Monday, September 19, 2011

The New Conventional Wisdom

Jacques Sapir, an ecoonomist and anti-globalization activist, has this to say in a Le Monde interview:
Jacques Sapir : La réaction de Jacques Delors est juste, mais bien tardive. Comment pouvons-nous prendre au sérieux un homme qui a conçu un système dont l'aboutissement logique est la crise actuelle, et qui vient maintenant déplorercelle-ci ? Il faut rappeler le rôle extrêmement néfaste qu'ont eu un certain nombre d'hommes politiques français, ainsi que des hauts fonctionnaires, qu'il s'agisse de Jacques Delors, de Pascal Lamy ou d'autres, dans la déréglementation financière généralisée que nous avons connue en Europe à partir de 1985-1986. Sur le fond, on a voulu faire avancer la solution d'une Europe fédérale sans le dire aux populations.
Delors, Lamy, and others, responsible for globalization and hence for the current crisis: the refrain is familiar, perhaps because we also heard it as recently as last week in a Le Monde op-ed from another, more surprising source: Aquilino Morelle, a former aide to Lionel Jospin, now backing Arnaud Montebourg. In short, an old fight has erupted on the Left, a fight that harks back to divisions in the Mitterrand administration in the period 1981-83. Delors and Lamy, with Fabius, were among those who led the fight for a "more modern" left, one that sought to manage rather than topple capitalism, in particular by lifting restrictions on capital flows.

The story is well-told in a book cited by Rawi Abdelal, Capital Rules, cited by Morelle, and which I am in the midst of reading. I think it's short-sighted, however, to portray this history as one of division within the left and a "betrayal" by a "free-market faction." This interpretation ignores the structural factors that militated in favor of an internationalization of capital. And it's wrong to interpret the current crisis as an inevitable consequence of one bad decision--an original sin, as it were. The initial decision wasn't bad, although as Abdelal points out, the evidence of greater efficiency and growth from a deregulation of capital was at best mixed. But marking Delors and Lamy as fall guys is just wrong, and the cause in which this very partial interpretation is currently being mobilized--the cause of isolationism and protectionism, what was derisively branded "the Albanian solution" in 1982 by those who favored greater openness--calls for the closest critical scrutiny.


Louis said...

Sapir was one of the personnalities interviewed in Le Monde last week, for a one page-paper on "anti-euro" intellectuals. He was there with Emmanuel Todd, whom I have seen in better company, and a couple of "souverainistes" for whom euro-bashing is the new flavor of their opposition to European integration. The main argument was that the euro is not an "optimal currency area", an argument I find tiresome and that nobody really elaborated upon.

Entirely with you on the conclusion, for what it's worth. Thank you for that, again.

bernard said...

As a matter of fact, I am not entirely sure that Delors was on the same side as Fabius in the early eighties debate (need to check two books, including Verbatim, on this). What is sure is that you are right to paint Fabius as with the "managers" in that debate (eg. stay within the EMS-ERM).

As for blame for the current crisis, I blame the educated idiots who governed post-Mitterrand and post-Kohl and never understood that single overwhelming factor driving monetary union: guaranteing peace between France and Germany. If they had, they would have traced monetary union back to 1985 and the Verdun photo-op and, rather than enlarging the EU prior to deepening union at its core, they would have strenghtened political union between France and German and willing allies, and enlarged later on those terms. Instead we have had a race for enlargement and irrelevance, cheered on by the UK amongst others.

The way our beautiful project has been damaged makes me angry indeed.