But America’s hope still is that burgeoning enterprise and commerce in China—”getting and spending”—will divert the torrential energies of the Chinese nation into peaceful outlets. The hope is that a China whose muscle and will are devoted to consumerism will be too busy—too hedonistic—for militarism.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx described the power of emerging capitalism to dissolve old social structures such as feudalism—”all that is solid melts into air.” If that occurs in a context Marx never imagined—capitalism emerging within a communist society—it will be tyranny that melts. This, the longstanding hope underlying U.S. policy, is the capitalists’ kind of economic determinism—call it Brooks Brothers Marxism.
Consumerism and entrepreneurial ferment sprout in, and widen, fissures in China’s system of state control, which is why commerce conduces to the subversion—in broad daylight—of the regime. The regime knows that economic dynamism is a prerequisite for China to be globally consequential as well as domestically tranquil. The regime may be wagering that it can hermetically seal China’s political system from the contagion of the social prerequisites of economic dynamism, including private property as a basis of the individual’s zone of privacy and sovereignty. The regime will lose that wager because, as Marx said, society’s political superstructure is shaped by society’s economic base.
Speaking of societal economic bases, the Economist finally realizes that Jacques Chirac has in office turned into one of Europe’s most left-wing leaders
Consider Mr Chirac’s credentials as a champion of the left. His recent proposal to create an “international solidarity levy” on international financial transactions or airline-ticket sales, so as to finance African development and the fight against AIDS, won him the acclaim of the third-world lobby. “Development is both the greatest challenge and the greatest urgency of our time,” he declared in a speech broadcast at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, calling Africa’s poverty “morally unacceptable”. Mr Chirac is also a certified écolo (green), having got his cherished environmental charter enshrined in France’s constitution last month. This puts the right to live in a healthy environment on the same legal footing in France as human rights, setting the country up as a pioneer in environmental protection—and Mr Chirac as potential saviour of the planet.
The French president has no rivals as global spokesman on anti-Americanism, a doctrine that usually belongs to the left in Europe but in France has a long history on the Gaullist right as well. To this, he has added his own blend of anti-globalisation, globe-trotting with the likes of Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former trade-union leader, and dispatching representatives to the World Social Forum. Moreover, with his Arabist foreign policy in the Middle East, and his defiant hostility to the war in Iraq, he seems to have a soft-left world outlook that would fit well on any university campus.
The article correctly points out that Chirac “is guided less by conviction than by a desire to keep the social peace and avoid confrontation” and that, to him, “consensus now matters more than change”. The article doesn’t dwell on the fact that he’s free from prosecution for as long as he’s in office. Chirac’s economic positions aren’t good for Europe. As another Economist article explains, France, Germany and Italy are the biggest obstacles to economic reform in Europe
For the biggest failings in the euro area remain microeconomic, not macroeconomic. There is a reason why Denmark and the Netherlands have higher employment and lower unemployment than Germany and France: it is that the latter two have overly regulated labour markets, tougher hire-and-fire rules and high minimum wages. The evidence that excessive interference to “protect” people in work penalises those who are out of work has seldom been as clear as in Europe over the past five years. As this week’s Lisbon scorecard from the Centre for European Reform (CER), a think-tank, shows, a similar story emerges on energy and telecoms liberalisation, competition in financial services, industrial subsidies and the rest: countries that have been fastest to open their markets to competition have outperformed those that have been slowest—notably France, Germany and Italy.
Then there’s the proposed EU Constitution (emphasis mine)
So why are the leaders of France, Germany and Italy so hesitant about reform? The answer lies in domestic politics. France’s Jacques Chirac, behaving like a left-winger, is eagerly appeasing union protesters against change (see article). Germany’s Gerhard Schröder, struggling with unpopularity, talks of more reforms, but on too timid a scale. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is nervous about April’s regional elections. Even Mr Barroso, opponent of decaffeinated reform, is reluctant to press for stronger measures, fearing that scare stories of American capitalism trumping the European social model may scupper referendums on the EU constitution. Such alarm is specious: if they look north, not west, EU leaders can see Nordic countries doing well and keeping their social model. It is not the Lisbon agenda that threatens the model: it is failure to reform.
Meanwhile, in France, two recent surveys show that 52% of those surveyed would vote against the EU Constitution.
Maybe Bentley will regain market share in Europe after all.