To: Website Fans, Browsers & Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Yin and Yang in Old Vienna
A few years ago, I got into trouble when a second-rate reporter for the National Journal quoted me as saying that our Constitution was designed to force debate toward the center, away from the extremes. "At the extreme, without a Democratic Party to pull it toward the center, the Republican Party would move toward fascism." The reporter did not include the second part of my remark, that "Without the Republican Party to pull it toward the center, the Democratic Party would move toward communism." The NJ quote circulated among my friends in the GOP and it took considerable effort to explain the context of my observation and its correctness.
The incident came to mind last week when I read of the controversy in Austria, where the conservative People's Party arranged a ruling coalition with the Jörg Haidar's "far-right" Freedom Party, which recently accounted for 26% of the vote in the national elections. Because Haidar has said some positive things about the economy of Nazi Germany in the 1930's and because he represents the interests of the Austrian nation as Europe federates and globalizes, the political leaders of the other European communities are behaving as if Adolf Hitler is back in town. It does not seem to matter that other respected Austrian political leaders are vouching for Haidar, insisting he ain't no Adolf. Official protests immediately surfaced in the major capitals of Europe, the Israeli Ambassador was withdrawn, and our Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, threatened all kinds of unspecified retribution if she spotted a misstep or a goose step. The outrage moderated here as soon as The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by Jacob Heilbrunn, " The EU, Not Haider, Threatens Austrian Democracy." I recommend you read the piece in its entirety, but Heilbrunn argues that Haidar may seem "an unpleasant phenomenon, but the end of the Cold War has opened up the political boundaries in Europe. For decades the right was artificially suppressed, while conservatives in countries like Austria and Germany were interested in conserving only their own power. Now, a new generation of populists is shaking up the Continent."
What Heilbrunn means when he says "the right was artificially suppressed" is that the political establishment smothered legitimate interests that should have been heard, acted upon and resolved in democratic fashion. The nation became "unbalanced," a problem that would become more serious if there was no democratic mechanism to give Haidar and his Freedom Party the critical mass to form a legitimate ruling coalition, with a dominant, more moderate party. The central thrust of Heilbrunn's analysis is that the established elites not only had monopolized the levers of economic power to benefit themselves at the expense of ordinary Austrians. The elites also had allowed the loose ends of European Union to be tied up by an extraordinary flow of immigrants -- 400,000 in a country of eight million in only ten years. If this were to continue at that pace, the cultural core of the nation would be subsumed. Those who prefer to slow the process are now in a position to do so. It of course is exactly the populist movement that Pat Buchanan has been representing in the United States, a position seen as "far right," with Buchanan being labeled a Hitler for taking this "nativist" or "nationalist" stance.
Ancient Taoist philosophers understood this imbalance within a political unit, an institution or an entire people as the disharmony of yin and yang -- with yin representing the feminine, the dark, and the negative, the yang representing the masculine, the light, and the positive. In a family, the mother represents security, the status quo, an aversion to risk-taking; the father represents action, change, a willingness to take chances for the common good. When husband and wife discuss problems and priorities, there is harmony, a balancing of risk-taking and security. When the security-conscious mother suppresses legitimate risk-taking and change in favor of the status quo, the family will fall further and further behind. If the husband gambles recklessly with the family's resources, the family also will fail.
This is where Nazism came from in the 1920's and 1930's. Germany's vital organs were suppressed by the Versailles Treaty, which kept it impoverished. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which ushered in the Great Depression, completely sank German aspirations for economic recovery and brought in Hitler and the Nazis, and Hitler's finance minister, Hjalmar Schacht. Haidar of course is correct in noting that Germany's economy soon flourished under Schacht's guiding hand, a point often made by old fashioned liberal Keynesians such as John Kenneth Galbraith. When the man of the house is locked in for this long and to this degree and finally breaks out, the sight is not pleasant to behold.
My sympathies are with Haidar, who I've never met, and with Pat Buchanan, who I've known for 30 years. Here, we watch both political parties serving the same elite establishment. Whether Gore or McCain or Bradley or Bush, there will be policies of economic globalization that make the rich richer and warehouse the people at the bottom in federal, state, and local prisons. If the other nations around the world don't like our behavior, we will punish them severely. That impulse comes from the yin in our national family, the sense in the fortress at the top of the mountain that everything is okay and let's keep it that way. Buchanan and Haidar represent the suppressed forces of yang, the pitchfork peasants at the bottom of mountains everywhere. They will concede they may be a little better off than they were, in terms of calories, but things still are not that great and in many intangible ways, the social fabric still is fraying. Trying to suppress the peaceful, patriotic Pitchfork Populists -- by calling them Nazis and Hitlers -- only makes matters worse. At the extreme, the Nazis finally do show up.