Socialism: Sinister, Silly

Many of the conservative comments about President Obama I hear on the radio have been leaving me vaguely non-plussed. (If you think about it, it’s not easy to be non-plussed in a vague way, or on the contrary, is it a redundancy?) Little by little, I began realizing that the cause of my non-plussness is the frequent allegation that the President is “a socialist.” Nearly always, the implied suggestion is that something sinister is about. The French side of my mind, well versed in things socialist, perceives a strong discordance between the two concepts, “socialist” and “sinister.”

First, the word socialist does not have a fixed meaning. In the past fifty years, it has meant just about everything, from German genocidal totalitarian (“National Socialist,” “Nazi”), to African plutocrat, to the mild high-tax administrations common in several mild and undoubtedly democratic European countries. (See my series of essays on this blog about various kinds of fascism.) It seems to me that American conservatives who call Obama a “socialist” are implicitly referring to the western European brand of so-called “socialism.” (Although, some of the president’s followers and entourage belong to the brass-knuckle brand of “socialism.”) Here is where the French fraction of my brain feels a discordance. As some of you may know, the candidate of the French Socialist Party was recently elected President of the French Republic. French “socialists” are fresh in my mind, count on it. Now, there is no way they are sinister, except by happenstance and only in the long run. They are not sinister, they are idiotic and deeply ignorant. They are ignorant the way someone is ignorant who has not learned a thing in fifty years say, between 1960 and 2010. Continue reading

Around the Web

Co-editor Fred Foldvary is participating in a symposium over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians.  Check him out.

Michael Mungowitz bags on Greece and the Euro Zone.

Zach Gochenour has a complimentary follow-up piece on Dr. Foldvary’s essay: Progress or Poverty: The Economics of Land and Discovery.

All Hail Azawad.  A blogger obsessed with maps from the New York Times writes about the new state’s prospects .  I have written about Azawad here, here, here, and here (oh God I hope I don’t sound like Walter Block!).

Jacques Delacroix provides even more insights into the French elections and its implications for the Euro Zone.

The collapse of the Euro Zone is kind of a big deal.  Personally, I hope the collapse only destroys the currency of the zone, and not the ability of its members to trade and work freely anywhere throughout the zone.  I also want a pony and never-ending supply of really good weed.

The European policymakers and technocrats should not have been so brash as to believe that they could unify Europe politically.  Not only is that bad for democracy, but it has also given the underlying principle behind the EU – free trade – a very bad name.  Repeat after me: large polities that are economically united and politically divided are good for everybody, but large polities that are economically and politically united are bad for everybody.

It’s even worse when you throw in concepts like Old World identities such as ethnicity into the mix and try to get everybody to play nice through the democratic process.

French Elections: Redux

French elections are ongoing.  Here is Dr. Delacroix one more time:

The first thing to know is that France is a country where common conservative and libertarian ideas about market efficacy are rare. A conservative stance is absent from the public discourse.

I think Hollande is going to be elected. He is the worst the French Socialist Party has to offer. He has never done anything in his life, like our current president, or worse. He does not even have the merit of being a member of an interesting minority. He is the pale consort of a former big loser in a French presidential election (Segolene Royal). How much lower can you get?

All this because Sarkozy annoyed too many people, swing voters, with his bad manners and because Strauss-Khan couldn’t keep his second thinking tool where it belongs long enough. Yes, Strauss-Khan was going to be the Socialist candidate. He understands money, unlike Hollande who knows nothing about money except that the “rich” have too much of it and that it’s the root of all evil.

Hollande is the worst of a Socialist Party that has had few new ideas, has not updated itself, in the past thirty years. However, his colorlessness, the fact that he barely exists may be a blessing. It’s possible that economic technocrats in his Continue reading

Communist Dinosaurs

I watch a French two-and-a-half-hour weekly television show that’s pretty good in most respects. It mixes no- hold-barred interviews of politicians with talks with movie directors, authors and artists, including singers.  There is a presidential election beginning in France too. It relies on an an incomplete primary system. To make a long story short, anyone with a grievance or an idea who can get 500 signatures of I don’t know whom can run. That makes for a lively and exotic first round of  balloting. In the second round, things get serious. In any case, this time, there is an explicitly “communist” candidate (Trotskyst branch). She runs for an organization that calls itself “Workers’ Struggle” (Lutte ouvriere).

It’s not clear what her party considers as “workers” but from the candidate’s choice of examples of struggle in her interview last night, there is a strong preference for conventional blue-collar and pink-collar workers. Of course, manufacturing jobs are vanishing from France as they have been doing here. People employed in manufacturing are becoming accordingly scarcer. Bad strategic bet that, defining yourself as a workers’ party when you also define workers that way, (going away, going away, gone!).

The “communist” candidate discourse is loud as it is transparent. Let me summarize: Continue reading