October 6, 2008
I asked a young French official at the Commission, a socialist, whose views I value, his reactions to my post of 4 October on Financial meltdown post-Congress. Here is his response:
– I’m torn between radicalism (the system is rotten, let it die) and cynical pragmatism (that’s capitalism, you can try to tame it, you won’t manage – see John Kay in the FT) with moderate reformism a very unsatisfactory middle ground (see Martin Wolf in the FR.
– It is true that no doctrine would seem to hold when GW Bush is accused of being a socialist. But then is it doctrinaire to say that the crisis has exposed, once again, how vicious untamed capitalism can be and how effective it has become in “privatising gains and socialising losses”? In that sense, Bush has not acted as a socialist but as the loyal agent of those who benefited most from his two terms in office: the very rich.
– “The values of capitalism”: a good subject to turn me on… Capitalism is about achieving the highest returns on invested money, period. The notion that “real capitalism” is/was/should be build on effort, hard work and fair reward will remain a myth. I’d be interested to know when exactly Mr. Sarkozy would situate this “âge d’or du capitalisme ideal”.
– A look at history shows that capitalism was civilised only by other, conflicting social and ideological forces, the most powerful being historically liberalism (the aspiration to equal rights and equal freedom for all) and socialism (the aspiration to equal material conditions for all). Environmentalism (applying globally the previous two and adding a time perspective to them) might be a third. But the idea that capitalism could somehow purify itself by getting back to its original “values” is a dangerous fairy tale.
– Turning to the consequences for Europe and its institutions, I must confess I have no idea. As for the global institutions, I’m not overly optimistic. Basic cooperation has been working well over the last weeks and months, central banks and governments all over the world have acted along very similar lines. But this is because they acted to save and support financial markets and on behalf of the global plutocracy. They are unlikely to be as united in drawing consequences that would be harsh to capitalists.Author : Stanley Crossick