Sunday, November 27, 2011

In the wake of the jonkey...

From Spiegel, by way of ALDaily comes thoughts on the state of politics and, directly from that, of democracy as a political form.

Habermas is an 82 y-o "philosopher" who has some considerable standing in Europe in particular and his name has passed my way on occasion in the past as well.
Jürgen Habermas, 82, wants to get the word out. He's sitting on stage at the Goethe Institute in Paris. Next to him sits a good-natured professor who asks six or seven questions in just under two hours -- answers that take fewer than 15 minutes are not Habermas' style.

Usually he says clever things like: "In this crisis, functional and systematic imperatives collide" -- referring to sovereign debts and the pressure of the markets.

Sometimes he shakes his head in consternation and says: "It's simply unacceptable, simply unacceptable" -- referring to the EU diktat and Greece's loss of national sovereignty.


In the past, there were enemies; today, there are markets -- that's how the historical situation could be described that Habermas sees before him. He is standing in an overcrowded, overheated auditorium of the Université Paris Descartes, two days before the evening at the Goethe Institute, and he is speaking to students who look like they would rather establish capitalism in Brussels or Beijing than spend the night in an Occupy movement tent.


Habermas accepts all this without complaint. He steps up to the lectern and explains the mistakes that were made in constructing the EU. He speaks of a lack of political union and of "embedded capitalism," a term he uses to describe a market economy controlled by politics. He makes the amorphous entity Brussels tangible in its contradictions, and points to the fact that the decisions of the European Council, which permeate our everyday life, basically have no legal, legitimate basis. He also speaks, though, of the opportunity that lies in the Lisbon Treaty of creating a union that is more democratic and politically effective. This can also emerge from the crisis, says Habermas. He is, after all, an optimist.


He rails against "political defeatism" and begins the process of building a positive vision for Europe from the rubble of his analysis. He sketches the nation-state as a place in which the rights of the citizens are best protected, and how this notion could be implemented on a European level.

He says that states have no rights, "only people have rights," and then he takes the final step and brings the peoples of Europe and the citizens of Europe into position -- they are the actual historical actors in his eyes, not the states, not the governments. It is the citizens who, in the current manner that politics are done, have been reduced to spectators.

His vision is as follows: "The citizens of each individual country, who until now have had to accept how responsibilities have been reassigned across sovereign borders, could as European citizens bring their democratic influence to bear on the governments that are currently acting within a constitutional gray area."

(emphasis is mine)

That is based upon a premise that government as a process has changed; that it no longer serves "the people" (as in the catch-cry of old); that the process of government has become the means of perpetuating the careers of the "representatives". There is a strong parallel here with the "statism" cry of the libertarians. There are parallels to the "anti-socialism" of the Republicans.

(Confirmation Bias warning here!)

Very near the top of google (on the very first page) in response to "politic opinion europe economy" comes this -
On the other hand the economic policies exercised by the EU as a whole, with anachronistic, counter-productive, centralized protectionist policies, with an increasingly aging population and with the accumulation of excessive debts at private and public level; left the continent in a position of witnessing too little growth based on too much debt - an unsustainable cycle. The European leadership seeks to address the cancer of debt in all of Europe, both eurozone and EU, by means of issuing more debt. This is in practice what the EFSF is, the "stability bonds" and the ECB monetizing debts will be. There can be no end to the cost once new debt is issued to pay for the old one. Only sustainable growth, emancipated from cumbersome bureaucratic techniques can fix the problems EU is facing.

In another more recent post he concludes -
All this is caused by the denial of the powers of the European (and local) establishment, to accept that the crisis is fundamentally caused by quasi-bankrupt banks and by a single currency that should have never been created, but was produced to satisfy the arrogance of its architects, who thought that they could design an economic project to achieve political ends.

That does beg the question - fairly severely - of the cause of the "quasi-bankruptcy" of European banks. Was it the result of the same lending policies as led to the demise of Lehmanns and the need to rescue several other American banks as well as BOS in Britain? Was it the result of the prospect of default on sovereign debt by PIIGS? He is right in that current policies are aimed more at perpetuation rather than cure.

And at this point I can tie back directly to the Jonkey and his government's policies for the next three years. First contrast between NZ and Europe is that not one of the European governments is proposing the sale of government owned assets. Is this because they do not exist? Someone could help me with that one please.

More to Habermas' point, none of the governments in the PIIGS grouping has said anything at all about the real problems. I like Protos-stavrou's comment on the CAP in Europe - About 40% of the total expenditure of the Europe group is subsidy for a sector that produces 2% of GDP. I mean to say, that definitely comes under the "Say WHAT!!??!!" heading.

It also raises the point made by Whanga-Ray (returning here to the Jonkey) that one of the easier targets for the new government will be universal superannuation. That is likely, but it is also a problem for the Jonkey. The logical solution is to defer the qualification age to, say, 67. There is one major difficulty - that was Labour's policy and has already been put down by Jonkey as not an option. There are some quite attractive alternatives within that major strategy - such as paying less super for earlier take-up, more for later take-up. Will Jonkey sugar the pill? I doubt it.

Whenever the Gnats have talked of reducing government expenditure they have always taken the direct route; first to go are the budget items which will lose the least votes, the items which have received the greatest criticism in the past and so the likes of adult education bites the dust; next in line are those who vote for "them", and so we have the reductions in day-care subsidies, changes to the DPB and Unemployment benefits; then...

There is no question that the Jonkey is almost solely responsible for the ressurrection of Winnie the Pooh. His reported comments (directly attributed to the tea-pot tape and reported by W-t-P himself) that NZ First's supporters were "dying out" have created a multitude of Erinnyes that will be richly deserved for the next three years. To make matters worse for the Jonkey, every step he takes toward monkeying with the rate of superannuation is going to create severe pains in the back seats.

And that comes back to Habermas -
Jürgen Habermas is angry. He's really angry. He is nothing short of furious -- because he takes it all personally.

He leans forward. He leans backward. He arranges his fidgety hands to illustrate his tirades before allowing them to fall back to his lap. He bangs on the table and yells: "Enough already!" He simply has no desire to see Europe consigned to the dustbin of world history.

"I'm speaking here as a citizen," he says. "I would rather be sitting back home at my desk, believe me. But this is too important. Everyone has to understand that we have critical decisions facing us. That's why I'm so involved in this debate. The European project can no longer continue in elite modus."

Enough already! Europe is his project. It is the project of his generation.


And then he's really angry again: "I condemn the political parties. Our politicians have long been incapable of aspiring to anything whatsoever other than being re-elected. They have no political substance whatsoever, no convictions."


And, I guess, that leads down a path toward the "Occupy..." protests of the past few months. The WSJ I think has a recent op-ed talking about "blind campaign donations" of past and the next Presidential election in the US. As I pointed out in my last post, DHC laments the connect between Maori Party and iwi corporations. That is a trend that started decades ago in NZ with the Round Table and similar political "ginger groups" with the last major infiltration coming from the Brethren Church. Forget the "open market" arguments, they are as relevant as climate change in this context.

This from Wiley Post says it all...

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