Drømmer jeg? Eller er jeg død? II

Forleden havde Michael Lind fra tænketanken New America Foundation en tankevækkende, omend for mange af os meget deprimerende artikel i Financial Times: “The unmourned end of libertarian politics”. Budskabet (der nedenfor gengives in extenso) er i sin enkelhed, at den klassiske liberale/nyliberalisme/libertarianisme–kald det hvad I vil–som har præget megen politik i de seneste årtier (og de fleste læsere af denne blog) er afgået ved døden som politisk kraft.  Den bliver presset af centripetale kræfter langs den traditionelle højre-venstre skala og af en centrifugal kraft på en ny globaliserings/anti-globaliserings dimension, og i dét slagsmål er der ikke plads til, hvad man her på stedet nok kunne kalde Mises-Hayek-Friedman-Rand-Nozick-Rothbard tænkning eller for den sags skyld Goldwater-Thatcher-Reagan retorik.

Jeg køber ikke selv ræsonnementet, og det hører med til historien, at Michael Lind ikke er, hvad en af vor tids største filosoffer–Tony Soprano–ville kalde “a friend of ours”; han er en slags Clintonistisk “third way” skribent, og der er i hans artikel alt for meget deterministisk “Titanic-logik” (som vores værdsatte eks-punditokrat Mikael Bonde Nielsen ville kalde det).  Men han er ikke dum, og der er noget om snakken.  Så giv artiklen en læsning og find på nogle gode svar …

“The unmourned end of libertarian politics

The most epochal event in world politics since the cold war has occurred – and few people have noticed. I am not referring to the conflict in Iraq or Lebanon or the campaign against terrorism.

It is the utter and final defeat of the movement that has shaped the politics of the US and other western democracies for several decades: the libertarian counter-revolution.

Between the 1930s and 1960s, the US and other liberal democracies adopted their own versions of modern welfare state capitalism. By the mid-20th century, in every western democracy, the legitimacy of the welfare state was accepted by mainstream parties of the right as well as the centre and left. But not by the libertarians. Unlike Eisenhower, Nixon and other “modern Republicans”, America’s libertarians did not seek a more fiscally responsible welfare state. They wanted to abolish the welfare state altogether and replace it with an “opportunity society” or “ownership society”. They were revolutionaries – or more precisely, counter-revolutionaries, seeking to restore an idealised Victorian world of laisser faire capitalism.

The libertarians launched a massive intellectual and rhetorical assault on modern government from the 1970s onward. Their formidable forces included influential economists such as Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winner, and Martin Feldstein, who chaired Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers; think-tanks such as the Cato Institute; and affluent pressure groups such as the Club for Growth and Americans for Tax Reform, whose leader, Grover Norquist, famously said that government should be shrunk until it can be drowned in a bathtub.

Libertarians proposed to privatise Social Security, replacing government pensions with individual savings accounts. Healthcare, too, would be provided by individual “health savings accounts”. Public education, a legacy of the 19th century, was another target of the libertarian counter-revolutionaries, who proposed giving citizens vouchers for private schools. The libertarians also targeted labour market regulation, calling for abolition of the minimum wage. This would be combined with mass immigration, which would drive down wages further.

In the mid-20th century, welfare-statism was the “third way” between democratic socialism on the left and big-government conservatism that accepted the welfare state but sought to limit its costs. But in the 1970s and 1980s, the political spectrum shifted to the right. Not only communism but also democratic socialism vanished as plausible options because people no longer believed that the nationalisation of whole economies made any sense. At the same time, moderate conservatives who had made their peace with the welfare state were outflanked on the right by the radical libertarians.

Suddenly the former political “centre”, social democratic welfare-state capitalism, was redefined as the “left” and the former “right”, big-government conservatism, was now considered the “centre”. In the 1990s, the term “third way” meant, not Swedish social democracy, but the pro-market “neo-liberalism” of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, which would have been considered moderate conservatism in the 1950s . In the US, the Democratic Leadership Council echoed the free-market, small-government rhetoric of the libertarian radicals. “The era of big government is over,” Mr Clinton declared. But he spoke too soon. In the past decade, the US public has rejected every element of the libertarian counter-revolution. The first proposal voters rejected was the privatisation of schooling. Because US education policy is dominated by states and cities, this issue was fought at the local level. It turned out that most conservative Republicans as well as Democrats were content with their suburban public schools. Again and again, voucher proposals went down to defeat.

President George W. Bush made Social Security privatisation a central part of his legislative agenda. Americans, alarmed by the stock market slide, rejected the idea and frightened Republican politicians dropped it. Neither has the Bush administration exerted itself over another libertarian proposal, health savings accounts, which almost certainly would be rejected by risk-averse voters. Indeed, to the horror of libertarians, Mr Bush and the Republican Congress created the prescription drug programme for the elderly, the biggest expansion of socialised medicine in the US since Lyndon Johnson presided over the creation of Medicare in 1965.

And the labour market? Here again, the libertarians have been completely routed. Against libertarian opposition, Congressional Republicans recently sought an increase in the minimum wage, coupled with cuts in the estate tax. And against libertarian opposition, swelling popular demand for an end to illegal immigration has forced both parties to support measures to police America’s chaotic borders.

For nearly a decade, the Republican party has controlled Washington and most state legislatures. And yet every big proposal of the libertarians has been rejected by the public and their elected representatives. Their only temporary achievement has been tax cuts, which are likely to be rolled back at least in part to reduce the deficit in the years ahead. With the disappearance as a significant force of the libertarian right, the centre of gravity inevitably will shift somewhat left in matters of political economy. But we will not see a restoration of the mid-20th century pattern because there will be no revival of the socialist left. The demise of both socialism and libertarianism pretty much limits the field to moderate social democracy and big-government conservatism. The limitation of options on the horizontal left-right spectrum is accompanied, however, by a growing vertical, top-bottom divide between an elite committed to globalisation and mass immigration and a populist, nationalist majority. If this replaces the older horizontal left-right divide, then we may see a third, “third way” – one which positions itself between the crudest forms of populism and utopian forms of transnationalism.

The libertarian moment has passed. It will not come again, and its defeat as a force in US politics will change the definitions of right, left and centre – not just in the US but also, the world.”

7 thoughts on “Drømmer jeg? Eller er jeg død? II

  1. OBP

    Jeg bed som du også mærke i Linds analyse – og er i øvrigt meget enig i dine betragtninger. Det interessante ved artiklen er mest, at velfærdsstaten som system har vist sig i stand til at bevare bred tilslutning som system. Det ville være forkert at sige, at dens ideologi i væsentlig grad er blevet fortrængt af libertarianisme (uden at man dermed – som du siger – kan slutte, at det aldrig vil ske). Et par observationer i den forbindelse:1) Velfærdsstaten har hidtil været i stand til at reformere sig selv, når den virkelig var truet fundamentalt. Opbremsningen af den voldsomme inflation i 80erne og genopretningen af voldsomme underskud på de offentlige finanser i lande som Danmark, Sverige og Finland. Det er måske dens største og mest overraskende styrke hidtil.2) Selv om velfærdsstaten som system har stor opbakning, er de fleste af dens enkeltkomponenter upopulære og dårligt fungerende: De offentlige universiteter i Europa er klart dårligere end de private i USA, offentlige grundskoler anses generelt for underlegne i forhold til private (i Danmark er flugten til de private tydelig); den offentlige sundhedssektor og plejesektor leverer dårligere ydelser end de private eller semi-private i mange lande (som til gengæld ofte er meget dyre sfa. regulering og erstatningspraksis); den offentlige kultursektor er ikke specielt efterspurgt og fortrænges af private institutioner, når monpolerne falder; statsvirksomheder er stadig ikke velfungerende og få drømmer om at renationalisere de privatiserede (og endnu færre om at nationalisere den traditionelt private sektor).3) De dele af velfærdsstaten, som er populære, er de overførselsordninger, de fleste eksperter er enige om, ikke er holdbare. Det gælder især pensionssystemet og ordninger som efterlønnen. Populariteten er ved nøjere eftertanke ikke så underlig endda: nogen kommer til at betale uden selv at få ydelserne i samme omfang; det er sjovere at prøve at give sorteper videre frem for selv at ende med regningen for det, der essentielt set er et pyramidespil. Så trods populariteten er afviklingen af ordningerne i gang rundt omkring (i Danmark med ”velfærdsaftalen” fra sommeren og opbygningen af arbejdsmarkedspensionerne siden 80erne).Velfærdsstaten kan altså ikke siges at have ”vundet” ved at fremstå som et velfungerende system uden at være under alvorlige pres. Men det samlede system er i bemærkelsesværdigt grad ikke under pres. Endnu?

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  2. Jacob Mchangama

    Kære Peter,Michael Linds analyse passer, så vidt jeg kan se, vel mere eller mindre som fod i hose på både amerikanske og danske forhold (omend vi herhjemme ikke har haft en “radical libertarian” bevægelse). Hvor er det du ser de største svagheder i Linds konklusioner?

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  3. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    Der er meget korrekt og empirisk genkendeligt, men der er mindst to punkter, jeg synes er tvivlsomme.Først og fremmest i den journalistiske tendens til deterministisk overdrev a la: “The libertarian moment has passed. It will not come again, and its defeat as a force in US politics will change the definitions of right, left and centre …” Den slags lyder godt, men lad mig bare minde om (som jeg tidligere har gjort), at Daniel Bell i 1962 erklærede “ideologierne døde”, og Fukuyama i 1989 “historien død”, o.s.v. Alle den slags kategoriske udsagn om den (fremtidige) historiske udvikling (og i særdeleshed den idéhistoriske) viser sig som regel at gå ganske forkert i byen. Havde man i 1970–og sågar i 1980–spurgt de fleste journalister, analytikere m.v., om der ville komme en (ny-)liberal renæssance, havde de ganske givet være flade af grin. Det samme, hvis man i 1968 havde forudset en amerikansk konservativ revolution.Dernæst at der er væsentlige nuancer mellem at være dominerende og være ikke-eksisterende … (jf. “It is the utter and final defeat …”). F.eks. er det et oplagt spørgsmål, hvad der påvirker fra yderpolerne–enten ved at “trække” eller “skubbe”. Når det gælder udgiftspolitikken o.s.v., er der meget, der trækker i forkert retning, men hvad med skattepolitikken og meget af reguleringen (minus miljøområdet)? Det er mit indtryk, at trods der her fortsat i vidt omfang fortsat er en fundamental liberal … “undertone” … i debatten. Men måske jeg er for optimistisk dér.

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  4. Henrik Ræder Clausen

    Jeg må nok indrømme, at jeg giver artiklen ret. Personligt har jeg været liberalist siden jeg var 15 (er nu 42), og nu har jeg givet op. Med det kaotiske politiske liv, hvor man ikke lader tvivlen komme nye ideer til gode, er der ikke plads til noget så radikalt som ren liberalisme. Og med alle problemerne med indvandring og visse ideologier fra Mellemøsten er det helt tydeligt, at en skrap grænsekontrol er vigtig for at bevare samfundet sundt og frit.Samtidig er det ved at gå op for mig, at menneskelige værdier og idealer er mere vigtige for de fleste mennesker end den rene økonomiske gevinstmulighed. Penge er ikke motiverende nok for andre end eliten, og dermed taber vi masserne på gulvet. Det så bedre ud for 50 år siden, hvor fremskridtene var mærkbare og nye gode ideer gav tydelige gevinster. I dag er jeg skiftet til en mere ren konservativ holdning, hvor vores kulturelle værdier er i centrum og må forsvares mod de udfordringer der kommer, både fra globaliseringen og fra Islam. Og med EU i et langsomt skred fra troværdighed bliver nationalstaten hovedfundamentet i folks identitet, hvis vores frihed og forskellligehed skal bevares.

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  5. Nikolaj Hawaleschka Stenberg

    Lige et par kommentarer til artiklen:»Unlike Eisenhower, Nixon and other “modern Republicans”, America’s libertarians did not seek a more fiscally responsible welfare state. They wanted to abolish the welfare state altogether and replace it with an “opportunity society” or “ownership society”.«Lidt semantisk kunne man jo sige, at man ikke kan erstatte en velfærdsstat med “ingen ting”? Eller kan man?Anyway, så er det det her – i hvertfald for mig selv – et af problemerne med min egen “tro”: Hvordan skal man eksemplificere minimalstaten (et al) med en vis realisme og troværdighed? At henvise til Danmark før Første Verdenskrig er ikke det bedste synspunkt man kan fremføre. Eksempler modtages gerne!»The libertarian moment has passed. It will not come again, and its defeat as a force in US politics will change the definitions of right, left and centre – not just in the US but also, the world.«Jeg kan ikke helt gennemskue, hvordan forfatteren når frem til postulatet i sidste led…

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  6. David G.

    Linds analyse falder på sin afgørende præmis, at der var en reel (målelig) bevægelse i libertær retning i USA eller Storbritannien i 1980-2000. Det kan allerhøjst medgives i meget marginalt omfang. Det offentlige forbrug er ikke faldet, formynderiet er tiltaget og udvidet til områder, ingen kunne have drømt om i 60rne (rygepolitik, anti-sexchikane-industrien, den politiske korrekthed, “diversitets”-kulten og alle de andre indgreb i den personlige frihed og adfærd), og den kulturradikalt-nihilistiske kulturrevolution fortsætter i bedste velgående. Hvor i alverden ser Lind den libertære bevægelses succes’er? Tony Blairs England?? Don’t make me laugh.Iøvrigt er der ingen modsætning mellem libertarianisme og at spærre grænserne for indvandring. Som Milton Friedman siger, kan man ikke både have en velfærdsstat og åbne grænser. Da alle synes at ønske en velfærdsstat, kan de logisk set ikke i egen interesse ønske massiv indvandring af folk, der skal forsørges af andre på ubestemt tid.Når jeg har fundet ud af at indsætte hyperlinks, kommer kommentarer af denne art også som regelrette punditokrat-indlæg.

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  7. J. E. Vig

    Lige nøjagtig “Drømmer jeg eller er jeg død”:Wake up, reality is now:Ideology has replaced reality – and very soon you have an example of an idelogical end in Denmark07/17/2007 on a href=”http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/1195″ target=outside>http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/1195 Fjordman claimed as following: “American military historian and columnist Victor Davis Hanson http://www.victorhanson.com/ talks about how mass immigration is the product of a de facto alliance between the Libertarian Right and the Multicultural Left. The economic Libertarians can be represented by Swedish writer Johan Norberg, author of the book In Defence of Global Capitalism. Norberg can have valuable insights into the flaws of the Scandinavian welfare state model. However, his commitment to a “free market, open border” ideology blinds him to the threat posed by Muslim immigration, an ideological blind spot that is almost as big as the ones we find in Marxists. According to him, “at the moment there is a problem. The right supports one part of globalisation — the free movement of capital and goods – while the left tends to support another part, the free movement of people.”An ideologist as you see here Fjorman does certainly not understand reality; or it is simply not his intentions to do so as far as I can judge. In a Libetarian’s limited vector-space of a certain number of variables culture and religion for example may have no impacts on the teoretical model – mostly because they have not found suitable ways to measure the possible teoretically impacts from religion and culture in a meaningful way. For example reality then has been drawn psychedelically in model, and thereby perhaps it is replacing real life, but this does not matter, as long the model of life definitely has priority one. And that is the point: Next to perhaps the well-being of the ideological followers, death (to the dissidents) gets priority number two. Take welfare as an explicit example from reality today but evolved/develop from an pure ideological concept by substituting wealth for welfare: You cannot talk about a taxfinanced welfare in a society without allowing fertility to drop, and as a implication of this also accept the distribution of ages to change, if you base your model of more than 1-2 generations. The selfishness in the ideological top http://danmark.wordpress.com/2006/06/14/top-and-buttom/ has been described, and don’t ever believe this selfishness range at a lower priority than one. It is easy to make make another priority in the model of life, but it is impossible in reality to go on for more two generations on ideological agenda once it has stepped into reality. Basicly because man is involved.All ideologies have the same ends in theory: Joined happiness for the camp followers and death to the dissidents. All ideologists Fjordman included are bound to express their potential warnings against things they have not understood themselves, because they do not allow logic to enter before ideology. You could with Soeren Kierkegaard say essense before existense to correct them. Islam, a lot of Libertarians and a lot of multicultural Internationalists are still on that same lime twig. ‘Liberalists’ lost – ‘internationalists’ won‘On ideology and why it goes wrongJ. E. Vig, 28. november 2007

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