Friday, December 02, 2011

Gosh, a government of "technocrats" isn't working magic? I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!!

A government of technocrats might seem like the neoliberal dream to bankers and to Big Thinkers like David Brooks who worship at the altar of High Broderism, where politics is dirty and distasteful.

But the idea also has its problems, as this story of the bankers'-debt-collector government of Italy headed by an unelected Prime Minister illustrates, Is Mario Monti's honeymoon over? Global Post 12/01/2011:

A tough and revered former European antitrust czar, [Prime Minister Mario] Monti was quick off the starting block. He took the oath of office on Nov. 16, two days earlier than originally scheduled. He presented his first austerity measures and called for his government’s first confidence vote — which he won by an overwhelming margin — four days ahead of plan.

The cabinet he named — of diplomats, private sector leaders, academics, and technocrats — was almost universally praised. Monti said Italians would be called on to sacrifice, but he promised the sacrifices would be spread evenly. Pollsters said the man, who had been teaching economics classes as Milan’s Bocconi University just a month ago, saw his approval levels surge to stratospheric levels.

But since then, things haven’t worked out according to plan.

It only took a few days for political bickering to restart:

  • Allies of the ousted Berlusconi threatened to pull their support for Monti’s government if it reinstated the so-called “wealth tax.” Berlusconi, a billionaire, had repealed it while in office.
  • The separatist Northern League, which had been a junior member of Berlusconi’s coalition, threatened to balk at a plan to let the children of immigrants born in Italy to become Italian citizens.
  • Center-left parliamentarians has begged Monti to delay raising the retirement age.
  • And political parties from both sides of the aisle have thrown up roadblocks, systematically stalling or blocking approval of mid-level appointees needed to run the government’s day-to-day operations.
The situation has gotten so bad that the European Union quickly dispatched observers to Rome to monitor it.

"It didn’t take long for Italy to return to being Italy," Mario Andrea Ventimiglia, a political scientist at the University of Puglia, told GlobalPost. "Monti's honeymoon seemed to last for about 15 minutes.”
Italy did have a government for a couple of decades last century that dispensed with all this electioneering and democratic politics nonsense while provided rallies and the occasional war to keep the public entertained. But it didn't work out so well, either.

Monti's government at least has their priorities straight, which is to serve as debt collectors for European banks:

So far, Monti’s technocratic, all-star cabinet has made it clear that paying down debt and jump-starting economic growth are far and away their main concerns. Even ministries usually far from the economic battlefields are on message: The Ministry of Environment wants to be sure environmental disasters do not stand in the way of industrial production, for example, and the Ministry of Culture wants to promote the country’s artistic and historic riches to attract more tourists while adding a fee to every hotel room stay.

Analysts say the new government might do even better by focusing on political stability - by easing parliamentary infighting, increasing public sector transparency, and passing difficult political reforms. These measures would increase chances that the next elected government would be stable enough to preserve and strengthen the country's democratic institutions.
Ah, yes, if we could just get rid of all that "parliamentary infighting" - especially from selfish 99-percenters piffling around over pensions and jobs and health care and nonsense like that - everything could be fine. And the government could "preserve and strengthen" the current "democratic institutions" which somehow allowed Germany and France to dictate to them that they would have to install a bankers' debt-collector government who doesn't give a flying flip about what those silly and irrelevant voters want.

This is what "post-democracy" (Jürgen Habermas) looks like in Italy and Greece: government with the bare forms of parliamentary democracy acting in fact as the agent of the European financial lobby.

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