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September 19, 2005

Comments

ARC: St Wendeler

And let's not get into the "great ideas" that have come out of Germany... We could debate that one for weeks on end!!

Regarding BMWs and Benz's, sure they're nice cars. But so are Ferraris.. and Vettes... and Vipers... Cadillacs... The german's have a keen eye for styling and engineering. (they always have... they invented the automobile, afterall.) I think you're assuming a causal relationship where there isn't one...

Regards,
St Wendeler

Xrlq

Gregg, with all due respect you don't know what you are talking about. It's the governor's job to request aid from the feds, not vice-versa, yet neither the governor nor the mayor even requested federal aid until the federal government requested that they request it. The National Guard reports to the governor, not the U.S. President, so it was clearly up to Gov. Blanco to make the call. To blame FEMA for the fact that some states handled the emergency better than another - particular when that one other is one with a long history of corrupt, inept government - did is nonsense on stilts.

BritGirlSF, I know full well what the difference is between socialism and communism, but it's not what you think it is. Socialism, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, was the supposed means toward communism, a utopian end where the state ultimately withers away, and everyone holds hands and sings Kum Bah Yah. There's a reason why the leading commie state was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and not the Union of Soviet Communist Republics, which would have been a contradiction in terms. Political parties are a bit looser on the distinction between what they advocate now and where they want things to end up. The communist party that ruled East Germany was as called the "Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands" (Socialist Unity Party of Germany), not the Kommunistische Partei Deutschands (Communist Party of Germany), but that was more of an historical accident than anything else. There was a KPD before, which ultimately dominated in the SED.

Social democrats such as Gerhard Schröder's Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Social Democratic Party of Germany, or SPD) are a different beast, of course, but I'm arguing with Hugo Schywzer, an avowed socialist, not with Schröder, who is more of an anything-that-will-get-me-reelected-ist. The arguments are largely the same, however. To the extent that the SPD is serious about "social" (government) control of the economy, they represent Marxism-lite, and their ideas are still bad, just not as bad as those of their more hard-core counterparts who apply the same principles more rigorously. The reason why Schröder's economy is so bad by First World standards is largely the same reason why Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker's economies were worse still. It stands to reason that if a little of X is a bad thing, surely a lot more of that bad thing is even worse.

Hugo

XRLQ, you're right that the SPD is "Marxism-Lite", if not "Marxist-Free". But to say that all serious socialists want a return to Eastern European economics circa 1970 is absurd. Yes, the USSR had "Socialist" in its name. But East Germany had "Democratic" in its name, and that was not used to tar the Democratic party. Nomenclature is not revealing here.

I have the same concern about the dead-end element in the Linkspartei that some other SPDers have. I prefer my Christmas socialism of Red and Green together.

Hugo

Oh, and when I said Rand and Hayek were destructive, I was referring to the things their enthusiasts have done in their names. I'll admit, I read each book only once.

I am not a fan of book burnings. If you want to know what books still excite me and my politics, I recommend two rather different inspirations:

Yoder's "Politics of Jesus"
Rawls' "Theory of Justice"

Neither is a socialist, of course, but both continue to influence me in different ways. What that has to do with Germany, I have no idea.

lorie

Hugo, are you familiar with Jeremy Rifkin, by any chance? He's the founder and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in DC, and has written several books. I had the privilege of speaking with him at length when he was on our campus earlier this year to speak about his newest book, The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of The Future is Quietly Eclipsing The American Dream. It's pretty fascinating stuff, discussing how the European Dream (focusing on sustainable development, community, quality of life) has grown to be nearly a mirror image of the American Dream (individualism, economic growth, accumulation of personal wealth). Rifkin makes the argument that the European Dream, while not without its substantial flaws, is better suited to "the challenges of a globalizing world in the 21st century."

There's your book jacket review. It's been a while since I've read it, but I was engaged and learned a lot, and I'm not normally very interested in stuff like this. It seems like it might be right up your alley, though!

lorie

"mirror image" actually should be "exact opposite." d'oh!

BritGirlSF

What Hugo said. Regardless of the fact that the Soviet Union included the word "socialist" in its name, it was in practise a very different animal than socialism as practised in France, or Scandinavia, or Germany. Indeed, as Hugo said, most socialists would not want to see anything resembling communism implemented ever again. It's rather silly to suggest otherwise.
Getting back to Germany, which was the original topic...in Germany socialism is very heavily influenced by the Green movement, producing a rather unique blend, as Hugo pointed out.
I second the recommendation for the Rifkind book, by the way. I don't agree with everything in it, but it's an interesting read.

BritGirlSF

I'm not fond of Schroder either, by the way, but more because I see him as a classic politician, ie a craven opportunist, rather than out of any aversion to socialism

ARC: St Wendeler

As I said in my original post, the Germans aren't exactly keen on the whole individual and enlightenment philosophies... One must remember that Marx was indeed German and while the USSR certainly was a terrible "fear" state (I recommend Natan Sharansky's The Case For Democracy on that concept), Hayek argues that specifically that "Democratic" Socialism is merely a slower progression towards that same state. As individual choice is eroded and impersonal bureaucrats exercise more and more influence on an individual's life (what job they have, whether they work, what profession to pursue, etc), the State invariably must exert ever more increasing control over that individual, lest they overthrow the entire system. Say what you will about the "german" system, but (having lived there for almost a year) I prefer the energy and individual spirit that is America at its best.

And Yes, Schroeder is a craven politician... Hugo's original post last week regarding Schroeder's low blow against Merkel is a clear demonstration of that.

Xrlq

Sorry, I'm not buying that line about how today's "real" socialists don't want a return to the policies of East Germany, the Soviet Union or the rest of the Warsaw Pact. I'm old enough to remember the days when all the university liberals lectured us about the wonderful things Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega were doing to their countries (rumor has it that some left-wing profs are equally soft on Hugo Chavez nowadays), how much faster the Soviet Union's economy was growing than ours, and how state control of economic activity was fundamentally superior to free enterprise in every way. Only after those countries' allegedly superior economies caused Eastern Europe's countries to fall like dominoes, while Red China preserved its "communist" state primarily by introducing capitalist reforms, did America's socialists suddenly discover that all those socialist countries they'd been busy making excuses for, must not have been "real" socialists/communists after all. And to suggest that the USSR was less "socialist" than France, Germany or even Sweden is, for want of a better term, insane. France, Germany and Sweden, for all their annoyingly socialist tendencies, nevertheless retained such basic capitalist concepts as private property, which were anathema throughout the East Bloc.

The difference wasn't between fake socialism and real socialism, but between unrestricted socialism and socialism that is watered down by a less enlightened democratic system that allows even us non-socialists to vote. Of course democratic socialists don't go as far as the undemocratic ones or trash their economies nearly as harshly; they can't! Our own social democrat, Jimmy Carter, did a wonderful job proving all the economists wrong who previously thought that simultaneous double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment were a mathematical impossibility. Yet as horrible a leader as he was, he still wasn't able to make our economy anywhere nearly as bad as that of any genuinely socialist country. Imagine that.

BritGirlSF

"One must remember that Marx was indeed German and while the USSR certainly was a terrible "fear" state (I recommend Natan Sharansky's The Case For Democracy on that concept), Hayek argues that specifically that "Democratic" Socialism is merely a slower progression towards that same state. "
This is where I fundamentally disagree with Hayden. I think that the rest of Europe has learned the lessons of the Soviet Union very well, and that even the most intensely socialist European countries have not the slightest intention of going down the same path.

Xrlq, I know that you're unlikely to listen, but the socialists of my generation are not at all of the same mind as the ones you remember (who I encountered at university too, by the way). Whatever romance the communist states once held for young socialists has long since faded in the light of what a mess those states actually turned into. Reading up on the history of Russia, which most socialists of my generation have done, is very instructive and a great guide as to what NOT to do.

BritGirlSF

Also, I think you completely misunderstood my point about European socialism vs communism. Communism is/was an extremist version of socialism. Many of the things that communists believed (such as that all private property is bad) are not believed by mainstream socialists. Most socialists have no desire whatsoever to abolish private property. I'm not at all sure how you managed to misunderstand my point so completely.

ARC: St Wendeler

From the Telegraph

By the time Germans decide, it'll be too late
By Mark Steyn
(Filed: 20/09/2005)

If you want the state of Europe in a nutshell, skip the German election coverage and consider this news item from the south of France: a fellow in Marseilles is being charged with fraud because he lived with the dead body of his mother for five years in order to continue receiving her pension of 700 euros a month.

She was 94 when she croaked, so she'd presumably been enjoying the old government cheque for a good three decades or so, but her son figured he might as well keep the money rolling in until her second century and, with her corpse tucked away under a pile of rubbish in the living room, the female telephone voice he put on for the benefit of the social services office was apparently convincing enough. As the Reuters headline put it: "Frenchman lived with dead mother to keep pension."

That's the perfect summation of Europe: welfare addiction over demographic reality.

Think of Germany as that flat in Marseilles, and Mr Schröder's government as the stiff, and the country's many state benefits as that French bloke's dead mum's benefits. Germany is dying, demographically and economically. Pick any of the usual indicators of a healthy advanced industrial democracy: Unemployment? The highest for 70 years. House prices? Down. New car registration? Nearly 15 per cent lower than in 1999. General nuttiness? A third of Germans under 30 think the United States government was responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11.
****

Good points, Xlrq.
The difference wasn't between fake socialism and real socialism, but between unrestricted socialism and socialism that is watered down by a less enlightened democratic system that allows even us non-socialists to vote.

ARC: St Wendeler

forgot to point out that much of the Linkspartei is made up of former communists and hard-left SPD's who never recognized the USSR as the enemy during the Cold War.

djw

It's not implausible to read Rawls as a kind of socialist. It all depends on how you read (and empirically evaluate the requirements of) principle 2b of the difference principle.

Helen

I am so relieved the NZ election worked out the way it did (so long as Labour holds on to its lead during the counting of the special votes). This was the first campaign that really turned my stomach. It really reflected the rising racist rhetoric that seems to be popping up everywhere. I never had any problem with the National party but they picked up an awful lot of votes from racists and homophobes this time round, and that's nasty and not typical of the New Zealand I've grown up in.

ms. b.

Oh dear, the ever-present "Yeah but socialism's never worked" argument crops up again, (I get emails about this every day). There has never been a truly socialist state; those of us on the left who don't have authoritarian tendencies have always seen Stalin, Castro, Mao for what they are; dictators, basically, seeing as their states lack democracy and any valid form of workers' control. There is not one form of socialism that can be easily decried by stamping one's foot and pointing to Russia; libertarian socialism, for one.

As for the idea that Britain is vaguely socialist (I think someone said that above), it has some social policy originally based on socialist ideologies, such as the NHS. In comparison to the US, this probably seems like fledging socialism, but there is no country in the world that doesn't operate within a capitalist framework, economically.

BritGirlSF

Trust me ms b, I also used to think that the UK was far too capitalist (and to a large extent still do), but after living in the US for a while the UK seems like a paradise of social justice. Have you the US media responses to Katrina? It's getting scary over here. I'm seriously considering moving to Toronto.

ms. b.

It might be better than the US, but there's still too much to be done! Any capitalist is too capitalist for me.

Hugo

Lorie, I have heard of the Rifkin book, and am interested -- I am trying to remember where I read a review.

XRLQ, I am "soft" on Hugo Chavez, and not merely because of his skin color or his splendid Christian name. He is not without flaws, but a refusal to distinguish between the Venezuelan model and what Stalinism is wrong-headed, I think. There are socialisms of many sorts, and there are, as Ms. B. points out, no real examples of where authentic democratic socialism has been tried. Certain Western European countries, with their focus on social protections and stakeholder economics, come closer than most, but still fall short of the mark.

John

Ah, the metropolitan-minded.

Helen, wanting race-based preference and white settler jerrymandering to be abolished is not racist. Wanting the definition of marriage protected and believing in Mum and Dad is not homophobic. And at least half of the country (the Provincial half that doesn't live in the city) agrees with me. If you are really concerned about division, as I am, perhaps you might start by not calling the other half of the country names.

Helen

Call it what you like, John, there was a heck of a lot of code-wording going on in this campaign.

John

Arrgh, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

Give me a break. We said what we meant, and we meant what we said. "Code wording" is simply a way for you to read what you think we're saying "between the lines" when it doesn't exist. It's funny the lib-Labs like the PM mouth platitudes about "inclusion", but somehow it's always us who needs to bend in the direction of the other side. How about some reciprocal listening to marginalised voices, Helen?

sophonisba

believing in Mum and Dad is not homophobic.

Opponents of sex discrimination in marriage do not have imaginary parents.

I promise.

I will even go so far as to promise you that we believe in your Mum and Dad, as well as our own, if you're holding out for that specifically.

Helen

You know, John, I really had hoped you wouldn't respond to the first of my posts. I've seen your stuff here before and we clearly have very different world views. The fact that you're taking everything I say as a personal attack really speaks to the size of your ego (and thanks for being so patronising).

I am not calling the other half of the country names, for one thing. I meant what I said that I haven't had a problem with the National party until this campaign. I have no issue with the hundreds of thousands of people who vote for them because they like their economic policies (in fact, my parents voted National and I have voted Act in the past so I'm not a Labour-aficionado by any means). Neither do I have a problem with people who vote on social issues because they (for example) believe society will be better off with hetero family units or whatever. I disagree with them heartily, but respect their right to vote how they see fit.

What I have a problem with is that the National party based much of its publicised social policy on a concept of 'mainstream NZ'. Don Brash would/could not define this when he was asked. It was clear that part of his definition excluded gay people, but when pressed in TV interviews he said that 'mainstream NZ' could include everyone. This is clearly hogwash as by using the expression he was setting up something as a point of separation: dividing NZ into 'mainstream' and 'other'. So far as I'm concerned it is a cheap shot to get extra votes by playing on racism and homophobia. It's an easy way to get votes but that doesn't make it right.

And John, I am not "reading between the lines". I'd venture a guess that you are part of the first group of National voters about whom I'm speaking: you're clear that you don't want gay marriage and want racial differences abolished. Fine, whatever. However, there have been a number of "let's talk to random Kiwi X on the street" type interviews on the news, and there are plenty of people willing to come right out and say they're sick of the uppity Maoris and homos. Those are the kind of people that National's campaign invited into the voting booth whereas they might have previously voted for other reasons (they might have still voted National, but their vote wouldn't have been based on darkies and fags). And that's the reason I've been disgusted by the National campaign.

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