The Breakfast Table

Atlas Shrugging

Well, I don’t know that I can discern any coherent European or American long-range strategy in the Balkans. The old international affairs Establishment would still seem to be primarily interested in “stability,” which argues for making deals with Milosevic; but having miscalculated their ability to keep him in line, they can’t afford to have their expanded NATO look powerless. Meanwhile, the free-marketeers who run the IMF and the World Bank are ideologues, and capitalism is a relentlessly destabilizing force; except for George Soros and a few others, there’s nobody saying, “Look, fellas, we are going to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs unless we police ourselves a bit.” The application of laissez-faire to Yugoslavia gave free rein to the nationalists Tito had controlled, and the stabilizers’ interest is in manipulating them and keeping them quiet. What’s conspicuously absent is concern on anyone’s part, saving a few dissidents, for the fate of democracy in Yugoslavia. There’s no need to suggest a conspiracy to keep the Balkans and Eastern Europe poor. In fact, you could argue that it’s in the long-term interests of both the stabilizers and the free-marketeers to encourage “a good investment climate,” which means at least a stratum of the population that isn’t poor. But you would have to have a concerted international Marshall Plan strategy for the region to make a dent in its poverty–and this is just beyond the pale of current corporate thinking.

On another subject (not that I expect to have the last word on this one), what do you make of this new academic interest in Ayn Rand that was reported in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education?