what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is the Left Right?

I was interested to see that a long-established writer (Charles Moore) for The Daily Telegraph (the newspaper of English conservatism) has written a piece suggesting that at least the left’s analysis of present global woes may be correct.
I was even more interested, however, to be led on first to a commentary on that article in something called The Daily Bell - and, even more importantly, to The Daily Bell itself. The commentary focussed on what it regarded as sloppy thinking in Moore’s use of the word "conservative” -
English conservatism (Toryism) supports the monarchy, for instance. But the monarchy is a tool of the entrenched Anglo-American power elite, which values rank and file conservatives no more than anyone else. One is left ultimately with an amorphous philosophy that is resistant to change and endorses the status quo without a great deal of calibration as to what that status quo actually represents.
Conservatism is essentially backwards looking. One does not have to be financially literate to be a conservative. One need merely be "pro law and order." Thus, conservatives both in the United States and Britain are willing to tolerate far more state involvement in economic affairs than laissez-faire "classical liberals" – libertarians in the States.
The world is run by Anglosphere power elites with tactical arms in Israel, Washington. It is abetted by corporate, political and military enablers. Its enemy is classical liberal sociopolitical stances and free-market thinking. Conservatism holds little threat to it, especially as conservativism usually espouses government action to solve perceived problems.
Conservatism is often nationalistic and even militaristic. Even those who are profoundly ignorant of free-market principles, history and philosophy, can adopt it. Moore concludes his article by worrying that conservatism cannot be saved. He is worrying about the wrong thing
It’s the first time I have come across the phrase "Anglo-American power elite” – but it seems central to the purpose of The Daily Bell which is not a newspaper but rather a US libertarian think-tank of a different sort (not funded by corporate interests). I don’t like conspiracy theorists; nor those who rave against government regulations and use the language of the free market – but, equally, there has always been an anarchistic side to my political thinking (and indeed actions when, as a Regional politician, I encouraged community development processess). I have talked before here about corporate interests controlling governments – and there is little doubt that the deregulation of international financial controls in the 1970s (the subsequent growth of financial power; and enthronement of greed and credit) are some of the main factors behind the present global crisis.
It is therefore interesting that hard left, libertarians and anarchists seem to share a common assessment of the problem – namely large-scale, unaccountable and interlocking financial, corporate and government bureaucracies. Where they differ is the remedy. The hard left has an optimistic belief in the state. The hard libertarian right has an equally determined programme to take power away from the state and corporate power and to try (for the first time) to create a truly functioning market system – with myriad producers (how that can be done without regulations, I don;t know). The „soft anarchists” are those I suppose who encourage us basically to opt out from it all – to transform the world by our own actions (see the weekly archdruid blog for example)

Anyway, the articles on The Daily Bell are thought-provoking – see, for example, this long interview about the power elite.

And now a literary turn – I picked up another remaindered book a couple of days ago which I would stronly recommend - The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt is (according to a great Reading Guide produced by Penguin Books) - a
portrait of the intriguing and colorful private Venice—the world that exists in the off-season, when the tourists have departed and Venetians have Venice all to themselves. The book opens with Berendt riding in a water taxi to his hotel three days after a colossal fire destroyed the Fenice Opera House, one of the most beloved cultural landmarks in Venice. Berendt decides to extend his stay to learn more about the fire and the city from the most beguiling source, though not necessarily the most reliable—the Venetians themselves.
Drawing on all his talents as an investigative reporter, Berendt goes behind the fa├žades of decaying buildings to reveal the city's intricate, hidden private life. Byzantine by nature, the Venetians reveal themselves in both open and secretive ways—after all, as Count Marcello tells him, "Venetians never tell the truth. We mean precisely the opposite of what we say." Berendt meets people whose families lived through a thousand years of Venetian history. He speaks with a variety of people who make their homes in grand palaces and in tiny cottages. There is the Plant Man, the wealthy rat-poison genius, the fearless and much feared Venetian prosecutor who unravels the mystery of the Fenice fire, the celebrated artist who schemes to get himself arrested, the well-known Venetian poet who commits suicide, the politicians struggling to point the finger of blame for the Fenice fire away from themselves, the former mistress of Ezra Pound, and the woman who may or may not have stolen her family legacy. Berendt spins a suspenseful tale out of the threads of many stories — some directly connected to the fire, others not. He finds chaos, corruption, and crime are as characteristic of Venice as its winding canals
These are the sorts of books I enjoy - which show
real people (in all their imperfections and weaknesses) engaged in struggles of different sorts. These are the sorts of books which should be used in classes on public admin!!
The painting is Scottish - John Knox no less (the Victorian painter - not the Reformation preacher!)- which is from Ben Lomond, showing not only Loch Lomond but, in the distance, the River Clyde and the Island of Arran.

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