Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Dawn of An Old Era?

Only a hardened misanthrope could have been failed to be moved by the sight of the youthful Barack Obama speaking in Chicago earlier this morning. The world has shifted on it’s political axis – and not before time.
Speaking to a nation that was less divided than it had been for a generation, Obama told how a 106 year-old voter he had met had lived through everything from the dust bowl, the New Deal, the second world war, the hatred of post-war racism in America through to man reaching the moon and going on to dismantle the Berlin Wall.

Somewhere, within the rhetoric, there is a message, and it’s one we had better get used to. The time’s they have a-changed.

When my fellow journalist, HG Wells, visited the Soviet Union in 1920 to stand witness to the great advances a socialist economy had brought to an otherwise backward, peasant society, he was scathing in his assessment. By embracing Marxism, Russia had embarked on a road to tyranny. In an era when the King of Shaves Azor was only a glint in his grandmother's eye, Wells only had to take one look at the effigies of Marx to know what had to be done:

"About two-thirds of the face of Marx is beard, a vast solemn woolly uneventful beard that must have made all normal exercise impossible. It is not the sort of beard that happens to a man, it is a beard cultivated, cherished, and thrust patriarchally upon the world. It is exactly like Das Kapital in its inane abundance, and the human part of the face looks over it owlishly as if it looked to see how the growth impressed mankind... A gnawing desire grew in me to see Karl Marx shaved. Some day, if I am spared, I will take up shears and a razor against Das Kapital; I will write The Shaving of Karl Marx."
Alas, Mr Wells never did get round to shaving Karl Marx’s beard. But if he had, he might have discovered John Maynard Keynes beneath it. A liberal to the core, it was Keynes who came up with the idea of an active economic policy by government that would stimulate demand in times of high unemployment – by spending on public works, whether that be a new dam, a new highway or (almost a century later) an infrastructure that supports the environment, rather than works against it.

Keynes had a fair point. Personally, I’m glad to have a proto-Keynesian at the helm of the British economy at this difficult time. Gordon Brown has already shown his willingness to bite the bullet. We know he’ll borrow to invest. The real test will be how far Obama follows suit. Let’s hope his grandmother, who lived through the New Deal, taught him how to suck eggs...


Daddy Papersurfer said...

I'm never quite sure about borrowing to invest ...... I always feel there are more losers than winners.

Francis Cook said...

Racist slur!
But the greatest thing is this; being semi-Kenyan, Barak Hussein Obama is progeny of(speaking as an Englishman) one of Our Niggers, not one of them yankee slaves!

dennis hodgson said...

I wasn't aware of HG Wells' take on Marx and Das Kapital, but I'm not surprised. His political judgement was never particularly sound. He should have stuck to writing books like The History of Mr Polly.

A lot of Das Kapital is either mistaken or wishful thinking, but now the capitalist paradigm really is finished (although it will probably take another generation before people realize it). Some form of non-Marxist communism is the only long-term way forward.