Economics Election 2008 Foreign Policy

A Prophecy in the Guardian

John Gray, an author of big ideas with a focus on the apocalyptic and the grand sweep of history, has a must-read article in the Guardian. He calls it “A shattering moment in America’s fall from power.” He writes as if history is already written – and his examples are often petty and overblown. His piece reeks of self-importance and schaedenfraude. His big ideas seem more glib than profound.

And yet, his piece demonstrates two things.

First, his view is, I think, broadly reflective of how much of the world sees what is happening – with regional and cultural factors leading to the emphasis of slightly different aspects of the story. The Chinese would focus on the lack of centralized government oversight of the economy; the Europeans would see the lack of regulation and welfare programs; the Arabs would see the decadance. But in every telling, the story is the same – an empire is felled by it’s arrogance; the forces that led it to worldwide domination came back to destroy it.

That is what I found profoundly interesting about John Gray’s piece – that he was able to convey to me a sense of distance from the events taking place just a few blocks from where I work – a distance that allowed him to be smug and to “see” the future – a future that is very bleak.

Second, his piece does accurately reflect one way we could go as a nation. It can serve as a warning. Not a warning like Warren Buffet who called mortgage-backed derivratives “financial weapons of mass destruction” five years ago – but a warning that, like any real prophecy, is a vague and distrubing vision. The details may be wrong – but the vision is powerful – and it is entirely plausible.

It is a piece I would reccomend partisans of both the left and right read – and the muddled pragmatists in the middle too.

The trends Gray sees are really there – even if he uses a bit of poetic license in describing them.

5 replies on “A Prophecy in the Guardian”

Am I being obtuse or are you being sarcastic in describing pragmatists as muddled? By definition, they are very not muddled, according to, pragmatism is:

” A practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems.”

It struck me for I classify myself as an independent and am confident in my beliefs and understandings (though I leave a fair amount of room for learning new ideas that change my beliefs and thoughts) and often see the partisans on the left and right as being muddled. In the battle to gain independent votes, it is the McCains and Obamas of the world who adopt policies from the Pauls and Naders to appease us. It’s often quite hilarious to watch because as an independent I want someone to believe in their ideas, rather than try to squeeze in as many ideologies under one roof as possible.

I believe I’ve ranted for too long. Adieu friend!

I should add I see myself in the middle as a fiscal conservative in the Paul sense and a social liberal in the Nader sense, though again I leave myself open to new ideas and the uncertainties of the world.

I’m not sure that muddled-ness and pragmatism cannot co-exist – can’t someone be practical, matter of fact and, at the same time, addled and mixed-up? Hank Paulson in this crisis strikes me precisely as a muddled pragmatist. He’s trying to be practical and to get something done to solve the problems, but at the same time, he’s ideologically confused, and his solutions seem addled.

re. beliefs – I actually see myself more in the Obama/McCain (the 2000 version) camp than the Nader/Paul. I distrust idealism – and I prefer pragmatism and tinkering – because in the end, my best efforts and greatest successes will inevitably cause harm as well as good. As confident as I am in my ideas and actions, I am aware that my confidence is contingent, provisional, because in my opinion, great actions based on ideals do far more harm than pragmatism and tinkering.

Well, I’d argue that Paulson is being very unpractical, especially running around claiming the economic sky is falling. To me the practical approach would have been to tell everyone to calm down, take a deep breath and let’s get a panel of economic experts to agree on a gameplan, rather than forcing a bill through congress that essentially just throws a bunch of money at the problem in the hopes it’ll fix it.

In other words, it would have been practical to not try to solve the problem with such steadfastness. Though, I understand what you’re saying now about the mix of muddled-ness and pragmatism.

In terms of beliefs, I am an optimist by nature and believe in aiming for the best we can, and if we fall short at least we fall short of greatness. Still, I see there being room for both lines of thought in this world and would argue that some of man’s best achievements have come from both idealists and pragmatists. I think both lines can learn a lot from each other and wish that we could have debates in this country where all parties are welcome to discuss their idea and plans.

Thanks a lot for the helpful posting. It is also my belief that mesothelioma cancer has an really long latency interval, which means that signs and symptoms of the disease would possibly not emerge right up until 30 to 50 years after the original exposure to asbestos. Pleural mesothelioma, which is the most common style and impacts the area across the lungs, might result in shortness of breath, breasts pains, along with a persistent coughing, which may bring on coughing up our blood.

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