Home > Uncategorized > The absence of a theory of public economy in today’s economics

The absence of a theory of public economy in today’s economics

from June Sekera

More than a century ago, the effective operation of the public economy was a significant, active concern of economists. With the insurgence of market-centrism and rational choice economics, however, government was devalued, its role circumscribed and seen from a perspective of “market failure.” As Backhouse (2005) has shown, the transformation in economic thinking in the latter half of the 20th century led to a “radical shift” in worldview regarding the role of the state. The very idea of a valid, valuable public non-market has almost disappeared from sight.

In 18th and 19th century Germany, Kameralwissenschaft (“Cameralism”) represented a form of public economics. Backhouse (2002, p. 166), describes this school as the era’s “science of economic administration,” which had three components: public finance, economics, and public policy. The “Historical School” of economics emerged in later 19th century Germany and viewed government positively as a system for promoting social well-being (Bogart, 1939; Shionoya, 2005). It stopped short, however, of explaining the operational or production aspects of the system. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, economists wrestled with the question of how the “public economy” operates. A “voluntary exchange” theory of the public economy was advanced by Emil Sax, DeViti De Marco, Knut Wicksell and Erik Lindahl (Sekera, 2016). During the 1940s–50s, Richard Musgrave argued against the voluntary exchange concept and pursued a line of thinking that led to the construction of a concept of “public goods” that was eventually adopted, mathematicized and popularized by Samuelson (Desmarais-Tremblay, 2013). Samuelson’s widely-disseminated 1950s formulation of public goods as stemming from market failure (following Musgrave) soon led to their devaluation, and a wholesale devaluation of government, by market centrists and libertarians, eventually by all tributaries of mainstream economics. What had begun as a serious effort to understand the important role of public sector production ended in its willful neglect.

In an important paper, Roger Backhouse (2005) describes the “profound changes in economic theory” that took place between 1970 and 2000. With the triumph of rational-choice economics came “a radical shift of worldview” and a “remarkable and dramatic change in attitudes toward the role of the state in economic activity.” The rise of “free market” economics and the “ideology of rational choice” created a “climate of opinion” that seriously biased economics against government and led to a view of the state as an agent whose actions lead to perverse outcomes. As Backhouse shows, however, “the shift toward market solutions did not occur spontaneously: it was actively promoted by groups of economists committed to opposing socialism [and] making the case for free enterprise.”

In his landmark book, A Perilous Progress: Economists and Public Purpose in Twentieth-Century America (2001), Michael Bernstein explores the evolution of economics from an academic field marginal to public policy into a powerhouse that influenced and oriented government decision-making. Economists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries ardently sought to cultivate influence with elected and appointed officials to shape public policy and contribute to “purposeful management” and “statecraft.” These were among the driving ambitions of the economists who led the American Economics Association after its founding in 1885. Seeking respect for economics as a new “scientific” field (no longer framed philosophically as “political economy”), “scholars sought a privileged and powerful access to public policy debate, formulation and implementation.” Once the influential Cambridge University economist Arthur C. Pigou asserted in 1922 that it was not the business of economists to tell businessmen how to run their companies, it became all the more critical that economists claim for their discipline a legitimate role in statecraft. And they got their big chance in war. Tracing the many roads by which economists entered the public arena, Bernstein finds that the profession came fully into its own through its impact on national decision-making during World War II. Ironically, “Not individualism but rather statism provided the special circumstances” for American economists to obtain prestige and power (p. 89). “In point of fact, it was statism and centralized economic policy practice that had brought economists and their discipline to the prominence and influence they [came to] enjoy (p. 194).”

Yet even when applying their theories and practices to the non-market environment of government, mainstream economists have relied insistently on the market model. Because mainstream economists in the U.S. and elsewhere have been so market-focused for so long, production outside the market has been erased from the equations of economics. So now, government action is regarded as an “intervention” that “distorts” smooth operation of an otherwise beneficent market. Government is considered to have an economic role only (or primarily) in cases of so called “market failure.” Consequently, there is no viable and explanatory concept of an actual, let alone a legitimate, public non-market economy. So pervasive is the creed that government only “intervenes” in what is thought to be the valid, market economy that even literature from the Congressional Research Service (Labonte, 2010) relegates government to an outsider role.

The term “non-market” and its meaning remain elusive. For example, Karl Polanyi wrote extensively about the differences between markets and non-markets but did not deal with the dynamics and forces of production in the non-market public economy (Krippner, 2001; Mayhew, 2016; Zaman, 2016). Polanyi argued that the market was embedded within, and enabled by, the public sector, but did not concern himself with the operations – forces, dynamics, drivers – of the public non-market system itself. Neither do such widely-cited economists of the public sector as Robert Dahl and Charles Lindblom, Charles Wolf or Kenneth Arrow (Sekera, 2016). Joseph Stiglitz produced an entire textbook on “the economics of the public sector” (the latest edition in 2000) without recognizing the distinctive characteristics of a public non-market.

As I noted earlier, the “public choice” school has become the framework to which economists default for an explanation of the public economy. Backhouse (2005) outlines the development of the public choice school, which stems from a cluster of works published in the 1950s and 1960s by James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Mancur Olson, and Anthony Downs. It became a school, and a movement, when James Buchanan and Warren Nutter found a home for their efforts at George Mason University in Virginia. In the mid-1980s George Mason opened the Center for the Study of Market Processes, with its largest supporter being the Koch Family Foundations. Stretton and Orchard (1994) have demonstrated the anti-government, anti-democratic stance of public choice theorists in their extensive treatment of the school in Public Goods, Public Enterprise, Public Choice; Theoretical Foundations of the Contemporary Attack on Government. After critiquing the theory in economics terms, they suggest that public choice “reasoning seems to arise from the theorists’ reluctance to ‘come out’ and identify themselves as open enemies of democracy or at least of universal suffrage…Governments are viewed as exploiters of the citizenry, rather than the means through which the citizenry secures for itself goods and services that can best be provided jointly or collectively.”

A theory of the public nonmarket remains woefully lacking. The absence is not just an academic gap; it leaves a vacuum that undermines the public provisioning required to meet societal needs and to develop solutions to pressing common problems, including the depletion of high-EROI energy sources.

June Sekera, “Missing from the mainstream: the biophysical basis of production and the public economy”, real-world
economics review, issue no. 81, 30 September 2017, pp. 27-41,




  1. patrick newman
    February 10, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Modern capitalism is virtually inconceivable without a large and active state but that does not inhibit the mini-industry of anti-collectivist and public service provision from taking every opportunity to propagandise the benefits of free enterprise/markets and to bad mouthing alternatives (state, local and cooperative enterprise). They also constantly remind us that any other form of economic arrangement will bring material Armageddon! So the average American seems untroubled by the burden of health at 17% of GDP when socialised NHS in the UK is 9% GDP and delivers better outcomes regardless of the patients’ ability to pay!

  2. February 10, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    My knowledge of the history of public goods is consistent with Sekera’s account.
    I was trained in Economics in the 60s from the Samuelson/Musgrave ideology, with the “public choice” ideology of James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, and Mancur Olson from Political Science, before the Koch-funded George Mason U. program institutionalized this anti-government ideology (see Nancy McLean’s good book, Democracy in Chains, for more about this).
    “Public choice” is such a lovely oxymoron, being not at all public, involving no real choice, and comprising utterly moronic propositions.
    Sekera’s work helps me understand in more detail that this evolution of ideology in the fields of Economics and Political Science has been deliberately fashioned as the industrial era capitalist emperor’s clothes that helps predatory corporate capitalism build and mask its power, a clear threat to democracy itself.
    Sekera says, “A theory of the public nonmarket remains woefully lacking. The absence is not just an academic gap; it leaves a vacuum that undermines the public provisioning required to meet societal needs and to develop solutions to pressing common problems … .” All true and necessary if we are to have a chance to enjoy real democracy.

  3. February 10, 2018 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks to the Editor and June Sekera for this excellent posting. And “Econoclast” is correct about Nancy MacLean’s fine book, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.” It is very much focused on the academic work and settings of James McGill Buchanan whom I am reluctant to admit, I had not heard of much less paid attention to despite his winning a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1986 (which was well before I began writing about economics.) But his career did not start at George Mason University; my notes show that he began at the University of Virginia in 1956, was a UCLA briefly, starting in 1967, went to Virginia Tech in 1970, and to George Mason in 1982. MacLean’s work was detective work after she stumbled upon an enormous amount of material, the archives of Buchanan’s career, sitting in piles inside “an old clapboard mansion” at his last University home, at George Mason University’s main campus.

    MacLean’s deeper themes resonate with some other important contemporary economists/public philosophers, that capitalism has not had a comfortable or easy relationship to democracy. I’m thinking of Yanis Varouvakis’ work, essays and speeches, Kim Phillips-Fein’s fine work, “Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan,” and Wolfgang Streecht’s “How Will Capitalism End?” where democratic capitalism is a political economy “ruled by two conflicting principles, or regimes, of resource allocation: one operating according to marginal productivity, or what is revealed as merit by a ‘free play of market forces,’ and the other based on social need or entitlement, as certified by the collective choices of democratic politics.”

    In the heart of the Republican Right’s opposition to President Obama, a Republican leader declared, in the context of the proposed stimulus program, that “only the private sector can create jobs.” To get to that type of a-historical fiat, enormous effort had to be made by the Right, over many decades, including the Libertarians, to discredit the public work done during the American New Deal. Without exaggeration, the Right has sought to tarnish if not bury that entire episode of political and economic history, Amity Shlaes “The Forgotten Man” from 2007 being exhibit A.

    Alan Brinkley’s “The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War” takes the story up through the high tide of liberal planning, public works, and the labor movement’s attempt, at the peak of their power, to gain key seats in the coming planning agencies heading into World War II. They did not succeed. I suppose that one can see LBJ’s War on Poverty as the last impulse, underfunded and under-public worked, and taking place before the rise of the ecological movement, symbolized in the first Earth Day in 1970.

    June Sekera is right to link economics and ecology, they must, difficult as it is to do, be joined at the hip today to meet the already here ecological crisis, and not just global warming impacts: the destruction of nature’s integrity, of ecological systems by the sheer magnitude – and character of economic activity, from extraction to manufacturing and our failure to take seriously the recycling of all of our electronic dependencies. I especially admire the work of Richard Smith which appear in the WEA’s journals and blogs, which pulls no punches in describing just how hard it is to reconcile the processes of Neoliberal capitalism with ecological necessity.

    What better place to start in developing a philosophy of public sector economics, than asking: what is the work that isn’t being done, to repair nature, raise children, care for the elderly, and to conduct the long term research that has led to so much of modernity’s physical inventions.

    I’ve also thought very highly of the essays of a young scholar from Yale, Alyssa Battistoni, who writes for the new magazine Jacobin, and skillfully sketches out the possibilities for a better economy for people and nature, pointing in the same direction as June Sekera’s work.

    Some of our best environmental minds don’t believe we will get there, with or without a theoretical foundation for the public sector, until we have an all out “mobilization” to fight global warming on the scale – and motivational intensity – of the U.S. effort to prepare for WWII, 1939-1942. What would serve as the trigger for such an effort? It’s not pleasant to contemplate, not at all.

  4. February 11, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    I’ve made all these arguments and pointed out all this information for 40 years in testimony and reports. As a government regulator and now consultant to government regulators, I’ve made the efforts to restore some of the public purpose (commonwealth) and public economy arguments that have been the basis of and for regulation by governments for over 5,000 years. But more than this the entire history of trade, markets, and economics extending back to the Sumerians and Persians provides no support for any of the assumptions of public choice theory or the general idolatry of markets forced on us today. Historical markets were not competitive in the sense that term is used today. Historical markets involved as much cooperation and coercion as competition. The rules governing historical markets were not fixed. They varied by time and location and by the participants involved in each transaction or period. And these rules were enforced by government bureaucrats. Sometimes backed by soldiers. The participants in these markets certainly were not always rational in the sense economists today use that term. And did not expect others involved in the market to be rational. To assume rationality in historical markets would be foolish and false assumption. Historical markets (e.g., China’s Silk Road, Sumerian and Persian trade routes, UK globalization 1600-1950) moved massive amounts of goods. Efficiency in terms of using fewer animals, or reducing losses from banditry, or increasing transport speeds were important. But for many reasons these markets could not heighten efficiency, even if the traders knew what that meant. Bribes had to be paid, traders cheated (it was expected), local populations (governments, etc.) sometimes took cargo without paying, and taxes for passage were a necessity. And, in fact, all of these are still part of markets today, though often unacknowledged. And finally, the thing that made these historical markets possible and effective, human imagination, often also was their chief enemy. Not only in the search for ways to “game the markets and participants” but also in cultural conflicts that not only changed market objectives but forced changes in routes and participation rates.

    On specifics I’ve criticized economists in hearings for such actions as using the CAPM, assuming regulation is merely a second-best substitute for market competition (if the latter is impossible to implement in the situation), and in those situations in which competition is “assumed” to exist for failing to hold the “assumed” market competitors accountable for undermining that “assumed” competition. Mostly, I find analysis by economists in these hearings sloppy, simplistic, and lazy. In one hearing I suggested replacing the CAPM with an arbitrage model for pricing capital assets. Economist’s reply: 1) don’t know how to use arbitrage model; 2) can’t use arbitrage model since it does not include efficient market assumption or rational actors; 3) arbitrage model requires more research and original calculations than CAPM; 4) only dumb anthropologists like yours truly accept the arbitrage model, most economists do not.

    This is what’s involved with facing up to the impacts of mainstream economics in the “real” world. Never mind in damn theories. I enjoyed comments here. One of Buchanan’s graduate students is supposed to have said this about “public choice” theory – it’s called that because it’s the public choosing to give up their welfare so the rich can stay rich and become richer. Should be noted that “public choice” theory is what Madison and Hamilton warned us about in Federalist Papers 9, 10, and 11. That’s over 200 years ago. This threat to democracy (American version) is not new or unknown. Begs the question, why can’t it be extinguished? Simple answer: propaganda. That does not detract at all from Nancy MacLean’s book. But we should be aware of the history of capitalism. As an ideology and as an institution capitalism must attack democracy. The two can never be compatible. Also, capitalism has always failed as an allocator of resources and to improve economic activities. Capitalism is simply a failure, except for the richest among us.

  5. Robert Locke
    February 11, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    This essay is a perfect example of the pitfalls of being educated in Anglo-saxonia. I majored in modern German history and sought to understand the evolution of economic thought through the central and Northern European tradition. Why isn’t anything discussed about ordo economics and the social market economy as alternatives to this American crap. The main economic model used in Western and Northern Europe during and after the Cold War has been developed exclusively with ORDO economics. This blog is suppose to open our minds, get out of Anglo-Saxonian characterisations of economics,

    • February 12, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      Robert, thanks for asking the questions that got this beautiful discussion going. I knew something of ordo liberalism, but not enough. I learned a lot from this conversation.

      American-styled capitalism, or whatever name you want to give it dominated the post-WW2 world because first it was all that was left standing, and then it controlled all the money and power. That’s no longer the case. Europe is restored. China is coming on like a house fire. The used-to-be poor world south is finally pushing forward. I believe you see in Trump and the people with whom he surrounds himself the final death throws of American-styled capitalism. Most of the younger and smarter, along with many of the smarter and older American entrepreneurs saw this coming 5-10 years ago. And are preparing for it. Despite their wealth the Kochs, Adelsons, etc. are done. The question now is what shape will the new world take?

      Until the 1870s the US was a society of independent businesses. Some large but never big enough to dominate either the economy or political decision making. Many cooperatives operated, and worker owned businesses were common. The American industrial revolution (1870-1929) changed both. Businesses got bigger, wealthier (as did their owners), and more politically powerful. But more than that most Americans became employees. By 1940 about 80 percent of Americans worked for wages. They were per the members of the first textile union in America “wage slaves.” That percentage continued to rise, such that over 90 percent of Americans today work for wages. The change that countered that trend was the development of “economic democracy” from 1946 to 1980. I would like to believe the world, now near free from American jingoism and capitalism will move in the same direction. It may seem far fetched today but it is possible to make economic and political decisions in the same fashion – through voting, legislatures, and open policy discussions. Biggest problems are: 1) are Americans mature enough to embrace such a change; 2) is China ready to lead such a change; 3) will Europe get on board (particularly the coordinated economies); what is to be done about Russia; 4) how ought the major conflicts we handled (middle east, ISIS, etc.).

  6. February 11, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Robert Locke: Ouch. I plead caught up in Anglo-saxonia, Polanyi interest must be some exception, though, even though he wrote his classic in Vermont and spent exile time in England.

    How do you feel, Robert, about Chapter Six of Wolfgang Streeck’s “How Will Capitalism End?” which was entitled “Heller, Schmitt and the Euro?” The distinction between a ‘total’ and an ‘authoritarian’ state being crucial.

    I’m always open to being educated by those who know the details, and the complex reads of given society’s better than me – as tough as reading human nature in individual’s – don’t you think; for example, Richard Smith’s new essay on a China which is so tough to read.

    Well, Robert, I read Streeck on Germany as painting a picture of dual society and economy; you stress the participatory, decentralized nature of finance and co-operative institutions at the state and local level; Streeck and Varouvakis emphasize the anti-democratic, technocratic policies built into the Euro’s new structures which have been shaped by the German insistence on Hayekian values in banking, lending and currency matters…you tell me how the periphery feels about that: Greece, Spain, and yes, even Italy, and we’ll get to it: France…

    Thus the local picture you paint is at odds with the highest level of finance and accounting in the German state as expressed in the Euro power institutions being protested by folks who I think, share your professed values but can’t find them in the Germany of international relations.

    I was going to write a piece this morning answering the implicit “Why?” in the title of this posting: why no comprehensive theory of the public sector in the US or West? I leave the German answer to you, Robert, but I can say the foundations of my answer for my United States, lie in Polanyi’s attention to the near religious fanaticism he attributed to the theories of political economy formulated in the classics of the late 18th and early 19th century. In good part my answer must overlap with the answer to the profound question of “Why no Socialism in the US” – but let’s be clear, in Western Europe since the late 19th century they have only gotten to various national varieties of social democracy, which peaked by the middle of the 1970’s,then saw the rise of Thatcher there and Reagan here…with Tony Judt’s poignant laments about the decay of social democracy, written as he was dying of a terrible disease, serving as the epitaph, foreshadowed by the deaths of George Lichtheim, Michael Harrington and Christopher Lasch – all at the age of 61, some of our best minds, along with John Kenneth Galbraith and his failed attempt – maybe the closest we’ve come to what June Sekera is asking for – his Economics and the Public Purpose (1973) where he came out for “socialism” and planning…one can quite well answer the author of this blog piece by tracing the rise and fall of “planning” in the US…when it ended in the New Deal…and the vehemence with which the term is greeted today…

    This is a very painful and charged intellectual realm for me…a huge tragedy the consequences of which, for society and nature, are far from finished in playing out…tragically I think.

    And does not part of the answer to the German riddle lie in the way the NY Review of Books finally got around (I’ve been waiting for 30 years) for them to give serious attention to Polanyi’s work, via Robert Kuttner’s fine review of Gareth Dale’s new book: “Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left.” Please notice that Polanyi and the review about him don’t appear on the front cover, and the title inside reads “The Man from Red Vienna.” Surely not going to be a lead-in to invite Americans to dive in. And in Kuttner’s paragraph linking to that title, isn’t he raising two important challenges, in my view: one to your view of rural, everyday life throughout Germany, compared to what happens in the power centers at the top – to you Robert…and to my own complaints about the “small is beautiful” decentralizing greens in America, who want to build a new economy but going backwards in time to methods and purpose…to the mid-19th century in many ways….even as some of their tools – solar and wind and IT tools – are very much dependent on the modernity, creative destructions’ inventions.

    Here’s what Kuttner wrote on page 56 of the Dec. 21st 2017 edition of the NY Review of Books:

    “To Polanyi, Red Vienna was as important for it politics as for its economics. The perverse policies of Dickensian England reflected the political weakness of its working class, but Red Vienna was an emblem of the strength of its working class. ‘While {English poor-law reform} caused a veritable disaster of the common people,’ he wrote, ‘Vienna achieved one of the most spectacular triumphs of Western history.’ But as Polanyi appreciated, an island of municipal socialism could not survive larger market turbulence and rising fascism.”

    I have a question for someone to fill in – I don’t have the time frames at the tip of my brain, but didn’t Carl E. Schorske write about the rise of socialist but anti-semitic demagogues rising to the top, being elected Mayors of Vienna…I’m thinking of Karl Lueger – but I see his lifespan 1844-1910 would have preceded Polanyi’s celebratory time in Red Vienna…but where did the anti-semiticism go…

  7. February 11, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    My apologies for leaving out the link to the long overdue NY Review of Books addressing the life and work of Karl Polanyi, the incredible avoidance itself, June, part of the answer to your question: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/12/21/karl-polanyi-man-from-red-vienna/

  8. February 11, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Gracibros says: ” [I]sn’t Kuttner] raising two important challenges[?] [I]n my view: one to your view of rural, everyday life throughout Germany, compared to what happens in the power centers at the top – to you Robert…and to my own complaints about the “small is beautiful” decentralizing greens in America, who want to build a new economy but going backwards in time to methods and purpose…to the mid-19th century in many ways….even as some of their tools – solar and wind and IT tools – are very much dependent on the modernity, creative destructions’ inventions.”

    So one can rise to the challenges and say (1) the rural way of life works, so why force people into cities? and (2) mid-19th century technology worked and was much more satisfying in that one could see how it worked and so participate in developing and maintaining it. One doesn’t have to develop the new technology which gets to the market first. There is the rational alternative of trialling it locally, replacing patents with public rewards for worthwhile improvements to design or materials which, where appropriate, can thus be used in cooperative local production – with less packaging for distribution ….

    Looking up Robert’s ordo economics, I found this, very much in the same spirit:

    “Ordoliberalism differed, however, in believing that capitalism requires a strong government to create a framework of rules which provide the order (ordo in Latin) that free markets need to function most efficiently. From the original ordoliberals sprang one big idea for state intervention when cartels dominated …”.

    Strong government perhaps needs strong minds not overwhelmed by banker’s threats and/or salesmen’s garbage.

    The other big challenge has been Machiavellian changes to the meaning of language. “Ever closer union” in the Treaty of Rome meant Confederation or family unity to the European party and top-down Federation in the United Kingdom and USA.

    • February 12, 2018 at 12:41 am


      Streeck is saying that the ordoliberalism of interwar Germany, and the reconstruction after WWII, paved the way for the current Hayekian version of Neoliberalism which governs its key financial institutions, and the Euro zone’s as well: there is a “dialectic” at work between the weak-strong state of ordo liberalism, inherited from the 19th classical economists. Here’s how he describes it:

      From the chapter “Heller, Schmitt and the Euro:

      “Today’s post-democratic, or better perhaps: a-democratic, Hayekian capitalism, after the victory, or almost-victory, of neoliberalism, may be regarded as a historically updated version of ordoliberalism. What it has in common with it is the insulation of a politically instituted market economy from democratic politics, an insulation on account of which both the neoliberal state and the neoliberal economic regime qualify as authoritarian in the sense of Schmitt and Heller. …its background are the trente glorieuses of the capitalist welfare state…Today the neutralization of democracy and the recalibration of state power in the service of a market economy with politically constructed political autonomy do not primarily take place through repression but my moving the governance of the political economy to a level where democracy cannot follow, and to institutions constitutionally designed to be exempt from political contestation.”

      Now I think it is fair to bring in Robert Locke’s protest here that what Streeck has laid out doesn’t apply to the internal workings of the German economy and politics…that internally it is as close to true democratic social democracy as anything the West has achieved since the end of World War I. But despite what Robert has previously laid out for us, my sense is the German banking mind is still in the grip of the panicked austerity generated by the hyper inflation of the 1920’s…more than any other major Central Bank in the West…

      By the way, reading Streeck reminds me of the ordoliberalism constructed in Chile after Allende by the American libertarian right…James Buchanan’s influence…Her chapter on what happened in Chile after September 11, 1973, the other 9/11, is outstanding and is entitled “A Constitution with Locks and Bolts.” I’ve written her: “Bravo.”

      • February 12, 2018 at 9:09 am


        The question all this interesting stuff raises is Robert’s: “Why isn’t anything discussed about ordo economics and the social market economy as alternatives to this American crap”?

        So behind ordo economics as Streeck or yourself see it there is a dialectic at work. Why? Just Left vs Right results in stale oscillation. Where does the new synthesis come from? The Jungian/Myers-Briggs analysis finds roughly half of these driven by feeling and the other half satisfaction in skilful doing. It has about 30% right-brained visionaries fighting a losing battle against 70% left-brained literalists, but among the Lefties, a tiny 1% proportion of radicals who not only use both language and vision but gain satisfaction not from feelings or recipe-following but from theoretical visions working out. The corresponding group on the Right – the Hayeks etc – are blinkered by preconceptions built into their language. I suggest this is where the synthesis came from. Post-Hitler conditions paved the way not just for the Catholic Franco-German vision of a united family sorting out differences amicably, but also in Britain the transition from Empire to Commonwealth and in global terms the (failed) attempt to have a cooperative United Nations “strong” in the sense of not being dominated by the victors.

      • February 12, 2018 at 3:28 pm

        I missed gracchibros’ question: “I have a question for someone to fill in … where did the anti-semiticism go…”?

        More to the point, where did it come from? I’m most familiar with the accusations thrown at Chesterton, who criticised some Jewish bankers not for being Jews or even bankers but for insider dealing which abused their position as bankers. IMHO the anti-Chestertonian and anti-semitic criticism has come from left-brained literalists, who react not to men but to labels.

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