[OPE] Krugman's great illusion

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Wed Aug 20 2008 - 18:09:56 EDT

I never had any records by Ochs, it was the generation before me. I think his first record was the best, the one with the cover where he's sitting on his guitar reading the newspaper with that background, sorta like, I can read the news, and if you listen to my songs, I have something to say about it too. It has that track "automation song". My musical tastes are pretty mainstream, nowadays I like pretty calm, laidback music without a lot of noise mostly, really I am more visual, I go deviant only when I get harassed or feel hassled. 

But actually my ideas about music have changed a lot recently, and really I can't find the music that really fits with me anymore. Music is often a lot like porn videos these days, it's badly packaged, so you don't know what you're getting, or it's hard to find what you are looking for, so it's often basically a matter of just hearing something one day, and thinking yeah, I really like that, or maybe you have to do a song and dance to get there. You know that you have found it, if you truly feel moved and inspired by it in a sincere sense. Amsterdam is a really noisy place, so often when I'm home I keep things fairly quiet unless I am cursing. "Bridge over troubled water" was the first pop LP my older brother got for his birthday when he was 13, we were allowed to listen to pop music then, "Some girls" came out just when I popped my virginity.  

I wrote a bit about the democracy issue because I feel strongly about it, also the fact that we're not really discussing what kind of democracy we want, but then of course you get double trouble again, and you feel like dropping the subject again, unless double trouble is no trouble at all, but that's the whole point of it. I'm a bit fatigued (in large part that's between your ears, or a tension/relaxation imbalance) but

a bit schematically perhaps,

Liberalism says social problems are the problems of individuals, individuals should change, and if they don't they're to blame.
Leftism says individual problems are social problems, problems of society, a wider social malaise, so society should change.
Conservatism says individual and social problems are caused by rejecting tried and tested moral traditions (or eternal truths) we need to get back to.

So then these trends can all jibe and sneer at each other.

However a thinker concerns himself with this: 

What is the real relationship between the individual and the social? 
What would we need to do, or inquire about, to obtain accurate knowledge about that relationship? 
And how would we align the relationship of the individual and the social, so that things work better? 

That obviously raises a whole pack of issues which social scientists, politicians and philosophers have thought about for a long time, and, these days, the focus is often rather pragmatic, i.e. it is on useable or useful knowledge that can provide real orientation. This may be fine in the short term, but a scholar thinks in the long term you do need solid foundations and get to the essence of things, and so then you really have to think things through to the end, and have some kind of meaningful dialogue about it. And for this purpose banalities and slipshod thinking, although maybe funny, are not much of a help. Of course you can also say, there's stuff I just don't want to know, or I can't live with it, but you have to remain to a degree self-critical or at least relatively open about that. 

I have a succinct English book on "What's wrong with liberalism?" at home by Maureen Ramsay (1997), but I don't know of any profound contemporary American critique of liberalism. Liberalism is not all bad, it comes in all shapes and sizes, but it has limits. Kurt Vonnegut said something like, in America basically you are either a Democrat or a Republican by nature or you are mixing them up, and then Lakoff defines the meaning of that in metaphors (or ideal types), but I find that rather unsatisfactory because it is an ahistorical view, and it turns out that in reality this Democrat/Republican polarity is becoming problematic, or even to a significant extent superseded nowadays, it's only held together by money. If you like, an old superstructure that hasn't kept pace with the base of society. There's lots of people in the States now that don't identify with the Democrat/Republican polarity anymore, it's more that there isn't any clear political alternative in sight redefining the issues. 

As Mr Obama, who is prepared to take final responsibility for a very large, difficult task - would you like to stand in his shoes? - says, things have got to change. Since he cannot easily change a lot of the economic stuff short of reorganising the state, then he's also got to look at changing society in other ways. But the public controversy is as yet rather paltry and timid, it seems to be mostly about styles of doing things. Things have to sink in more first. As regards handling money, the Democrats are generally superior, but as regards social issues I am not so sure. In general, the Democrats often use the Left to push a rightwing agenda, and I guess that is what the song you mention also refers to.


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