Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Merry Old

I know very little about UK politics over and beyond what I've learned watching Question Time, but it seems to me that what's going on with Corbyn is a predicable consequence of what is going on in the U.S. and around the world. Across the democracies of the West, generic conservatism has triumphed to the extent that even putatively left parties, Labor in Britain, the Socialists in France and elsewhere have positioned themselves as conservatives with a human face. Bill Clinton ran that way as well. Most recently this consensus has ensured the triumph of austerity across Europe, a triumph that continues even though austerity has been a flop in economic terms. What's happening seems to be a gradual replacement of democratic governance with a system in which an entrenched political class passes on power from one generation to the next by cooption. There are elections, of course, but the system is jiggered to assure that only safe candidates are allowed to run—Hong Kong rules aren't just for the Chinese. Which also accounts for the extremely low turn outs in elections. Since none of the options give a damn about what the majority of the population cares about, the majority of the population doesn't give a damn either. It's a Utopian arrangement if you've already got yours, even if there's a certain amount of rump bumping in any game of musical chairs. The problem is, there's such a thing as victory disease. If you create a politics that leaves no room for the non connected, you guarantee that the non connected are not going to be particularly polite about reasserting themselves. Right thinking people loudly bewail Chavez, but they never seem to get it that the Venezuelan oil plutocracy made him inevitable. i don't know if Corbyn in power would be anything like Chavez, but the Camerons and Blairs created him. 

These thoughts were inspired by reading R.R. Palmer's old classic, the Age of Democratic Revolution, which covers Western history from 1760 to 1800. Palmer points out that the French Revolution wasn't begun by furious peasants or Enlightenment lefties but by aristocrats complaining that their taxes were too high. Sound like anybody you know?

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