The strange death of Anglo-American liberalism

by Henry on May 31, 2017

I’ve been thinking about this Gideon Rachman piece over the last 24 hours:

despite her cautious phrasing, Ms Merkel has also behaved irresponsibly — making a statement that threatens to widen a dangerous rift in the Atlantic alliance into a permanent breach. … it is a mistake to allow four months of the Trump presidency to throw into doubt a Transatlantic alliance that has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years …Ms Merkel was unwise and unfair to bracket the UK with Trump’s America. In the climate change discussions, Britain sided with the EU — not the US. … if Ms Merkel’s government pursues the Brexit negotiations in the current confrontational spirit — demanding that the UK commit to vast upfront payments, before even discussing a trade deal — she risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and a lasting antagonism between Britain and the EU. It is hard to see how the UK can be expected to see the same countries as adversaries in the Brexit negotiations and allies in the Nato context. So a really hard Brexit could indeed raise questions about Britain’s commitment to Nato — particularly if the US is also pulling back from the western alliance.

Not so much the broader argument (which I disagree with, but in obvious ways) than what the specifics say about the current state of Financial Times liberalism.

For a very long time, the Financial Times had a pretty clear position in debate. It was the organ that made Britain’s case in Europe, and Europe’s case in Britain. That went along with a certain style of argument. Committed to free markets, but with a undertone that they had to have decent outcomes. Pro concerted action to solve international problems such as global warming. Very much in favor of Europe’s role in helping to cement democracy in Eastern Europe and always ready to deplore backsliding and corruption. Broadly in favor of small-l liberalism with respect to the more dubious authoritarian tendencies of both British and continental states. Economic inequality was always a dicey set of issues for a newspaper whose financial model depended in part on the “How to Spend It” supplement. Perhaps that helps explain the Chris Giles on Piketty farrago. But still, on most issues, there was a reasonably well-defined possibility space of vaguely-left liberal to vaguely-right liberal positions, triangulating between European and UK perspectives, from which FT writers (and readers) could draw.

That has all changed. I used to know Gideon Rachman very slightly – not nearly well enough to provide any specific insights into his underlying positions. But merely on the basis of what’s in the text, I think that it’s reasonable to interpret this op-ed as a kind of anger shading into grief. What is plausibly upsetting is not the attack on Trump, which is reasonable and to be expected, or even the terms of a Brexit deal, which FT writers have been banging on about for all the obvious reasons since the vote happened. It’s Merkel’s “unfair” suggestion that Trump’s America and May’s Britain are the same kind of problem, states that Europe simply can’t rely on any more. Dealing with the Brexit whiplash is bad enough, without the Germans rubbing salt and grit into the wounds on your back by suggesting that they’re well shot of you anyway. Europhile British liberals don’t have much of a place to go these days, apart from the Liberal Democrats (but I repeat myself). More broadly, without being able to triangulate between the European and UK positions, they don’t have any obvious levers to change debate, and, possibly, outcomes.

It’s hard to see how the UK will return to liberalism in the foreseeable future, given the position of the two major parties (maybe a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, where the latter had enough power and seats to drive a credible bargain with centrist Tories could do it? I’d be skeptical). The Democrats in the US might return to liberalism, under some constellations of leadership, but probably a weaker form than in the past. The current standard bearers of liberalism have French names – Macron and Trudeau – and run second or third ranked powers. In the former case, I can’t help wondering what liberalism with French characteristics will end up looking like.

This has interesting, but complicated implications for the continent. Continental European commentators used to treat “Anglo-American liberalism” as the enemy. Now, neither the UK nor the US is liberal, under any plausible definition of the term. The quest for ‘reform’ on mainland Europe has been driven both by pragmatic considerations (trying to deal with deficits and fiscal problems) and ideological ones. Some of the ideological structures are still intact – the European Central Bank and parts of the European Commission – but they don’t have the systematic support of a major state any more, let alone the unconscious presumed authority of a dominant ideology. It could be that the fiscal impetus of Germany’s external politics will keep on pushing for a ‘retrenchment’ that amounts to marketization. But perhaps not, too.

Unless things change again, there won’t be much space left for the ‘decent’ market liberalism that the FT used to reflect, and I suspect that the newspaper will gradual change to reflect this. If I’m right in this prediction, and if, as I suspect, it will be replaced by worse things, I’ll be sorry to see it go. Dave Roberts had a series of tweets a couple of days ago, arguing that the craziness of the US right has, as well as its more obvious malign effects, led to worse argument, because when the left doesn’t have anyone intelligent to debate with, shared flaws across its own arguments are going to go undetected. That’s likely going to be more of a problem for non-US leftists in the future (that it may be the least of these problems isn’t any particular consolation).

{ 87 comments }

1

MisterMr 05.31.17 at 6:29 pm

Some months ago Gentiloni, the current italian premier, said that brexit offered an opportunity for strenghtening european military integration, so in some sense Merkel’s opinion is part of a general trend.

I think that what we are seeing now is the collapse of the cold war world order, although it’s happening some decades late and it will still likely take a lot of time.

In some sense modern day liberalism is a product of the post WW2 order, so it is natural that it finds itself walking in the air like Wyle Coyote once this order disappears below its feet.

2

Andre Mayer 05.31.17 at 6:40 pm

Interesting; but surely the wrong starting point? Merkel has come around to where De Gaulle was a half-century ago, when “Anglo-Saxon” liberalism was presumably much healthier.

3

Jonathan 05.31.17 at 8:37 pm

Rather in keeping with this, the FT has now decided to endorse the Conservatives for the election (albeit with weak caveats). https://www.ft.com/content/67949e4a-45e2-11e7-8d27-59b4dd6296b8

4

engels 05.31.17 at 8:43 pm

Committed to free markets, but with a undertone that they had to have decent outcomes.

That’s a bit like being committed to golden mountains or round squares.

5

Stephen 05.31.17 at 9:16 pm

Andre Mayer is correct in general but perhaps somewhat overstated. Merkel’s declaration is not, and may not become, as emphatic as de Gaulle’s withdrawing the French navy from NATO/OTAN in 1963, and all their military in 1966. Or his vision of “l’Europe, depuis l’Atlantique jusqu’à l’Oural, c’est toute l’Europe, qui décidera du destin du monde” (Britain was, I think, regarded as somewhere out in the Atlantic). Or his nuclear deterrent “à tous azimuts” which seemed to include potential enemies to the north and west as well as east.

De Gaulle was of course moved by the intolerable humiliations of France being assisted then liberated by “les Anglo-Saxons” in 1940-44. When Henry writes “Continental European commentators used to treat ‘Anglo-American liberalism’ as the enemy” I think he could omit liberalism. Some French in my experience still agree with de Gaulle; some had borne a grudge for 1940. How far some East Germans still deplore the Western allies actions over that period, I could not possibly say.

And when Gideon Rachman wrote “if Ms Merkel’s government pursues the Brexit negotiations in the current confrontational spirit — demanding that the UK commit to vast upfront payments, before even discussing a trade deal — she risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and a lasting antagonism between Britain and the EU”, who is to say he was wrong?

6

kidneystones 05.31.17 at 9:39 pm

Hi Henry, thanks for this. A couple of thoughts. First, I’ve little argument with your general remarks regarding the move away from a liberalism of the past and the likely trajectory of the FT. I’m surprised, however, by your (apparent?) willingness to plant your flag in what looks to me to be thin air. Namely, ‘reports’ of discord and ‘crazed’ arguments from the right. I’m not sure the right and the left ever had entirely coherent arguments and I’ll certainly conceded it’s easier to see the crazy in Trump’s flip-flop tweets, for example. I’d strongly caution reading too much into reports in the FT about words, however. The recent Kennedy school study of coverage of the administration confirms a highly atypical manner of reporting that is often at odds with realities. I’m certainly not defending any partisan, or position (at least, here), but rather stressing that there’s rarely been a worse time to parse reality from press reports for reasons that are too obvious to detail again.
A number of IR observers (including those hostile to the new president) praised the Saudi trip and the administrations relations with both Japan and China. Hostile commentary of both Trump and Merkel re: Germany, including the FT report, make clear that there are merits in Trump’s critique of NATO member contributions, for example.
In short, we’re less than six months into the new presidency. There’s a great deal of evidence suggesting it’s business as usual despite all the pre and post-election bombast and hysteria ( bombings still popular eg), a soaring stock market, and little evidence of imminent economic collapse. I very much doubt that America will abandon the special relationship with Britain and Europe as long as the majority of the US population can trace their ancestry back across the Atlantic. I also think this special relationship post 1945 was a consequence of a particular set of realities, realities that have changed, and was always less robust than politicians claimed. You know far more about markets and international trade than I, but it seems to me that Germany’s ability to export into Britain and the US are far more critical to US-German relations than any of the gases rising out of the swamp. The US has evidently elected to end any efforts to destabilize pro-Russia governments in eastern Europe, which seems to me wise. There’s a great deal of posturing by those who have constituencies that love posturing, but beyond that very little has changed, despite the concerted effort by concerned parties (not you) to make recent events ‘truly exceptional’ and ‘unprecedented.’

7

Tabasco 06.01.17 at 1:27 am

Too much is being made of Merkel said in a beer hall in Bavaria. She is in the midst of an election campaign and her remarks were primarily for domestic consumption.

As for the FT, well yes, they look like they might be stranded on liberal island. They might pin their hopes on Macron – who else have they got? – but that would be longest of long shots, since at core he is an ENA-rque with just a hint of liberal characteristics.

8

Ebenezer Scrooge 06.01.17 at 2:09 am

I think Henry might be too pessimistic about American liberalism. Trump and the Trumpies are certainly not liberals. (I won’t use the f-word.) But the American Presidency is a brittle thing–very powerful when supported by other domestic institutions, but frangible on its own. Most of the more powerful American institutions–big finance, big commerce, big media, and wealthy states–are still more liberal than not.

9

Pavel A 06.01.17 at 5:13 am

@6

“A number of IR observers (including those hostile to the new president) praised the Saudi trip and the administrations relations with both Japan and China.”

Who pray tell are these observers? Just curious to know which sources you actually trust (sorry if I won’t just take your word for it).

Even if true, Shinzo Abe is a Nanking-rape-whitewashing, pro-rearmament far-right nationalist. A “positive” relationship between Abe and Trump isn’t really anything to pursue. As for Trump doing well with the Saudis… that’s hardly a surprise. Trump would very likely find friends among a number of the ultra-wealthy exporters of extremism.

“The US has evidently elected to end any efforts to destabilize pro-Russia governments in eastern Europe…”
“The US has evidently elected to end any efforts to support border nations being actively destabilized by Russia”
FTFY

10

Chet Murthy 06.01.17 at 7:58 am

@kidneystones: I’m sorry, but I gotta use the (other) “f-word”. You’re being foolish. Masha Gessen recently wrote: “when an authoritarian shows you who he is, believe him”. Lord Putinfluffer showed us who he is: Putin’s puppet. His senior advisor Bannonazi is *on the record* as saying he wants to take apart NATO. And that same goal is Putin’s dearest wish. To imagine that “we’re less than six months into the new presidency. There’s a great deal of evidence suggesting it’s business as usual” is foolish. Putinfluffer didn’t even affirm Article V at a commemoration of the ONLY TIME it was invoked. EVERYONE in Europe should be concerned about that.

Merkel is absolutely right to prepare her people for America’s unreliability. What happens when/if Putin decides to invade Estonia? What’s Putinfluffer going to do? Does Merkel want to wait around to find out?

Next, regarding “Trump’s critique of NATO member contributions”, some of these NATO nations spent their BLOOD alongside us in Afghanistan. And there have always been good reasons for the US to not push too hard for Europe to militarize — it made America that much stronger, in comparison. And last and most telling, Tangerine Torquemada doesn’t want Germay to pump up its armed forces — he presented Merkel with a FRICKEN BILL. He’s stupid enough that he wants THE MONEY.

It’s Pollyannaish to view all this as “no big deal/business-as-usual”.

11

casmilus 06.01.17 at 10:18 am

“demanding that the UK commit to vast upfront payments, before even discussing a trade deal “

This is crookedtimber, not the Daily Mail. Please can we not indulge the self-pitying nonsense of idiotic Tory boys who expect the world to revolve around their arrogance.

The EU is quite correct in expecting the UK to negotiate the secession agreement before discussing any trade deal. The idea that all could be done in 2 years is a fantasy of Tory MPs who haven’t the faintest idea how complex trade deals are to negotiate, and also have no clue about how entangled the UK is presently with EU and how much careful work will be needed to “take back control”.

The “vast sums” have so far only been mooted in papers like the FT, but the principle that the UK should stump up some money for programmes it already voted for is sound. Since Tories are extremely keen on the idea that national finances are like household finances, they could at least be consistent and accept that we can’t walk away from financial commitments, at least not without trashing our credit rating.

What the EU are fully aware of is that the UK needs some sort of transitional framwork to cover the many years during which that “comprehensive free trade agreement” gets negotiated, if it ever happens. Unfortunately the Tories are in the grip of their other fantasy, the “no deal” scenario in which the UK becomes a Third Country and relies on “WTO rules”, oblivious to the fact that no one else trades this way with the EU and that the US and China have numerous additional recognition agreements on standards in order to export to Europe. Yet “WTO rules” is now a mantra and has even infected some Momentum people in Labour, the few that have thought about the matter.

This is why, in a week’s time, I will be voting for Labour despite having no great opinion of Corbyn or anyone near to him. Quite simply, Britain can’t afford the current Conservative Party and the nest of idiotic schoolboys that come with it, represented by Boris Johnson. Having a Corbyn government that is merely ineffective is better than the deliberate destruction planned by the likes of Fox, Davis, Hannan et al, for whom Brexit was only ever step one in the liquidation of what’s left of the welfare state in Britain. These are the people who despise George Osborne for not imposing “real austerity”; they want a new crisis since he let the last one go to waste.

12

Z 06.01.17 at 11:23 am

A very interesting post. Two observations, of differing nature.

1) I think part of the current confusion is that the term liberalism, especially of the Anglo-American variety, has come to describe two overlapping but significantly distinct phenomena. On the one hand, it refers to a philosophical attitude based on a set of philosophical values. In that sense, it ultimately relies on a specific philosophical anthropology which has been dominant or even significant almost only in English-speaking Protestant countries and is thus anthropological at its core. On the other hand, it refers to a system of political economy. In that sense, it ultimately relies on a specific social group and is thus sociological at its core.

I think that what Henry is observing can be recast in the following terms: the countries in which liberalism have been the strongest in the first sense and in the second sense have been broadly the same during the 1800-1990 period, but that is increasingly not true anymore.

2) The paragraph starting with “This has interesting, but complicated implications for the continent” in the OP is fascinating. At the risk of being blunt, I personally believe that the current emerging political and ideological system on the European continent triggered by Brexit and Trump and led by Merkel is not correctly described as “European integration” in the sense given to this term in the 1970s or 1980s: Germany is far too powerful relative to other actors; it has by now become an almost pure system of domination. This system of domination is not based on liberal values in the first sense above; rather the converse in fact. Arguably, it is not even based on liberal principles in the second sense: it would make good economic sense for Germans, French and the rest of European people if Germany agreed to raise very significantly its wages and to consume more yet, as Henry mentions in the linked piece at the Monkey Cage, there are considerably resistance coming from Germany as long as France (or Spain, or Italy, or of course Greece) has not learned “discipline” or “responsibility”.

In particular, even though Macron and his electorate embody liberalism in the second sense almost as perfectly as was ever achieved in an advanced democracy (and despite his apparent sincere personal adherence to some form of philosophical liberalism in the first sense), he and his government might very well end up being drawn in an endless spiral of increasing austerity and higher unemployment in the (vain?) hope to become more than the national relay of German power in France (a very balanced but thorough analysis can be read here https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/economie/180517/le-soutien-de-lallemagne-indispensable-au-projet-macron?onglet=full).

13

Layman 06.01.17 at 1:58 pm

Trump is ignorant, so it isn’t surprising that he doesn’t understand what the EU is for, or NATO for that matter. On the other hand, it is quite shocking to discover that so many presumably not-ignorant members of the Conservative and Republican parties don’t know what those institutions are for, either. I suppose it’s possible that they do know what they’re for, but they don’t care; though if anything that’s worse.

14

kidneystones 06.01.17 at 1:59 pm

@10 Thank you for this. I fear you misunderstand me. My own view is that the ‘special relationship’ that is so much in danger is and has been a fiction.

The US did not ride to the rescue in 1914, or 1939. From 1945 until 1992 (or so) the US engaged in a world wide war against communism. NATO never had a conventional armed force to match that of the eastern bloc and the Soviet Union. A convincing case can be made that Turkey is/was far more important to the US military alliance than any nation in Europe.

My sense is that a considerable number of Americans would be extremely reluctant to commit US lives to protecting NATO members that currently do not meet their commitments in troops and cash. Both WWI and WWII offer scant evidence that Americans are likely to feel any urgent need to rush Europe’s defense unless the case can be made that American interests are actually threatened. I say that as a supporter of NATO who is not American.

I can say that last time so many Americans were convinced they were living in extraordinary times you ended up invading Iraq. The pages of the NYT have been filled with the kind of conspiracy tales that one can find easily in the comments section of Free Republic and Breitbart. The media and politicians rush to fit the enemy with a crime. The fact that Feinstein and others stress they have seen no evidence of any crime means nothing. Like Bush and Cheney, these folks aren’t interested in facts, the political WMD must there somewhere, so ‘we’ have no alternative but to invade/invalidate the election.

What you and your LARGE CAP pals fail to grasp is that the mountain of evidence growing larger every day accurately reflects the scale of the current president’s success. The establishment of both political parties and the media, the defeated candidate and the former president still expend unprecedented levels of energy, cash, and political capitol trying to slow down a geriatric political neophyte who has somehow tied the oh so much smarter elites in knots.

The net result of which is to confirm for the historical record that no other president has faced and overcome opposition from the establishment on this scale. He could yet implode, but as someone once noted ‘hope is not a plan.’

Worth reading – especially the part about the Dem message getting lost in the white noise.
https://shorensteincenter.org/news-coverage-donald-trumps-first-100-days/

15

James 06.01.17 at 2:52 pm

Its interesting that the reader comments under FT articles have never been very supportive of Theresa May, and in the last two weeks have turned viciously against her. The number of pro-Corbyn comments is surprising.

16

Zamfir 06.01.17 at 2:56 pm

Z writes:
— Arguably, it is not even based on liberal principles in the second sense: it would make good economic sense for Germans, French and the rest of European people if Germany agreed to raise very significantly its wages and to consume more yet, as Henry mentions in the linked piece at the Monkey Cage, there are considerably resistance coming from Germany as long as France (or Spain, or Italy, or of course Greece) has not learned “discipline” or “responsibility” —
The core request from France and southern countries is not that Germans spend more. It’s that they themselves (or at least their governments) can spend more, with the resulting debt directly or indirectly backed by the Euro-system as a whole. It’s not that obvious to me that this makes good economic sense for everyone, win-win-win. If that deficit spending works as intended, it’s good for the spending countries and neutral for Germany. If it doesn’t work, it’s bad for Germany but neutral for the spending countries (who at least got the spending, even if it doesn’t kick-start the wider economy).

And despite German resistance, France and southern Europe are still running significant deficits, with a growing debt, while the ECB buys more of their bonds than the Germans would prefer. Ironically, both the German government and the others like to pretend that Germany has more dominance than it has. The Germans get to look in charge, the other get a scapegoat.

17

Z 06.01.17 at 5:06 pm

The core request from France and southern countries is not that Germans spend more. It’s that they themselves (or at least their governments) can spend more, with the resulting debt directly or indirectly backed by the Euro-system as a whole.

No, no, really no, not in the case of Macron, what you describe would have been the official Hollande position before he abandoned it in late 2012/early 2013 or the platform of Benoît Hamon (the unsuccessful presidential candidate from the Party Socialiste).

Macron, on the other hand, explicitly and openly campaigned on a platform of reduction of public spending, reduction of budget deficit, lowering production costs, increasing productivity and betting that the relative internal devaluation compared to Germany will rebuild its productive capacity. What it asks in Germany in exchange is that it diminishes its trade surplus, raises its wages and have a sustained growth of its internal demand, so that the productivity differential between the two economies (which would normally be corrected by an appreciation of the German currency) be reduced. Echoes from Germany say that German leaders (though not necessarily Merkel) want Macron to prove that he is serious about his side of the plan before they do their part and echoes from the Élysée say that he agreed, which is risky as only quite intense austerity policies can reduce said productivity differential unilaterally and such policies in contemporary France, with its already very low demand, high unemployment and dynamic demography, may lead to an explosive socio-economic situation.

18

PJ 06.01.17 at 7:06 pm

Bravo Casmilus. I agree with all of that.

As for the surprising number of pro-Corbyn comments: people with a raging fire / devil behind them will jump off a high building / into the deep blue sea. Labour in a coalition couldn’t be any worse than this insane Conservative party. I am Liberal Democrat in favour of some radical reforms but I’ll settle for Labour for now.

The hypocrisy of the Conservatives pretending to be for the many is just staggering. This party goes on taking vast sums of money from large landlords and refuses to reform, or better, abolish leasehold property tenure — which is simply riven with abuses and injustice. Yes, I’d like to move to a largely state funded situation but for now there’s no question who the underdog is. It’s not the Tories. They have been captured by special interests and the rest of are going to suffer for it.

19

Chris Bertram 06.01.17 at 7:07 pm

I don’t share your pessimism about the UK, except in the short term. In the short term, things will be very bad, and the Brexit negotiations will fail or end up with a very poor deal, no question. No doubt there will also be attempts to whip up hostility against Europeans generally on the part of Dacre and Co. But, but ….

This election has exposed May as inadequate, her authoritarian-communitarian project needs money to succeed and she won’t have any, she’ll hit her net migration target and people will feel the effects, and the long-term demographics mean that people who hate her and regret Brexit will become a majority.

2022 will look very different. Keir Starmer might be in a position to lead a progressive coalition against a weakened May, or Prince-across-the-water George Osborne (untarnished by the post-Brexit carnage) could return to lead the Tories. In the meantime, the core-EU will have deepened its integration so the reverse-Brexit (implying as it would, euro membership) won’t be a feasible option, but the UK in the EEA will be. There will be a lot of rebuilding to be done, but “liberalism” will look a lot more viable than it does now.

20

J-D 06.01.17 at 11:41 pm

Chet Murthy
What leads you to the conclusion that there is a significant risk of a Russian invasion of Estonia? and what would you have expected to happen in the event of such an invasion, absent President Trump (in the past, in a hypothetical alternative version of the present, or in a hypothetical future)?

21

Chet Murthy 06.02.17 at 2:47 am

(1) 2007 russian cyberattacks against Estonia argue that Putin regards Estonia (and probably all the baltics) as near-abroad — “his” territory. And he’s not afraid of flexing his muscle there.

(2) w/o Putinfluffer? I’d expect that as/if tensions rise, NATO would move troops there, so that Putin would understand that any invasion would entail attacking NATO troops, possibly leading to engagement with NATO forces outside of Estonia.

(2′) with Lord Smallgloves? I expect that over time, the US will reduce is basing committments in Europe, until eventually there are no US troops in Eastern Europe. At that point, it’ll be up to the Europeans to man the border, eh?

The status quo ante was that Putin understood that NATO countries were backed by the US military, and that was made manifest by American boots on the ground at the border. That status quo is changing, I suspect.

And contra kidneystones, I think that until recently, America DID view our NATO committments with seriousness.

BTW, I must say, his arguments don’t just border upon, but are fully ensconced in the land of the ridiculous. People like Feinstein are careful and lawyerly. They make statements that can be defended in court. He makes much of the fact that all these leaks are without evidence — basically, the newspapers report what they’re told by their sources, but cannot actually publish (e.g. the transcripts of Flynn’s calls) b/c those are still closely held. So it comes down to “do you believe that the WaPo and every other newspaper would intentionally lie about this?” And this ignores the public-source documentation of Putinfluffer’s debts to the Russian mob, and his many business ties to people closely-linked to Putin. I guess, we know where kidneystones stands on this. It’s telling that he’s invoking the lies of Bush/Cheney, but this time, in the opposite direction — last time, Bush/Cheney lied about WMD, so this time, obviously the papers and IC are lying about the Shitlord.

But it goes further than that. He’s effectively extolling a white supemacist, a fascist, who wants to rip up the Western Alliance. He’s positively giggling with joy at the prospect of all that his Tangerine-hued Lord will compass.

So let’s not bandy words. kidneystones is a facist and an apologist for fascism.

22

Mario 06.02.17 at 7:32 am

The hysterical fixation with Russia seems to me also a bit like a symptom of not wanting to let go of an old, very moribund, order.

23

J-D 06.02.17 at 8:14 am

Chet Murthy
I’m not defending kidneystones, or anything kidneystones has written; I have no interest in discussing kidneystones’s remarks.

I’m not familiar with Russian cyberattacks on Estonia, but it’s not clear to me how they would support the conclusion that there’s a significant risk of a Russian invasion of Estonia. Even if Putin regards Estonia as being Russian territory in some sense (that sense not being a literal description of existing facts), it’s not clear to me that it follows that he would order a Russian invasion. In what circumstances do you suppose such a thing would be likely to happen?

Also, if you’re suggesting (as you seem to be; but please correct me if I’m wrong) that the presence of NATO troops in Estonia would reduce the likelihood of a Russian invasion, it’s not clear to me how the likelihood of NATO stationing troops in Estonia (in whatever the relevant set of hypothetical circumstances is; there aren’t NATO troops stationed there now, are there?) would be reduced by anything President Trump has done, is doing, or might do.

24

Z 06.02.17 at 8:17 am

Though I’m not sure this thread is the appropriate place to discuss the topic, I believe that the question J-D asks are very important.

After the 1999 and 2004 enlargements of NATO, a military confrontation between Russia and one of its neighbors may potentially degenerate in a world conflict between nuclear powers. Already, the game-theoretic (and of course, moral) implications were quite maddening: maybe this forever dissuades Russia to military intervene, or maybe Russia calculates that as any counter-intervention may escalate to MAD, it can actually wage an aggressive war because the commitment of other NATO’s members is not credible, nobody after all will trigger world destruction because of Estonia. Or will they? Etc…

Now that the US is apparently pulling away, what is supposed to be going on? Particularly perplexing to me is that Poland is regularly cited both as the main ally of Trump in continental Europe and the country with the most to lose if the US pulls away from NATO. Add to that Brexit and that leaves France has the heir apparent of nuclear dissuasion in Western Europe, in total contradiction to its doctrine of strong/weak nuclear dissuasion (we use the nuclear weapon only if directly attacked by a stronger military power) not to mention its actual capabilities to project any significant forces (conventional or otherwise) to the Eastern borders of Europe.

I find it surprising that the political discussion around Brexit and Trump always seem to tiptoe around this issue.

25

RichardM 06.02.17 at 9:32 am

There will be a lot of rebuilding to be done, but “liberalism” will look a lot more viable than it does now.

This is key. In Anglo countries circa 2016, the problem with liberalism is that all the problems that can be solved with liberalism have been. And most of the ones that can’t be solved that way had someone try it anyway.

In those countries, suggesting you could solve a problem by allowing some consensual activity currently forbidden is more or less like telling a physicist ‘have you considered using calculus?’

That’s not really true in France. And it very likely won’t be true in anglo countries as of 2020 or so, due to all the problems that will have been caused by Trump and Brexit. As those are new problems, they won’t have been filtered by having had liberal solutions already tried. So in some cases they may work.

By 2024, ‘lets go back to the Golden Age of 2016’ will likely be an attractive slogan.

26

kidneystones 06.02.17 at 10:03 am

@21 Glad to see you’ve recovered your equilibrium, somewhat, and elected to keep your finger from the CAP key.

You’re clearly unaware that I supported Trump openly on this site from the time Sanders was eliminated and regard the ‘Putin’ puppet far more favorably than ‘why go to Wisconsin?’ So, you’re not telling anyone here anything new, although a few reminders can’t hurt I suppose.

I feel, however, you can do better than simply call me a fascist and an apologist for fascism. Charles Blow, for example, in his last column described the current president as the ‘great deceiver’ and suggested Republicans who supported the elected president have sold their souls to Satan. So, with that precedent you’ll be on fairly safe ground accusing me of being a witch, a practitioner of the black arts, and in league with the devil. And then, perhaps, you’ll look in the mirror and consider who you actually sound like.

What you’ll do when Hispanic-Americans help to re-elect the president, again in 2020, as they did in Florida, I’ll can only guess. Plenty of Nato allies serve alongside the US proudly still and will in the future. Norad is rock solid, as is the US Japan defense pact. I’m sorry to hear your corner of our world is collapsing.

I sincerely hope your sense of perspective returns at some point, well before you get to the point where you’re arguing that Russian interference in US politics demands a military response. The last time you lost your collective minds things didn’t turn out so well. You’re still trying to get your heads out that hive and the bees show no signs of turning the other cheek. We don’t need another cold war, thanks.

Cheers!

27

MFB 06.02.17 at 10:33 am

It does seem true that liberalism, in the sense of the original post, has come to mean two things.

One is a rhetorical commitment to individual freedom, but a commitment which does not apply to actual individuals of whom one disapproves, and particularly not to citizens outside one’s own borders. The willingness of liberals to launch brutal military aggression against countries which are not able to effectively defend themselves and which possess something which the liberals want (or apparently constitute obstacles to goals which liberals desire) is startling. So is the tacit willingness of liberals to oppress people within their countries who lack the power to defend themselves effectually. (Thanks to the rhetoric, however, these liberals are usually able to dodge responsibility for the oppression.) In other words, what liberals say is sometimes good and sometimes bad, but what they actually do is usually bad, and usually illiberal in the sense which liberals of the late nineteenth century would have understood it. Hence the confusion in this post and in the responses to it.

The other approach of liberalism is neoliberalism; that is, that political freedom is dependent on purchasing power, and as wealth increases, so political freedom increases asymptotically. Therefore, wealth equals freedom equals political power, and the pursuit of additional wealth in order to attain even more freedom and political power becomes impeccably liberal, as does the oppression of anyone lacking that wealth, hence that freedom, hence that political power. It’s only against this background that one can see a ghastly toady of plutocrats like Macron as a liberal, rather than as a ghastly toady of plutocrats who is leading France straight to disaster in the very near future.

The problem with this is that if Macron is a liberal, then so is Theresa May, and it’s hard not to see Donald Trump as a liberal along these lines. Indeed, Trump is forever bleating about freedom in the same way that the darlings of Western liberalism do. So, in the end, the liberal beer-goggles are not a very helpful way of looking at actually existing politics.

28

MFB 06.02.17 at 10:54 am

Usually, personal attacks upon individuals are disapproved of on this board, and perhaps what I am about to say is unduly harsh and will not be permitted. However, the person called “Chet Murthy” (I gather he is some sort of corporate tech person, which — I stereotype, of course — would account for his lack of political insight and problematic social skills) has delivered such a foolish and excessively insulting attack on the person called kidneystones.

The point which kidneystones was making was merely that the propaganda campaign against Trump is extremely ineffectual, being based on the false premise that the Russians have been proven to have somehow caused Trump to be elected President as a result of secret manoeuvrings known only to the elite of the Democratic Party. This is obviously not going to impress anyone outside the Democratic Party, not Republicans and not the uncommitted majority. This doesn’t mean that the propaganda campaign will not work, but it does mean that if it doesn’t work, the Democratic Party will be left high and dry, politically speaking.

It does seem fair to say, too, that it is very bad for political discourse to commit oneself to a fiction. I mean that substituting fantasies and ranting for reasoned criticism and condemnation of the abhorrent policies of the Trump administration is indeed, much as kidneystones says, to jump into the Breitbart cesspool. It’s comparable to the people who banged on about Vince Foster under Clinton.

Of course, if the Russian government had, for instance, engaged in cyber-attacks on Estonia in 2007 (there is no actual evidence that they did) or if the Russian government manipulated the 2016 U.S. elections (there is no actual evidence that they did) then that would be good reason for calling Russia to account, and if President Trump actually engaged in the latter, then he would be guilty of extraordinary malfeasance.

But pretending that these things happened, absent evidence, and then saying that anyone who denies your false claims is a supporter of Trump, is the kind of political stance which I would have engaged in when I was about six years old or thereabouts. And going on to say that someone is an enabler of fascism because that person doesn’t share your fantasy world-view isn’t just odious, it is, in my view, obscene.

In any case, I would argue that a little more adulthood, and a lot less gullibility, would be desirable. Not all of us are American, not all of us believe what we read in the newspapers, and pretending that everybody ought to believe the propaganda plugged in American newspapers on pain of pitiful Internet abuse, is not a healthy response to any kind of debate.

29

gastro george 06.02.17 at 9:59 pm

@MFB

I will steal “liberal beer-goggles”. Thank you.

30

J-D 06.02.17 at 10:51 pm

Z

Though I’m not sure this thread is the appropriate place to discuss the topic, I believe that the question J-D asks are very important.

After the 1999 and 2004 enlargements of NATO, a military confrontation between Russia and one of its neighbors may potentially degenerate in a world conflict between nuclear powers.

If it is true that there is a theoretical possibility of a military confrontation between Russia and one of its neighbours triggering a nuclear world conflict, then it was true before the enlargement of NATO as well as being true since then; a nuclear world conflict has been a theoretical possibility ever since the Soviet Union first acquired a nuclear arsenal. But my questions were not about theoretical possibility but about practical likelihood. There was nothing in what Chet Murthy wrote to suggest to me any significant likelihood of a Russian invasion of Estonia (or any of its other neighbours), and there’s nothing in what you’ve written either.

31

Sam Bradford 06.03.17 at 6:24 am

The Conservative Party are unreliable partners for Europe, in exactly the same way as an America ruled by Trump. They’ve clearly aligned themselves with the Trumpist tendency and in opposition to technocratic/liberal Europe. It’s not an over-reading to say so, it’s transparent.

32

Z 06.03.17 at 6:37 am

If it is true that there is a theoretical possibility of a military confrontation between Russia and one of its neighbours triggering a nuclear world conflict,

That’s not what I wrote. I wrote (correctly) that it could escalate in a conflict between nuclear powers. You are right that this has always been a theoretical possibility, but Article 5 of NATO is commonly interpreted (especially by countries with a belligerent relation with Russia) as increasing this practical possibility.

There was nothing in what Chet Murthy wrote to suggest to me any significant likelihood of a Russian invasion of Estonia (or any of its other neighbours), and there’s nothing in what you’ve written either.

Seeing that I never claimed (nor believed) a Russian invasion of Estonia to be likely, I don’t see why I should have substantiated it. However, it is a statistical fact that local military conflicts between mutually hostile military powers do happen, and I don’t see why the case of contemporary Russia should be different, so yes, I think a military confrontation between Russia and one of its NATO neighbors (Poland, or the Baltic states) is not so unlikely that we may disregard any discussion of the political and military consequences.

May I point out that 1) I found your tone not very amicable, especially since two of the things you seem to find faulty with I wrote, I did not in fact write and 2) that maybe by the sentence “significant likelihood of a Russian invasion of […] any of its other neighbours” you meant any of its other NATO neighbors; if not, the cases of Abkhazia, Crimea and Dombass seem relevant to the discussion.

33

J-D 06.03.17 at 9:42 am

Z

That’s not what I wrote. I wrote (correctly) that it could escalate in a conflict between nuclear powers.

I assumed that when you referred to the US and Russia as ‘nuclear powers’, the point was to allude to the possibility that in a conflict between them nuclear weapons might be used. I did not consider alternative possibilities, such as the possibility that your use of the word ‘nuclear’ had no relevance to the discussion.

You are right that this has always been a theoretical possibility, but Article 5 of NATO is commonly interpreted (especially by countries with a belligerent relation with Russia) as increasing this practical possibility.

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty obliges the members to regard an armed attack on any of them (in Europe or North America) as an armed attack on all of them and, therefore, to assist each other in the event of such an armed attack by individual and concerted action, as deemed necessary. Therefore, specifically, so long as both the US and Estonia are parties to the treaty, if Russia makes an armed attack on Estonia, the US is obliged (under the terms of the treaty) to regard that as an armed attack on the US and to assist Estonia, individually and in concert with other NATO members. Nothing Trump does as President, short of withdrawing the US from NATO, can change those facts, so it’s not clear to me how his actions or possible future actions could be supposed to have an effect on the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Estonia.

Seeing that I never claimed (nor believed) a Russian invasion of Estonia to be likely, I don’t see why I should have substantiated it.

You don’t have to substantiate it.

Chet Murthy wrote ‘What happens when/if Putin decides to invade Estonia?’ It seemed to me that the only way this could be a relevant question was if there was a significant likelihood of a Russian invasion of Estonia, and when I responded on that basis, Chet Murthy did not disavow that interpretation. If it is established that, in fact, nobody here holds the view that there is a significant likelihood, then my question has no relevance; but if it is being suggested that there is a significant likelihood of such an invasion, I am still interested in knowing the basis for drawing that conclusion.

However, it is a statistical fact that local military conflicts between mutually hostile military powers do happen

Given a situation where two military powers are mutually hostile, sometimes local military conflicts between them occur, but sometimes there are periods of peace despite the mutual hostility. One way of modelling this would be to imagine that there is a fixed probability per unit time of conflict breaking out, and that the periods of conflict and periods of peace are otherwise random. That doesn’t seem like a good model to me. It seems to me that other factors apart from the background fact of mutual hostility (and adjacency? I’m not clear on whether we’re discussing only adjacent powers) affect the likelihood of military conflict taking place. The fact that two (adjacent?) military powers are mutually hostile seems to me to be insufficient information to support the conclusion that there is a significant likelihood of military conflict between them.

Also, and equally importantly, it’s not clear to me what precisely you mean by ‘mutually hostile’ and it’s not clear to me on what basis you conclude that Russia and Estonia (or Russia and Latvia, or Russia and Lithuania, or Russia and Poland) are mutually hostile — of, if I have misunderstood and you’re not suggesting that they’re mutually hostile, it’s not clear to me on what other basis you are suggesting that there is a significant likelihood of armed conflict between them. (Whatever you mean by ‘mutually hostile’, I’m assuming that you’re using the expression because you think it’s relevant.)

maybe by the sentence “significant likelihood of a Russian invasion of […] any of its other neighbours” you meant any of its other NATO neighbors; if not, the cases of Abkhazia, Crimea and Dombass seem relevant to the discussion.

If Russian actions in Abkhazia, Crimea, and Donbass form the basis (or part of the basis) for the conclusion (on your part, or on the part of Chet Murthy or of anybody else) that there is a significant likelihood of a Russian invasion of Estonia, then they are indeed relevant to the discussion and I’m happy to discuss the point further.

34

alfredlordbleep 06.03.17 at 6:02 pm

Sugar-coated libertarianism is what Will Wilkinson was pitching in his piece Dave Roberts called fantastic. (see Harry at the top).

It is the uncoated version that, again, is the core of Republican ideology or at least what Paul Ryan, party ideologist, stands for and acts on.

Sorry to pile on to the continuing delight of the various shades and fractures of “liberal”, “libertarian”, . . .

35

Stephen 06.03.17 at 6:41 pm

Z: query, in an alternative world in which the Baltic states having broken away from the USSR had never been admitted to NATO, do you think that an invasion of them by a Russian government aggrieved by the loss of their near-abroad would have been more likely?

If not, could you explain why not?

If so, what do you think would then have been an appropriate NATO response?

36

Chet Murthy 06.03.17 at 6:48 pm

J-D: As Z pointed out, Russia has a recent history of invading its near-abroad, and also of ginning up pretexts for same. Before Yanukovych was deposed, could we have imagined that Putin would gin up a pretext for invading (and, it seems, annexing) Eastern Ukraine? I’m setting aside Crimea, even though Russia (ISTR) signed a treaty agreeing to the then-current borders. But Eastern Ukraine? That’s just plain “nice country you have there, a same if something bad happened to it”.

Yeah: “oh, but these are isolated cases, got nothing to do with Estonia”. That’s poppycock. The -plan- is to gin up excuses where none already-exist, and to inflame whatever exists. Look at the way he masterfully used the grievances of the Neanderthal right-wing in America and elsewhere. He’s got form, and to pretend otherwise is to be a useful idiot.

37

Chet Murthy 06.03.17 at 6:50 pm

I should have added: Yes of course, nobody goes from signing a treaty “I guarantee I won’t impinge on the borders of my neighbors” to “gee, nice country you got there, let’s divide it up” in one fell swoop. It’s all baby-steps, and each step looks innocuous when measured from the state immediately prior. But look at the sequence, and it starts to look less so.

His -plan- is to allow the plausible deniability of “this particular step is no biggie”.

38

F. Foundling 06.03.17 at 8:56 pm

@31: if not, the cases of Abkhazia, Crimea and Dombass seem relevant to the discussion.

I’ve said this before, but here goes: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Donbass and Crimea were all cases in which ethnic and/or linguistic minorities which had grievances and were concentrated in distinct regions demanded separation and that resulted in civil wars (in which they were more or less encouraged and used by Russia). The Baltics etc. don’t have such territorially concentrated minorities, and Poland and the other neighbours have no such minorities that Russia could throw its weight behind. If Russia wants to have an entire country with a hostile ethnic majority on its hands, it hasn’t shown that so far; maintaining its existing satellites is already rather costly, and its economy isn’t in a very impressive condition to begin with.

@9
“The US has evidently elected to end any efforts to support border nations being actively destabilized by Russia”
@24
“Now that the US is apparently pulling away”

I have yet to see any serious reason to believe that the US is ‘pulling away’ from (Eastern) Europe, or that Trump’s talk and gestures will change anything in practice, even assuming that Trump manages to stay in power long enough to be able to alter policy significantly. The US/Western tools of influence in former Russian satellites are an enormous institutional system that has been growing for decades and is the source of livelihood and the basis of the careers of many, many people; it certainly hasn’t stopped operating since Trump’s election. All of that isn’t going away any time soon, certainly not because of one man; at most, some temporary reduction in financing and in ‘proactive’ initiatives might occur.

Re ‘border nations being actively destabilized by Russia’, it’s worth pointing out that the incorporation of Crimea, the encouragement of and involvement in the Donbass conflict and the increased presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (where Russian peacekeepers had been stationed legally in accordance with an agreement signed by Georgia) were all Russian responses to aggressive (and no less illegal) initiatives of the Western-backed forces against the status quo: the Western-financed Maidan revolution/coup and the Georgian attack of South Ossetia, respectively. I am not trying to imply that Russia would not act aggressively on its own initiative if it felt that the gains outweighed the costs – or that it is above using every trick from the Western playbook, as it has been trying to do since at least 2008 – but the ratio between its power and that of the West has so far mostly made it the passive or reactive side in such cases.

Re Trump’s being a Putin puppet @ 10 – as I see it, Trump’s very clear and material reaffirmation of the long-standing alliance with the Sunni fundie autocracies against the Shia/Iranian axis entails at least continuing and arguably intensifying the confrontation with Russia in Syria as well, in the long run, unless Putin is willing to throw Assad under the bus completely in exchange for some alleviation of his situation w.r.t. Ukraine and the sanctions. I can’t exclude the latter, of course, although such a move on Putin’s part would still seem a bit more idiotic and short-sighted than usual. I suppose it’s possible that both sides might be thinking of some kind of compromise between these two options, but it seems to me that it can only be (very) temporary.

Re ‘liberalism’ – I agree with MFB @27 that Trump is just a neoliberal as far as privatisation and deregulation are concerned, although the protectionist gestures are an unusual twist; my guess would be that the latter will turn out to be, again, a temporary thing. Still, I can only welcome his blocking of the TTIP and the TPP, however long it lasts.

39

Bjorn 06.03.17 at 9:23 pm

@14 “A convincing case can be made that Turkey is/was far more important to the US military alliance than any nation in Europe.”

Europe is important for the US due to its enormous wealth and the diplomatic influence still exercised in previous colonies, not due to its military prowess. Europe helps to confer legitimacy. There is more to a military alliance than hardware and troops.

40

J-D 06.04.17 at 2:15 am

Chet Murthy

Yeah: “oh, but these are isolated cases, got nothing to do with Estonia”. That’s poppycock.

That’s not part of your exchange with me, although it may be part of an exchange you are having, or want to have, with some other person or persons.

Setting that aside, and as I wrote before you made this comment, I’m happy to discuss the substantive point further, but I’m going to get to that by responding to somebody else’s remark.

F. Foundling

I’ve said this before, but here goes: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Donbass and Crimea were all cases in which ethnic and/or linguistic minorities which had grievances and were concentrated in distinct regions demanded separation and that resulted in civil wars (in which they were more or less encouraged and used by Russia). The Baltics etc. don’t have such territorially concentrated minorities, …

That last point is not accurate, if I can rely on the information I find in Wikipedia (and on this particular kind of topic I have no reason to doubt it). Wikipedia tells me that Ida-Virumaa, the second-most populous county in Estonia, which is adjacent to Russia, has a population which is over 70% Russian and about 20% Estonian (2013 figures).

I don’t claim any special knowledge of Estonian affairs, or of Estonian-Russian relations. If somebody told me that there is a signficant Russian separatist movement in Ida-Virumaa (spontaneous, or Russian-backed, or both) , I would agree that it seemed like the basis for concluding that there’s a significant likelihood of Russian military intervention in support of it, or at least part of the basis. But on the other hand, if somebody told me that there is no significant Russian separatist movement in Ida-Virumaa, I would suggest that is the basis for a converse conclusion.

41

F. Foundling 06.04.17 at 3:31 am

J-D @40
Point granted – while Russians in the Baltics are generally concentrated in the cities and thus don’t form regional majorities along the borders, this particular northeastern corner of Estonia could be annexed, assuming that a significant separatist movement were to develop (at present, Russian separatism is a very fringe position in the Baltics), assuming that NATO didn’t exist or were completely toothless, and assuming that the Russians deemed the place to be worth the trouble in the first place. These are, however, a lot of assumptions, so it still remains an extremely distant possibility.

Chet Murphy @36
>Before Yanukovych was deposed, could we have imagined that Putin would gin up a pretext for invading (and, it seems, annexing) Eastern Ukraine? … But Eastern Ukraine? That’s just plain “nice country you have there, a same if something bad happened to it”.

No, that’s just plain: ‘so you, Westerners, take an entire country by deposing in a blatantly illegal manner an elected government that is friendly to me? Well, if so, at least I will keep, also illegally, a small part of that country and use it to make life difficult for the new pro-Western regime (even though I thereby lose all hope of seeing a government friendly to me in charge of the entire country again).’ This is snatching an almost-stalemate from the jaws of defeat, very much similar to the Russians’ earlier losing Moldova while sort-of inofficially keeping Transnistria (a very similar conflict in many ways, BTW) and losing Georgia while sort-of inofficially keeping South Ossetia and Abkhazia – in both cases, this essentially happened already in the early 1990s, in the course of the disintegration of the USSR. I’m sure Putin would love to conquer the world as well as the Solar System if given the chance – who wouldn’t – but he has so far only maintained a grip on regions that were predominantly pro-Russian anyway, and the notion that he would consider the invasion of a NATO country a good idea is just paranoia.

Meanwhile, Trump is doing his best to bring about the climate apocalypse, but some still prefer to focus on the whole chimerical Russia nonsense, presumably because they want a president who is working to bring about the climate apocalypse *and* to increase the likelihood of a nuclear apocalypse at the same time (i.e. Pence).

42

F. Foundling 06.04.17 at 3:47 am

Here is an author trying his best to make the case that Russian separatist positions in the Baltics should not be viewed merely as a fringe phenomenon: https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/192312/ECMI_Issue_Brief_35.pdf. In the course of his argument, it becomes clear that at present, they are, well, a fringe phenomenon.

43

kidneystones 06.04.17 at 4:41 am

@ 39 Quite right – especially your ‘(rapidly waning) influence in former colonies.’ (my edit). Agreed, really. I don’t dispute the importance of Europe to the US. Indeed, Europe’s intelligence gathering capabilities are vital in current climate. The huff-puff over NATO contributions is, as I suggested earlier, mostly much ado about nothing.

@38 Right you are. Russia didn’t need Trump to invade Crimea and threaten Ukraine. Obama and EU over-reach provided the cover for that. I was in Europe at the time and was horrified by all the chirping about deposing of the pro-Russia elected government in the Ukraine. The press had footage The unwitting believed Putin would just roll over and ‘accept the new reality.’ Then, of course, there’s the financial interests involved which extend far beyond Manafort to – you guessed it – the Biden family, for example. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/world/europe/corruption-ukraine-joe-biden-son-hunter-biden-ties.html

44

Z 06.04.17 at 9:46 am

Stephen @35. Let me acknowledge your query, out of basic courtesy. My personal views on the proper role of NATO are, I fear, completely irrelevant and not thus not worth discussing. I won’t say more, because I regret having participated in the shift of topic and because I find the articulation of ideology, political movements and national identities-the actual topic of the post-much more intellectually interesting.

45

Dipper 06.04.17 at 12:30 pm

@ Chris Bertram – 19

“the UK in the EEA” is that with Free Movement of People? Because it won’t fly if it is.

“2022 will look very different. Keir Starmer might be in a position to lead a progressive coalition against a weakened May” yes I think this is accurate. But Labour first have to recognise that having people with the background of Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott promising everything to everyone might go down well with the faithful but is never going to get a majority.

“No doubt there will also be attempts to whip up hostility against Europeans generally” I think this is quite unfair. Even UKIP have been very clear that their target is European politicians and Freedom of Movement and have repeatedly said they are anti-immigration not anti-immigrant.

46

steven t johnson 06.04.17 at 1:59 pm

The OP is centered on a strain of “liberalism” incarnated in the previous editorial policy of the Financial Times. Haven’t read but a few issues, thus entirely unfamiliar with that. But the comments somehow go into Russia and threats of nuclear war.

First, a reminder: The most common proximate cause of war is the prospect of an easy win for vested interests that command the state. Perhaps the second most common is the belief by such rulers that their wealth and power is about to be lost, with resort to arms are the only possible escape. The masses may have nothing to win by desperate gambles, but that is hardly relevant. Modern war is never a winning proposition for the nation as a whole, but the genius of liberalism is that the state carries out the duties required by civil society. And in liberal regimes, civil society is class society. The ruling class can prosper even as the nation goes to ruin. That’s what liberal democracy is all about.

Second, Putin’s (and Xi’s) vision of a new world order in which there is a balance of powers is a vision of a world in which the balance of power is equilibrated by the judicious use of war. The English maintained the balance of power, as against a hegemonic power (as you might say today,) in Europe by the War of the Spanish Succession or the counter-revolutionary wars against the French or by the Entente, for instance. The thing is, as much as Putin and Xi neglect to mention their brave new world demands war to arbitrate imperial disputes, neither Putin nor Xi are in their brave new world, not yet. In this material world, the US won WWII.

Well, so did the USSR but the likes of Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin have done what Hitler could not. Leningrad and Stalingrad have fallen. But this victory required violence and a sustained assault on the mass of the people of Russia. The assault was so intense the population declined. Putin’s mad austerianism and psychopathological embrace of Russian Orthodoxy and so on show how the assault may have moderated, but still, it continues.

The question is, who overthrew the US? No one is who. The verdicts of WWII will not just be forgotten, they must be reversed. That hasn’t happened, and won’t happen without the defeat of the US. The mere survival of the Vietnamese nation was a blow, but the universal rejection of the enemy ideology that guided the struggle, at least by the part of humanity that actually counts (not least CT,) has mitigated the blow. Putin will not even fight fascists in Ukraine as Xi fights socialism in Korea. Putin and XI and all of us live in a system where the US is hegemonic. After Ashoka conquered Kalinga, he turned Buddhist and renounced war. That does not cloak Ashoka, or any other hegemon, with virtue.

US hegemony has provided few benefits to humanity, not even the kind of peace the Roman Empire maintained. Indeed, it threatens to be the ruin of the world. That is due to the backwardness of its social system. In my opinion it has degenerated to the point that it requires attacks on lesser nations, as it is now entirely incapable of bringing real progress to humanity, even taking a longer, larger, more philosophical view.

But again, although the people of the US as a whole, as well as the people of its target nations, and humanity as a whole, suffer, the ruling class and its employees will not see this, for they will not. And there is every reason for them to think they will escape the penalties of the catastrophes looming on the horizon, leaving their lessers to their dismal fates.

Third, the greatest danger of general war will rise in assaults on target nations that get out of hand. Miscalculations by skilled professionals; loss of control of subordinates;
loss of self-control by superior; the random irruption of domestic politics foisting incoherent policies or grossly incompetent actors…all these are as inevitable as age. At this moment, the situations most likely to spiral are a US invasion of northern Korea; a fascist invasion of the Donbass that generates massive refugee movements that destabilize Russia; Turkish/Russian confrontation in the Caucasus; Indian nuclear assault on Pakistan, and maybe a massive US invasion of Syria? In the long run, Abe’s remilitarization of Japan is the real deal about revising the outcome of WWII.

But, Estonia? Seriously? Trump is correct, there is no real threat, which does mean the question of why the US should pay for Estonian defense is genuinely hard to answer.

47

Pavel A 06.04.17 at 2:32 pm

@38

One process by which Russia reclaims its “Russian” citizens in border states is passportization, the process of fast-tracking those with Soviet passport to RF ones, or in the case of South Ossetia, sometimes just handing out blank RF passports: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passportization

48

Chris Bertram 06.04.17 at 2:37 pm

@Dipper “the UK in the EEA” is that with Free Movement of People? Because it won’t fly if it is.

Oh yes it will, when net migration has collapsed to zero because of the destruction of the British economy and we need people to come back and staff the NHS etc. We’ll be begging for them.

49

Dipper 06.04.17 at 3:10 pm

@Chris Bertram. Our experience with the NHS has demonstrated that Freedom of Movement is a very poor way of meeting specific requirements. A nation of 60 million gave freedom of movement to 500 million people. This still was not enough to fill places in the NHS, so we have filled the gap through specifically recruiting skilled people. We did not offer the Philippines, Indonesia, or India a freedom of movement deal, we just offered jobs to those we needed. Freedom of Movement is nothing to do with filling skills gaps, it is entirely about breaking down nations states and creating a European state in their place.

As an alternative to recruiting from overseas, we could try and fill the skills gap by increasing the number of places available on medical courses at University to enable the many suitably qualified young people who are currently being rejected to pursue the career they wish to follow and are qualified to study.

50

Stephen 06.04.17 at 4:09 pm

Z@44: your courtesy is appreciated.

Personally, I would have thought that a discussion of “the articulation of ideology, political movements and national identities” might well include the question of Eastern European national identities, their possible extinction if some political movements malfunction, and the ideologies that might favour or oppose their survival; but I accept your right to consider such things as irrelevant.

51

Chris Bertram 06.04.17 at 5:32 pm

“Freedom of Movement is nothing to do with filling skills gaps, it is entirely about breaking down nations states and creating a European state in their place.”

I thought it was about giving people freedom to travel, work and settle beyond the boundaries of the little state they were born in. I’ve enjoyed that since 1973 and now little Englanders like you are going to take it away from me and also from millions of other British people. Thanks for that.

52

Dipper 06.04.17 at 5:49 pm

@Chris Bertram.

All Little Englanders like me are asking is the same approach to immigration taken by nations like Australia, Canada, the United States. People will still be able to move between nations. Some will be able to settle, as a number of my friends have in these countries.

The FOM offered by the EU was for 28 nations. I am struggling to see why sharing freedom of movement with Bulgaria and Rumania is good but sharing freedom of movement with Ukraine, Moldova, and Turkey is bad, which is what the EU position is, unless that Freedom of movement was tied to other “rights” in which case it is a process of forming a proto-state.

53

novakant 06.04.17 at 6:04 pm

I’m all for breaking down nation states – they’re actually a quite recent historical development and are not superior to other forms of political organization in general and both “national identity” and the “national interest” are concepts that have done much harm, as well as being useless when it comes to solving the big pressing problems the world is facing in this century.

54

Stephen 06.04.17 at 7:45 pm

Novakant: in your opinion, how far back should one go in history to find a time when there were no nation states?
Are there any other forms of political organisation you would consider as equal, or indeed superior?
Do you think that national identity, or national interest, have sometimes done more good than harm?
[Ronan: if you are reading this, please explain how these questions apply to Ireland.]

55

gastro george 06.04.17 at 8:01 pm

“… unless that Freedom of movement was tied to other “rights” …”

Indeed FoM is tied to other rights, as opposed to “rights”.

56

Z 06.04.17 at 10:32 pm

Stephen,

but I accept your right to consider such things as irrelevant.

I don’t consider these questions irrelevant (on the contrary, my comment 24 was all about how I would like more discussions of likely developments in that respect), I consider my personal opinions about them irrelevant (because they are uninformed, poorly thought out and have zero influence on political reality). But I would be very glad to read any insights from knowledgeable commenters about e.g. the reception in Eastern Europe of Merkel’s speech or more generally about how a country like Poland might position itself in the apparently emerging tripartition of power between a US-led sphere, a German-led sphere and Russia.

57

Moz of Yarramulla 06.05.17 at 12:30 am

All Little Englanders like me are asking is the same approach to immigration taken by nations like Australia

Before you get too excited about the Australian Solution I think you really should read up on it and consider whether you want to go there. We have singled out a few specific nationalities and are “persuading” them to return to the places they fled by what even our government agrees is torture (that’s the stuff the government officially and explicitly does, the beatings and rapes are ancillary). We apply that to children as well as adults.

So I say in all seriousness: Calais is not enough for you, you want to re-open Auschwitz?

58

J-D 06.05.17 at 1:50 am

Dipper writes here

“No doubt there will also be attempts to whip up hostility against Europeans generally” I think this is quite unfair. Even UKIP have been very clear that their target is European politicians and Freedom of Movement and have repeatedly said they are anti-immigration not anti-immigrant.

and also writes here

All Little Englanders like me are asking is the same approach to immigration taken by nations like Australia, Canada, the United States. People will still be able to move between nations. Some will be able to settle, as a number of my friends have in these countries.

If people are running a campaign for the UK to change its immigration policy to make it more like the policies of Australia, Canada, and the United States, that’s not the same thing as anti-immigration campaign (or at least it doesn’t have to be). But if people do run a campaign that is definitely anti-immigration and it has any significant impact, it must affect the way people treat immigrants. It’s silly to expect otherwise.

59

J-D 06.05.17 at 2:31 am

steven t johnson

… First, a reminder: The most common proximate cause of war is the prospect of an easy win for vested interests that command the state. Perhaps the second most common is the belief by such rulers that their wealth and power is about to be lost, with resort to arms are the only possible escape. … The verdicts of WWII will not just be forgotten, they must be reversed. …

By this sort analysis, the proximate cause of the Second World War was the ambitions of the Nazis and of the Japanese militarists. The verdict of the war on those ambitions was that there were would be no easy win for the Nazis or for the Japanese militarists and that their wealth and power would be lost. It is not clear to me why somebody would suggest that those verdicts should be reversed.

Also,

the part of humanity that actually counts (not least CT)

is one of the most bizarre expressions I have ever seen.

60

lurker 06.05.17 at 6:59 am

@Stephen, 54
Any pre-modern state would have been non-national.
Noble republics like Poland were nations in a sense, but the nation included only the nobility. The majority of the population were not citizens and had no political rights.

61

MisterMr 06.05.17 at 11:18 am

@Stephen 54

While Novakant can certainly speak for him/herself, I’ll give you my personal answers:

” how far back should one go in history to find a time when there were no nation states?”
I would say the 17th century, so not that much time ago (there were countries corresponding to modern nation states, but they werent organised like modern nation states).
PS: Is the UK a nation state or are Scotland, England etc. nation states? And why? (I think that the UK is a nation state and that national identities are largely constructed by governments, and that this is a central feature of nation states).

“Do you think that national identity, or national interest, have sometimes done more good than harm?”
I personally think no, national identity always does more harm than good. In fact I think that national identity is mostly a tool constructed in order to bully others.

“Are there any other forms of political organisation you would consider as equal, or indeed superior?”
Not presently, but personally I would welcome some form of world government, provided that it was reasonably democratic.

62

Collin Street 06.05.17 at 1:14 pm

All Little Englanders like me are asking is the same approach to immigration taken by nations like Australia, Canada, the United States.

You are taking the same approach to immigration as australia is.

… you didn’t know that australia is in a trans-national single-market agreement that inter-alia and for obvious reasons includes free movement of people? What else do you think you might not know?

63

Dipper 06.05.17 at 2:54 pm

@ Collin Street – yes with New Zealand. We will continue to have one with Ireland. Not quite comparable. Apples with Oranges etc.

64

steven t johnson 06.05.17 at 3:16 pm

J-D@59 “By this sort analysis, the proximate cause of the Second World War was the ambitions of the Nazis and of the Japanese militarists. The verdict of the war on those ambitions was that there were would be no easy win for the Nazis or for the Japanese militarists and that their wealth and power would be lost. It is not clear to me why somebody would suggest that those verdicts should be reversed.”

WWII actually began when the Japanese invaded China proper, turning the seizure of Manchuria into a general war. It was indeed prompted by the Japanese belief they would win. The Japanese attack on the US was not prompted by a belief in victory but the belief the empire would be lost if they did not. If you were somehow trying to imply the two most common proximate causes of war did not apply, then you are sadly mistaken. If you are somehow under the impression that Japan is not currently rearming or this has nothing to do with ambitions to the modern version of empire over Asia(even though it’s not called the C0-Prosperity Sphere,) in an effort to reverse its fortunes, you are equally mistaken, though perhaps this error is more sinister than sad. If you wonder why, perhaps you might interview devotees visiting the Yasukuni shrine?

As to the notion that WWII as usually dated began with the Nazi invasion of Poland, that too was prompted by their belief they would win. Why England found Nazi appropriation of Poland more unacceptable than Nazi appropriation of Czechoslovakia is a question interesting only to those who have a critical interest in history. However, the outcome of WWII in Europe, where England, France and Germany are integrated under US hegemony is also coming under question. There are only suggestions as yet that Germany, or France, or England, or perhaps the EU should take an independent course. But if you do not understand these few suggestions are prompted by judgments that US hegemony is costing “Europe” more than is justified, I can only think you are obtuse. But perhaps you are merely being disingenuous? What few who do want to reverse US domination do so for the belief that

“Also,

‘the part of humanity that actually counts (not least CT)’

is one of the most bizarre expressions I have ever seen.”

CT does support the overthrow of socialism/communism and the restoration of capitalism, because CT thinks capitalism can be reformed to provide a welfare state. CT thinks only fools or wicked people support socialism/communism, therefore their opinions do not count with the better part of humanity. Finding a true statement the very most bizarre thing you’ve ever heard is idiosyncratic at best. It suggests you haven’t heard or read very many statements, which is awfully hard to believe.

65

bruce wilder 06.05.17 at 6:29 pm

“I would welcome some form of world government, provided that it was reasonably democratic.”

lol

The allergy of some CT commenters to nationalism is interesting. Nationalism was the vehicle for the construction of liberal and democratic political institutions for at least three hundred years. And, now, it is the enemy.

England (as opposed to the UK as a whole) is the most crowded major country in Europe after a period of fairly high immigration and it is the home to seven or eight of the poorest cities in northwest Europe. London is enormously wealthy, but whole districts are unaffordable and rents drain away the nominally higher incomes of many who find opportunity there. These are political problems.

You can certainly argue that Brexit does not solve any of these problems, but it is also true that European Union makes it impossible to address any of these political problems by popular democratic means. The neoliberal European Union is built around “the Four Freedoms” of free movement of capital, people, goods and services, which is another way of saying that the constitution of European Union disables national states from governing any of it. Inside Europe, no one you can elect can do anything about any of it. And this is by design.

There is certainly a cosmopolitan class that benefits from these arrangements and are pleased by them and by the opportunities they afford, and can construct an ideology and apologetic to defend them. This is not a class which is willing to take responsibility for the consequences for the classes that do not benefit, beyond an occasional ameliorative grant and a lecture on the value of education. “There is no alternative” and “It’s complicated” are their mantras. Underneath the hand wringing over an abstract and disembodied “inequality”, there’s some distaste for the unwashed masses.

What I do not see is the logic of how “democratic” is supposed to work in a constitutional system where the state is circumscribed so severely vis a vis Capital and their Cosmopolitan hirelings.

The main arguments against Brexit seem to be that it is almost certainly going to be a hard Brexit, precisely because the neoliberal masters of Europe will want to punish Britain for trying to leave the straitjacket. You can phrase this as, “It’s complicated” with lists of how many treaties have to be negotiated, etc. and make it sound almost technical and politically neutral, but it is not neutral with regard to democracy.

I do not think the alleged death of Anglo-American liberalism is all that strange. Liberalism of the FT variety was always, as the OP admits, an apologia for the depredations of the capitalist business classes. What takes more explanation is the death of the CT variety of political leftish sentiment, where tossing nationalism overboard is virtue signalling. Without nationalism, without populism, without residual authority lodged constitutionally in the state, how is democracy to govern? How is this supposed to work?

66

J-D 06.06.17 at 4:27 am

steven t johnson
You wrote earlier:

The most common proximate cause of war is the prospect of an easy win for vested interests that command the state. Perhaps the second most common is the belief by such rulers that their wealth and power is about to be lost, with resort to arms are the only possible escape.

Now you have written:

If you were somehow trying to imply the two most common proximate causes of war did not apply, then you are sadly mistaken.

I am sorry if I did not make myself, but I was not trying to suggest that those factors did not apply to the case of the Second World War. On the contrary, I agree that they did.

It seems to me (and this is approximately what I wrote) that the verdict of the Second World War on the ambitions of the Nazis and of the Japanese militarists, whether their ambitions to gain more or their ambitions to hold what they had (before the war), would not be achieved. It’s still not clear to me why you would suggest that those verdicts should be reversed. But perhaps you disagree with me about what the verdict of the war was? It’s not clear to me how anybody could suppose that the verdict of the war on the ambitions of the Nazis and the Japanese militarists was that those ambitions were fulfilled. Are there other possible interpretations? Perhaps somebody might suggest that the verdict of the war on the ambitions of the Nazis and the Japanese militarists was that they would be thwarted for the time being but might yet be fulfilled at some point in the future. I am not sure what would constitute a reversal of that verdict. Perhaps you have in mind some other verdict of the war? Or perhaps we are misunderstanding each other because we have in mind different characterisations of what the ambitions of the Nazis and of the Japanese militarists were? I am not sure, but would appreciate further clarification.

CT does support the overthrow of socialism/communism and the restoration of capitalism, because CT thinks capitalism can be reformed to provide a welfare state. CT thinks only fools or wicked people support socialism/communism, therefore their opinions do not count with the better part of humanity. Finding a true statement the very most bizarre thing you’ve ever heard is idiosyncratic at best. It suggests you haven’t heard or read very many statements, which is awfully hard to believe.

It is not clear to me on what basis you have arrived at the conclusion or conclusions represented by either the first or the second of those sentences (or both), but in any case, what I wrote was not that I found one of your statements bizarre, but rather that I found bizarre a particular expression which formed part of one of those statements, namely

the part of humanity that actually counts (not least CT

I still cannot figure out what you mean by that expression. (I concede that of course it follows that if I cannot understand an expression, I cannot understand any statement of which it forms part; however, because it’s the specific expression which confuses me, the statement is not going to become clearer to me unless the intended meaning of the expression is clarified.)

67

lurker 06.06.17 at 10:04 am

‘The main arguments against Brexit seem to be that it is almost certainly going to be a hard Brexit, precisely because the neoliberal masters of Europe will want to punish Britain for trying to leave the straitjacket. You can phrase this as, “It’s complicated” with lists of how many treaties have to be negotiated, etc. and make it sound almost technical and politically neutral, but it is not neutral with regard to democracy.’ (bruce wilder)
So democracy means that the British get to decide what policies the rest of Europe should follow?

68

MisterMr 06.06.17 at 12:29 pm

@bruce wilder 65

I disagree with almost everything in your comment, so here is my answer.

“Nationalism was the vehicle for the construction of liberal and democratic political institutions for at least three hundred years”
It was also the vehicle for fascism, colonialism, perhaps stalinism (assuming that the story about Stalin’s favouring Russians above other ethnicities is true) etc.
In fact what happened is that in many places in the last three centuries there was an increase in the power and the centralisation of the state, both for good and for bad, was a tool for this; I’ll go a step further and I’ll say that mostly nationalism was created by the state (eg. by the creation of a sense of national identity threough school programs).

“England (as opposed to the UK as a whole) is the most crowded major country in Europe after a period of fairly high immigration and it is the home to seven or eight of the poorest cities in northwest Europe”
I’ll try to stay away as possible from the specifics of Brexit since this is not the correct thread, however choose between England and the UK, if your focus is England then also the UK would be illegitimate: the definition of the borders of the polity is the whole point of the discussion. (plus hey, we aren’t speaking of the center of Tokyo here, let’s get real)

“but it is also true that European Union makes it impossible to address any of these political problems by popular democratic means […] Inside Europe, no one you can elect can do anything about any of it”
No it isn’t true, what is true is just that most european elected shitty neoliberal politicians in their own countries, and therefore the policies of the EU end up being neoliberal. We can’t claim a “deficit of democracy” just because the other side won the elections.
Also: if britons choose to limit immigration from the EU this might (or might not) solve their problems, but it certainly doesn’t solve the problems of the Greek, Italian or Polish immigrant that is in search of a job, so again “democratic means” depend on where you choose to draw the border, if we take your argument to the extreme, then “sundown towns” would be ok. In my opinion true democracy implies no borders.

“There is certainly a cosmopolitan class that benefits from these arrangements”
There are capitalists that take advantage from the dissolution of the welfare state, cosmopolitanism has nothing to do with it; in fact, in my opinion “nationalism” is just a way to hide the class conflict behind a screen of “nationalist” conflict.

“What I do not see is the logic of how “democratic” is supposed to work in a constitutional system where the state is circumscribed so severely vis a vis Capital and their Cosmopolitan hirelings.”
Well perhaps then the idea of governments with geographical boundaries that are smaller than the target markets of most corporations isn’t all that smart, since each government will be always weaker that the corporations it is supposed to check.

“The main arguments against Brexit seem to be that it is almost certainly going to be a hard Brexit, precisely because the neoliberal masters of Europe will want to punish Britain for trying to leave the straitjacket”
Eh no this is the main argument according to brexiters, the real problem is that the UK, in order to get some advantage from brexit, would need a deal so advantageous that it would be clearly disadvantageous for all the others in the EU, who aren’t chumps so they will not accept such a deal. For example if the UK wants to freely sell food in the EU, without any border, it is obvious that it has to respect EU food rules, and from the point of view of other EU countries it is also obvious that it can’t close its inner market to products from other EU countries by for example setting higer standards for food, so the choices are:

1) UK rolls over and accepts all regulations from the EU (unacceptable for britons);
2) UK produces foodstuff according to its own regulations but then is allowed to sell it in the EU ignoring regulations of other countries (clearly unacceptable by other EU countries);
3) UK produces foodstuff and sells it to the EU, but blocks imports of EU foodstuff (clearly unacceptable by other EU countries);
4) Hard brexit (the most likely ending).

The reality is that the brexiters hope in a “protection for me, free market for thee” settlement. If you really think that protection is ok, then a “hard brexit” (protection for everyone) should be the best outcome.

69

DK 06.06.17 at 2:07 pm

Now, neither the UK nor the US is liberal, under any plausible definition of the term.

Of course they are. Try to maintain a sense of perspective.

70

Dipper 06.06.17 at 2:13 pm

@ MisterMr – 68

Clearly UK producers of food have to obey the regulations of whatever country or group of countries they are selling into. whether it be the EU or Burkina Faso. We would expect EU food regulations to ultimately be controlled by the ECJ. There isn’t an issue here.

Brexiters do not hope in a “protection for me, free market for thee” settlement. The wish to have free trade with other countries was quite clearly at the top of many Leave politicians statements and the notion of non-reciprocal arrangements was not at all part of the campaign.

bruce wilder para 3 is spot on. It is so obviously the case as illustrated by Greece.

You don’t speak for Brexiters. Please don’t even try.

71

Tracy Lightcap 06.06.17 at 4:15 pm

Lord, enlighten thou our enemies. Sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions, and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers: we are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom; their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength.
– John Stuart Mill

Yep. We need sharp conservatives and they have largely disappeared.

72

MisterMr 06.06.17 at 4:43 pm

@Dipper 70

I don’t claim to speak for brexiters, I say that what the brexiters actually hope for (you included) amounts to “protection for me, free market for thee”.

Obviously brexiters don’t realise it, hence the problem.

“We would expect EU food regulations to ultimately be controlled by the ECJ”
Reread my comment: it says that the UK food regulations will be controlled by the ECJ in any case excluded “hard brexit”. The UK, not the EU. This is the problem.
All other solutions amount to “protection for me and free market for thee”.

73

gastro george 06.06.17 at 5:44 pm

The prime minister has been clear the UK will no longer be bound by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, which ensures the application of EU legislation, after Brexit.
“We are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice,” she told the Conservative Party conference.
“That’s not going to happen.”

Brexit at-a-glance: What we learned from Theresa May
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38641207

74

novakant 06.06.17 at 5:52 pm

So Bruce Wilder is now channeling Nigel Farage – o temporary o mores!

(I am grateful for Mr’s detailed refutation.)

75

Marc 06.06.17 at 6:19 pm

@67: If free trade was really so terribly important, you’d think that the EU would be trying to hammer out an agreement that maximized the benefit to their people from free trade. Instead, it appears that they’re determined to be as punitive as possible to the UK. And a lot of the folks here seem to be hoping that it is as damaging to the UK as possible, presumably pour encourager les autres.

As power politics it makes sense. It also makes it clear that free trade is a stalking horse for control, not a positive good that the EU actually values.

76

Val 06.06.17 at 7:31 pm

Bruce wilder @ 65
“What takes more explanation is the death of the CT variety of political leftish sentiment, where tossing nationalism overboard is virtue signalling”

It seems to me you’ve got your syntax a bit confused in this statement – I can’t work out if you mean “tossing nationalism overboard” has died or hasn’t died. What exactly do you mean?

Presumably you are also scared of world government because you think it’s going to be yet another form of neoliberal government? But why would that make you prefer nation states?

77

Layman 06.06.17 at 9:10 pm

bruce wilder: “The main arguments against Brexit seem to be that it is almost certainly going to be a hard Brexit, precisely because the neoliberal masters of Europe will want to punish Britain for trying to leave the straitjacket.”

The main argument against Brexit is that it is a fantasy, a unicorn. The proponents of Brexit want all the benefits of being in the EU while accepting none of the costs or obligations of the relationship. As negotiating positions go, “I want the goods you’re offering but I won’t pay for them” is generally considered to be a non-starter, and if you want to believe instead that it is the other party that is unreasonable, well, no one can stop you. But you shouldn’t expect them to take you seriously, either.

78

bruce wilder 06.06.17 at 9:40 pm

@Val

I am saying there is a kind CT leftish sentiment, which rejects nationalism out of hand, which is rhetorically alive (and functioning as “virtue signalling”) but politically dead because it has no practical interest in seeing the state govern the political economy or in governing the state for that purpose.

I was drawing a parallel with the OP’s argument about the source of vitality for FT anglo-american liberalism, and its ability to leverage going back and forth between explaining Britain to Europe and Europe to Britain, maintaining balanced points of view. Not that long ago, the leftish could play a similar dance, leveraging European standards of justice against authoritarian British laws sometimes and, say, using British pride in the pound sterling to enable monetary independence.

I am saying that if you reject all species of nationalism out of hand, as part of signalling your own embrace of a higher political consciousness, as a matter of practical, substantive (as opposed to symbolic) politics, you’ve got nothing. Your leftism might as well be dead, because it is wholly irrelevant to the main business of politics, which is the governing of the political economy. You have voluntarily committed yourself to the neoliberal asylum and you won’t be getting out anytime soon.

79

Dipper 06.06.17 at 9:58 pm

@ Layman – these goods are a mutual benefit. What good reasons would they have for not sharing them given both sides would win?

And it isn’t just the price, it is everything else that goes with it. I notice Canada managed to sign a free-trade deal with the EU without having to pay enormous sums of money, accept the ECJ as the highest lawmaking body and open its doors to 500 million people. Can we have what they are having?

80

bruce wilder 06.06.17 at 11:47 pm

Layman @ 77

I take no brief for or against Brexit. In or out could be done well or badly — my expectation is that Brexit will just be one multi-act drama in the long-running political struggle to reshape and reform Europe.

It is certainly an irony of politics, that a Tory faction should take up the cause of Brexit, against the presumed interests of the The City, or even that Britain, which has carved out so many key exceptions to EU governance (the Euro, Schengen, etc) should be the one to express dissatisfaction.

The neoliberal EU has not been so favorable to social democratic political agendas and parties over the last decade that I could so confidently pronounce it a net positive from a left perspective. A political realignment, as we Americans would call it, is underway in the wake of the electoral collapse of the traditional left-of-centre social democratic parties. We will see how much left is left, but from the evidence of CT commentary, maybe not that much.

81

Layman 06.07.17 at 12:11 am

@Dipper – one side in a negotiation doesn’t get to decide what is in the other side’s interest. The ‘enormous sums of money’ are apparently sums the U.K. agreed to pay. The Canadians did in fact have to accept many EU rules and standards to get their deal. I’m sure the U.K. will end up with a similar deal, which will likely take as long to negotiate, which looks to be something on the order of 5 years. Beyond that, the EU has an interest in not offering countries all the benefits of EU membership with none of the costs, the nature of which should be patently obvious. Maybe the hacks who sold you Brexit should have told you this stuff? Or is it that you think that, as Britains, you deserve special treatment?

82

J-D 06.07.17 at 2:04 am

Marc

@67: If free trade was really so terribly important, you’d think that the EU would be trying to hammer out an agreement that maximized the benefit to their people from free trade. Instead, it appears that they’re determined to be as punitive as possible to the UK. And a lot of the folks here seem to be hoping that it is as damaging to the UK as possible, presumably pour encourager les autres.

I cannot understand on what basis you conclude that there is anybody here who hopes that the outcome will damage the UK. I haven’t seen anything written here that supports that conclusion. Some people probably fear, or expect, damage to the UK, but fearing something and predicting something are both different from hoping for it.

I have written something similar to what follows in a comment on a earlier post; it seemed to me that it should have been obvious and, what’s more, it seems to me that it should have been obvious before the referendum.

From the perspective of the people who will be negotiating on behalf of the EU, what is the ‘disaster’ option? What, above all else, will they be seeking to avoid? They do not want — they cannot possibly want — an outcome which is a substantial stimulus to desire in other EU members to leave. The critical indicator is popular sentiment in EU countries (other than the UK). If there’s a situation, three or four years from now, where lots of Italians/Danes/Spaniards/Swedes/Poles/Lithuanians/Croatians (and so on) are thinking, ‘Well, the UK is better off outside the EU’, that represents the ultimate failure for the EU negotiators. (If the situation three or four years from now is that the people of the UK think they’ve got a good deal, but the people of the remaining EU members think that the UK is worse off, that’s different; there’s not the same incentive for the EU negotiators to avoid that kind of outcome.)

It has to be like that. That has to be the overriding consideration for the EU negotiators. It’s silly to expect otherwise and it would also have been silly to expect otherwise before the referendum. It’s also silly to blame the EU negotiators for it. If they set out to harm the UK and its people purely out of spite, that would be reprehensible, but the two kinds of motive are not the same, even if people can experience difficulty distinguishing them.

83

Pavel A 06.07.17 at 5:02 am

@80
“Your leftism might as well be dead, because it is wholly irrelevant to the main business of politics, which is the governing of the political economy.”

So you’d like us to embrace some form of… how should we call it… nationalist socialism? Socialism has sort of been anti-nationalist from the get-go. The only other alternative is Autarky, but we know how those tend to pan out.

84

orangeman 06.07.17 at 4:06 pm

“the craziness of the US right has…. led to worse argument, because when the left doesn’t have anyone intelligent to debate with”

1
I thought that after the disaster in Nov, the Dem party wd put together a shadow gov’t and, without waiting for the awful bills that the GOP would produce real legislation on healthcare, infrastructure,etc [legislation = several hundred pages of complex text]

silly me; the dem party is reduced to replying to tweets

2
The imminent threat in the US today is that the Senate will pass the abomination known as AHCA
It is hard to state how important defeat of AHCA is: not only will this bill *kill people*, lots of people, soon, it will empower and enable the GOP to pass “tax reform” and other hideous measures

this bill is, once people understand it, wildly unpopular
so liberals do have a lever: If GOP senators get pushback from constituents, the bill will die
Given this, you would think that the liberal pundit world would be spending 24/7 screaming contact your senator if you don’t have an R senator, contact friends and family who do & explain the bill

Is the liberal pundit world doing this ?
no
no
no
they are spending their time snarking over tweets, or, other important but less important things

so much for liberal pundits

85

bruce wilder 06.07.17 at 5:56 pm

Layman @ 81

If “free trade” were really just about no tariffs and rapid forms processing at port of entry, then I suppose it would be a straightforward transaction: pay the membership dues and enjoy the rights and privileges of membership, or sod off.

But, it is not a fee that is being surrendered, it is the right to govern.

the neoliberal EU has an institutional agenda hostile to the rights of labor and protective of the rights of capital. that Boris Johnson is an idiot has not altered that reality

Pavel A @ 83

I’d like to know what you embrace. Investor-state arbitration to protect capital from local councils and parliament alike? You want left politics to begin and end in every case with a rally and a protest attended virtually by hundreds of Facebook friends? ’cause that will do it.

86

Layman 06.08.17 at 1:20 am

bruce wilder: “But, it is not a fee that is being surrendered, it is the right to govern.”

If that’s how they (you) feel about EU membership, then they (you) should not be members. On the other hand, they (you) should stop winging that they’re being denied the perks of membership simply because they don’t want to be in the club.

87

J-D 06.08.17 at 2:52 am

orangeman

I thought that after the disaster in Nov, the Dem party wd put together a shadow gov’t and, without waiting for the awful bills that the GOP would produce real legislation on healthcare, infrastructure,etc [legislation = several hundred pages of complex text]

Is that what opposition parties in the US normally do?

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