Published: Friday 23 November 2012
Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
When democracy is not determined by economic power, it is possible to imagine alternatives to “growth” and “austerity.”

 

“Growth” is, once again, the buzzword of the moment among Europe’s politicians, thanks to Francoise Hollande, the milquetoast Socialist recently elected to succeed Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France. “My mission now,” Hollande told supporters on the night of his electoral victory, “is to give European construction a growth dimension.” President Obama praised Holland at Camp David, telling reporters he would urge “other G8 leaders” to adopt a “strong growth agenda.” The previous buzzword, “austerity,” is meanwhile in decline.

Considering this shift a victory for the anti-austerity movements occupying Europe’s historic plazas over the course of the last two years mistakes both what the elites mean when they say “growth” and what the dissidents want instead of austerity. It is similar to the way liberal commentators in the United States reliably recite the official line that Occupy Wall Street “changed the conversation” on “income inequality” (which we grown-ups will take care of now from our D.C. office buildings, so please shut up now).

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Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
“Considering this shift a victory for the anti-austerity movements occupying Europe’s historic plazas over the course of the last two years mistakes both what the elites mean when they say “growth” and what the dissidents want instead of austerity.”

“Growth” is, once again, the buzzword of the moment among Europe’s politicians, thanks to Francoise Hollande, the milquetoast Socialist recently elected to succeed Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France. “My mission now,” Hollande told supporters on the night of his electoral victory, “is to give European construction a growth dimension.” President Obama praised Holland at Camp David, telling reporters he would urge “other G8 leaders” to adopt a “strong growth agenda.” The previous buzzword, “austerity,” is meanwhile in decline.

Considering this shift a victory for the anti-austerity movements occupying Europe’s historic plazas over the course of the last two years mistakes both what the elites mean when they say “growth” and what the dissidents want instead of austerity. It is similar to the way liberal commentators in the United States reliably recite the official line that Occupy Wall Street “changed the conversation” on “income inequality” (which we grown-ups will take care of now from our D.C. office buildings, so please shut up now).

The dissidents do express antipathy toward austerity, of course, but that doesn’t imply a desire for what Hollande means when he says “growth.” Both “austerity” and “growth” are  cognates of capitalism — “growth” is the Keynesian form, “austerity” the Hayekian — and the dissident movements have by and large rejected the confines of this debate, challenging us to imagine alternatives to either. “Another world,” as they say, “is ...

Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
“I suspect that the hundreds of thousands of Parisian ‘partisans’ who poured into the streets around the Bastille on learning of Hollande’s victory would not consider their victory ‘brutal’ for France.”

Reading, watching and listening to the mainstream media in America, it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between journalism and rank propaganda. Consider the coverage of the French parliamentary election currently underway.

Most Americans who read newspapers probably learned about this via the Associated Press report that went out on the weekend for Monday’s papers (AP is the de facto “foreign correspondent” for almost every newspaper in America now that all but a few papers have eliminated their foreign reporting staffs). It stated that recently elected Socialist President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party “stands positioned to take control of the lower house of parliament.”

Okay so far, right? But then the reporter, Elaine Ganley, who may well have been writing from the US given that the article, as it appeared in my paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, didn’t carry a Paris dateline, or indeed any dateline at all, went on to say “...so he can revamp a country his partisans see as too capitalist for the French.

Ganley went on to warn readers that “A leftist victory in the voting, five weeks after Hollande took office, would brutally jar the French political landscape.”

Whoa! Last time I looked, “brutally” was a word reserved for nasty over-the-top abusive behavior.

I suspect that the hundreds of thousands of Parisian “partisans” who poured into the streets around the Bastille on learning of Hollande’s victory would not consider their victory “brutal” for France. In fact, if anything, they would probably say that the experience of several years of austerity and a raising of the French retirement age by the ousted conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy was what was brutal.

Would Ganley have written that the election of conservative Jacques Chirac as president following the second and final term of ...

Published: Friday 4 May 2012
Almost certainly doomed is France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, with Francois Hollande poised to win in the second round, but the National Front Party’s Marine Le Pen’s fiery, anti-banker populism has reaped her deserved rewards.

Watch Europe tip left and right as voters rise in fury against the austerity menu that's been bringing them to utter ruin. In Holland, the right-wing Freedom Party leader, Geert Wilders, brought down the governing coalition on Monday bellowing his defiance for the "diktats from Brussels," and asserting, "We must be master of our own house." Labor and Christian Democrats, Holland's major parties, are crumbling.

 


    Almost certainly doomed is France's Nicolas Sarkozy, with Francois Hollande poised to win in the second round, but the National Front Party's Marine Le Pen's fiery, anti-banker populism has reaped her deserved rewards. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in the Daily Telegraph: "Elected governments have already been swept away -- or replaced by EU technocrats without a vote, indeed to prevent a vote -- in every Eurozone state where unemployment has reached double-digits: Spain (23.6 percent), Greece (21 percent), Portugal (15 percent), Ireland (14.7 percent) and Slovakia (14 percent)."

 

    What will Chancellor Angela Merkel do as the pan-European mutiny against austerity rises? With her ally Sarkozy in all likelihood gone, it's Germany that's looking isolated. Will Francois Hollande be up to the task of forcing a change of step for Europe and Keynesian reflation? I wish I had confidence in the man, but I don't, even though he was more spirited in Tuesday's (SET ITAL) mano a mano (END ITAL) TV debate with Sarkozy than I'd expected. Marine Le Pen has the fire, no doubt about that.


    American discussions of Europe swivel between rationality and hysteria. A discussion of Europe's awful unemployment figures and swelling mutiny against austerity suddenly mutates into tremulous wails about the menace of fascism in France, rancid racism in the Netherlands, the anti-Semitic beast ...

Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
The longer the political elite ignore the breakdown of globalization, refuse to respond rationally to the climate crisis and continue to serve the iron tyranny of global finance, the more it will shred the possibility of political consensus, erode the effectiveness of our political institutions and empower right-wing extremists.

I went to Lille in northern France a few days before the first round of the French presidential election to attend a rally held by the socialist candidate Francois Hollande. It was a depressing experience. Thunderous music pulsated through the ugly and poorly heated Zenith convention hall a few blocks from the city center. The rhetoric was as empty and cliché-driven as an American campaign event. Words like “destiny,” “progress” and “change” were thrown about by Hollande, who looks like an accountant and made oratorical flourishes and frenetic arm gestures that seemed calculated to evoke the last socialist French president, Francois Mitterrand. There was the singing of “La Marseillaise” when it was over. There was a lot of red, white and blue, the colors of the French flag. There was the final shout of “Vive la France!” I could, with a few alterations, have been at a football rally in Amarillo, Texas. I had hoped for a little more gravitas. But as the French cultural critic Guy Debord astutely grasped, politics, even allegedly radical politics, has become a hollow spectacle. Quel dommage.

The emptying of content in political discourse in an age as precarious and volatile as ours will have very dangerous consequences. The longer the political elite—whether in Washington or Paris, whether socialist or right-wing, whether Democrat or Republican—ignore the breakdown of globalization, refuse to respond rationally to the climate crisis and continue to serve the iron tyranny of global finance, the more it will shred the possibility of political consensus, erode the effectiveness of our political institutions and empower right-wing extremists. The discontent ...

Published: Sunday 8 April 2012
“As a whole, humanity has achieved unparalleled prosperity; great strides are being made to reduce global poverty; and technological advances are revolutionizing our lives, stamping out diseases, and transforming communication.”

Despite many successes in creating a more integrated and stable global economy, a new report by the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability – Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing – recognizes the current global order’s failure, even inability, to implement the drastic changes needed for true “sustainability.”

The Panel’s report presents a vision for a “sustainable planet, just society, and growing economy,” as well as 56 policy recommendations for realizing that goal. It is arguably the most prominent international call for a radical redesign of the global economy ever issued.

But, for all of its rich content, Resilient People, Resilient Planet is short on concrete, practical solutions. Its most valuable short-term recommendation – the replacement of current development indicators (GDP or variants thereof) with more comprehensive, inclusive metrics for wealth – seems tacked on almost as an afterthought. Without quick, decisive international action to prioritize sustainability over the status quo, the report risks suffering the fate of its 1987 predecessor, the pioneering Brundtland Report, which introduced the concept of sustainability, similarly called for a paradigm shift, and was then ignored.

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Published: Monday 30 January 2012
“An excessive cut in public spending in the current circumstances can lead to a contraction in growth, which is already happening: the International Monetary Fund now projects that the eurozone will shrink by 0.5% in 2012.”

It is now increasingly clear that what started in late 2008 is no ordinary economic slump. Almost four years after the beginning of the crisis, developed economies have not managed a sustainable recovery, and even the better-off countries reveal signs of weakness. Faced with the certainty of a double-dip recession, Europe’s difficulties are daunting.

Not only is Europe running the risk of lasting economic damage; high long-term unemployment and popular discontent threaten to weaken permanently the cohesiveness of its social fabric. And, politically, there is a real danger that citizens will stop trusting institutions, both national and European, and be tempted by populist appeals, as in the past.

Europe must avoid this scenario at all costs. Economic growth must be the priority, for only growth will put people back to work and repay Europe’s debts.

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Published: Sunday 6 November 2011
Sarkozy eventually closed the G20 meeting in Cannes on Friday with the announcement that ten out of the twenty countries support the implementation of the tax, though no concrete action plan was put in place.

While the Greek bailout and stimulus package dominated discussion among the Group of 20 (G20) major industrialized and emerging market economies at the high-level summit in Cannes, France, this week, the proposed financial transactions tax (FTT) received meagre attention.

Dubbed by some economists and activists as the ‘Robin Hood Tax’, the FTT has enjoyed marginal but sustained support from hard-hitters in the G20.


Back in February, French President Nicolas Sarkozy nudged Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to prepare a report on the enormous potential of such a tax to jump-start development in poor countries, particularly after the 2008-9 crash pushed many donor nations to slash their official development assistance (ODA) to the global south.


A ‘technical note’ from the report, released at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings in Washington D.C. in September, claimed that the adoption of an FTT by the G20 or even the European Union could generate "substantial resources."


According to the note, "Some modeling suggests that even a small tax of 10 bp (basis points) on equities and two bp on bonds would yield about 48 billion (dollars) on a G20-wide ...

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