Thursday, June 1, 2017

My response to DeLong and Pseudoerasmus


I am sometimes puzzled whether (very sharp) people so deeply immersed in their world and their thoughts, do not want to understand what the topic of discussion is, or pretend not to understand.

My post (here) to which both Brad DeLong (here) and Pseudoerasmus (here) strongly (and at times intemperately) reacted does not at all ask whether capitalist strategy to contain and defeat Communism was rational (ex ante or ex post) nor what conflicts could have been avoided, not even whether all conflicts could have been avoided and still the 1989 outcome would have been the same.

The stated and clear objective of the text is to argue that the current crisis of liberal capitalism is not something new and unique. It is in that context that I discussed capitalism’s actual (factual) response to Communist challenge. And that actual response was indeed a combination of the use of “power and intimidation” and "superior economic performance" that with time became even more so, compared to Communist countries. So my point is that in fighting off the challenge, capitalist countries used the means, domestically and internationally, that were neither liberal nor only peaceful. (They used, of course, the peaceful means too: e.g. supporting land reform in Latin America or providing World Bank loans).

But throughout the text I look only at the actual response and the actual means used, not whether these means made sense at the time or with the hindsight now, nor whether these means were better or worse than the means used by Communists. I am simply arguing (and I think examples are so numerous, some of which are cited by me and others by Pseudoerasmus; they are not worth listing here) that many of these means were violent and thus invalidate a vulgar Fukuyamian contention that the triumph of capitalism was achieved through the force of example and by peaceful means exclusively.