Monday, May 23, 2011

Benevolent Elite--With Benefits, Of Course

Ross Douthet, conservative columnist for the NYT, writes about Dominique Strauss Kahn in a way that I've not seen before--as the embodiment of the globalizing European elite that is increasingly under attack from the Right and the Left.
What binds all these plots together, with the former I.M.F. chief in a starring role, is the crisis of the European dream — the vision of a continent without borders or divisions, supervised by a benevolent and cosmopolitan elite.

This crisis takes two forms. There’s the challenge to Europe’s economic union, driven by the upside-down balance sheets in the Continent’s weaker economies. And there’s the challenge to its political consensus, driven by an anti-immigration backlash that’s empowered nationalist parties from France to Finland.

Both these problems increasingly divide Europe along north-south lines. (Once again, Strauss-Kahn’s France straddles both worlds.) The debt-ridden countries of the Mediterranean are also the front lines for migration from the largely Muslim Maghreb, and their northern neighbors are trying to contain both the red ink and the refugees. Earlier this month, in a controversial move, the Danish government announced that it was restarting border checks, possibly running afoul of the Schengen agreement, which enables passport-free travel through the E.U.

Both pit the ambitions of the Continent’s leaders against the residual nationalism of ordinary Europeans, who are challenging the elite consensus from the left and right at once. (Many prominent far-right leaders, Le Pen included, strike protectionist and populist notes.)

And both have been exacerbated by that same elite’s arrogance and glaring blind spots — its expansion of the monetary union to include economies that weren’t ready to share a currency with Germany and France, and its blithe, politically correct assumption that mass immigration would enrich the Continent, rather than divide it.

No screenwriter could have invented a better embodiment of this elite than the globe-trotting, presidency-aspiring Strauss-Kahn. (Imagine if Ben Bernanke and Mitt Romney were somehow the same person, and you’ll have a sense of his unique profile.)

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