The thing about Britain is that their debate is closer to the real meat and potatoes of what this argument is all about. Ours is frustratingly diverted into “Like or Dislike Obama” or “Is the Tea Party Racist” and other tangential questions.
Britain makes it clear: it’s really about social democracy vs. neoliberalism.
It is important that [Open Left] understand this. This is the debate that is barely allowed to be mentioned on our side of the pond but it’s the crucial distinction.
When Paul Krugman argues for Keynesianism he’s taking the social democratic side of this argument. But he’s not allowed to say so, or at least not willing.
I know what they’re getting at, but I think the Krugman example is a bad one. Krugman wanted a big Keynesian stimulus based on his projections about the economy more than on anything ideological; I understand that believing a big stimulus helps during a recession in general may smack of ideology, but the basis for the belief, in this case, is mostly empirical and even quasi-scientific. I think it would be perfectly possible to be neoliberal in most regards — dismantle the welfare state, privatize everything, free trade, etc. — and still believe that a huge infusion of government spending is a good idea during a terrible recession.
But I too am struck by the relative lack of “who would you rather have a beer with” bullshit in UK politics. What is the cause of this? Is it that there’s royalty to suck up all that personalism?
But it seems to me it’s more than that. UK politicians aren’t accorded the same Russert-on-Cheney cowed respect that we see here. Is it that a more obvious class system breeds distrust of very serious people? Is it that politicians get so beat up on the floor of parliament that it seems silly for journalists to suck up to them in public? Is it just the awesomeness of the BBC?