A great piece from Benjamin

A great piece from Benjamin Barber (Jihad vs McWorld) who argues that “Capitalism is not too strong; democracy is too weak’.
‘Business malfeasance is the consequence neither of systemic capitalist contradictions nor private sin, which are endemic to capitalism and, indeed, to humanity. It arises from a failure of the instruments of democracy, which have been weakened by three decades of market fundamentalism, privatization ideology and resentment of government.’

One for the Kausfiles

According to the NYT, a previously unnoticed side effect of welfare reform is the No-Parent Family, that is, children living without either parent. I await Mickey Kaus’ response proving that
(i) the numbers are wrong
(ii) the NYT has misinterpreted them
(iii) in any case, it’s a good thing for children to be separated from welfare-dependent parents.

Licensed to hack

Thomas C Greene in The Register has the most interesting take yet on the Berman cyber-vigilante bill currently before the US congress at the behest of the RIAA and MPAA. As he points out, all bloggers are publishers, and this will license us to hack the sites of anyone we ‘reasonably suspect’ of violating our copyrights.

Bouncing back

My response to an interesting piece by David McKnight on the future of Labor, originally published in the SMH. David’s piece broadly “Third Way” in tone, and relies heavily on the resilience and dynamism of ‘capitalism’ (I plan to explore this ambiguous term in later postings. The big problem is that sometimes capitalism is used in a way that includes ‘mixed economies’ where the goverment may control 50 or 60 per cent of GDP and at other times used to exclude them. The piece is in the form of a Word document Here’s my reply.

It seems to me that it is social democracy, rather than capitalism, that has displayed remarkable resilience over the past two decades. The obituaries have been read by Thatcher, Keating, Roger Douglas and many others, but they are gone and the welfare state remains largely intact. In quantitative terms, the ratio of public expenditure to GDP is at or near its all-time high in most OECD countries.
Moreover, in the countries where free-market liberalism had its biggest successes, the UK and New Zealand, it is now in retreat. The conservative parties, and their records in office, are discredited and Labour governments are raising taxes and increasing public spending. This is much against the inclination of people like Tony Blair, but it is happening nonetheless. Observers on all sides in the UK agree that the Third Way is dead and that New Labour has reverted to old-style social democracy.
Privatisation is the one policy where Thatcherism had a lasting impact. But the tide has already turned against privatisation. Renationalisation, which was unthinkable five years ago, is now on the agenda in many countries. Similarly, deregulation is being replaced by reregulation.
The big exception to all this has been the US, which apparently prospered by pursuing free-market policies including big cuts in welfare. But it is now clear that much of this prosperity was illusory. As the boom unravels, the real weaknesses of the US economy will emerge, much as they have done in Japan over the last decade. At the same time, the massive growth in inequality there reinforces the relevance of the old-style Left-Right division.

What I'm reading this week

Nice Work by David Lodge. As usual with Lodge, its a comedy of juxtaposition, a la Changing Places. A radical feminist/postmodernist English lecturer, specialising in ’19th century industrial novels’ becomes the ‘shadow’ of the managing director of an engineering firm.


The Cato Institute ‘Project on Social Security Choice’ reports that most Americans still want to entrust their retirement to the stock market. They say:

‘When posed with the statement, “There are some in government who advocate changing the Social Security system to give younger workers the choice to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes through individual accounts similar to IRAs or 401(K) plans,” 68 percent of voters indicated support, 29 percent opposed and 3 percent weren’t sure.’

This sounds like the kind of ‘free lunch’ those terrible liberals like to offer. If the Cato Institute really wanted to gauge public opinion, why didn’t they add ‘in return for a reduction in guaranteed benefits’ at the end of their question ?

But the really interesting thing is that The Cato Institute Project on Social Security Choice was, until quite recently, The Cato Institute Project on Social Security Privatization. Apparently, even in the US, ‘Privatization’, is a dirty word (Meg Lees, take note). It’s also interesting that the supposedly independent Cato Institute is dancing to the tune of Republican spin-doctors who have decreed a ban on the term.