WASHINGTON -- From Oct. 18 to Dec. 3, 1961, 116,000 people visited New York's Museum of Modern Art before anyone noticed that Henri Matisse's painting "Le Bateau" had been hung upside down. Modernity is supposed to "transgress" standards of the traditional, which is why Paul Hindemith, while rehearsing one of his dissonant orchestral compositions, said to the musicians, "No, no gentlemen -- even though it sounds wrong, it's still not right."
Proponents of today's world-turned-upside-down economic policies say the policies might seem wrong but really are boldly modern in their rejection of markets in favor of pervasive government intervention in economic life. Hence New York, which until eight months ago was the financial capital of the world, is no longer even the financial capital of the United States. Washington is.
So says Ian Bremmer in "State Capitalism Comes of Age: The End of the Free Market?" in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. It should be read by Americans who are dismayed by the blurring of the line between public and private sectors.
Most Americans assume -- and are encouraged to do so by those doing the blurring -- that the government is doing this reluctantly and is eager to find an "exit strategy" to "unwind" its interventions. Bremmer, president of the consulting firm Eurasia Group, believes that although the governments of many developing nations have made "a strategic rejection of free-market doctrine," governments of developed countries do not intend to "manage" their economies "indefinitely." About the former, he is correct. About the latter, his wish may be the father of his thought.