Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Thoughts&Culture File:
Benjamin Barber, author of Jihad vs McWorld
Capitalism is not too strong; democracy is too weak. We have not grown too hubristic as producers and consumers; we have grown too timid as citizens, acquiescing to deregulation and privatization (airlines, accounting firms, banks, media conglomerates, you name it) and a growing tyranny of money over politics. ... Market fundamentalism, which defined the era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, encourages a myth of omnipotent markets. But this is as foolish and wrong-headed as the myth of omnipotent states, which reigned from the New Deal to the Great Society. It tricks people into believing their own common power represents some bureaucrat's hegemony over them, and that buying power is the same as voting power. But consumers are not citizens, and markets cannot exercise democratic sovereignty. The ascendant market ideology claims to free us, but it actually robs us of the civic freedom by which we control the social consequences of our private choices.

R.C. Longworth, Chicago Tribune
Through small steps, like the cheese verdict, and big ones, like the creation of a single currency, Europe today is less than a United States of Europe but much more than a loose group of nations doing business with each other. The European Union is unique in history, and its success has emerged only gradually through a system so complex that it is barely understood by many Europeans and almost not at all by Americans. This success and this American incomprehension are causing real trans-Atlantic problems. The EU has emerged at age 45 as a partner and rival to the United States, potent in some areas such as trade and incomplete in other areas such as defense. The way it operates, through tortuous negotiations and compromise, baffles and frustrates the hard-driving unilateralists of Washington, who are increasingly intolerant of the slow-motion decision-making of their closest allies. European officials say they want to keep Washington happy. But they aren't willing to abandon a union and a process that has turned their continent from a war-flattened wasteland to a landscape of peace and prosperity unprecedented in European history, just to please the Americans.

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