By Witold Marciszewski
Once at my lecture on European Integrations, a student expressed his opinion about an European country (no matter which) that its government is undoubtedly stupid. I did not object the use of the word since it has become fairly common in the political idiom (with Google you may find 80000 uses of the phrase “stupid politics” and almost half milion of “stupid politicians”). It was President Clinton who made the word popular through the famous motto ot his governance: “It’s the economy, stupid“. Hence, let us employ this expression freely, though with the obvious caution to use it for cognitive purposes, not for an angry emotional expression.
What would be the opposite to being stupid? Wise? Or rather smart? The latter proves better in the present context, if you compare the following definitions.
wise = marked by the exercise of good judgment or common sense in practical
matters; smart = showing mental alertness and calculation and resourcefulness; stupid = neither wise nor smart, even unable to understand obvious truths.
It is not enough for a full-fledged politician to be good in practical matters. He is bound as well to be a person with wide theoretical perspectives, and those need alertness and a skill of calculation. Simply, he is bound to be smart.
Among the most severe tests of a politician’s intelligence, there is his capability of responding to extreme situations, especially managing crises. As for the present global crisis, it needs an intelligent choice between two alternative and opposite sets of measures. Each of them results from a different economic worldview. One defended by John Maynard Keynes, the other one by a group of scholars called Austrian School; its eminent representative was Friedrich Hayek who had entered a famed many years debate with Keynes regarding relations between free market and government policies.
Now the question arises: whether is it smarter for a politician: to follow Keynes advices on economy, or those due to Hayek? The controversy of these two intellectual leaders is regarded as a central debate in 20th-century economic thought. The issue gets most urgent in the time of global economic crisis. Some economists and politicians see the way out in the Keynesian strategy, while other ones claim the contrary. Which choise would be smarter?
Let me encourage each from among this blog’s readers to consider your choice: which part you take:, that of Keynes, or that of Hayek? Or else – of both, depending on variable economic, social and political circumstances of the time in which anti-crisis measures should be taken?
To assist your reflexions, two documents may prove helpful. One of them is a film on the Keynes-Hayek controversy with some introducing comments. Another one is a comment on Nouriel Roubini’s consideration regarding circumstaces to be taken into account when deciding between Keynes and Hayek.