Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why art?

The question is strange - this has been something instinctive. As much as I have interest in philosophy, politics, religion, it has been art that has always been most meaningful. It is what connects life with thought, what infuses our experience with meaning and form, what provides us with the longest views. This is truly much claimed, maybe only through an individual quirk. But I don't believe so: we have not begun to understand our experience, and there is nothing that has penetrated as deep to human possibilities - philosophy is too constrained by formal logic, religion is largely meaningless, natural science does not even attempt such things. History is central, naturally, but it is more the place we are situated in, the scene of action, and its study is closely related to art in any case. There is not really anything to compare. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paradise postponed

I did not expect much, but there was a little bit of audacity of hoping: circumstances make a president, and the circumstances for Obama have not been much different than what FDR faced, having quite cautiously campaigned for balanced budgets and relatively orthodox economic policies. It is pretty meaningless to second guess from such a laughably distant vantage point - and perhaps the correct reading of the balance of power is that no meaningful reform can even be attempted and all that is possible to have is an avoidance of outright idiocy and outright sabotage of the few central social liberal structures (both became very familiar during Obamas predecessor's awful reign). But still, it is very hard to avoid the thought that maybe there were the makings of a transformation of the political landscape in the scary collapse of trust in the financial markets. I guess we'll never know now.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Three (Burkean) cheers for Social Democracy

It occurs to me that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, no need to endlessly ponder about alternatives, sensible middle ways to replace unjust, irrational free market plutocracy or bloody, irrational state socialism. We already have the sensible middle way: the Nordic social democratic state that combines healthy, dynamic economy with strong safety nets, significant income redistribution and in addition has open and liberal political structures. The Nordic social democratic society is based on a web of many powerful influences: the market, the unions, the civil society, the government. You still can get rich, create fortunes and jobs, but if you are poor your children still will go to the same high quality schools like everyone else and they can easily afford university education: they can compete fairly with more fortunate age mates. No wonder social mobility is much higher in the Nordic countries than in the USA or the UK.

Well, I suppose I can still, just barely, speak in the present tense. This reasonable, compromise based society of many interests and influences was created by a unique historical and cultural constellation. It is not fundamentally based on reason but chance and circumstances. And circumstances are changing: our irrationality and greed are breaking through and much control is already given up to market forces - and they surely will end up destroying the structures that keep social competition both strong and fair. But at least we have a model that has functioned in real life, that is reproducable. Unlike, one might add, any "pure", Randian free market fantasies.