The Stationary Chait

Jonathan Chait seeks to personalize the suffering of “millions and millions of Americans,” and the apparent disinterest of the elite, but his recognition of impotence and remoteness can offer only melancholy on its own terms, otherwise a sense that things must be both much worse and much better than he can say. They are worse in fact but offer less of a moral indictment because it’s the intractability of mass unemployment within the limits of the politically-economically possible that leads to the indifference: The elite are forgivable to the extent they know not what they do or could do, though the admission undermines their claim to elite status. They rightly feel like frauds, so focus on their work, and their moral aimlessness mirrors the aimlessness of political culture generally: The financial crisis was a deathblow to globalized neoliberalism as political ideal, but the leading candidate for successor remains the stationary state and the end of the American global project, the opposite of some exciting new departure or enterprise. In the meantime the two main economic alternatives put forward and passionately defended by partisans qualify as utopian, not because they are particularly imaginative, but merely because they cannot be implemented. They cannot be implemented, or no one can quite be bothered to implement them, in part because we seem to be heading to where they lead, or to where they fail to lead, to nowhere, anyway. Krugman-Keynesianism offers a short-term pseudo-solution to the problem of depressed demand. Ryan-Hayekism offers a pseudo-solution to the problem of global profit growth. The former seems to be more humane, at least more humane to us, and to give us more time to dream up another fantasy, to pass some time under initially reduced stress, to plot the way to a next fix or maneuvers in the absence of one, so naturally deserves every thinking patriot’s support with all his heart, and all his mind, and all his soul. The populace seems largely to have intuited the dissipant pointlessness of the exercise and to have taken on the elite’s relative indifference osmotically, if obviously less happily. The more conscientious great political faction, the participating electorate, may remain inclined to bring back a President who still symbolizes and still may even represent a real possibility of a less conflictual, more decorous, “kinder and gentler” adaptation to national-global middle age and onset of senescence, but it cannot be a very highly motivated inclination until and unless provoked.


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  1. I’m not sure whay Gopal intends by the ‘stationary state’ the Valukas inquest into the Lehman collapse, 2200 pages of which I’ve read only 300, casts an interesting light into the matter, one of the larger millstones around it’s neck, was Archstone, which comprised large land purchases, in conjunction with Tishman Speyer, this along with the fact, that they bet against the oil bubble correctly is why they had to go,

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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