SHOCK: KRUGMAN TURNS ON 'ELITES'
Well, what I've been hearing with growing frequency from members of the policy elite ~ self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in good standing ~ is the claim that it's mostly the public's fault. The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate's foolishness. So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isn't just self-serving, it's dead wrong.
The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren't responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people ~ in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious.
"The United States has mass long-term unemployment for the first time since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Europe's single currency is coming apart at the seams. How did it all go so wrong?"
So it was the bad judgment of the elite, not the greediness of the common man that caused America's deficit. And much the same is true of the European crisis. Needless to say, that's not what you hear from European policy makers.
The official story in Europe these days is that governments of troubled nations catered too much to the masses, promising too much to voters while collecting too little in taxes. And that is, to be fair, a reasonably accurate story for Greece. But it's not at all what happened in Ireland and Spain, both of which had low debt and budget surpluses on the eve of the crisis.
The real story of Europe's crisis is that leaders created a single currency, the euro, without creating the institutions that were needed to cope with booms and busts within the euro zone. And the drive for a single European currency was the ultimate top-down project, an elite vision imposed on highly reluctant voters.
Does any of this matter?
Why should we be concerned about the effort to shift the blame for bad policies onto the general public?
One answer is simple accountability. People who advocated budget-busting policies during the Bush years shouldn't be allowed to pass themselves off as deficit hawks; people who praised Ireland as a role model shouldn't be giving lectures on responsible government.
But the larger answer, I'd argue, is that by making up stories about our current predicament that absolve the people who put us here there, we cut off any chance to learn from the crisis.
We need to place the blame where it belongs, to chasten our policy elites. Otherwise, they'll do even more damage in the years ahead.
For such language to appear in the New York Times from a primary exponent of top-down federalism is remarkable.
Conclusion: If what we are suggesting is actually taking place, then we would have to assume that the elites are becoming seriously troubled by the failure of their dominant social themes and are prepared to sacrifice intimates to ensure the blame does not reach to the very top where it belongs.
We would submit that this is qualitative strategic difference and has numerous ramifications in terms of the world's larger crises and the elite's ability to control them.
Blame the Internet?