Tuesday, May 19, 2009

George Will: Wrong Again

Editor's Note: This was originally sent in to the Albuquerque Journal as a letter to the editor. They didn't print it, and it is still almost-timely, so I'm posting it here. Relevant links: George Will's article ad-gated at the Journal or free-membership-gated at the Washington Post or in its entirety and with handy visual aids online here . Ian Bremmer's article in Foreign Affairs is paid-subscription-gated, but you can listen to the whole of it as a podcast.

Edit #2: Thanks to commentor ThingsBreak, here's a .pdf of Bremmer's piece. It is really, really good.

On Monday, the Journal published an article by George Will entitled "Too Many 'Free Markets' Belong to the State - Really". Will spends his time misinterpreting Ian Bremmer's article "State Capitalism Comes of Age." Substituting bias for an understanding of the material, Will disputes Bremmer's premise that "the state must eventually retreat" from long-term state control of capital. Will says, instead, that Bremmer is "probably wrong, because he underestimates the pleasure politicians derive from using their nation's wealth as a slush fund for purchasing political advantage." Nowhere in Bremmer's article does Bremmer exhibit an underestimation of political greed - instead, he refers often to the close ties between economic and political leadership in both Russia and China. Will also implies that the new states that have taken ownership of their free markets (Brazil, India, Turkey, and Mexico) have done so out of greed; Bremmer instead explains that they did so because these countries had "a much weaker rule of law than was the case in established free-market democracies".

The country that Bremmer does not feel is at risk for permanent state control is the one that Will writes the most about - the United States. Nowhere in Bremmer's article is there a basis for government in the US becoming "the only agent and the sole arbiter" of American happiness. Instead, Bremmer states correctly that "in the United States and in Europe, the power of the invisible hand remains an article of faith. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic know that to maintain popular support, they must keep their promises to return the banking sector and large enterprises to private hands once they have been restored to health." This is a far cry from the authoritarian USA Will reads into Bremmer's article. Once again, Will cherry-picks the his quotes, and misses the truth.


Things Break said...

Here's a link to the Foreign Affairs article in PDF form. http://tinyurl.com/qx33kk

Kelsey Atherton said...

@Things Break