Monday :: Aug 9, 2004

Krugman Interview: Revolutionary Power

by Mary

[Part I of my interview with Paul Krugman.]

Paul Krugman is a hero for many of us because he is willing to speak truth to power even when there is enormous pressure to keep quiet. Fortunately for us, he has a very big megaphone through his twice weekly op-ed columns in the New York Times.

Writing the column is something Krugman does after his day job as one of America's best known economists and as professor of economics at Princeton. He was offered the column to write about international economics and globalization for the New York Times. Not only is this his area of expertise, but he had already shown a talent for explaining complicated issues in ways that lay people can understand.

Although this was the original charter for his column, Krugman began to write about the politics that shaped the policies. In particular, in 2001 he wrote about the proposed Bush economic policies because they were so obviously not based in reality. And since then, he has found more reasons to be concerned about how deceptive the Bush policies were.

Krugman wrote to correct the record and to expose the distortions. And he started to investigate and reflect on what was going on. This led to his writing The Great Unraveling where he strove to knit the various strands together. When preparing the book, he found a doctorial dissertation that he found very relevant to the current political situation in this country.

Back in 1957, Henry Kissenger -- then a brilliant, iconoclastic young Harvard scholar, with his eventual career as cynical political manipulator and, later, as crony capitalist still far in the future -- published his doctoral dissertation, A World Restored. One wouldn't think that a book about the diplomatic efforts of Metternich and Castlereagh is relevant to U.S. politics in the twenty-first century. But the first three pages of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine, because they seem all too relevant to current events.

In those first few pages, Kissinger describes the problems confronting a heretofore stable diplomatic system when it is faced with a "revolutionary power" -- a power that does not accept that system's legitimacy. ... It seems clear to me that one should regard America's right-wing movement -- which now in effect controls the administration, both houses of Congress, much of the judiciary, and a good slice of the media -- as a revolutionary power in Kissinger's sense. That is, it is a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system. [pp 5-6]

With this introduction, Paul Krugman begins to lay out the evidence to show why this is so.

Here is part one of my interview with Paul Krugman last week.

When did you find out about Kissinger's paper that pulled this whole thing together so well?
It was actually very close to the point when the hardback edition was being put to bed. My wife had somehow seen a reference to it in another book she was reading and she took it out of the library and started reading the introduction. She said, "You've got to read this. It is what you have been saying." [And I found it] better written basically, or clearer. So that's how we got it. It turned out to be a fortuitous stroke which turned out to crystallize what I'd been saying. Not so much about the radicalism which I had already gotten, but about the blinkered approach of a lot of people who just can't bring themselves to believe that what is happening is in fact happening.

Yes, I think that this has happened to a lot of people. It explains a bit more about why it is so strange to have a government that acts like it does.
Yet, once you face up to the extreme radicalism, you realize that that this thing has been building up for a long time. The Bush administration is the culmination of a long drive for power by the hard right. And you can see foreshadows from a long way back. But the reality is, moderates and liberals aren't yet ready to face up to that. So they keep downplaying the extremism.

I had seen in your book about your concerns about electronic voting systems and your last column was also about that. Do you have any recommendations on where people can actually help with that?
Well, my understanding is that in Florida, anyone can vote absentee and my recommendation would be to definitely do that if you possibly can. From everything we see says that these machines are very unreliable. And just today the Miami Herald got a hold of a secret memo which indicates that the Florida election officials were aware well before it was released that the felon list was garbage.

So, there is no reason to trust their intentions, no reason to trust the machines. Security is a joke and we had the whole farce of the records that were lost and then found. It's a funny thing about the records involving Florida's officials. And the end result of this is, it's somewhat silly to think they wouldn't do that. Those are the famous last words that we've heard over and over again for the last four years.

With a national consensus, we could very easily have a crash program to put in paper receipts before the next election, or paper ballots. Funny [about that] technology.... And if you ask if that wouldn't cost a lot of money, the answer is, compared to what? I haven't seen anyone suggesting that a totally secure, error-free election system could possibly cost more than one week in Iraq.

But it's probably too late given the actual situation, the fact that one side doesn't want to solve this problem. Rush Holt has been pushing verified voting, and he's a really good guy, he happens to be my congressman. But I think it is too late to do this. I'm going have to write about this next week on what we can do. I'd like to see backup paper ballots made available because I suspect that all hell will break lose.

Do you know about the work being done by David Dill and about his site called
I've actually read their stuff. I've gone to their website. I'm actually planning to sit down and go through all their proposals, probably next weekend, to write up something about what can we do in the little time that remains.

Tomorrow: What should John Kerry first when he is elected.

Mary :: 11:42 PM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!