“The second time as farce…”

From Paul Krugman’s blog.

I was recently asked to give a talk on “capitalism and democracy”; that’s bigger-think than I usually do, but I gave it a try. I took as my starting point the famous Fukuyama thesis that liberal democracy — meaning basically a market economy plus democratic institutions — was an end state, a final resting point for state organization.

I always had my doubts about that, largely thanks to the 1930s: what we saw there was that a severe economic crisis could put liberal democracy very much at risk. And it was a close-run thing: slightly better strategic decisions by the bad guys could have made totalitarianism, not democracy, the end state.

It seemed to me even when Fukuyama first wrote that this could and probably would happen again, that there would be future crises that would put our system — which I agree is a very good system — at risk.

But one thing I was sure of was that the next great crisis would be different. It would be environmental, or about resource shortages, or about runaway technologies, or something; it wouldn’t be about a banking crisis and a collapse of aggregate demand, aggravated by bad monetary and fiscal policy. We’d learned to much to repeat that performance — right?

Wrong. The amazing thing now is not that we’re having a crisis, it’s the fact that we’re having the same crisis, and making the same mistakes.