[OPE] The ideological function of Stiglitz's economics

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Sun Feb 24 2008 - 13:27:44 EST

Prof. Stiglitz argues: "The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined." http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article3419840.ece

But that is a straightout falsification of the facts by Prof. Stiglitz. 

The US leaders never expected a "quick inexpensive conflict", at most they had hoped, that Iraqis would be more enthusiastic about the military overthrow of Hussein's Baathist regime, and therefore co-operate more in rebuilding the country. Their own Manichean politics distorted their political vision.

Given the strategic importance of Iraq, then, as Bush, Wolfowitz, Powell  and many other leaders explicitly put it, the US would do "whatever it takes" and stay in Iraq "as long as necessary". Mr Bush indeed touted the vague perspective of a "permanent war", or what Barack Obama calls "open-ended conflict", a conflict without end, a global war of position with a constantly shifting terrain, which shades off in an eternal battle of good and evil. 

Once the occupation began, there was no turning back, not in the least because leaving Iraq would strengthen the position of Iran and other neighbouring countries who are rivals for American power in the Middle East. That was known by all leaders in advance. The option of invading Iraq with an occupation force had moreover been in the Pentagon "policy cupboard" ever since the first Gulf War. 

Why build a huge military infrastructure and airbases for the US armed forces in Iraq, if the real purpose is to leave as soon as possible? In reality, the dispute has only ever been about what would be the "minimum level of military effort" required to maintain order and control. 

Like the other liberal democrats. Stiglitz talks about the "costs of the war", as if this in itself is radical and progressive. But although he is an economist, he forgets all the while that for every cost, there is an income, $3 trillion of income. A lot of liberals grew very rich from the war. 

The war has been a bonanza for US, European and Asian corporations, contractors, individuals and bible bashers. How you draw the balance sheet of costs and benefits just depends on your own position in the world. 

The ideological problem is just that US workers who are killed and maimed in the war, have no real stake in fighting it anyhow, apart from earning a living. They are just pawns in the geostrategic chessgame of the elites, fighting a war the very meaning of which is in dispute.

But most of all, Stiglitz does not really explain what is wrong with the war on principle. He does not explain why you cannot create liberal democracy by military invasion. He implies that, if the Bush administration had won in Iraq, that it would have been right about the costs and benefits of the war, and therefore, that such wars are justifiable. 

In other words, Stiglitz implies that the problem with the war is not that it is wrong to fight it, but that, seen as the US is not winning it, it is too expensive (compared to, say, Clinton's war against Yugoslavia).

In reality, the ideological function of Stiglitz's apologia is just to provide the next US president with arguments for why austerity is necessary and inevitable, why workers need to tighten their belts, and why the reason for that is "not the fault" of the new administration - its hands being tied (among other things) by a war that it did not initiate, and the wasteful spending of the previous administration. 

For this purpose, Barack Obama is the ideal figurehead, precisely because he is not tainted with the decision to go to war in Iraq. The war is not his fault, and the budget blowouts are not his fault either. If, therefore, it turns out that he cannot deliver on his campaign promises, because the money isn't there, that is not his fault either.

In the Stiglitz vision, "By the time George W. Bush was sworn in... It was a moment ripe for Keynesian economics, a time to prime the pump by spending more money on education, technology, and infrastructure-all of which America desperately needed, and still does, but which the Clinton administration had postponed in its relentless drive to eliminate the deficit. Bill Clinton had left President Bush in an ideal position to pursue such policies." http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/12/bush200712 

Yeah, nice story. But in truth there was never any real intention by the US political elite to "spend significantly more public money on education, technology, and infrastructure" at any time, before or after the change in government. 

Now Stiglitz envisages that "The most immediate challenge [of the next US government] will be simply to get the economy's metabolism back into the normal range. That will mean moving from a savings rate of zero (or less) to a more typical savings rate of, say, 4 percent. While such an increase would be good for the long-term health of America's economy, the short-term consequences would be painful." http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/12/bush200712?currentPage=4

That is, because "there's a momentum here that will require a generation to reverse", workers should patiently accept "economic pain" dished out by liberal economic surgery. 

All the bad things are caused by the past. 

All the good things are in a future which however cannot yet be reached. 

Therefore, US workers should suffer pain now, but be fulfilled by "Hope" for a better world. 

There you have a recipe for Obamarama, with Stiglitz as its economic apologist and the Left as cheerleaders.



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