Ouf ! Political scientist Henry Farrell read the inane editorial in The Economist on “the rather dangerous Monsieur Hollande” (huh? WTF? Flanby “dangerous”??) and, no doubt reading my mind, beat me to it in expressing his low opinion of its hack-like argumentation (here, via Krugman). Money quote
I’ve no idea what Hollande is going to be like (except that he’s certainly going to be disappointing). But I do know that this [Economist editorial] is one of the most exquisitely refined examples of globollocks that I’ve ever seen. It’s as beautifully resistant to the intellect as an Andropov era Pravda editorial. A few more years of this and the Economist won’t have to have any human editing at all. Even today, I imagine that someone with middling coding skills could patch together a passable Economist-editorial generator with a few days work. Mix in names of countries and people scraped from the political stories sections of Google News, with frequent exhortations for “Reform,” “toughminded reform,” “market-led reform,” “painful reform,” “change,” “serious change,” “rupture,” and 12-15 sentences worth of automagically generated word-salad content, and you’d be there.
And the clincher
I wonder whether even the writer of this editorial would be able to define ‘reform’ or ‘change’ if he were asked, beyond appealing to some sort of ‘social protection bad, market good’ quasi-autonomic reflex embedded deep in his lizard brain. I also wonder whether the people in there are as cynical about their product as Andropov-era journalists were, or whether they actually believe the pabulum they dish out.
This was precisely my reaction in reading The Economist’s broken-record admonishing of the French to “reform” their welfare state, to get themselves a Margaret Thatcher and, well, do what exactly? Imitate Mrs. Thatcher and her acolytes Blair and Cameron—both carrying The Economist’s AOC label—so the French can replicate the brilliant success of the British economy? Right. I am really quite fatigued with this neoliberal Anglo-Saxon finger-wagging at the French. Really, what are the French supposed to do? Privatize? It’s already been done (and thanks in no small part to directives from a European Union that neoliberal Anglo-Saxons claim to abhor). Raise the retirement age and reform pensions? That’s being done (and the left in power will not reverse the legislation of the past decade on this). Reform the Sécu? How so? Reduce the number of state functionaries? Okay, but in which categories? Cut spending? Okay, but please specify what and where.
If anyone out there adheres to The Economist (or Wall Street Journal editorial page et al) line on all this, I invite him or her to state very specifically what the French should be doing, with precise, specific references to actual French legislation. If one is able to do this—and I’m not going to hold my breath on it—then s/he may spell out what s/he thinks the salutary effect would be, of how this would make France a better country. I’m not suggesting that there are not important reforms that need to be made—e.g. merging the régimes spéciaux into the general system—but I just want to hear it from the finger-wagging neoliberal Anglo-Saxons. If they can’t explicitly spell it out, then I will ask them to please STFU.
ADDENDUM: One of the Anglo-Saxon finger-waggers is Walter Russell Mead, who has a bee in his bonnet about what he calls the “blue social model” and its supposed bankruptcy, figurative and literal. He liked The Economist editorial on Hollande (here). Okay, Mr. Mead, please tell us very specifically how you would reform France.