Yes, dear friends the Rich, loo! There is a devastating weak spot in many a magnanimous call! Look, here is the potential catastrophic hidden fissure:
Let me tell you immediately the conclusion, then I will try to elaborate (though, among clever persons as we are, there is little to refine): Ideas are for the Wise. Slogans are for FOOLS!
Unfortunately this dramatic difference is not often understood and the Fool, who are the majority among us, are convinced to march behind the banners of great ideas. Pity those regions of the world where a majority of fools keep shouting the slogans they love.
(Does anybody feel offended? Please allow me to remind you that there are very many stupid persons everywhere, just look around you. Francis Bacon wrote : In reading, one might converse with the wise; in everyday life, he generally deals with fools. And of course, as Jerome Klapka Jerome noted in his Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, "stupid is everybody who does not agree with my [Jerome's] opinions". So automatically there is plenty of them, of stupids, and each region, class, race and gender has got its fair share. Humans have learnt little about the way to protect themselves from the mischievous wicked, but absolutely nothing is being done to protect us from the stupid. To be stupid is no guiltiness, nobody is ever punished for his/her stupidity. And unfortunately the stupid never rest).
In very few cases, admittedly, slogans are shortened expedients to convey an authentic idea. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's slogan "The United States should become the arsenal of democracy" (slogan used by his successors to keep Stalin at bay since the very days of Potsdam) was in fact the compendium of an articulated idea suggested to FDR by Jean Monnet, the capitalist banker who voted socialist, sold his Cognac all over the world and was later hailed as the Father of Europe. Deng Xiaoping's motto: It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice - seems a slogan, but evidently it is THE idea answering Deng's basic dilemma "I have two choices, I can distribute poverty as Mao did, or I can distribute wealth with great initial inequalities = when you open your window, fresh air comes in along with flies". Tony Blair's remark: "there is not a leftist or a rightist economic policy; there is just one which works, and one which doesn't" also seems a slogan, only to make more piercing the idea behind.
In general, ideas are big things, emerging from several joints hinged to fit together in a coherent design. Ideas are powerful, as John Maynard Keynes wrote, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. And in fact Keynes' theories of government management of the economy from Harvard dominated for decades the economists club and guided the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Then the ideas of Keynes' rather obscure critic Friedrich von Hayek from the University of Chicago moved to center stage toppling Keynesian economics, replacing them with the free-market "fashion" that started reshaping economies all over the world in this last decade. More than a fashion it was a necessity since the Carter presidency was giving rise to theories of government overload: Keynesian democracies were becoming ungovernable because competing demands were producing gridlock and governments had to face the fact that entitlements expand more rapidly than do the economies on which they depend. In the 1980s the politics of wealth-creation took precedence over distribution and this "sunburst of common sense", as hailed by Keith Joseph, has coincided with Thatcher's tenure, which began in May 1979. On the face of present diffuse unemployment you can be pretty sure that even this von Hayeck idea might find difficulties meeting the hard facts of reality and the Chicago-Boys could recede while some Giddens-like new "Third Way" Social Economics attempt is soon going to be tested with reality on its turn.
Ideas are powerful, serious things, for thoughtful people. They require to be carefully studied and tested, as our colleagues the scientists do with their own theories, through an endless process of trial and error, of refining, of adjustement. Do you agree?
Alas, slogans are powerful, too: they can achieve the mobilization of huge crowds of simpletons convinced that the solution of any problem is at hand, if only one shouts the right words. We had here in Italy some immense popular processions in the streets of all major towns, to protest against Mafia's obnoxious actions: then all those good-willing nincompoops went happily (just a bit raucous) back to their homes. What a big, successful procession, they concluded. Of course you can bet how much the Mafia changed its ways, after those shouted slogans.
(15.To be continued)