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Introductory Video for Fall 2020 Instantiation of Econ 115 Module 9: Post-WWII Glorious Years of Equitable Growth & Inclusion in the Global North
As of 1945, there was not that many grounds for optimism, as far as the world economy and the world political economy were concerned.
The greater totalitarianism had been squashed. The lesser was flourishing. It used the blood of the Russian people spilled fighting Nazism over 1941 to 1945 as a powerful source of legitimating energy—never mind the active and eager collaboration of Stalin and his acolytes with Hitler whenever it had seemed to be to their even momentary advantage.
Market economies continued to fail to deliver Polanyian rights. Their ability to even deliver economic growth at all had been cast in the grave doubt by the Great Depression. As for democratic parliamentary politics—it could still be easily dismissed as a swamp that needed to be drained.
Yet 1940-1980 saw the victory and secure establishment of the market-heavy mixed economy as an engine for delivering unprecedented economic growth in the global north. It also saw the overwhelming victory of parliamentary democracy as a system that could generate good economic management and also increasing human freedom. And it saw the world system deliver independence and somewhat increasing prosperity, if neither democracy nor economic convergence, to the global south.
In the G7 nations, 1870 to 1913 had delivered average measured real-income growth of 1.4% per year, albeit unequally distributed.
That fell over 1913 to 1938 to 0.7% per year.
But then 1938 to 1973 saw growth at 3.0% per year, catching up to and leaping ahead of what a continuation of pre-1913 trends would have forecast.
Why did things go so right? And why, given that things went so right up through the 1970s, was that system of mixed-economy social democracy rejected for one of neoliberalism after 1980?
Some of it was that Keynes was at least half right, and his technical and technocratic adjustments to economic management did a great deal of good.
Some of it was that the disasters of 1913 to 1938 and the disaster on the other side of the iron curtain that was really-existing socialism that might move west—and east—concentrated everybody’s mind on making an imperfect system work.
Some of it was that the backlog of potential innovations undeployed over 1913 to 1938 made growth easy
Much of it was that with strong and equitable growth the market economies’ failure to vindicate Polanyian rights no longer seemed so salient
Some of it was that social insurance systems did, to some extent, manage to vindicate Polanyian rights
And much of it was that the plutocrats and the rightists had lost their nerve, after the disasters that their attempts to suppress labor organizations and political majorities had generated
But why then did things fall apart in 1980?
Keep that question in the back of your minds.
In addition to strong economic growth that was equitable, in the sense of being divided across economic classes rather than hogged by one, there was the increase in human freedom.
The equitable growth of 1938 to 1980 stopped afterwards in the age of neoliberalism. But the forward march of inclusion has continued.
Inclusion of people as first-class citizens. Who are the first-class citizens of the civilization that we define as the one in which the Anglo-Saxon language is the lingua franca—the tongue spoken by free people? At the start, in the days of Leader Elf-Wisdom of the west branch of the knife-guys—King Alfred of Wessex—it was his own landholding trained-warrior male-Saxon thains. But even in Alfred’s day, he was reaching to include others, and not just other branches of the Saxon tribe. Alfred called his expanded kingdom “England”, after the name of the neighboring tribe of the Angles that he wanted to include as well.
And as history passes it becomes the English, and then the British—but, remember, the WOGS—the worthy oriental gentlemen—begin as soon as you cross the English Channel and set foot on the European continent at the port of Calais.
There are still those who hold to that. England, if not Great Britain, is still in its majority in support of its ruler Boris Johnson. Boris at least claims to believe that the most important thing is to keep England pure from European pollution. (You are not supposed to remember his full name: Alexander Boris de Pfefle Johnson. Alexander is Greek. Boris is Russian. The de is French. The Pfeffel is German. The Johnson is Welsh, half Keltic, not fully Saxon. If you trace his male line of descent, it goes back not to the Saxons or the Vikings but rather a Turkish nomads who came boiling out of Kazakhstan in days gone bye.)
But I digress.
From male, British, and upper-class, the set of “gentlemen” expands. It expands to include the middle-class males who have good manners. And then Anglo-Saxon is expanded to include by courtesy others of Northern European stock who walk the walk. By the time of Teddy Roosevelt it is anyone white, or mostly white, who is willing to behave like a male Anglo-Saxon Puritan—children of the Mayflower by adoption as well as by birth. And Teddy Roosevelt still believed in the Republican parties historical obligation for the freedom and uplift of African-Americans. He was swimming against the tide of the American power structure of his day. But he was swimming.
And working class people are people.
And women became people too.
Next: America is a Protestant nation.
With the coming of World War II and the strong need to rally everyone against Nazism, and then with the coming of the age of social democracy, the progress of full inclusion speeds up.
Then: America is a Christian nation. Then: America is a Judeo-Christian nation. Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower says: “It is very important that an American have a strong faith and I don’t care what”.
Jimmy Carter as president in the 1960s talks about the “Abrahamic” faiths, bringing Muslims into the religious circle of inclusion. But that does not seem to stick.
Women become full people. Freedom is redefined so that your freedom does not include the right to discriminate against African-Americans in public accommodations. Who people love or choose to be in their private lives becomes “not your business” as well.
But Senator Rand Paul still believes in his heart of hearts that it does. Only the fact that it is not electorally wise to say that out loud, even in Kentucky, keeps him quiet now. And every year Fox News and company try to remove the Judeo- from “Judeo-Christian nation” and roll back inclusion by demanding an end to the “war on Christmas”.
We know where we are supposed to be now: equal opportunity as a goal, rather than a joke; tolerance and celebration of our diversity because trapping yourself in one point of view is going to makes you stupid and narrow.
We are not there yet.
The cultural DNA of the global north today is still roughly 50% from the North-Atlantic Anglo-Saxons of the Victorian era.
But this is a civilization in which people are less limited by what their parents happenned to look like and be than any previous one.
A story to inspire. But not a story to make us comfortable about where we are right now.
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