Michael Lind on Hegelian Irony and How the Future Might Look


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
My colleague Michael Lind — who is Senior Fellow and Director of the New America Foundation’s American Infrastructure Initiative — offered some thoughts on what the future might look like over at The New Republic‘s “The Plank“.
His entire, short essay deserves a read, but I particularly liked this last section, and particularly found the last paragraph intriguing:

The U.S. economy a decade from now may be dominated by a few huge universal banks and a small number of gigantic corporations, all of them “too big to fail.” In return for implicit government bail-out guarantees, these swollen private-sector Leviathans will abandon “greed is good” rhetoric for noble sentiments about corporate responsibility. The emerging system might be called “lemon corporatism.” A managerial state dominated by oligopolies and monopolies, where government encourages employer paternalism as an alternative to public welfare spending, would resemble contemporary Japan and the dystopian America of “Rollerball.”
Barring new, unavoidable conflicts, the Pentagon is also likely to be downsized, following the reduction of the U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. will remain the leading great power, but there will be no new American century, nor will Europe, hit even worse than the U.S., be a plausible partner in a Pax Atlantica. As in the 1970s, the U.S. will find itself in a multipolar world, struggling in both the commercial and the military arenas.
Hegel called this kind of irony “the cunning of history.” Beginning in the 1970s, libertarians and neoliberals promised that deregulation would produce a borderless utopia for small enterprises and entrepreneurs. Instead, the result of free market fundamentalism is a global financial collapse that may produce an America with bigger government, more paternalism, and a financial and corporate oligopoly.

— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Michael Lind on Hegelian Irony and How the Future Might Look

  1. RonK, Seattle says:

    I had suspected this election would put us on a Japanese track whether the systemic crisis came now, or later.
    On another note, “too big to fail” has an important corollary: “too big to jail”.


  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Posted by Robespiere Oct 09, 5:44PM – Link
    Your anti-Americanism smells bad, Rob.
    At least the French know how to spell the name of their monster
    citizen. Robespierre.


  3. Robespiere says:

    Americains !
    Are you ready for your Guillotines ?!
    Oh, no, not yet.!
    In due time, in due time.


  4. Paul Norheim says:

    Perhaps it`s already in flames, thanks to the free-marked


  5. arthurdecco says:

    Carroll has always had the right idea: Burn it all to the ground and start over.


  6. DopnS says:

    While the pendulum may swing away from the practice of unfettered corporate “greedism”, to even more of a government-enabled model it will be interesting to see the twisted rhetoric that emerges, for instance, to gloss over the “global” solutions that emerge, as Bill R notes above.
    All this was foreseeable as the corporate model superseded physical and political borders.
    I am not a particularly clever in economic matters, but the outlines of the emerging debacle were clear enough, with the last “real estate bubble” obvious to even the blind.
    Were financial elites blinded by their own rhetoric or assumed ability to manipulate the laws of gravity — or just assumed they could escape the most serious consequences before the house of cards began to fall?
    Clearly, the international financial elites will not take a hit sufficient to put much of a dent in lifestyles.
    In this country, redressing some balance must come in a deep “soak the rich” policy . . . all the deregulation/investment stifling opposition notwithstanding. It’s only FAIR. And how about cutting back on the defense spending trough?
    Will politicians give ONLY lip service to Main Street? As long as we are about to have massive change in the window dressing of economic structures, isn’t about time for massive change in our politics too?
    Do we really need the “expert” lobbyists to inform our politicians of the road ahead? We KNOW not to trust the corporate financiers and their lackeys.
    Just how irrelevant will Congress prove itself to be?


  7. Zathras says:

    Lind’s comments are more consistent with campaign rhetoric this year than with what actually happened beginning in the 1970s.
    At that time, regulatory structures constructed during the time of the Depression and World War II and designed to address the problems of that era were seen as obstacles to economic growth and consumer welfare. A lot of them were; they had in fact outlived their usefulness, and deserved to be phased out. Trade protection, which successive American administrations of both parties had sought to roll back since the Roosevelt administration, was also an obstacle to economic growth; its supporters tended to be groups like auto companies, and automobile unions, reluctant to face the consequences of their unwillingness to build cars Americans wanted to buy.
    So far, so good, but as the global economy evolved a number of new financial instruments and new problems arose that required specific regulatory structures, different from those developed in response to the crises of the ’30s and ’40s and difficult to design and present to the public in the absence of the kind of crises that spurred government action then. It’s fair enough to point out that many people opposed new regulation of financial services markets, but supporters of regulation were divided among themselves as to the form it should take in addition to being in the minority. For good measure at least one aspect of of current financial crisis — the explosion of sub-prime mortgages and debt instruments based on them — was strongly influenced by government pressure on financial institutions to extend more mortgage credit to borrowers they would not otherwise have considered credit worthy: a case of too much rather than too little government engagement in financial markets.
    Sen. Obama’s campaign rhetoric does not dwell on this. It does not engage the problem of building an economy driven by consumption on a foundation of ever-increasing public and private debt. It doesn’t even avoid the advocacy of additional tax cuts. What Obama emphasizes to the American people is that they are victims: of Wall Street, of mortgage fraudsters, of deregulators. There’s nothing exceptional about this; Democratic candidates usually try to appeal to Americans’ sense of victimhood, and with the onset of genuinely hard times for many across the country this must be a particularly tempting line to take now in this campaign.
    Actual government policymaking will have to look at the matter differently. I try to avoid predicting the future, but suspect that if Americans want the kind of paternailistic, oligopolistic, half-free country Michael Lind envisions — or even if they think they have to accept it as the only alternative to “free-market fundamentalism” — they will probably find a way to get it. A large number of Americans won’t.


  8. JohnH says:

    Whether the US turns out like a paternalistic Japan or unpaternalistic Russia will depend on the ethos of the ruling thugs. The experience of the past 25 years does not give me much optimism that the ruling thugs here care about anything but their own self enrichment.


  9. chopper says:

    What has done more damage to America’s interests? Terrorism? Or Conservatism?
    Conservatism, free-market fundamentalists and deregulation zealots have done what terrorists couldn’t: Bring our global financial and economic systems to its knees.
    And I guarantee you, except in the very rare instance, conservatives will lack the fundamental intellectual honesty to acknowledge how badly their ideology has damaged our financial system.
    Conservatism is a bankrupt ideology. Both in constructive ideas to build a fair and sustainable economy, and in basic morality.


  10. Bill R. says:

    Extreme actions provoke equal reactions. The extremist anti-regulation people ignored the lessons of the 1920s stripping away the protections in place that looked after the common interest over the private interest. Now we are moving toward a global system of banking and financial market regulation. The stupidity of these right wing ideologues has accelerated what they fear most, a “new world order.”


  11. janinsanfran says:

    …”the result of free market fundamentalism is a global financial collapse that may produce an America with bigger government, more paternalism, and a financial and corporate oligopoly.”
    Wasn’t that the point, bolstering the oligopoly? Those of us who did not get to the party have tended to assume so.


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *