Thursday, December 03, 2015

And now a Few Prescient Words from John Raulston Saul. Steve Harper, I Think He's Describing You.

One of the delights of revisiting a book one hasn't read in many years is discovering information or perspectives you missed initially that have come to have greater meaning due to events in the intervening years. I'm finding much of that as I again read my way through John Raulston Saul's "The Collapse of Globalism."

In one chapter, Saul explores the rise of technocracy in Europe under the rule of leaders like Valery Giscard D'estaing of France and Germany's Helmut Schmidt. See if any of this resonates with you and how you see our country in 2015.

...Giscard came to power in the midst of those seminal crises of oil, inflation, unemployment and no growth. He counterattacked as best a technocrat could and made no impact. Interest rates were so high that they were bankrupting the private sector without controlling inflation. Giscard became bewildered. Discouraged.

Then one night he appeared on television to address the people. He told them that great global forces were at work. These were new forces, Forces of inevitability. Forces of economic interdependence. There was little a national government could do. He was powerless.

This historic appearance was probably the original declaration of Globalization as a freestanding force escaping the controls of all men. It was also the invention of a new leader; the manager as castrato. This approach created quite a fashion among leaders at all levels. The easy answer to the most difficult problems was increasingly to lament publicly that you were powerless. Impotent. That your large budgets, your public structures, the talents and determination of your population could make little difference. These were not problems to be solved. These were manifestations of the global reality. With your leader/manager friends in other countries you would do your best to round the sharp corners through management of the details.

You might say that globalization became an excuse for not dealing with important problems. Worse than that, this betrayal of the idea of public responsibility - that is, a belief in the possibility of choice - gradually undermined the citizens' confidence in their democracy. People like Giscard made the shibboleth of inevitability credible. It was the return of the fearful priests so central to the darkest moments of the Middle Ages.

...We were witnessing the arrival of the false rationality of managerialism. This was, in M.G. Smith's words, "the basic fallacy of the view that an all-dominating bureaucracy is a more rational or superior organ of government than a controlled bureaucracy." Or Camus: "Nothing being true or false, good or bad, the measurement will be the most efficient, that is the strongest. The world will no longer be divided between just nd unjust, but masters and slaves."

Harper, to his credit, never saw himself as more than a technocrat. As his BFF Tom Flanagan bluntly put it, Harper eschewed vision. It had no place in his playbook. He would embrace the shelter of inevitability and harness us to its yoke while he privately wrestled to manipulate it to serve his ideology.


3 comments:

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Very well said Mound. Very True and I find very scary. There does not seem to be one country that is challenging Globalism or Neoliberalism that Saul also so eloquently talks about. Is there a country that is challenging it?

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I see the British Parliament has voted to bomb Syria. The world really is run by psychopaths.

The Mound of Sound said...

Years ago, Pamela, I did a post in which I labelled Harper a "fractional prime minister" to reflect how he managed some things but entirely neglected other issues affecting the country. I criticized the guy as a 'petit fonctionnaire' - a mid-level technocrat with no real vision for the country or much interest in it overall.

This is why Harper departs office with no legacy. In his best moments he was an overseer, in his worst a deceitful thug. His sole quest was to transform Canada into a global energy superpower and even in that he failed utterly.

I don't know if you read Andrew Coyne's column today but it extends these same criticisms to the entire Conservative apparatus in Canada, federal and provincial.