Friday, 22 January 2010

Realpolitik # 1 (Today's Reading)

Currently reading "Best American Political Essays 2009" (ed. Matt Taibbi). Joseph Stiglitz is the best of the lot, on the 5 key policy changes that led to the 2008 crash, but I find myself racking my brains for how any of them could ever have been justified in any terms (economic... political... moral). Unless there were perceived hidden benefits (for the whole of society) to dismantling the various regulatory mechanisms (rather than just for Financiers), it strikes me that it must take an incredible amount of Denial (a bit like being a Holocaust Denier) to believe there wouldn't be economic catastrophe, frequently, and traceably (i.e. one can't use the "Bubbles Burst" argument). Presumably, the degree to which the policy makers are cushioned (by basic wealth, let alone connections to people who can offer legal protection) is unimaginable to the common man, but does this really impair consideration for the fate of the nation, e.g. when you allow the Ratings Agencies to be paid for by the people they rate?! It all makes me think that, deep down (or not so deep) the people in power basically want to widen the gap between rich and poor, stratify society, and ensure capital flows from public to private AMAP. Hohum.

I DO recommend, however, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (Paul Collier). It's a slim, readable book that offers a plan for every criticism, and doesn't shirk from saying that democracy isn't a good thing in Resource-rich countries, until you've got good governance and infrastrusture. A genuinely optimistic book... unusual for me to be reading! Only thing he hasn't said yet (I'm 3/4 through) is how much this argument about malfunctioning democracy can be extended to a resource-rich country like, ooh, Britain, with its shameless pandering to the City.

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