Friday, January 30, 2009

Capitalism, the global crisis and the guillotine.

Post published as a Letter to the Editor in The Daily Yomiuri on Nov 04, 2008.
Back at home the guillotine is out again, working full time and enthusiastically operated by our nomenklatura of politicians, civil servants and union leaders who know best how to govern us, the sovereign people of France. “Liberalism is dead” says Nicolas Hulot, our ecology guru. “Laissez-faire capitalism is finished” says President Sarkozy. Capitalising on people’s fear the culprit is paraded. And beheaded. Down goes the blade of the ideological socialist consensus on the neck of the free market. And of course our supreme leaders do it again. They back down on promised reforms and promise us more “saviour” state. Equally troubling is our President’s push for his €20 billion European crisis fund and less independence for the European Central Bank. Could this be 21st Century bonapartisme?

When our youth schooled in the mistrust of all things liberal is capable of making a right wing government back down on a labour law adjustment (a small measure of contractual flexibility) after the bill was passed by both the Assemblée Nationale and the Sénat, the message is clear. Street power works better than votes. A minority can hold a majority hostage. Naturally one starts to wonder if the guillotine’s blade has not also fallen on democracy’s neck. With the global crisis hitting the real economy, the “social dialogue ” à la française is likely to be hot this winter. But “Worry not” say our born-again revolutionaries “Tis the dawn of a new era. Social democracy will save us!” And who, might one ask, will pay the bill for more socialism? Well, who else but the unsung hero fighting on the frontline of the private sector. The entrepreneur, the innovator, the jobs and ultimately wealth creator, the Gallic “Joe the Plumber” prepared to take risks and be rewarded by profit. Overtaxed fraternité does the “spreading of the wealth” bit of égalité. “All animals are equal” says Napoleon the pig in Animal Farm….

When I read Orwell’s fable in the 1980s it was the Cold War. The collectivist threat was out there with the soviets behind the Iron Curtain. In 2008 the fiercest attacks come from within! Socialism is the biggest failure of the 20th century both economically and morally. Its inherent doom was then foreseen by wise economists like F.A. Hayek. The truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect world and capitalism albeit not a perfect economic system has proven to be able to guarantee individual freedoms and deliver prosperity. For a free world we need more democratic capitalism. Time to save liberté’s head from its determined executioner!

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