I read Mark Thoma at Economist’s View as one of those correctives to spending too much time with people of similar ideas. I’m generally not on the same page. At all.
I’m not this time either. He posts a long piece written by Barry Eichengreen and Brad deLong as an introduction to Charles Kindleberger’s book World in Depression, 1929-1939.
Eichengreen has written some interesting, pragmatic stuff deeply informed by economic history. DeLong is a high profile UC Berkeley Keynesian of the floppy left variety, forever involved in fractious debates, but a very impressive thinker nonetheless.
There are many reasonable words on the historic reality of the Depression, and some – more doubtful – suggestions there were three paths out of it. Those being economic dominance by US, dominance by Europe, and ceding economic sovereignty to international institutions.
Then we get this at the close, as they begin to refer to the present:
As we write, the North Atlantic world appears to have fallen foul to his bad outcome (c) [no player taking control], with extraordinary political dysfunction in the US preventing its government from acting as a benevolent hegemon, and the ruling mandarins of Europe, in Germany in particular, unwilling to step up and convince their voters that they must assume the task.
It was fear of this future that led Kindleberger to end The World in Depression with the observation: “In these circumstances, the third positive alternative of international institutions with real authority and sovereignty is pressing.”
Indeed it is, more so now than ever. [my emphasis]
These are neither bad nor stupid people. But that two serious thinkers can so glibly propose world economic government, and the reduction of local democracy and sovereignty, shows exactly the sort of danger the Smart Class poses to ordinary people.
And it shows exactly how technical proficiency in one field in no way qualifies or legitimates the views of the Smart Class on core political questions. Political issues may be complex, but I would trust the crowd sourced intuitions of ordinary, sceptical-to-the-point-of-suspicious voters before the neatly presented condescension of our intellectual betters.
God save us all from the musings of rampant PhDs with tenure.