Criticizing Capitalism

by Henry on May 9, 2005

An unexpected follow-up to my last post ; Brad DeLong reacts bitterly to Guenter Grass’s op-ed in the New York Times, which is itself apparently the transcription of a radio talk given in Germany. Grass is harshly critical both of the all-devouring market and of the current state of German democracy. Brad finds that it can’t be an accident that Grass never mentions the words “Jew,” and concludes by describing Grass as “crypto-Nazi scum.”

To put it mildly, Brad’s critique of Grass is misconceived (he’s already gotten a lot of remarks to this effect, a couple of which are themselves a bit over the top, in his comments section). “Crypto-Nazi scum” are extraordinarily harsh words to use to describe anyone other than the David Irvings of this world, and they don’t fit here. Grass’s talk was about Germany’s post-war record. He doesn’t use any of the code-words that Holocaust revisionists or sneaking regarders use. Grass states directly that Germany can never get away from its historical burden. He also makes it clear that Germany’s acknowledgment of its dreadful past is one of the few things worth being proud of in the post-war period (Brad notes this, but by some logic that I can’t quite follow, sees this as further evidence of Grass’s crypto-Nazism). Grass’s leftwing nationalism-that-has-harsh-words-to-say-about-Germany-as-a-nation is complicated, but I don’t know of anyone who believes that Grass is even slightly sympathetic to Nazism, given Grass’s own eloquent excoriations of the Nazi era. Even in this article, one of Grass’s indictments against Germany is its swiftness in rehabilitating former members of the NSDAP, and giving them high government positions.

A fair amount of Brad’s animus seems to be aimed at Grass’s description of capitalism as a new totalitarianism in potentia. But this is an entirely respectable view with long historical antecedents among democrats as well as authoritarians. Was Karl Polanyi, for example, a crypto-Fascist? Nor is Grass’s disquiet with the current state of a parliamentary government beset by lobbyists and special interests evidence of Nazi leanings. Again, it’s an entirely respectable political position – and one shared by a wide variety of people on both the left and the right of the democratic spectrum. Grass is quite evidently an old-style social democrat, with a hankering for a more radical version of the Soziale Marktwirtschaft that’s responsive to social needs as well as the profit motive. It’s a position with which one can very reasonably disagree, but it certainly doesn’t make him a Nazi.

Update: In a revision to his post, Brad seems to be withdrawing his criticism of Grass’s claim that Germany has had a better record of dealing with its past than some other countries. However, he still seems to believe that Grass is “crypto-Nazi scum.” As best as I can make out, this is because Grass doesn’t explicitly mention the particular Nazi animus against the Jews in his talk. Given that Grass’s talk was very clearly about the post-WWII German state rather than the Nazi era, and that he spoke clearly and unambiguously about Germany’s continuing historical burden, I can’t see that this helps Brad at all. It seems to me that Brad has made, and is continuing to make an extremely strong claim (and a claim that implies that Grass should be shunned by right thinking people) on the basis of extremely weak evidence. I’ve enormous respect for Brad – but I simply don’t see how he can stand over the claim that Grass is “crypto-Nazi scum” given Grass’s track record, and the evidence that he (Brad) has provided to date.

Update 2: It appears that Brad has indeed modified his position on this, and has struck out his reference to Grass as “crypto-Nazi scum,” but the strikeout doesn’t appear in Firefox due to a formatting problem. Thus, his restatement is considerably more generous than I first thought, and most of the above update is thus entirely redundant.

{ 125 comments }

1

david 05.09.05 at 10:01 am

Superbly put.

2

Robin 05.09.05 at 10:30 am

I must say that the post was very, very un-Brad.

3

LizardBreath 05.09.05 at 10:42 am

It was odd, wasn’t it — I got the feeling that there was a missing step in the reasoning: GG’s article is very similar to X and X is clearly crypto-Nazi, therefore GG’s article is crypto-Nazi. Not in itself an illegitimate mode of reasoning, but what the X that led Prof. DeLong to this conclusion is was unclear, and his conclusion just seems wrong.

4

P ONeill 05.09.05 at 10:43 am

Yes something got lost in translation between the original German and Brad’s ears, perhaps as much in terms of the language of sociology as from German to English. But even allowing that he had maybe one bad post, there’s always a bigger fool out there. Like Glenn Reynolds, who noted (without his usual heh) what he described as a “troubling observation” a claim lifted from another blog that the British National Party had finished 4th in the UK election. He then says “I’ve worried about this sort of thing” — so much that he reached for a pretty transparent falsehood, as anyone who knows anything about the UK election could have told him. Unless he was counting Ian Paisley as part of the BNP vote. He later updates the post with the obvious correction, but why the eager 1st reach for bogus evidence of resurgent right-wing extremism? Harmless old lefties like Grass are not the problem.

5

Doug 05.09.05 at 10:59 am

The debate is likely to move up here, since the other post is sliding down the page.

We’ve been kicking this discussion around on Fistful for most of the month (here and here, for example) and have come to a few points of consensus. One, if I may be so bold, is that the PR people at the banks ought to be flogged around the fleet for getting wrongfooted in the political debate. They ought to be talking about how their loans and credit provisions help people start small businesses and help small ones either prosper at their present size (that’s the Continental thinking part) or grow. Banks that are doing their work properly help people create jobs; that ought to be the message that’s competing with the “plague of locusts” rhetoric, and it’d be a winner, too.

Second, top managers at too many firms want to keep their income secret. Boy howdy is that a dumb idea. Public investment invites public scrutiny; avoiding it gives ammunition to the people who think the whole notion of profit somehow suspect (Müntefering is not one of these). If the companies want their directors’ salaries to be private, they should take the company private. Aldi, for example, is very successful and very private. But the DAX-30 companies are playing in a different league, and they should know it.

M would not appear to be talking about the venture capitalists who have made Germany Europe’s #2 biotech center and a leading high-tech location. He’s talking about the leveraged buy-out artists and conglomerate breakers. This would be an interesting debate, if the upper echelons of German business were capable of having it. Which they appear not to be.

Big business in Germany has agreed with but nothing that Red-Green has been doing since 1998, with the possible exception of relaxed immigration rules. Before the last election, I was even hearing rumors that big AGs were holding back on investment to make look Schroeder look back and to give an extra boost after Stoiber’s inevitable victory. Didn’t turn out that way. Anyway, M seems to have concluded that Schroeder’s Genosse der Bosse approach hasn’t paid off enough, and it’s time to turn up the heat a bit. If big business is going to fight the cabinet tooth and nail, then, from M’s perspective, the fight ought to at least pay dividends for the SPD. Hence the punchy rhetoric.

At risk of repeating a CDU-CSU slogan, though, Sozial ist, was Arbeit schafft. That is, policy responds to social needs insofar as it helps create jobs. Policies that don’t do that aren’t meeting the country’s most pressing social need.

Some of the problems are structural and severe. Depopulation in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has been a concern of officials keen to maintain the status quo since about Bismarck’s time. This is not a fight worth having at the national level; you can’t keep ’em down on the farm.

Other problems are less so. The World Bank report “Doing Business 2005” points out that starting a business in Germany takes 45 days and requires nine administrative decisons. Every other EU country discussed, except Spain, was faster, and most required fewer decsions. That’s a hindrance to employment.

Non-wage labor costs are a serious impediment to hiring. This is old news, but true; I see it every day at my customers’ companies.

The classic elements of ‘Rhineland’ capitalism were a tidy way to deal with the challenges of the second half of the 20th century. Whether they’re so dandy here in the 21st, I’m not so sure. The single market along with EU competition and subsidy rules have blown a chill wind into the cozy world of industrial cross-holdings and state-subsidized banks. Structured apprentice programs are fine for industries that don’t change, but what industry isn’t changing today? Attaining the first university degree at 28 or so puts individual Germans far behind professional experience of peers in the US, UK or elsewhere.

At the micro and the macro level, the Rhenish model is getting squeezed. As one of our commenters put it, “Future German MBA’s are still tought the mantra of ‘long term maximisation’ while everyone knows that, in the long run, they will probably no longer be with the company.” Just so.

6

Donald Johnson 05.09.05 at 11:44 am

Brad always seemed like an intemperate left-basher to me, a point made by a few posters at his blog. This post didn’t seem out of character. He’s usually blowing up at Bush, but obviously that’s because Bush is in power.

7

abb1 05.09.05 at 11:57 am

Brad always seemed like an intemperate left-basher to me

I don’t think it’s the left; if you read his bulleted points, it looks like what he doesn’t like is Grass’s populist rhetoric. To Brad, apparently, Populism=Nazism. Not too surprising.

The ‘Jew’ thing is very funny, though:

Grass writes 2191 words. Not one of them contains the syllable “Jew.” That cannot be an accident.

8

Donald Johnson 05.09.05 at 11:59 am

My previous comment left out a sentence–I got distracted. I meant to say that Brad’s blowup at Grass might seem out of character since he’s normally attacking Bush, but I think I recall a few of these little outbursts directed leftwards. These temper tantrums detract from his credibility no matter which side he bashes.

9

Barry Freed 05.09.05 at 12:14 pm

Donald Johnson: I agree that Brad is wont to give in to intemperate left-bashing now and then. And as someone pretty far out there on the left I’ve certainly found it distasteful, even while understandable, neo-liberal economist that he is.

Still, “Crypto-Nazi Scum” is another thing entirely. For one thing it shows an appalling ignorance of the man’s life and work (if he had any idea I’d like to think he would have had some serious doubt as to his first impressions and decided to sleep on it). It’s also a serious case of misreading by someone who is usually a fairly careful reader.

No, this case is different. I dare say that with this post Brad DeLong has jumped the shark.

I wonder if he’ll check himself and retract.

10

dsquared 05.09.05 at 12:34 pm

I hesitated to comment on that thread because I couldn’t think of a way of asking Brad whether he knew who Gunther Grass was that didn’t seem rude. But really. The idea of “Gunther Grass is trying to minimise Germany’s legacy of Nazism” is right up there with “Chris Rock doesn’t tell enough dick jokes”.

11

JR 05.09.05 at 12:57 pm

It’s clear that DeLong knows nothing about Grass or German politics. Where Grass is sardonic and eliptical, DeLong thinks he’s reading something literal and direct. Where Grass talks about current political trends, DeLong thinks he is talking about historical events. Where every word of the Grass piece springs from an acceptance of German guilt, DeLong thinks he’s reading an apologist. The ignorance displayed is so deep that it is unnerving to think that this man is Chair of Berkeley’s Political Economy of Industrial Societies major. How can you run that program if you know nothing of modern Germany? If there is someone at Berkeley reading this, please- stop by Prof. DeLong’s office and prevent him from damaging his reputation any further.

12

JayAnne 05.09.05 at 1:01 pm

It does read as though he doesn’t know who Gunther Grass is!, and unfortunately, his “critique” has been taken up by people who think anyone who uses the word “capitalism” is a Nazi. Dsquared, are you sure you wouldn’t like to post a comment there? (nudge, nudge…) I’ve posted one at one of his supporters’ blogs.

13

Barry Freed 05.09.05 at 1:02 pm

dsquared- ROTFLMAO

I’m putting that one in my file marked “Things I wished I’d said.” You really should have chimed in though. Somehow I think if any single comment might awaken Brad from his stupor, that would be the one to do it.

I can take the left-baiting, there’s a lot of other good stuff there and I no jack about economics which is one reason why I was first drawn to his blog (and Max’s who I wonder if he’ll weigh in on this). But this really is different. If he doesn’t take a good look at it and retract his stupidity he will have fallen quite a few degrees in my estimation. Not that that means anything but just speaking for myself here.

14

Nick 05.09.05 at 1:17 pm

Ermm. . De Long’s critique is barking. Has he ever actually read ‘Hundejahre’?

15

ab 05.09.05 at 1:22 pm

Yes, Brad’s comments are completely off the mark, I think most people who know something about Grass come easily to that conclusion.

However, those who know Grass and have followed his public remarks over the last decade also know that Grass himself has lost the plot.

He’s an old (and angry) man now, making comments here and there, mostly rather unsystematic and confused. The same goes for his literary work in the past 15-20 years.

Sad, really, though I still admire his early stuff (both literary and politically).

16

cloquet 05.09.05 at 2:37 pm

Thanks much Dsquared for your comment. Under threat of de Long mal-approbation, I am sure that Chris Rock’s arsenal of penis jokes is being rapidly replenished as we speak.

17

Dick Fitzgerald 05.09.05 at 4:22 pm

DeLong insanely criticizes any public figure who makes substantive criticisms of capitalism. He has, e.g., done this to Paul Sweezy and Barbara Ehrenreich. As an econ. prof. @ UC Berkeley, DeLong should be expected to be open to different and even controversial views; this is not the case. Pity the student of DDL who submits a paper critical of the canon.

18

almostinfamous 05.09.05 at 5:10 pm

Still, “Crypto-Nazi Scum” is another thing entirely.

yeah, i was reading that whole thing with kind of a ‘what the hell is esteemed mr de long talking about’ kinda attitude and the crypto-nazi thing hit me like an anvil… i did not know how to respond as it seemed like a total non-sequitur.

defending capitalism is one thing, but this seemed like a total low blow, but i could not express myself in a clear manner and gave up trying, not being very fmailiar with mr grass’s work either.

thanks for clearing stuff up, to henry as well as the commenters.

19

Brad DeLong 05.09.05 at 5:16 pm

Can you imagine Karl Polanyi writing: “We can only hope we will be able to cope with today’s risk of a new totalitarianism, backed as it is by the world’s last remaining ideology. As conscious democrats, we should freely resist the power of capital, which sees mankind as nothing more than something which consumes and produces. Those who treat their donated freedom as a stock market profit have failed to understand what May 8 teaches us every year”?

Grass doesn’t describe capitalism as a totalitarianism in potentia, he sees it as a totalitarianism in actuality–a foreign threat that is going to take over Germany if not stopped, driven as it is by a “Parliament… no longer sovereign… steered by the banks and multinational corporations.” Grass claims that “the threat to the state… Public Enemy No. 1, comes not from right-wing radicalism” but from the Social Democratic and Christian Democratic parties: “from the impotence of politics, which leaves citizens exposed and unprotected from the dictates of the economy.”

What do you call the claim that those oppressed by globalization are, like those murdered by the Nazis, the victims of totalitarianism?

20

blaag 05.09.05 at 5:29 pm

is that right……..eh?

21

dq 05.09.05 at 5:31 pm

Professor DeLong,

It seems a bit strange that you are replying here, and not on your own website, but at any rate . . .

As D. Davies couldn’t bring himself to ask the question without feeling rude, and so didn’t, I’ll ask it here – have you read the Tin Drum? The Flounder? Any of Grass’ novels?

22

Colin Danby 05.09.05 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for a great and clarifying post on this. I’ve already commented on the Grass question over at Brad’s, but I want to follow up on the very acute invocation of Karl Polanyi.

It should be possible to share Polanyi’s ethical values while dissenting from from his analysis of the world. It should even be possible to admire the achievements of neoliberal policies and capitalist growth, where appropriate, while hoping that one could do even better. The moral critique of capitalism is far from being exclusively left — one thinks of Daniel Bell, Pope John Paul II, and Joseph Schumpeter.

This requires some disaggregation of political processes, social structures, economic institutions, and economic policies. Part of what I think set Brad off is that he thinks of neoliberalism and representative democracy as a single package, and in general he has an economist’s tendency to collapse politics and society into economy.

What’s dispiriting in Brad’s meltdown is the sense that one has to choose sides in a very absolute question-collapsing way. I find much that’s attractive and clarifying in the vision that, say, Jagdish Bhagwati presents, and I think it has a genuine moral core. I would like to find some way to bring it into dialogue with the kinds of questions that Polanyi raises.

23

Henry 05.09.05 at 5:40 pm

bq. Can you imagine Karl Polanyi writing: “We can only hope we will be able to cope with today’s risk of a new totalitarianism, backed as it is by the world’s last remaining ideology. As conscious democrats, we should freely resist the power of capital, which sees mankind as nothing more than something which consumes and produces. Those who treat their donated freedom as a stock market profit have failed to understand what May 8 teaches us every year”?

Yes, I can, without the slightest degree of hesitation. What is Polanyi’s “Great Transformation” about, if it’s not about the totalizing effects of capitalism, the way in which it reduces living labour into a lifeless commodity to be bought and sold, and the perverse ways in which ‘society’ responds to this? Polanyi doesn’t beat around the bush about capitalism and markets – in some ways he’s harsher than Grass. And as for the _in potentia_ bit, Grass refers explicitly to the “risk” of a new totalitarianism.

bq. What do you call the claim that those oppressed by globalization are, like those murdered by the Nazis, the victims of totalitarianism?

I call it a claim that Grass isn’t making – at no point does he try to equate the market and the Nazi regime, as you seem to be implying. Grass, as I note above, isn’t engaged in looking back to the Nazi era and reflecting on its lessons; he’s looking at the record of Germany in the post-war period. He simply isn’t trying to draw the kinds of parallels that you accuse him of trying to draw. Unless he was explicitly reflecting on the Nazi era (and he very obviously wasn’t) an interpretation which claims he is in some way trying to equate capitalism and Nazism is unsustainable. And while he’s politically eccentric in some ways, his stand against Nazism, and the willingness of the German state to brush parts of its past under the carpet, allow former Nazis into positions of influence etc is a highly honourable one. I really think that you need to reconsider your position on this one. It’s a reading and an interpretation which as far as I can see does a very considerable injustice to Grass. I simply don’t think that you can stand over the claim that he is “crypto-Nazi scum.”

24

PanJack 05.09.05 at 5:44 pm

I was mystified when Brad recently expanded his enemies list to include those who read William Blake’s poetry. I mean who could have anything against Blake?

But, then, it occurred to me that Billy Blake notable referred to “dark Satanic mills.” This, then, seems to have caused Brad to put Blake into the same category as Karl Marx and anyone interested in non-neoclassical economics.

You just can’t say anything against capitalism and be seen as worthy of respect by Brad.

25

Chris 05.09.05 at 5:46 pm

Brad,

There’s a lot that is silly in Grass’s article, and much that is hyperbolic. But numerous commenters on your own site have demonstrated that your reading of his piece veers from the uncharitable to the utterly perverse. Your concluding remark was “crypto-Nazi scum.” Nothing in your latest comment comes anywhere near justifying that, yet one presumes you posted it in self-justification. Instead of digging yourself deeper, I’d advise rereading the piece, thinking about what your numerous commenters have written, and either posting a retraction or simply deleting the post.

26

JR 05.09.05 at 5:47 pm

One can read dozens of entries on Prof DeLong’s own website in which he bemoans the “fools” and “idiots” who rule our country. Yet tthese “fools” have stolen one and perhaps two presidential elections, have coopted the press, are packing the courts, are dismantling what little we have in the way of social welfare, have demonized the opposition party, have barred debate in the legislature, are implementing a plan to stifle free expression in the universities, have put us on a permanent war footing, have made torture and imprisonment without trial acceptable, have imposed party discipline on corporations via their lobbyists, and are working steadily and ruthlessly to impose a permanent one-party system. Their outriding allies in the media praise them as the anointed of God, and talk openly about killing and jailing their political adversaries. Think for a moment about what kind of system Karl Rove would impose if he could, and where he will take us if he is not stopped.

Prof. Long, these people are not fools and idiots. They are totalitarians and they are winning. And who do you think funds them? Do you believe it’s all $10 checks from right-thinking Christians?

Grass was not equating the totalitarianism of capital with Nazis. You did that. But perhaps Grass sees something that you won’t allow yourself to see, and that is why you are so angry.

27

Jerry 05.09.05 at 5:49 pm

Brad, lie down and sleep it off. You’ll feel better tomorrow.

28

Colin Danby 05.09.05 at 5:58 pm

Just a quick follow-on to Brad, as #19 appeared after I started writing #21: your last para remains a tendentious reading of GG, and more generally it seems *logically* possible (even if mistaken) to think of “totalitarianism” as a larger transhistorical phenomenon, taking different forms, some of which may be much more viciously murderously evil than others. As someone pointed out at your blog, GG is adopting an artist’s privilege to oppose all isms on grounds of a sort of cantankerous humanism (of course that’s an ism too…). It should also be *logically* possible to use the lesson of the holocaust to warn against other evils even if those evils are lesser.

Anyway, look, I don’t find GG’s analysis persuasive, but surely we should be able to critically engage with an over-romantic social-democratic position without reaching for the foulest insults possible, or making contorted efforts to link it to Nazi logic. If you throw around the insult “Nazi” too freely, too easily, you expose yourself to exactly the same criticism you make of GG.

29

JR 05.09.05 at 6:18 pm

Per dq’s question- I don’t believe that DeLong had ever heard of Grass before yesterday. The tip-off is his description of Grass as “this Nobel laureate” – this is the only fact about him in DeLong’s post, and also the only fact that you can learn from the Times (“Günter Grass, the author of “The Tin Drum” and, most recently, “Crabwalk,” won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999.”) For Grass the Nobel is almost an afterthought to his role as a public intellectual. If you knew anything about him you wouldn’t seize on the prize as a descriptor.

30

gr 05.09.05 at 6:22 pm

Grass claims that “the threat to the state… Public Enemy No. 1, comes not from right-wing radicalism” but from the Social Democratic and Christian Democratic parties: “from the impotence of politics, which leaves citizens exposed and unprotected from the dictates of the economy.”

If this is intended by Grass as a lesson from German history the point is probably that the Nazis were able to take power only because representative democracy in Germany had already ceased to function by 1933, something no serious historian would dispute. Insofar as this breakdown was a necessary condition of the Nazi accession to power, it makes sense to say that this is what we have to fear most, or, put differently, that making democracy work is the best way to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

This point seems well taken even if one disagrees with Grass’s further claim that ‘capitalism’ or ‘globalization’ may threaten democracy.

If find Prof. De Long’s response immensely disappointing and lame, given the amount of well informed criticism on his own blog.

31

Richard Cownie 05.09.05 at 6:24 pm

>Part of what I think set Brad off is that he
>thinks of neoliberalism and representative
>democracy as a single package, and in general he
>has an economist’s tendency to collapse politics
>and society into economy.

But it’s perverse to misread the Grass piece as an
attack on democracy: his last paragraph even says
(from memory) “as conscious democrats, we should
freely resist the power of capital”. There’s not
the least ambiguity there: Grass is passionately
in favor of democracy. He’s equally clearly
opposed to *unrestrained* capitalism, when it
overrides social responsibility and subverts
democracy. I’m mystified that Brad finds any of
this objectionable – it seems that any Democrat
could agree with it, though many in the current
Republican party might differ.

32

Etan 05.09.05 at 6:25 pm

Brad, I have never commented on your site though I dearly love reading it and never fail to do so. Gunter Grass is precisely the sort of conscience driven artist Germany and other countries need. I suggest you read “Crabwalk,” as a superb reader of your site implicitly suggested. Know you are appreciated always, but may need to learn more about Grass. Thank you.

33

dq 05.09.05 at 6:33 pm

I haven’t followed Grass’ career as a public intellectual. I did, though, read the Tin Drum at about age 15 or so (and have not knowingly eaten eels since). It seems painful to me that someone would describe the author of the Tin Drum as a Nazi. Wow.

34

seth edenbaum 05.09.05 at 6:38 pm

I don’t expect much of anyone; not even myself. I’m anti-ideological, and I prize imagination precisely because it allows one to indulge in things- to make mistakes- without causing harm.
To use an appropriate simile, fascism is like a disease, and Grass was exposed to it at a young age, as my father was to the TB that killed his father. My father tested positive for his father’s disease just as just as Grass does. There are plenty of odd sounding phrases in Grass’ little speech. They make me laugh.
Grass is not a fascist and DeLong just show’s his insecurity as a defender of the ‘logic’ of capitalism by yelling as he does.
But DeLong has no imagination. I’d never want to hear him give an analysis of tragedy. I’d never want to read his poetry, and more to the point, I’d never want to hear his opinions on the persistence of poverty in Appalachia. As a humanist he sucks; because he isn’t one.

That being said, CT’ers are are fans of what others would call the intentional fallacy, so the idea of enjoying the unintended nuances of an author’s language might seem foreign to them.
I’d like to think- And I’ll bet anyone one month of my salary- that Grass would get a kick out of the discussion of the touches of fascism even in his mature work. That’s life.

35

konrad 05.09.05 at 6:45 pm

“What do you call the claim that those oppressed by globalization are, like those murdered by the Nazis, the victims of totalitarianism?”

I would call it crypto-Nazi without any hesitation, but Grass doesn’t make it. The only way in which he is likening the two is in their danger to societies to decide freely about their fates. It is crystal-clear to any benevolent reader that Grass would condemn any attempt to declare the moral equivalence of Nazism with anything. BTW, in European intellectuospeak, “totalitarian” is not only used in the narrow poli-sci sense, but it often stands for any idea that allows to regard human beings as mere instruments for an abstract principle. This is how many well-educated people over there think about laissez-faire economics, and we as economists should take it as our educational duty to convince them of the opposite (I admit that it can be at times a very onerous task).

36

john c. halasz 05.09.05 at 6:52 pm

Boys and girls, can you say “liberal McCarthyism”? Where is the list of things one must first denounce before one can broach the slightest criticism of the established “order” and ongoing processes and tendencies hidden and how can I access it to make sure my butt is always wiped clean?

37

Richard Cownie 05.09.05 at 6:54 pm

>There are plenty of odd sounding phrases in Grass’
>little speech

Come on now! Grass has won the Nobel Prize for
Literature; and this is a translation of his
speech. If you want to deconstruct it, you’d
better deconstruct the original German; and I
don’t buy the idea that a Nobel-calibre novelist
is stuck in the speech patterns of Nazi hacks.

38

markus 05.09.05 at 6:56 pm

FWIW, Prof. DeLong has one good argument for his accusation of an equation of the suffering of Nazi victims to the suffering of victims of capitalism. It is not in the text, but GG probably adhers to thesis that capitalism kills thousands every year. This belief is very common among the german left (in my limited experience) and not wholly without merit, (though short-sighted IMO) e.g. when considering the suffering caused by IMF and WB politics.
Still, that doesn’t make GG scum or a crypto-Nazi assuming these terms have any meaning at all rather than being just insults to throw around.

39

Randolph Fritz 05.09.05 at 7:14 pm

Brad, in the quote you cite, he’s talking about the process that brought the W. Bush administration to power–the process by which many of our conservative capitalists came to embrace something neither conservative nor capitalist.

And…you write as though you believe that that capitalism has a human heart. Do I have that right? Surely capitalism is an economic model that makes use of industrialism, not the Way? Can be, has been, turned to human purposes to be sure. But a human way of life in itself?

40

Vvoi 05.09.05 at 7:20 pm

i know this is not on topic, but i know you’re interested in the relationship of wittgenstein and art, and i have just stumbled upon this site:
http://www.the-tls.co.uk/this_week/story.aspx?story_id=2110663

http://new-art.blogspot.com

41

bob mcmanus 05.09.05 at 7:22 pm

I think this is the most important discussion on the web today. Not in order to bash DeLong or defend Grass, but because GG’s questions need to be answered. I probably go further than GG.

Are the current failures, flaws, and victims of the political economy a mere matter of technocratic incompetence, Prof DeLong’s “fools & idiots”? Is the neo-liberal analysis itself fatally flawed? Can we simply tinker at the margins and get a more efficient application and result? Prof DeLong’s prescription for SS reform demands honest competent outside administrators. Where is he going to find them?

jr said it above. The current system allows for the possibility of very bad people attaining power, stripping the national asset cupboard bare, and running off with the spoils. More than allows, encourages. Examples run from Enron to the US Treasury. This is a structural problem. A more enlightened oligarchy is no permanent answer.

Capitalism is the problem.

42

seth edenbaum 05.09.05 at 7:25 pm

“Grass has won the Nobel Prize for literature”
And Kissinger won the Peace prize.
But did I call Grass a hack? Did I insult him at all?

Have you even stood in awe as a group of Germans stood on the corner of a small street waiting for the light to change, with not one car in sight?
When I was under the illusion, briefly, that I might be getting a teaching position at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf my first thought was to have the students, in pairs or small groups, videotape each other walking against a stoplight and then interviewing the witnesses. Of course the students would be up for causing trouble but the point would be for them and their ‘audience’ to engage in a discussion of the meaning of responsibility. Neither the German saying “An order is an order” nor the adolescent “Fuck you!” being what I would consider valid arguments.

43

Richard Cownie 05.09.05 at 7:49 pm

>But did I call Grass a hack? Did I insult him at all?

No, I just find your theory both implausible –
since Grass is (or at least was for many years)
a very fine writer; and based on inadequate
evidence – the odd phrases may well be a result
of an inelegant or inaccurate translation, and
the original German text might be just fine.

In comments at Brad’s site, at least one commenter
has pointed out differences of details and of
tone between the “softer” original and the
translation. I don’t speak enough German to
offer my own opinion of the nuances.

As for the worth of Nobel prizes, they mean a
hell of a lot in the sciences, but the Peace
prize is always questionable. The Literature
prize is somewhere between those two extremes.
But you can’t question that Grass is a successful
and significant novelist.

44

sara 05.09.05 at 8:07 pm

It looks at if Professor DeLong hasn’t read Grass’ Dog Years, either, which deals even more directly with the Holocaust as experienced by ordinary Germans, with a good deal of bleak, black humor.

Teenage boys discuss Heidegger (the twists and turns of Heidegger are probably even more appalling in German) as a way of escaping from the war, around 1944, while an enormous pile of bones grows in the middle distance and can sometimes be smelled.

Grass a crypto-Nazi? Never. Unless Godwinism has reached the point where anyone who seems the least bit A-Negative to you can be called “objectively pro-fascist.”

A-Negative: authoritarian politics that are opposed to yours.

45

Jeffrey Miller 05.09.05 at 8:15 pm

Delong : “But what creeped me out above all else were two additional rhetorical moves by Grass. In the first, he perversely asserts that Germany is in fact morally elevated above Japan, Turkey, Spain, France, and Britain:”

Grass: “Compared with other nations which have
to live with shame acquired elsewhere – I’m thinking of Japan, Turkey, the former European colonial powers – we have not shaken off the burden of our past…”

Grass does not say what Delong says he says, as is clear enough to anyone who can read.

What is more troubling is the sense that I get from reading Delong’s mean spirited essay that if you are German, then you ought to feel some particular sense of responsibility and guilt for the Holocaust. I find this troubling because most Germans living today weren’t even born when the Holocaust was taking place. And most of those who were alive in the 30’s and 40’s were children or adolescents who clearly bear no responsibility for the crimes of the Nazis.

I find this kind of “thinking” troubling because it’s the same kind of primitive “thinking” that anti-Semites have used throughout the ages – that the Jews bear some kind of collective responsibility for the crucification of Christ.

By Delong’s “logic” you are somehow tarred by the accident of the country that you happen to be born in as a person who ought to bear some special shame. My Turkish friends should, according to the sense of Delong’s “argument” feel some particular personal responsibility for the genocide of the Armenians, when in fact they have no more to do with that that crime than my two year old son.

By Delong’s “logic”, I should feel personal shame over the institution of slavery in the U.S. (which was abolished about a century before my birth) simply because I was born in the United States (even though none of my ancestors lived in the U.S. before the civil war).

Delong: “The second is far uglier. The second is an absence: Grass writes 2191 words. Not one of them contains the syllable “Jew.” That cannot be an accident.”

“It was Hermann Goering [sic] who said, “A thousand years shall pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased.” Yet here after only sixty Guenter Grass finds the particular Nazi animus against Jews not worthy of mention.”

Again, what is the relevance of the word “Jew” to the point that Grass was making – that many of our democratic institutions have been corrupted by corporate power and money? What person in the U.S. who pays even moderate amount of attention to politics can deny that Grass’s point applies equally well to the U.S. congress, where bills are written by, and for the benefit, of powerful corporate interests?

Delong might as well require me to write the words “Abu Gharib” in everything I write simply because I’m an American and therefore am somehow responsible for the atrocities committed by my government, a government over which I have no control.

Delong: “Crypto-Nazi scum.”

I find it unbelievable that Delong could write these words about Grass – or almost anyone else for that matter. It’s just shocking. It’s the kind of language that people who really are fascists use. What processed him?

46

ogmb 05.09.05 at 8:15 pm

Maybe not Polanyi but his compatriot Soros: “In The Philosophy of History, Hegel discerned a disturbing historical pattern — the crack and fall of civilizations owing to a morbid intensification of their own first principles. Although I have made a fortune in the financial markets, I now fear that the untrammeled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society. The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.”

47

Neil 05.09.05 at 8:15 pm

I just don’t get Brad’s claim. He says that someone who says that those who are oppressed by globalisation are like those who were oppressed by fascism are “crypto-Nazi scum”. Leave aside whether GG said anything like this (*I* might, but GG didn’t – but we’re leaving this aside). The form of the argument is the following: anyone who says they oppose A and they oppose B must really support B! Huh?

48

ogmb 05.09.05 at 8:21 pm

For one thing it shows an appalling ignorance of the man’s life and work

Grass is as much crypto-Nazi scum as DeLong is a Communist fuck. The very ideas are just too stupid to even ponder.

49

Nell 05.09.05 at 8:22 pm

Anti-capitalists unhinge DeLong. It’s an odd defensiveness….

50

konrad 05.09.05 at 8:27 pm

“Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

Henry: Sorry for being too emotional in my comment, and please feel free to delete the original version of it since I really have no intention to spoil the so far admirably open-minded and down-to-earth tone of this discussion. I made a few changes, and I hope that the tone is acceptable this time:

The only way in which Grass is likening the globalization and Nazism is in their danger to the power of societies to decide freely about their fates. It seems clear to me that Grass would condemn any attempt to declare the moral equivalence of Nazism with anything. In the public discussion in Europe, “totalitarian” is commonly used not only in the narrow sense describing a political system, but it often stands for any idea that regards human beings as mere instruments for an abstract principle. This is how many well-educated people in Europe think about laissez-faire economics, and we as economists should take it as our educational duty to convince them of the opposite (I admit that it can be at times a very onerous task). After reading the NYT translation, I can only agree that many nuances of the German original are lost. For instance in the German version of the closing statement “We should resist the power of capital, which sees mankind as nothing more than something which consumes and produces.” the grammar makes clear that both “resist” and the relative phrase refer to “power” and not “capital” – a subtle but, in my view, essential difference.

51

seth edenbaum 05.09.05 at 9:20 pm

“Anti-capitalists unhinge DeLong. It’s an odd defensiveness….”
Yup

And to Richard Cownie, I’ll repeat that I didn’t insult Grass.

Grass is a novelist: he assumes that there’s more to his writing than what he’s aware of. He is ‘self aware’ in that he knows his awareness in incomplete, and like any writer who’s a craftsman first he cultivates that. He writes to examine not to explain; he’s a writer not an illustrator. DeLong doesn’t know the difference. And that makes me angry. Esthetically, politically, morally. Nothing about Grass’ language pisses me off. That the ‘German-ness’ makes me laugh is the highest compliment I can imagine.

52

tvd 05.09.05 at 9:41 pm

I enjoyed Mr. Edenbaum’s post above.

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Some seek to pierce the room’s ceiling or blow out the walls; others just rearrange the furniture. The parsers shall be the death of us all.

53

John Faughnan 05.09.05 at 9:47 pm

I’d posted on Grass writing before I read Brad’s note.

My post is here:

http://jfaughnan.blogspot.com/2005/05/germany-and-tyranny-of-banks-gunter.html

I wasn’t as direct as Brad, but the more I read the article the odder the taste. Germany is no longer “free” because of the power of the banks and international capitalism?

I was left wondering what alternative to representative democracy Mr. Grass was thinking of.

Brad was harsher and more direct than I, but I thought Grass was disturbing.

54

JR 05.09.05 at 9:53 pm

Seth Edenbaum, Grass is perfectly self-aware of his own tendencies and those of his fellow Germans. He sardonically alludes to them in this article: “We learned democracy and in doing so proved star pupils, because after all we were incontrovertibly German.” He well knows the German disease of following orders — even following orders on how to be free.

55

Richard Cownie 05.09.05 at 9:56 pm

>And to Richard Cownie, I’ll repeat that I didn’t insult Grass.

I accepted that. What I don’t accept is the idea
that English speakers, reading an English
translation of Grass, can identify phrases which
are echoes of Nazi rhetoric, and distinguish them
from phrases which are just typically German.
After all, Nazi rhetoric didn’t spring out of
nowhere, it must have evolved from earlier (and
less shocking) traditions of politics and
rhetoric, which Grass would be fully aware of
and perhaps happy to borrow from.

Maybe you have the credentials and the expertise
to make those fine distinctions, I sure don’t
know enough German literature and history to
contemplate it. And while I trust your good
intentions and appreciate your light-hearted
tone, a suggestion that Grass is “infected” with
Nazism might easily be misinterpreted.

Maybe Grass would find your suggestion amusing,
but maybe not – he sure does seem cranky these
days :-)

56

ogmb 05.09.05 at 11:04 pm

I’m getting a 403 Forbidden — You don’t have permission to access — error when I try to access Brad’s blog. Accident?

57

Brian Borchers 05.09.05 at 11:05 pm

One thing missing from the discussion is the back story on Grass. Grass has been a vocal supporter for the politics of the social democrats for all of his adult life. His novels have dealt extensively with the “national guilt” of the German people. His early novels clearly don’t support any sort of pro-nazi view. However, his most recent novel, Crabwalk, discusses the sinking of the refugee ship Wilhelm Gustoff (9,000 German refugees died) by a soviet submarine near the end of the war. Some on the left saw this as an implicit defense of the Nazis and an attempt to get out from under the guilt associated with the war. Others on the right quickly took up the refrain.

After reading the op-ed and DeLong’s response, I can only conclude that DeLong has bought into this criticism of Grass. He’s clearly reading way too much into the op-ed.

58

konrad 05.09.05 at 11:50 pm

ogmb: yes, accident. I had the same problem while I was using a computer in the library, and it was over when I tried again 10 minutes later.

59

Keith M Ellis 05.10.05 at 12:01 am

“Anti-capitalists unhinge DeLong. It’s an odd defensivenes…”

I don’t think it’s an odd defensiveness. I don’t think it’s defensiveness. I think it’s a variety of moral outrage. If I’m correct, it’s one I share with DeLong. Here’s a sort of an anecdote offeresed as an explanation: I dreamt the night before last that I was involved in an argument with someone opposed to offshoring. I pointed out that I was a smart, educated, talented, experienced IT worker but that for every person like me there were ten Indians who are smarter, better educated (in tech, at least), more talented, and harder working than me. They are very poor. They deserve that job more than me. For me, trade is a moral issue, a socially progressive issue. This (and related) is(are) an awkward position(s) to occupy on the left and those who find themselves there are often accused of being Quislings…even though they are motivated by the same very strong progressive social justice instincts as their critics. As I said on Brad’s blog, his criticism of Grass is unhinged (and ultimately quite false) but understandable in the context of what Grass says about capitalism.

“I agree that Brad is wont to give in to intemperate left-bashing now and then. And as someone pretty far out there on the left I’ve certainly found it distasteful…”

This topic deserves its own post, here or elsewhere. I unfailingly tend to be most angry with and critical of my supposed allies. I’m ambivalent about this…and it’s not like I haven’t pondered the problem for my entire adult life. I have. There’s complicated psychology involved in this, but—for me at least—there’s a simple explanation that explains the larger part of it. Mostly, it’s that I expect far less from my opponents than I do from my allies. There’s a left/right American stereotype involved in this as I grew up deep in Bible-belt conservative country and naively wholeheartedly believed that conservatives were bigoted cavemen while liberals were educated, thoughtful and admirable. The left has been deeply disapointing me since I was old enough to discover that reality isn’t so simple.

Other people are critical of their allies out of a sort of cowardice, I suspect. Still others honestly believe (as I do) that self-criticism is a fundamental virtue.

60

ogmb 05.10.05 at 12:20 am

Access problems explained: BdL redacts “crypto-Nazi scum” comment.

61

Keith M Ellis 05.10.05 at 12:35 am

Doesn’t look that way to me.

62

ogmb 05.10.05 at 12:37 am

Retracts. Sorry.

63

ivan 05.10.05 at 2:13 am

“Was Karl Polanyi, for example, a crypto-Fascist?”
Well, apperantly he came close, according to Samuel Brittan:

“Karl managed at the same time to idolise both Soviet economic planning and the 18th century slave-owning and cannibalistic West African state of Dahomey. Before we just say “so be it” it is worth learning that Karl refused to the bitter end to condemn the atrocities of Pol Pot in Cambodia which he regarded as at most unfortunate.”

64

Noah 05.10.05 at 2:25 am

Yes, yes, the New York Times Op-Ed page is in the habit of publishing the writings of “Crypto-Nazi scum.”

Or, maybe they were just too naive to see it? I. Don’t. Think. So.

65

Colin Danby 05.10.05 at 2:36 am

Ivan, Karl Polanyi died in 1964. While they existed earlier as an insurgency, the period of Khmer Rouge power in Cambodia was 1975-70. So Samuel Brittan’s charge, which I see here
http://www.samuelbrittan.co.uk/text90_p.html
looks eccentric at best. One might want to examine the “idolise” charges more closely too. Polanyi’s works are easy enough to find in libraries.

66

Colin Danby 05.10.05 at 2:38 am

sorry, should be 1975-79

67

JR 05.10.05 at 3:29 am

Published on Monday, April 7, 2003 by the Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Betrays Its Core Values
by Gunter Grass

BEHLENDORF, Germany — A war long sought and planned for is now underway. All deliberations and warnings of the United Nations notwithstanding, an overpowering military apparatus has attacked preemptively in violation of international law. No objections were heeded. The Security Council was disdained and scorned as irrelevant. As the bombs fall and the battle for Baghdad continues, the law of might prevails.
And based on this injustice, the mighty have the power to buy and reward those who might be willing and to disdain and even punish the unwilling. The words of the current American president — “Those not with us are against us” — weighs on current events with the resonance of barbaric times. It is hardly surprising that the rhetoric of the aggressor increasingly resembles that of his enemy. Religious fundamentalism leads both sides to abuse what belongs to all religions, taking the notion of “God” hostage in accordance with their own fanatical understanding. Even the passionate warnings of the pope, who knows from experience how lasting and devastating the disasters wrought by the mentality and actions of Christian crusaders have been, were unsuccessful.
Disturbed and powerless, but also filled with anger, we are witnessing the moral decline of the world’s only superpower, burdened by the knowledge that only one consequence of this organized madness is certain: Motivation for more terrorism is being provided, for more violence and counter-violence. Is this really the United States of America, the country we fondly remember for any number of reasons? The generous benefactor of the Marshall Plan? The forbearing instructor in the lessons of democracy? The candid self-critic? The country that once made use of the teachings of the European Enlightenment to throw off its colonial masters and to provide itself with an exemplary constitution? Is this the country that made freedom of speech an incontrovertible human right?
It is not just foreigners who cringe as this ideal pales to the point where it is now a caricature of itself. There are many Americans who love their country too, people who are horrified by the betrayal of their founding values and by the hubris of those holding the reins of power. I stand with them. By their side, I declare myself pro-American. I protest with them against the brutalities brought about by the injustice of the mighty, against all restrictions of the freedom of expression, against information control reminiscent of the practices of totalitarian states and against the cynical equations that make the death of thousands of women and children acceptable so long as economic and political interests are protected.
No, it is not anti-Americanism that is damaging the image of the United States; nor do the dictator Saddam Hussein and his extensively disarmed country endanger the most powerful country in the world. It is President Bush and his government that are diminishing democratic values, bringing sure disaster to their own country, ignoring the United Nations, and that are now terrifying the world with a war in violation of international law.
We Germans often are asked if we are proud of our country. To answer this question has always been a burden. There were reasons for our doubts. But now I can say that the rejection of this preemptive war on the part of a majority in my country has made me proud of Germany. After having been largely responsible for two world wars and their criminal consequences, we seem to have made a difficult step. We seem to have learned from history.
The Federal Republic of Germany has been a sovereign country since 1990. Our government made use of this sovereignty by having the courage to object to those allied in this cause, the courage to protect Germany from a step back to a kind of adolescent behavior. I thank Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, for their fortitude in spite of all the attacks and accusations, from abroad and from within.
Many people find themselves in a state of despair these days, and with good reason. Yet we must not let our voices, our no to war and yes to peace, be silenced. What has happened? The stone that we pushed to the peak is once again at the foot of the mountain. But we must push it back up, even with the knowledge that we can expect it to roll back down again.

68

Jeremy Osner 05.10.05 at 7:35 am

ogmb — Brad does not appear to have retracted his “crypto-Nazi scum” comment; he crossed out his assertion that Grass “perversely elevate[s]” Germany above other culpable nations, apparently by way of conceding that he misread that bit, but the “crypto-Nazi scum” label (I think the most objectionable thing of several in the post) stands.

69

abb1 05.10.05 at 7:47 am

Pardon me – is this ‘Ann Coulter’ thread? Ah, sorry, never mind.

70

Luc 05.10.05 at 9:31 am

The German version was much easier to digest for me.

http://www.zeit.de/2005/19/01___grass_teil_1

Whether the translation is any good I don’t know.

But “anders verschuldeter Schande” looks much better than “shame acquired elsewhere”.

(And the first line of the last par. is the last line of the previous par. in the German version. That wouldn’t matter much, but it is the one quoted by Delong.)

Small differences, but if you can manage the German, i’d recommend reading the German version.

71

Nick 05.10.05 at 10:19 am

Seth, a sub-thread almost gone cold – some years ago visiting American friends in Stuttgart, I was told of an extraordinary scene they’d witnessed. A group of students dutifully crossing the road found their way blocked by a police-car which ground to a halt, inconsiderately, halfway over the crossing. The students shook their fists and remonstrated with the police. To my friends’ astonishment, the police apologised and gently reversed their car. We discussed the likelihood that the students would, in London or New Orleans, have had the living **** beaten out of them. I think your road-safety video-and-interview experiment needs to have a control group to be meaningful . . .

72

JayAnne 05.10.05 at 12:08 pm

Nick (and Seth); I stood by a crossing in Frankfurt waiting for the lights to change (“When in Rome etc.”). The Germans simply crossed the road, one or two looking back at me, raising their eyebrows. Frankfurt’s said to be atypical, still…

73

Cultural Revolution 05.10.05 at 12:26 pm

Yeah Seth, if you’re equating German patience at ped crossings to soulless order-following during WWII, what present-day analogues could be found for the “fuck everyone else, it’s my fucking train, my fucking world” attitude that one encounters waiting for the NYC subway doors to open?

74

Richard Cownie 05.10.05 at 12:34 pm

>what present-day analogues could be found for the
>“fuck everyone else, it’s my fucking train, my
>fucking world” attitude

Bush’s foreign policy :-)

75

ogmb 05.10.05 at 12:57 pm

the “crypto-Nazi scum” label (I think the most objectionable thing of several in the post) stands.

Different browser settings? In my version (IE6) the Crypto-Nazi scum is now crossed out, along with the “morally elevated” claim.

76

Mrs Tilton 05.10.05 at 1:17 pm

Frankfurt is a bit different, but it’s not New York (where no pedestrian in recorded history, so far as I know, has waited for the ‘walk’ signal).

Frankfurters will jaywalk from time to time. Most don’t; but most won’t give you that familiar German look of shocked indignation if you do.

At most pedestrian crossings, most German cities have a wee sign saying, anglice, ‘Give children an example: cross only on green’. There’s something to that thought, and as a result I usually rein in my impulses and wait for the change. (There are a number of schools in the area, and many of the streets are busy.) Walking home from the office late at night, though, I can’t be bothered. Any kids out and about at those hours are beyond my influence.

77

Tobias 05.10.05 at 2:21 pm

Mrs T.,

I agree, the StVO is pretty much a historical document as far as pedestrian street-crossing is concerned. As far as kids are concerned – I thought crossing the street without waiting for green where there is no danger would be a positive demonstration of common sense – however, a child psychologist told me kids simply aren’t as able as grown ups to estimate speed and remaining distances to possibly approching cars. So – now I’m waiting when kids are around…

Interesting development for this discussion though – from crypto nazi scum to road crossing. Maybe Godwin’s law has to be amended ;).

78

Jeremy Osner 05.10.05 at 2:47 pm

different browser settings?

Ok I spoke too soon. Brad has indeed crossed off the comment I find most objectionable, though he did it in a way illegible to Firefox — looks like it has to do with his placing the strike tags outside of the paragraph tags — in IE it shows up correctly.

79

Henry 05.10.05 at 2:50 pm

Yes – have looked at it in IE and that appears to be right – will change my post accordingly.

80

Felix Deutsch 05.10.05 at 2:54 pm

Great. Now all my posts on the thread over at DeLong are deleted and I’m banned.

The Great Man doesn’t like to have his errors pointed out, it seems.

81

ogmb 05.10.05 at 3:15 pm

Thus, his restatement is considerably more generous than I first thought, and most of the above update is thus entirely redundant.

No it isn’t.

82

ogmb 05.10.05 at 3:18 pm

Oops, sorry. Missed the word “update”. I thought you claimed your whole post was made redundant.

83

ogmb 05.10.05 at 3:44 pm

Felix’s comments on Brad’s blog, from my browser cache:

>”Grass’s scorn for the Bundestag . . . is the classical fascist condemnation of the cretinism of parliaments.”

Except that his scorn is not for the parliarmentary democracy per se, but for its current form, undermined by special interests and basically unable to affect social policy because e.g. multinational corporations don’t even pay taxes.

Posted by: Felix Deutsch | May 9, 2005 12:31 PM

>Brad doesn’t seem to ever reply to comments, but now he’s tacked on a postscript whose intent seems to be to link Grass to the East Germans and Soviets.

That is not true, of course. Only in comparison to the narratives of the West jewish victims were relatively less prominent, for the simple fact that the dead commies (not few of them jewish) were seldomly mentioned.

How he squares that with the fact that in the East former Nazis were severly punished while they went relativly unscathed in the West and even rose to prominent positions in government, economy and academia (not to mention Project Paperclip, Organisation Gehlen and the Rat Line) is anyones’s guess.

I guess next he’ll claim that the Nazis really were socialists and commies and such folk and he’ll have come full circle.

Posted by: Felix Deutsch | May 10, 2005 10:15 AM

84

Felix Deutsch 05.10.05 at 3:48 pm

Thus, his restatement is considerably more generous than I first thought, and most of the above update is thus entirely redundant.

There’s still the bullet points (which are basically his whole post) where he consistenly “misunderstands” Grass in every instant.

This is malice, not stupidity.

85

abb1 05.10.05 at 3:51 pm

…looks like it has to do with his placing the strike tags outside of the paragraph tags…

That cannot be an accident.

86

Jeremy Osner 05.10.05 at 4:00 pm

Yeah I’ve noticed a pattern of malicious misplacement of html tags among the apologists for the cruelty of capitalism…

87

Felix Deutsch 05.10.05 at 4:08 pm

Yeah I’ve noticed a pattern of malicious misplacement of html tags among the apologists for the cruelty of capitalism…

Very funny.

Now disregarding abb1’s conspiracy theories regarding W3C compliance of IE, doesn’t this aside from DeLong sound kind of strange?

“[Jacob Levy has pointed out to me that the Soviet and East German narratives of the Nazis had no place for the Jews either.]”

First of all it’s not true, but how could this be relevant? The commies (being anticapitalist) were also crypto-nazi scum?

88

abb1 05.10.05 at 4:20 pm

…but how could this be relevant…

Somehow he’s turned into Jerry Seinfeld’s uncle Leo.

89

Matt 05.10.05 at 4:21 pm

I don’t know anything about the “East German narrative” of the 2nd world war. I know a bit about the Soviet/Russian narrative, from having looked at some Russian text books for Jr. high/early highschool kids, and having spent quite a bit of time talking about it with my Russian friends. Levy is right that there’s much less discussion of the holocaust and of the suffering of the Jews by the Nazis. This is probably bad, but it’s not exactly unexplainable. It seems pretty reasonable to me that the Soviets/Russians feel that the worst part of the Nazi period was the attack on the Soviet Union, given that 20+ million Soviet citizens died in the war and that this was fairly clearly a war of extermination against the Soviets as well. Given their own history, it’s pretty understandable that they focus on what happend to them. Should they give more attention to the holocaust? Probably so, but what they do do is not so hard to understand. I get the impression that the conclusion we’re supposed to draw from the remark (perhaps especially given its source) is that these darn anti-capitalist sorts just don’t feel for the suffering of the Jews. If that’s right, it’s a pretty low shot.

90

Felix Deutsch 05.10.05 at 4:28 pm

Somehow he’s turned into Jerry Seinfeld’s uncle Leo.

LOL.

Sadly, this sort of thing is much funnier on TV. And Leo was much more reasonable than DeLong.

91

Felix Deutsch 05.10.05 at 4:37 pm

Levy is right that there’s much less discussion of the holocaust and of the suffering of the Jews by the Nazis. This is probably bad, but it’s not exactly unexplainable.

Especially if you think about that in comparison the leftist victims were pretty much left out of the western cold-war narrative. So relatively, the eastern narrative might be surprising for somebody unaware of his own prejudices.

It seems pretty reasonable to me that the Soviets/Russians feel that the worst part of the Nazi period was the attack on the Soviet Union, given that 20+ million Soviet citizens died in the war and that this was fairly clearly a war of extermination against the Soviets as well.

Of which many were jewish citizens as well.

Given their own history, it’s pretty understandable that they focus on what happend to them. Should they give more attention to the holocaust? Probably so, but what they do do is not so hard to understand.

I agree. Given the total loss, it’s not unreasonable.

92

Henry 05.10.05 at 4:44 pm

Jacob is incontrovertibly right when he talks about the record of the GDR on Jews. For a variety of reasons, that had little to do with the Soviet experience in WWII, and everything to do with the propaganda needs of the East German state, the suffering of the Jews in concentration camps was underplayed when it wasn’t ignored altogether. Instead, memorials etc emphasized the role of the Communists, who were indeed rounded up and put in concentration camps, but who suffered a great deal less than the Jewish inmates. To say that this was “not unreasonable” is to tread on some very thin historical ice indeed. I’d suggest that you should look into the history very carefully, and reflect on it, before giving the GDR a free pass on this. Especially if you want to start making loaded comparisons with how the West neglected leftist victims. Either you don’t know what you’re talking about here (which I suspect and hope is the case), or you are making some pretty nasty and unjustifiable claims.

93

Matt 05.10.05 at 4:51 pm

Henry,

I don’t know if you are looking at my post or not, but if you do, you’ll see that I specifically said that I knew nothing about the East German story and was speaking only of the Soviet/Russian narrative. I know something about that, and said what I knew about it. You’ve said nothing about that. If you think I am giving the GDR a “free pass” you’re veering into DeLong level miss-readings, since I don’t discuss them at all. I’m happy to take your word on it. My discussion was completely about the Soviet/Russian narrative, which I do think is “not unreasonable” though I do think it is not perfect, as I also said.

94

Henry 05.10.05 at 4:52 pm

Matt – I’m referring to Felix rather than you.

95

Matt 05.10.05 at 4:56 pm

Okay- just that he was quoting me. Perhaps out of context, but still was quoting my remarks. Sorry if I got too worked up.

96

Felix Deutsch 05.10.05 at 4:59 pm

Henry,

given the special case of the GDR, I agree with you re the propaganda needs. After all, it wasn’t all formerly persecuted card-carrying KPD members in the GDR (to put it mildly).
But at least the Nazis didn’t raise to prominence, government positions, academia and industry as in the West.

97

ogmb 05.10.05 at 5:36 pm

Levy is right with his comment. The invidiousness of Brad’s addition is the word either, i.e. like Grass, the Communist regimes ignored the Jews. Brad, seeing himself seriously trounced on all of his claims re the Grass-Nazi connection, is retreating to the position where he thinks he holds the moral high ground by playing the Jew card. Grass doesn’t mention the plight of the Jews by name (even though he mentions concentrationcamp survivors), so the only possible explanation is that he tries to erase their historical role from memory: Schuldverschweigung instead of Schuldverneinung. This is of course idiotic on its face, both from Grass’s biography and his comments in the essay: A particularly infamous distortion of facts can be seen even today in speeches and publications, with the crimes perpetrated by Germans described as “misdeeds perpetrated in the name of the German people.”

98

junius ponds 05.10.05 at 9:39 pm

>Anti-capitalists unhinge DeLong. It’s an odd defensiveness….

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junius ponds 05.10.05 at 9:41 pm

What I meant to say was that DeLong hung out on the lbo-talk list at one point.

(I’ve noticed that CT cuts off the rest of my post when I use the left brace/less than sign for quotations)

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Randolph Fritz 05.10.05 at 11:29 pm

Well, drat. This public computer doesn’t even have IE.

101

Randolph Fritz 05.10.05 at 11:37 pm

By the way, using <strike> is not per-HTML 4.01. Let us condemn an eminent economist to writing cross-platform HTML/CSS, an appallingly difficult thing, as punishment.

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abb1 05.11.05 at 2:07 am

The Nazi regime murdered millions of human beings. The Nazis identified them as ‘Jews’, ‘Gypsies’, ‘perverts’, etc. I am sure a majority of those who died in concentration camps and places like Babi Yar in Kiev would strongly disagree that ‘Jew’, ‘Gypsy’ or ‘homosexual’ was their defining characteristic, if at all. So, kudos to Guenter Grass, let us stop being crypto-Nazis.

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stostosto 05.11.05 at 2:12 am

Brad DeLong’s hysteric and ignorant diatribe is depressing evidence that the sustained anti-European smear campaign by right-wing American commentators like Charles Krauthammer and Victor David Hanson has an effect.

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nolo commentre 05.11.05 at 2:17 am

I’m unsure as to whether Delong’s bullet points – still unretracted – are on the money or not. They seem somewhat strained to me, but when Grass writes things like “governments of both national entities sought to present themselves as model pupils of their respective dominating powers,” I don’t think “Grass is great, what was Delong smoking” is much of a response. I can see Delong’s bullet points as very possibly containing insight into where Grass’s mind is currently at.

(It’s an obvious point, but it’s one thing to present yourself as a model pupil when you have no other option, and another when you do. And Delong does live in the adopted city of Milosz, eh?).

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Barry Freed 05.11.05 at 2:30 am

Brad DeLong’s hysteric and ignorant diatribe is depressing evidence that the sustained anti-European smear campaign by right-wing American commentators like Charles Krauthammer and Victor David Hanson has an effect.

Either that or it’s evidence that the Bush administrations gutting of EPA regulations limiting mercury emissions is having an effect.

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moni 05.11.05 at 3:13 am

So, where are the calls for Prof. DeLong to resign? Or does that happen only to those professors who use the nazi epithet for their own fellow Americans?

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JR 05.11.05 at 8:34 am

“I am sure a majority of those who died in concentration camps and places like Babi Yar in Kiev would strongly disagree that ‘Jew’, ‘Gypsy’ or ‘homosexual’ was their defining characteristic, if at all.”

“I am sure that” = “I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.”

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Doctor Slack 05.11.05 at 11:58 am

De Long’s restatement is far from “generous,” it seems to me. It’s just slightly less poisonous. From what I can see, the ugly and ludicrous implications about some sort of anti-Semitism on Grass’ part are still there, and the absurdly clumsy bullet points are still unretracted. He’s just digging the hole deeper.

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Oskar Shapley 05.11.05 at 1:33 pm

If anything, G. Grass is “Crypto-Chomsky scum”.

QUOTE CHOMSKY: “The U.S. is a business-run society, which means that human rights are subordinated to the overwhelming, overriding need of profit for investors. Decisions are placed in the hands of unaccountable private tyrannies, which means that even if formal democratic practices exist, as they do, they’re of peripheral significance.”

“Government has a defect, its potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect, they are pure tyrannies.”

Brad said: What do you call the claim that those oppressed by globalization are, like those murdered by the Nazis, the victims of totalitarianism?

Genocide is not part of the definition of totalitarianism. It’s a side effect. Here, look it up:

http://www.bartleby.com/65/to/totalita.html

totalitarianism, modern autocratic government in which the state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of its citizens. A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but the attitudes, values, and beliefs of its population, erasing the distinction between state and society. The citizen’s duty to the state becomes the primary concern of the community, and the goal of the state is the replacement of existing society with a perfect society.

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Richard Cownie 05.11.05 at 1:49 pm

>He’s just digging the hole deeper.

I agree. By revising the post but letting his
perverse and insulting misreadings stand, Brad
just digs deeper. Grass’ reputation can stand
this with no problem; I’m not so sure that Brad’s
can.

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ogmb 05.11.05 at 2:07 pm

So, where are the calls for Prof. DeLong to resign? Or does that happen only to those professors who use the nazi epithet for their own fellow Americans?

I’m still fighting with myself over this, whether to pass it on to the chancellor’s office or the Daily Cal. Given that most of the comments here and on his blog came from people who have/previously had a high opinion of Brad I would expect the campus community to be far less charitable in their reaction.

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nolo commentre 05.11.05 at 6:46 pm

“I’m still fighting with myself over this, whether to pass it on to the chancellor’s office or the Daily Cal.”

It’s not as if Delong’s post in this instance is atypical; it may be a little more hard core than usual, but Delong’s MO is the thoughtful observation married to the indignant, perhaps over-the-top outburst. The only thing different in this instance is the leftist politics and writerly attractiveness of his chosen target.

You could send the chancellor’s office or the Daily Cal hundreds of identically “offensive” posts.

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ogmb 05.11.05 at 8:01 pm

Bullshit.

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junius ponds 05.11.05 at 10:14 pm

Come to think of it, the last time I heard “Crypto-Nazi” used was in the context of the Vidal/Buckley dust-up during the ’68 Democratic convention:

http://www.pitt.edu/~kloman/debates.html

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ogmb 05.11.05 at 11:21 pm

“stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in you goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.”

I could see Grass respond like that to DeLong.

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Barry Freed 05.11.05 at 11:32 pm

Has Brad’s second and latest post on Grass been noted. Hey Brad, stop digging, you know. And apologize.

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JR 05.12.05 at 1:45 am

Brad’s 2nd post, which adopts a tone of sweet reason intended to disarm readers while resolutely ignoring all comments to his 1st post (and all comments here), is a masterpiece of bad faith.

118

moni 05.12.05 at 3:06 am

I don’t know, nolo, but I have a feeling that if this had happened in Germany, rather than in America, it’d be on the news and politicians would condemn it and other professors would take distance and maybe the university would think about whether they want to keep employing a professor prone to juvenile outbursts and grossly dishonest and ignorant misreadings for the sake of polemics. I have a feeling German professors throw around the nazi epithet less lightly, for obvious reasons that they may know their history a bit better than Prof. De Long here. I may be wrong, but that’s my impression.

Maybe you’re right, and there’s a lot more out there among US academics that is exactly along these veins, and it always gets a free pass, but that’s not much of an excuse, is it?

I’m not saying he should be made to resign, you know, just wondering why the reaction is limited to a weblog discussion.

119

Keith M Ellis 05.12.05 at 3:13 am

Oh, give me a freakin’ break.

120

MFB 05.12.05 at 4:55 am

I don’t think he should be made to resign his position — after all, competence and human decency are hardly requirements for being an economics professor these days.

But I do think that liberal weblogs should update their list of links.

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moni 05.12.05 at 6:15 am

Right, my bad, I forgot about John Lott already… Nevermind my naive question then.

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Richard Cownie 05.12.05 at 7:08 am

I disagree strongly with both the content and tone
of Brad’s posts. And I will strongly defend his
right to say it. If he wants to make an idiot of
himself in the blogosphere, that is his absolute
right. And if you want to get professors thrown
out of academia just for being stubborn idiots,
then who would be left ?

At this point, it’s just sad.

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moni 05.12.05 at 8:00 am

And if you want to get professors thrown
out of academia just for being stubborn idiots,
then who would be left ?

No of course, freedom of speech uber alles, especially for those who defend the things that need defending, like, uhm, the poor venture capitalists who must have no doubt felt so humiliated by GG’s ‘totalitarian danger’.

If DeLong had slandered a business company, he’d be having his ass sued all the way to Berkeley. But a German writer is fair game.

For the record, I don’t think anyone should lose their job based on even the ugliest rhetoric and misrepresentation of other people’s work. However, my question, even if a naive one, was just about the disparity of reactions to this kind of rhetoric, depending on who makes use of it and whose side they’re on.

You know, I could have said, the sky is blue and the sea is green, it’s that obvious, no?

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moni 05.12.05 at 8:05 am

3rd par. should be amended to: “For the record, I don’t think anyone should lose their job based exclusively on even the ugliest rhetoric and misrepresentation of other people’s work.”

It’s up to his employers to take that decision, obviously. Maybe his work is so brilliant it makes up for this kind of crap, I don’t know. I’m talking of wider reactions, not direct impositions or decisions that no one else except his university can take.

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ogmb 05.12.05 at 2:47 pm

You have to scroll all the way down on his page, so the crow-eating clearly doesn’t come easy to him, but Brad updated his original post.

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