. Sure, your way would be preferable in many cases. But even a half measure would be a big improvement.

Two Mishra interviews to help get at the details of his views:

http://bostonreview.net/politics/wajahat-ali-pankaj-mishra-empires-racketeers

https://www.thecairoreview.com/q-a/the-modernity-trap/

But even before you demand it, you could at least stop effectively forbidding it. Sure, your way would be preferable in many cases. But even a half measure would be a big improvement.

It's not effectively forbidden. Corporations have a purpose: to make money for their shareholders. No one has to be part of a corporation. If you're a good person, and you want to be a sole proprietor, make a little money and do good in the world, no one is stopping you. If you ask other people to invest money so that you can make more money for them, that's your job instead. It's also your job to comply with laws and regulations. That's how it works. We make corporations be good citizens by imposing duties on them by law.

And yet it is, or was, possible to run a socially responsible corporation. One which, for example, didn't dump waste into the local water supply. Sure, the stock price would be lower, but the ROI would actually be comparable.

People who didn't want the reduced return that created were free to invest elsewhere. But others couldn't invest in the company and then sue to force it to be less responsible. And thus make big capital gains for themselves.

But now, lacking a strong central government built on the notion of social welfare, the US and UK are struggling to deal with collective problems and are also beginning to have to confront the deep societal inequality that they had relied upon to drive economic growth.

His shots at Blair, Clinton, and Obama arise out of this specific context.

He's not saying Obama was a bad person, he's saying that, good or bad, Obama could not be a transformative figure absent deep structural change in America's social contract and view of government.

Even if I accept your interpretation, I think his reasoning is shallow and incorrect. Trump is not an inevitable outcome of our pathetic social decadence. He was helped obtain office by a hostile foreign government that preyed on some peculiarities (bad ones) of our political system, as well as complicated social divisions caused in part by inequality, but also by massive technological and demographic change. He seems to miss all of this. I have no interest in delving into his psyche by looking into his other work, so that I can grant him a generous reading of his cheap shots. His article told me enough about his thinking.

The idea of Social Darwinism was very common in Europe (Darwin himself was a strict opponentr btw) but it did not necessarily inform policy too much. The German military officer corps at the time of WW1 was extremly SD and hoped to spread it far and wide as a result of victory.
The colonial administration was a mixed bag. Quite a number of officials in the colonies were no actual fans of it but were often overruled by fanatics who had the backing of the higher-ups at home in the Reich.

Trump is not an inevitable outcome of our pathetic social decadence. He was helped obtain office by a hostile foreign government that preyed on some peculiarities (bad ones) of our political system, as well as complicated social divisions caused in part by inequality, but also by massive technological and demographic change. He seems to miss all of this.

I think you're making it too much about Trump. He's one symptom (an especially nasty one, though) of the disease afflicting us socially, politically, and economically. The rot being described is much bigger than Trump's presidency.

Off topic - more on the shooting at Judge Salas' home:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/gunman-ambushes-nj-federal-judge-esther-salas-husband-mark-anderl-and-son-at-home?source=articles&via=rss?ref=home

The gunman who shot the husband and son of a federal judge in New Jersey is believed to be a lawyer and men’s rights activist who was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound hours later, two law-enforcement sources told The Daily Beast.

(...)

Hollander described himself on his website as an anti-feminist. “Now is the time for all good men to fight for their rights before they have no rights left,” it said.

(...)

In 2016, he also filed a ludicrous suit against reporters from CBS News, NBC News, ABC News, CNN, PBS News Hour, The New York Times and The Washington Post, claiming their stories on President Trump amounted to a violation of the anti-racketeering statute used to prosecute mobsters.

Sounds like a real swell guy...

Corporations have a purpose: to make money for their shareholders.

To my point, this understanding of the purpose of for-profit corps, and in particular this understanding of the scope of their responsibilities, is not universal.

Not historically, and not in terms of modern governments that sanction and recognize corps.

We can go around and around with this all day, and probably not say much more than what has already been said.

He's one symptom (an especially nasty one, though) of the disease afflicting us socially, politically, and economically. /I>

No, he's not a symptom. He's a nasty part of the disease.

Thank you, nous

italics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shareholder_value

Thanks for fixing, hsh.

Corporations have a purpose: to make money for their shareholders.

Corporations are licensed by the state and as such are part and partial of an overall public social policy to advance the social good.

One may disagree about the soundness of such a policy, but a policy it is.

Corporations are licensed by the state and as such are part and partial of an overall public social policy to advance the social good.

I have incorporated several organizations. There is nothing in my state's law about advancing the social good, whatever that is (and, of course, I have my own ideas, and they're not that different from yours).

There are, however, requirements that corporations abide by the law. So what I expect of our society is to pass laws that require corporate responsibility (to its workers, to the environment, to its customers, etc.). I don't see any problem with that. What's the problem that you see?

Anyone offended by Mishra's tone, but wanting to understand where he is coming from should read more about Modernization Theory and criticisms of Modernization Theory coming from Post-Colonial scholarship. Mishra is not the originator of any of these criticisms, he's just a frequent voice for it.

R. Radhakrishnan would be a lovely person to start with.

So what I expect of our society is to pass laws that require corporate responsibility (to its workers, to the environment, to its customers, etc.). I don't see any problem with that. What's the problem that you see?

The problem, to the degree that one exists, is whether such laws are passed, and what they are.

Different places, different laws.

nous, kudos for going through the Mishra to precis and clarify some of his message. On the occasions I have chosen to do stuff like that, I usually find it tiresome and time-consuming, and these days in particular I have to be really pissed off to undertake it!

Much of what you say is right, and there is a great deal in the piece with which I agree, but it is sprinkled with highly questionable, tone-deaf little assertions which in my opinion do his his argument no favours.

To my point, this understanding of the purpose of for-profit corps, and in particular this understanding of the scope of their responsibilities, is not universal.

I would really like to see a link that supports your understanding of what corporations' duty to shareholders is other than returning money on their investment.

In addition, I would like to better understand why you think that laws and regulations aren't enough to make this problem go away. After all, "the public good" can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. My vision of what that is would be strongly opposed to the one held by, for example, Stephen Miller.

That's why the concept of "positive law" rather than some squishy "let's do the right thing" seems more appropriate in this context.

nous, kudos for going through the Mishra to precis and clarify some of his message.

Seems that putting words in a writer's mouth is not ideal, assuming that the writer has any talent for writing.

Perhaps it's just a really bad example of Mishra's work; over the years, I have seen a lot of articles in the LRB with which I've had similar complaints, which is why I don't read it (although it has good poems quite often).

From the link I posted earlier:

Shareholder value is a business term, sometimes phrased as shareholder value maximization or as the shareholder value model, which implies that the ultimate measure of a company's success is the extent to which it enriches shareholders. It became popular during the 1980s, and is particularly associated with former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch.

There's more. It's not simply a general proposition that publicly traded companies are supposed to make money for the shareholders. It's an extreme and distilled version of that proposition and one that didn't hold sway until relatively recently.

I don't think anyone is arguing against laws that keep corporations in line. But it seems they're needed more than ever and it's harder to get them passed because so many people in power buy into the extreme and distilled concept of maximizing shareholder value above all else.

There's more. It's not simply a general proposition that publicly traded companies are supposed to make money for the shareholders. It's an extreme and distilled version of that proposition and one that didn't hold sway until relatively recently.

I read the link, and thanks for it. It states that the concept is relatively new, but doesn't mention what existed before.

In addition to returning money to shareholders, corporate officers and directors have various fiduciary duties (no self-dealing, no stealing, etc.). But mostly, "for-profit" corporations are about being "for-profit".

Obviously, if you're a mom and pop corporation, you can have whatever corporate values you want. But if you're a large corporation, that is controlled by the SEC, and people invest money in order to get a return, money is what it's all about.

I don't happen to think that's a bad thing. If laws are hard to get passed, it's not because "so many people in power buy into the extreme and distilled concept of maximizing shareholder value above all else". It's because people don't care about the values that you are expecting corporations to hold, that not enough people do.

Corporations are not supposed to be our societal representatives. Politicians are. If you want your investments to make less money, and do more good, own your own. If you want other people to do what's right, vote for people who will pass the laws you want. Sorry that it's hard.

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