Tony Judt is wrong
I just read a new essay from Tony Judt he wrote in the New York Times Book Review. For me, the takeaway part was the very beginning where he said,
The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears “natural” today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric that accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth.
Later, he laments, saying,
If it is to be taken seriously again, the left must find its voice. There is much to be angry about: growing inequalities of wealth and opportunity; injustices of class and caste; economic exploitation at home and abroad; corruption and money and privilege occluding the arteries of democracy.
With the worst of the economic crisis behind us, social commentators like Judt are calling for action, demanding that leaders and society change to advert another economic crisis. Sadly, this is yet another lofty aspiration based on fallacious Enlightenment ideals. Humans cannot be perfected. Grinding poverty, brutal violence and unequal power relationships are the true characterizations of the human condition. Just as “the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor” is not natural, neither is its opposite.
What bothers me the most in the discussion of the crisis is the belief that a more comprehensive design in economic regulation or politics will yield a better outcome. If the last 500 years is any indication, every ten years or so there will be a small economic downturn, and every thirty, there will be a larger and more destructive one.
First published Apr 9, 2010