Monday, March 09, 2009

The Face of Pragmatism

It is interesting to listen to mainstream social democrats these days. On one hand there is a substantial portion of ill-hidden schadenfreude (told you so!) about the apparent failure of global capitalism, on the other, there is little understanding of what the hope of global prosperity actually had come to mean for the rest of the world and, also, what truly may be at stake in the current crisis.

Carl Tham (once a liberal who converted to social democracy in the mid-eighties) repeated what has become common wisdom these days, that the financial crisis was the inevitable consequence of too much market economy, a bunch of greedy bankers and a failure to regulate. True as all this may be, I have learned to always be very careful when too many people run in the same direction.

My scepticism proved valuable as the current crisis was linked to the global quest for sustainability. Again the platitudes prevailed: the rest of the world can never attain our living standard, we only have one planet (a claim which the most distinguished scholars hold to be axiomatically true, regardless of how empirical false it is) and that recurrent failure to think boldly about our possibilities.

Yet, the initiative, to organize a conference on the “triple crisis” (the ecological, economic and resource crises) is indeed laudable and I promise that the next blog post will contain somewhat less frustration :-)

P.S. For more on the financial crisis and sustainability, see the op-ed by Thomas Friedman on “The Great Disruption” in yesterday’s IHT.

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