Go Left, Young Man


Two friendly countries are holding elections today, and Vegas money is on their voters to give power to the Left. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is the underdog (barely) in a race against Romano Prodi. Silvio is pro-free market, pro-Iraq war, and pro-dry humping; Prodi isn't. In Peru, our State department is watching fearfully to see if radical military leader Ollanta Humala follows in the footsteps of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. The big news, though, will be if Lourdes Flores makes it into the runoff. She's a neoliberal who would be the country's first female president.

NEXT: It's Good to Be the President-For-Life

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  1. Berlusconi is not really pro-free-market; he’s a mind-bendingly corrupt crony-“capitalist” businessman. Three years ago, the Economist summed up the charges against him, and since then he’s only gotten worse.

  2. Silvio is pro-free market, pro-Iraq war, and pro-dry humping

    So he is aware of the dangers of weight training and has mastered his body weight?

  3. Berlusconi is not really pro-free-market; he’s a mind-bendingly corrupt crony-“capitalist” businessman.

    Indeed, in fact, the problem is that in many people’s minds Berlusconi is representative of what they perceive to be pro-free-market. This has probably done substantial harm to the free-market position.

  4. Show me a market economy that doesn’t have it’s Berloscnis, and I’ll show you some right-wing libertarian’s silly fantasy. Italians aren’t more crooked; they’re just more colorful.

  5. The world is full of Berlusconis and much worse scoundrels. The libertarian position is that in a free maket economy they would do less harm not none at all.

    That you disagree is no surprise. Most others do to. As near as I can tell this accounts for the fact that there are no truly free market economies.

  6. I think it is likely that if Italy elects the economic Left, then this will probably have a positive influence on the economy, in a perverse way to be sure.

    Italy is in the worst economic shape of all of Old Europe. Their government debt as a percentage of the economy is over 100%. At the saem time they have also have a huge informal debt in their pension system (Social Security), which is possibly the worst of the coercive Ponzi schemes out there.

    There is no room for Italy to increase spending. Therefore the Left will either be stupid and stay true to their roots, (a real possibility), and expand the state yet more and accelerate the day when Italy is bankrupt (if it is not too late already), or they will be forced to face reality the same way Jimmy Carter faced inflation reality and appointed Volcker to the Fed in 79..

    My money is on the latter, but I have been wrong before. If they do face up to reality then they are much more likely to take the restructuring steps than someone viewed as on the right would. They have the political cover to do so, just as Nixon had when he opened diplomacy with China when no Democrat would have dared.

    Anyway, Berlosconi hasn’t been able to do much positive structurally, so a change is needed. Whether it is this change that is needed is an open question though. They would be much better off voting for libertarians, like that could happen right now. 🙁

  7. Isaac:

    The sad truth is that true believers (nothing personal) in utopian schemes invariably end up doing more harm than they ever dreamed. As someone once said of communism, nice theory, wrong species.

  8. Olanta Homolla? I can’t even spell that. But if Lindon Laroosch says he’s OK, that’s good enough for me

  9. Peru is interesting. They elected Toledo, a neo-liberal and an indigenious Indian like Morales to boot — he was plagued by incompetence,a slumping economy and corruption from the start. He got almost nothing of substance done. When that happens people start to remember the good old days of Fujimori kicking ass and taking names…

    I haven’t seen the left slathering praise on the Peru guy, like they have Morales and Chavez and to a lesser extent Silva in Brazil and the Chilean chick, but if he is elected in Peru the Left will get to see what basically an entire continent minus Colombia do with leftists in power.

    I predict the results won’t be so good, but best of luck to them.

  10. In the case of Peru, as in Bolivia, the story has more to do with the political awakening of the indigenous masses there. You are talking about people who one generation ago were serfs, property that came along with the estate. Both in Bolivia and Peru it took left wing populist governments to enfranchise them, and give them the right to move freely, get paid in money, and other niceties.

    That is a very powerful argument for leftist politics there. Having missed the boat in the cause for emancipation, the neoliberals find that they get no hearing from the former serfs.

  11. Berlusconi is mainly pro-changing-the-law-to-escape-prosecution, isn’t he?

  12. Referring to Berlusconi as “pro-free maket,” in light of his well-documented corporatist ideology and buddy-buddy corruption is not just an error, but an extremely useful error, in that it illuminates the advanced rot that lies at the center of what is referred to as “capitalism.”

    It would be as if someone referred to the junta in Burma as “pro-worker” – you immediately understand the writers bias, and the failure of his ideology to adequately explain the world.

  13. BTW, lumping together a peaceful union leader like Morales with a career paratrooper who formerly lead a coup, like Chavez, is a similarly enlightening failure of ideology.

    The Indistinguishable, Monolithic International Left: not just for the late 1950s anymore.

  14. Tom,
    Berlusconi has indeed used his office to keep himself out of trouble with the law, but what you have to understand is that most of the charges against him are political in nature anyway. Italy’s system is just a mess. The tax and regulatory structure is such that violating the law is a necessary part of doing business. And since everyone is technically a criminal, the prosecutions tend to revolve around other factors (political party, personal vendettas, who hasn’t paid the necessary protection money, ect). He’s a crook for sure, but no less of one than the people who attack him.

  15. Berlusconi is mainly pro-changing-the-law-to-escape-prosecution, isn’t he?

    That was certainly my impression as well.

    And joe is right: It is rather sad that even on a libertarian forum people can’t tell the difference between flavors of leftists. Lula in Brazil is not nearly as hard-left as Morales, and Morales has much more moral authority than Chavez. Lumping together all South American leftists into the same category is a very bad mistake.

    And Adriana, don’t use the word “serf” on this forum. You’re just begging for trouble if you do. (Google for “serf” in Hit and Run threads and you’ll see what I mean.)

  16. thoreau:

    Unfortunately “serf” is the correct term in this case. Those were not metaphorical serfs, but the real thing.

  17. I’m not saying you’re wrong, Adriana. I’m just saying that you’d better be damn sure you can defend your statement, because that word has caused trouble on this forum.

  18. Uri ben Tzvi:

    Show me a market economy that doesn’t have it’s Berloscnis…

    That misses the point. To the degree that leaders of state use the force of government to limit competition and in general limit non-coercive voluntary action, those economies are less deserving of the title, market.

    The sad truth is that true believers (nothing personal) in utopian schemes invariably end up doing more harm than they ever dreamed.

    Not invariably. When the scheme involves bigger government, yes. But the vision of the founders of the American republic produced new records of liberty and prosperity.

  19. How does that German video tie into “pro-dry humping”? It appears to be about a fictional plot to abduct Berlusconi.

  20. Perhaps there is a positive dynamic at play in the Italian elections:

    With the campaign almost over, Berlusconi promised he would do away with a property tax. Prodi tried to minimize damage by a Communist ally who said that the center-left would bring back an inheritance tax abolished by Berlusconi.


  21. Oops. I chopped the quote. Here’s the whole thing:

    With the campaign almost over, Berlusconi promised he would do away with a property tax. Prodi tried to minimize damage by a Communist ally who said that the center-left would bring back an inheritance tax abolished by Berlusconi.
    Prodi hastened to say only the wealthiest would have to pay. He also promised to cut payroll taxes to try to spur hiring.

  22. Prodi hastened to say only the wealthiest would have to pay.

    That’s what they said in this country (US) when they introduced the income tax.

    He also promised to cut payroll taxes to try to spur hiring.

    Payroll taxes have got to be the stupidest taxes in existence, although any income tax on the poor (Social Security anyone?) is probably a close second. But for the poor to get an income to be taxed, they need to be on the payroll first. Discouraging employers from adding workers is just plain dumb.

    They, and everyone else, should abolish payroll taxes ASAP, not merely reduce them, and not merely promise to reduce them.

  23. I was going to jump into the comments to complain about “Silvio is pro-free market”…but I see that’s already been covered.

    Anyone who believes Silvio is indeed “pro-free market” must have a very, very Newspeak understanding of the words “free” and “market”.

    (Slave and Government controlled? Did you mean to say that instead?)

  24. Rick-

    Actually, one of America’s great virtues is that it wasn’t–and isn’t–a utopian scheme. That’s why true believers like you have always been marginal in American politics. Americans are the most pragmatic people on earth. The marginality reinforces your sense of being right –always key to a true believer– and ensures that you will turn off your pragmatic fellow Americans and continue to be marginal. You keep the faith pure, and you’re not permitted to do any real harm. It all works out for the best.
    Now Israel–There’s a utopian scheme!

  25. Uri,

    The idea that rampant individual liberty would work at all, let alone as well as it did, was widely criticized circa the founding of our republic. I’m sure glad that the founders kept on scheming.

    Now Israel–There’s a utopian scheme!

    Yeah, with God on their side. Or at least when the Israeli government needs sanction from the great realtor in the sky.

  26. Nobody told the slaves and women about the rampant freedom.

  27. That’s far too kind to slavery. Also, the ideas and words of the founders were invoked in the abolition of slavery and bringing full property rights to woman. Freedom of speech for woman was more robust in revolutionary America than it was in most, if not all, of Europe for women and men!

  28. Uri ben Tzvi,

    “Nobody told the slaves and women about the rampant freedom.”

    Regarding slaves and women, I wonder how many abolitionists and women’s rights advocates in the past were called “utopian” by their detractors for their demands for freedom and equality?

  29. Having an ideal is not utopian. It may not happen to the degree we want any time soon, or perhaps ever, but freer is better than less free, and…what is unrealistic with freer?

  30. How many of our fellow Americans are willing to be wiretapped? What percentage of the popular vote did the Libertarian party get in the last election?

  31. Funny, Monroe’s Western Hemisphere is finally waking up to the failure of American patriarchal hegemony over Latin America.

    Good for them.


  32. Explain how the Monroe “Doctrine” has ANY relevance to the post, JMJ.

  33. Ironchef – explain to me how you missed the connection! 😉


  34. thoreau:

    I would be saddened that using the word in its proper sense would cause trouble in this forum, because it would tell me that libertarians care more about rethorical and metaforical serfs than real ones. That they prefer to be angry about those who accept the welfare state with its (relativiely mild) freedom curtailments, but do not bat an eye when human beings are bought and sold with the land, and forbidden to abandon it.

  35. Adriana-

    Well, mostly there is a poster who cares more about playing “gotcha!” games with semantics so that he can call other posters stupid. We had a nice long debate at one point over a metaphorical usage of the word. The person in question wasn’t trying to make excuses for any sort of bad practice, really. He just wanted to argue that another poster used the phrase incorrectly, “proving” that she’s stupid.

  36. My hope is actually that Prodi wins big. The bigger his victory, the less he will be dependent on the Rifondazione Comunista, the most troubling part of his coalition. (Basically, the RC is the faction of the old Italian Communist Party [PCI] that refused to go along when the rest of the PCI changed its name to “Democratic Party of the Left” and renounced Leninism.) Berlusconi of course has some people with pretty dubious politics in his coalition, too, including admirers of Mussolini…

  37. Hey, but I made the trains run on time, inspired my good friend Roosevelt impose Social Security on the U.S., and the Clinton Health Care Plan.

    I would think most modern progressives would embrace me but no…

    Ungrateful bastards 🙁

  38. No government official or program in existence has the power to move Latin America out of being largely a corrupt shithole. A cultural change will be necessary–basically when people start doing for themselves and stop waiting for someone to do it for them. Only then will the old plantation economy and infrastructure of corruption go away. As many revolutions and coups and whatnot have occurred there, Latin Americans strike me as very passive about their fate.

  39. mussolini’s ghost

    Man, you embarrassed us so bad when you invaded Abysinnia that we had to start denouncing you. Even to the point of claiming our programs weren’t the same as yours.

    And now this Bush fella has taken up the invasion game.

    But, how did you do that running the trains on time thing?

  40. ChrisO,

    Thanks for making a significant point for me – you libers really think the whole world is just as lucky as yourselves, huh?

    Latin America has suffered greatly (try reading some history, will ya’?) from colonial interests, racism, classism, and hegemony. The people of Latin American (again, a h-i-s-t-o-r-y book would do you well) did just fine until the Euros showed. They were well ahead of most peoples throughout the world, for better or worse. They don’t need to be more like what you think you are (you’r enot – you’re just lucky). They need to keep people like you away from them so they can better take care of themselves.


  41. JMJ, I’m sure the people of Latin America are thankful to have you as their spokesman on this board.

    I’m glad you know exactly what they ‘need.’ Geez, talk about “Rudyard Kipling Syndrome”…

    Personally, I favor little or no American governmental intervention or activity in the region. The sad fact of Latin America from my perspective is how little is really matters to other parts of the world, including to us. If the Venezuelans didn’t have oil, why would I give a shit what they do about anything they do, governmental or otherwise?

  42. And Adriana, don’t use the word “serf” on this forum. … I’m just saying that you’d better be damn sure you can defend your statement, because that word has caused trouble on this forum.

    It has caused a lot of serfish tension.

  43. Dammit, Jersey, it’s only acceptable to made broad statements about people you only know in the abstract when those statements are insulting and self-serving.

    Whatsa mattawidyou?

  44. But joe, that’s exactly what he did…

    Unless he seriously thinks that the Inca and Aztecs were such nice rulers.

  45. Lemmetellya, Joe, the fact that you (a sometimes sensible liberal) are setting up camp with JMJ (a never sensible liberal) isn’t winning your camp any converts.

  46. I calls em like I sees em.

  47. Ah, Steve Darko, this reminds me of a participant at an alternative story forum who used to talk about “surfs” and “surfdom”, which led to a discussion on a nation founded on surfing.

    I think that the idea I came up with was that at the recall election of Davies, the governor turnded up to be a member of the Society for Creative Anachronismo, who reorganized California on the medieval model, with its knightss riding the wavess during tourneys…

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