Monday, 4 May 2009

The failure of the left

Jonathan Hopkin makes a good point:
Almost as distressing as the collapse of the free market model of free-wheeling finance is the failure of the Left in the West to say anything very much about it.
So far so obvious, and so depressing. But Hopkin insightfully contrasts this failure to an earlier triumph.
Karl Polanyi's masterpiece 'The Great Transformation' interprets the rise of Nazism and Fascism as a response to the threats free markets posed to the livelihoods of the masses. Only after the catastrophe of war did Western governments discover a way of providing protection without foreign aggression or the scapegoating of ethnic minorities. 'Embedded liberalism' (as John Ruggie defined it) involved liberal trade between nations under stable exchange rates and capital controls, with welfare provision inside the nation state to insure workers against social risks. This model was a triumph, delivering growing living standards and social equality for the best part of half a century. But the moment it ran into trouble the assault began, and the various components of embedded liberalism have been steadily dismantled over the past couple of decades.

We need to put embedded liberalism back again
Now this is interesting. First is embedded liberalism the only solution? It seems rather overweaning to me to suggest that it is. But is it one solution? Well, it certainly worked before, if that is any guide. This kind of macro-political debate is exactly what we need: so why are parties of both the Right and Left so anxious to avoid it?

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