Search Results for ‘21’

10 – Introducing Jan Sampiemon (21 Jan 09)

One of the things to which this website hopes to contribute is an active European public sphere. I hope that others with an interest in political, economic, and social affairs, who lament the shortcomings of European media in providing a pan-European citizen forum, will want to do the same, so that we may establish new networks for relevant conversation. Too few European voices with something to say reach other Europeans even one border away. A collectivity of those could do much to offset the odd and undesirable fact that most of the world and much of Europe consumes “news” in the choices and sauces and in portions determined by American-British editors. While some of these editors are without question excellent, they themselves can benefit from choices and interpretations arrived at by journalists and essayists from outside the territories in which that wonderful language, which most of us use when meeting foreign friends, is the tool of daily conversation. One of those writers is Jan Sampiemon whose insights in world events and European problems have long deserved an international audience. I met him first in 1972, when he hired me as correspondent for Japan and other parts of...

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11 – Helping Obama (21 Jan 09)

and a new Sampiemon column. Who in his or her right mind does not want to help Barack Obama succeed as President of the United States? Almost everyone in Europe hopes he does, so is the overwhelming general impression. And Europeans should help him, so write a number of American commentators. They should end their unwillingness to cooperate with Washington. What that means for the liberal hawks, over-represented among them, was conveyed by a Thomas Friedman column shortly after the election. This correspondent, who has what must be the most enviable job in contemporary journalism, may not be much as a political analyst, but as a weathervane indicating the direction of the winds of received opinion in Washington he certainly is useful. You wanted Obama, now you have him, and it is therefore time to do something in return, so spoke Friedman to the Europeans. And that something is mainly to send more troops to Afghanistan. More misconceived advice for helping Obama is hard to imagine. We do not yet have a clear idea of what his true thoughts are about Afghanistan and what he is being told by relevant advisers. It is a central question among American...

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21 – Obama Meets Frankenstein (9 May – 09)

The prevailing intellectual climate is not friendly to the notion that much of the time we do not know what we are doing, in the sense of producing results that diverge widely from what in all sanity we would have wanted to produce. Intellectually we have come a far way from remote ancestors who thought they could make sense of their reality by invoking “fate” or capricious gods who derived pleasure from playing with humanity. Enlightened thought has us acting as conscious agents. All varieties of liberalism – not the “leftism” of American political understanding, but the legacy of Locke, Hume, and John Stuart Mill – hold high the concepts of “agency” and “choice”. Especially in the United States these are taken for granted. American social science is steeped in them. Political thought on the most popular level treats them as given. The way in which our society is put together and how it works is the outcome of collective choice, our lives are lived as directed by conscious human agency; the one assumption contains, of course, the other. The currently influential school in political thought known as “rational choice theory” is an obnoxiously extreme example of...

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35 – The Austerity Epidemic (21 June 2011)

I have said it elsewhere on this site: the notion of a ‘marketplace of ideas’ is nonsensical (jotting 24). Ideas are not traded, and are not scarce. They infect you, may cause intellectual and emotional fever and have frequently enough brought about epidemics that changed history. For the right metaphor in this case we should stick to the field of medicine, especially now a new epidemic, also known as the ‘austerity craze’, has been spreading in three of the most important industrial areas of the world; after having been allowed, in a chronic process in Africa and Latin America, to keep poor countries poor. Today, the very efficacious political command that belts must be tightened, budgets slashed, and welfare provisions thrown overboard is threatening to help make the future of Europeans, Americans and Japanese dimmer and more miserable. Before saying anything else about it we must be clear about the fact that the seductive power of the political/economic recipes that come with the craze does not derive from historical proof that these have been successful. Quite the contrary; starving the state of the means to cater to the common good has often enough lead to the kind...

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