Easter Vigil in Berkeley
More Thuds and Screams from the Topkapi Palace

The Worse, the Better?

It's not clear to me that it is true that Lenin ever said "the worse, the better"--but Henry Farrell finds the Economist being plus Leninist que le Lenin:

Defunct Economist: The Economist gives us yet another rendition of "Western Europeans have it too good to realize how badly they need reform."...

THEY are two seemingly unconnected events, but they yield a common, depressing conclusion. The events were the decision by France's government to tear up its controversial law creating a more flexible job contract for the young, and the razor-edge outcome of Italy's rancorous election. The conclusion: the core countries of Europe are not ready to make the economic reforms they so desperately need--and that change, alas, will come only after a diabolic economic crisis.... their voters are not yet ready to swallow the nasty medicine of change... too many cosseted insiders.... The real problem, not just for Italy and France but also for Germany, is that, so far, life has continued to be too good for too many people: there is not yet a general consensus that their economies are in serious trouble.... There is one depressingly certain way to remedy the failings in the core European countries: to bring on a more serious economic crisis. This week will surely have brought that a lot closer.

This combines a few arguments that are true and important (there are problems of equity with sclerotic labour markets that discriminate against the young) with much that is quite bizarre -- the claim that Europe's fundamental difficulty is that "life has continued to be too good for too many people." Would that we all had such problems... a dolled up version of the old Marxist trope that we need (as David Lodge's Fulvia Morgana puts it) to "eighten ze contradictions" if we are to bring through the revolution.... The Economist, which appears to believe that there's no intellectual debate to the left of the New Republic owes rather more to defunct Marxist theorists than it imagines...

Let me pile on: the failure of the corrupt and bizarre Silvio Berlusconi to construct a comfortable and durable political majority is a sign of political health, not political sickness in Italy. The French situation is more complicated--but were I a young French non-economist, I would be suspicious of the fact that this change in the law was to apply to the young and only to the young. Europe's politics appear, well, to be consideraby healthier than America's politics right now.