fredag 30 mars 2012

Wolf varnar för plutokrati (och Streeck för demokratins kris i EU)

Martin Wolf utgår i sin senaste FT-krönika från den brittiska "cash for access"-skandalen, där mycket välbärgade människor har betalat stora summor - mellan £100 000 och £ 250 000 - till David Camerons stab för att få äta middag med Cameron och eventuellt få inflytande över politiken. Wolf tolkar denna skandal som ett uttryck för den fara för demokratin som den kraftigt ökade ekonomiska ojämlikheten i ett land som Storbritannien utgör.
"'political parties provide a public good'. Voluntary action will always underprovide such goods, because of the likelihood – indeed, certainty – of freeriding. Moreover, as politics have become less passionate, membership of parties has collapsed. This leaves parties yet more exposed to vested interests. Today, the danger is plutocracy – the ability of a small number of people or economic interests to bend the political process to their will. If the electorate comes to believe that politics is a racket, why should they care about it?"

Jag har tidigare skrivit (här, här) om den negativa kopplingen mellan ekonomisk ojämlikhet och politiskt deltagande, och Wolfs krönika går klockrent in i den diskussionen, med "cash for access" som en exemplifiering av en av kanalerna genom vilken ökad ekonomisk ojämlikhet leder till ökad ojämlikhet i politiskt inflytande, vilket leder till minskat politiskt deltagande.

Jag kommer också att tänka på Wolfgang Streecks text, "Markets and Peoples", i senaste New Left Review. Texten är en uppföljare till hans tunga "Crises of Democratic Capitalism" (tidigare bloggad om här), och diskuterar den nuvarande eurokrisen och dess hantering i perspektivet av motsättningen mellan "marknad" och demokrati. Streeck är nästan apokalyptisk om demokratins tillstånd i EU:

"The Eurozone crisis has resolved this question by once again sundering the integration process from the will of the people. Monetary union, initially conceived as a technocratic exercise—therefore excluding the fundamental questions of national sovereignty and democracy that political union would entail—is now rapidly transforming the eu into a federal entity, in which the sovereignty and thereby democracy of the nation-states, above all in the Mediterranean, exists only on paper. Integration now ‘spills over’ from monetary to fiscal policy. The Sachzwänge of the international markets—actually the historically unprecedented empowerment of the profit and security needs of financial-asset owners—is forging an integration that has never been willed by political-democratic means and is today probably wanted less than ever. The legal forms within which this takes place are secondary: whatever happens, the European Central Bank will buy endless quantities of bonds that private investors no longer want; and Frankfurt, Brussels, Berlin, maybe also Paris, will ‘clamp down’ (Angela Merkel) on the households of debtor nations for decades, with or without treaty change. Unlike the farce over the 2005 ‘Constitutional Treaty’, there will be no referenda this time."

Martin Wolf, "Why public finance of political parties is justified", FT 29 mars
Kiran Stacey och George Parker, "'Cash for access' inquiry calls grow", FT 27 mars
Peter Cruddas, wiki
Wolfgang Streeck, "Markets and Peoples", New Left Review januari-februari 2012

Uppdatering 24 april 2012
Tony Barber är mycket pessimistisk i FT: den ekonomiska krisen i Europa innebär också en legitimitetskris för kontinentens demokratiska system, menar han.
"Today’s reality is that the financial crash, whatever its origins, is stirring a potentially far-reaching crisis of legitimacy in Europe’s political system. This goes beyond the fiscal deficits and sovereign debt market turmoil with which European Union governments have grappled since Greece confessed to its budgetary sins in late 2009. It goes beyond whether Europe’s monetary union, and the EU itself, will survive. It concerns the ability of mainstream European political parties to convince voters that they will deliver jobs, decent wages, financial stability and enough economic growth to preserve the backbone of the universal welfare state. By and large, this is what the parties have done and been rewarded for since the 1950s. /.../
The more the debt crisis erodes modern Europe’s postwar social contract, the less trust voters will place in a political system that is seen to be breaking its side of the bargain." 
Barber, "Europe must confront crisis of legitimacy", FT 23 april
Armin Schäfer, "Nach dem permissiven Konsens. Das Demokratiedefizit der Europäischen Union" (pdf), 2006
Armin Schäfer, "Krisentheorien der Demokratie: Unregierbarkeit, Spätkapitalismus und Postdemokratie" (pdf), MPIfG Discussion Paper 08 / 10, november 2008

Chris Dillow ställer frågan: varför har inte denna kris utlöst samma apokalyptiska stämningar som 70-talskrisen gjorde? Den ekonomiska krisen - mätt som BNP-fall, arbetslöshet m m - är värre idag än vad den var då, så varför har den inte alls tagit samma politiska och kulturella uttryck nu?
"in the 1970s there was a sense of decline and even apocalypse; there was widespread talk of a crisis of democracy (pdf) and of Britain being ungovernable. So, why is there no such talk now?
From the point of view of the capitalist class, the answer is simple. The 70s crisis was not so much a crisis of GDP growth as a crisis of profits. By contrast, profit rates in this recession have held up much better than they did in the 70s. When people asked in the 1970s “is Britain governable?” what they really meant was: “is the working class controllable?”
In this sense, what is in one way a parallel between now and the 70s is also a difference.  Both eras brought into doubt a dominant economic paradigm - Keynesian social democracy is the 70s and neoliberalism now. However, because neoliberalism serves the interests of capitalists in a way that Keynesianism (by the 70s) did not, there’s less of a rush among the ruling elite to look for an alternative.
But this merely raises the question. Why - given that its living standards are falling now in a way they did not in the 70s - is the working class so quiescent compared to then?
The issue here is not just political but cultural. Whereas the 70s and 80s gave us powerful images of anger and despair - punk, Joy Division, Boys from the Blackstuff - we now have, well, what?
The reason for this might be benign. Average real wages are much higher now than then, so - contrary to fears that falling off the hedonic treadmill would be painful - a squeeze on incomes hurts less.  Also, unemployment hurts a family less if one partner stays in work than it does if the breadwinner loses his job.
But there might be another reason. The working class now is more atomized. I don’t just mean in the physical sense of no longer working in huge easily unionized and militized workplaces. I mean in the ideological sense. People no longer look to collective or political ways of advancing their interests but instead to individual advancement. The 2010s version of Arthur Scargill is Simon Cowell.
Which brings me to a paradox. Although our objective economic condition brings neoliberalism into question, the political and cultural response to it shows that the individualistic rejection of collectivism is still thriving."
Dillow, "Crisis, What Crisis?", 22 april

Uppdatering 13 februari 2013
"European Central Bank President Mario Draghi warned beleaguered euro-zone countries that there is no escape from tough austerity measures and that the Continent's traditional social contract is obsolete, as he waded into an increasingly divisive debate over how to tackle the region's fiscal and economic troubles.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal at his downtown office here, Mr. Draghi reflected on how the region's travails were pushing Europe toward a closer union. He said Europe's vaunted social model—which places a premium on job security and generous safety nets—is "already gone," citing high youth unemployment; in Spain, it tops 50%. He urged overhauls to boost job creation for young people.
There are no quick fixes to Europe's problems, he said, adding that expectations that cash-rich China will ride to the rescue were unrealistic. He argued instead that continuing economic shocks would force countries into structural changes in labor markets and other aspects of the economy, to return to long-term prosperity." 
Brian Blackstone, Matthew Karnitschnig och Robert Thomson, "Europe's Banker Talks Tough", Wall Street Journal 24 februari 2012

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