Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Slow Death Of The Celtic Tiger

Ireland has officially fallen back into recession, as reported by the indispensable Lord Keynes. Another example of the "success" of austerity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Learning From Your Mistakes

Stephen M. Walt lists his top ten lessons learned from the experience of the Iraq War, here. A very interesting piece.

Behold A Pale Horse

Not content with his record of lowering life expectancy and increasing poverty, suicide, and drug and alcohol addiction in Eastern Europe, Jeffrey Sachs is now lobbying to become president of the World Bank. Laura Flanders discusses this story in a great article for CounterPunch. A must read.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Aldo Moro's Concept Of Progress

March 16, 2012 marked thirty-four years since the kidnapping of Aldo Moro by the Marxist-Leninist Red Brigades. Moro would eventually die at the hands of his captors. I have been thinking quite a bit about Moro's legacy as a Christian Democratic politician, and it is very interesting to note just how progressive Moro was. Of course, by "progressive" I do not mean center-left in the American sense of the word, but instead I am referring to the kind of Social Christian politics popular in many countries at the end of the Second World War, usually comprising a mixture of cultural conservatism and economic social democracy.

Moro's Social Christian beliefs are apparent in a speech given at the Supercinema of Rome on March 24, 1963. Moro powerfully described the progressive nature of political Christianity, saying:
"Bound as we are to traditions, for what they have that [is] essential and (...) human, we do not want to be men of the past, but of the future. Tomorrow does not belong to conservatives or to tyrants; it belongs to attentive and serious innovators, without rhetoric. And that tomorrow in civil society belongs, also for this, largely to the revolutionary and redeeming force of Christianity. Let us therefore leave the dead to bury the dead. We are different, we want to be different from the tired supporters of a world that is passing."
Moro's "world that is passing" was the world of Liberal Italy, the world that failed to stand up to Fascism, the world that sacrificed many thousands of young men in pointless wars of aggression, and the world that failed to bring social justice to workers and peasants. Moro's conservatives were mostly the failed politicians of that same Liberal Italy along with their ideological and political allies. Moro's words should not be construed to support a total abandonment of traditionalism, but simply the recognition that some traditions are essential to human life, while other aspects of the past may be shed if they do not comport with Christian values.

In the economic realm, Aldo Moro's conception of progress included a major role for the State in controlling the economy for the benefit of human beings first and foremost. As Carlo Masala writes:
"Under Moro, who was secretary-general of the DC from March 1959 to January 1964 and minister president of three governments between 1963 and 1968, yet another sphere [of the economy] was brought under the direct control of the state with the nationalization of the energy sector. Moro's leitmotif was that 'the market must be directed by political decisions.'" (Masala 2004: 94).
The nationalization of key industries and the regulation of the market were deemed by Moro and other left-wing Christian Democrats to be important steps in evening out the inequalities produced by capitalism and furthering the process of integrating the working-class into a Christian society, thus striking a major blow against atheistic Marxism. Stressing the importance of human needs over the dictates of the market, Moro and his allies adopted the motto of "first the person, and then the market." Let us pray that today's politicians come around to adopting a similar philosophy.


Carlo Masala. "Born for Government: the Democrazia Cristiana in Italy," vol 2. of Christian Democracy in Europe Since 1945, edited by Michael Gehler and Wolfram Kaiser. (London: Routledge, 2004).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Degrees Are For Donkeys

Lord Keynes has posted an interesting blog piece on the fact that his namesake, John Maynard Keynes, never actually received a formal economics degree. While it is often pointed out that the founders of the formal discipline of economics were often trained in a traditional liberal arts setting, often emphasizing philosophy and the Greek and Roman classics, it is interesting that as late a figure as Keynes did not receive an economics degree.

My own impression of modern academic economics is that it is a very closed system that does not allow for much curiosity on the part of students. It is notoriously diffcult for economists in the so-called heterodox schools to find work in the academy, so they often must teach the neoclassical orthodoxy to make a living, even if they think the orthodox approach is seriosuly flawed.

In a November 7, 2011 blog post, economist Bill Mitchell does a great job discussing the changes in economic course offerings since the end of the Cold War. Economics departments once offered courses in comparative economics, economic history, and even Marxian economics. This broader perspective has been largely jettisoned in favor of a neoclassical orthodoxy that attempts to ape the natural sciences (especially physcis), but ends up looking more like astrology than astronomy.

Finally, the narrowness of focus in most economics departments is especially harmful because it limits the range of public discourse on economic matters as journalists must rely on the "expertise" of orthdoox economists or run the risk of being accused of slumming among "fringe" figures. The result is that the media simply reflects the biases of the academic economic establishment, which is itself dependent upon private businesses and the governments they control for funds and prestige.

Thursday, March 1, 2012