Why One Should Never Allow Economists Dabble in Political Theory

Pengovsky is chez les Croats enjoying a rather peaceful part of the
year in which, according to Jack Wallance in City Slickers “you city
boys think you can solve all your problems” and only occasionally do I
bother to check my mail, let alone blog. Thus the lack of skin and
meat, but I’m sure you’ve guessed that already. Also, the wi-fi screen
in pengovsky’s destination of choice classifies this blog as
“pornography” and filters it out, of which I’m especially proud 🙂

However, be that as it may, my algae-and-salt cocoon of sweet oblivion
was not to last. I’m lucky enough to have this blog visited by the few
but intelligent, who constantly rattle pengovsky’s cage of
self-importance and righteousness, which always provides good ground
for a healthy debate. The latest example being the series of posts on
Stožice stadium and arena, which irked Crni into commenting.

So far, so good. Crni rox, regardless of the fact that most of the
time we don’t see eye to eye. However, the last time around he picked
the wrong horse. He linked to an op-ed by Janez Šušteršič, Ph.D. in
Thursday’s Finance daily in which Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković’s
politics, administration and overall management both of the city and
the Stožice project are taken apart brutally and effectively.

In a text titled Ljubljana in a pork barrel Šušteršič leaves little to
imagination. He says mayor Janković is Slovenian king of pork barrel
politics, case in point being the Stožice project, which was completed
against all odds, with all kinds of government interventions, both
financial and administrative, while workers and subcontractors still
haven’t been paid. Furthermore, goes Šušteršič, Janković has cajoled
the government into passing a custom-tailored piece of legislation by
which the city of Ljubljana will get additional monies from state
budget, thus depriving less developed parts of Slovenia of much needed
cash. And as if that were not enough, Janković also raised prices of
infrastructure services as much as 50%, further lining city’s coffers
with taxpayers’ money.

Effective and very persuasive, especially if you read the original.
However, while I respect Crni’s agreeing with what Šušteršič (former
head of the Government Office of Macroeconomics analysis and
Development and currently professor with the University of Koper)
wrote, the text itself is just another proof that economist should not
be allowed to dabble in political theory. Well, as we’ve seen in the
past couple of years, they should not even be allowed to dabble in
economic theory, but that’s a different story altogether.

Šušteršič gets it wrong from the start. One can not by definition
accuse a local politician of pork barrel politics. Yes, it has a nice
ring to it, but Šušteršič would do well to do at least a basic
Wikipedia search. Or ask one of his professorial colleagues who is
more familiar with political theory and – specifically- American
political culture.

Pork barrel politics means appropriating state funds for local
projects by an elected official on state level. To put it in Slovenian
terms this translates as an MP securing funds for his/her particular
constituency, mostly for projects which are not high on government’s
priority list. There’s a lot of this going around and in this
particular parliament there are about 25-or-so people liable to be
crowned as pork-barrel kings. They are those who serve both as MPs and
mayors. And who are, incidentally, up for re-election in five weeks
time. True, so is mayor Janković, but the last time I checked he was
not an MP, nor was he serving at any other state-level position with
direct or indirect power over budget expenditure. Therefore, whatever
concessions Janković wriggled out of this government, he did nothing
more or nothing less what the rest of 180-or-so mayors who don’t serve
as MPs do for most of their time in office. But this is not
pork-barrel politics. QED.

In all honesty, the bit about Janković having the Ljubljana ring
closed to heavy vehicles prior to Stožice opening in fear of truckers’
protest over not being paid more or less stands. That particular move
was a bit over the top. Although various excuses for closure were
given by various relevant officials, it is no secret that this was
done on Janković’s behest and it is just not cricket for a public
official to do something like that.

Consequently Šušteršič’s arguments against Janković and his
re-election bid (for the ends his text with an appeal to Ljubljanchans
to vote for anyone else but Janković) turn into nothing else but a
political pamphlet without so much as a hint of theoretical background
to support it. An effective and (depending on one’s political
preferences) valid pamphlet, but a pamphlet nonetheless.

Published by


Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

7 thoughts on “Why One Should Never Allow Economists Dabble in Political Theory”

  1. Lep blog, smo te dodal na našo stran. Edina pripomba je da je kr neki časa rabš da najdš “Previous Entries”. Drguač pa Keep up the good work!

  2. WTF dude? QED? Your argument in defense of Jankovic is that he does not qualify as “pork barrel spender”? How about just a “reckless spender”? Or at least “a real big spender”? Good looking, so refined.

    In the end everybody will have to pay for this project. State funds have already been spent on it – the 9 million EUR from the education money. That, sir, is called shady, shitty,stinking backwater shenanigans. QED 😛

  3. Sure, reckless, but not pork barrel. There’s a difference. I mean, if we are going to use specific terms, we might as well use correct ones. And I wasn’t defending Janković per se, but rather saying that Šušteršič was overly liberal in trying to prove his (possibly valid) point and screwed the whole thing up.

    But to clarify. The 9,4 mil you’re talking about was, strictly speaking, not just education money, but education and sports money, because Lukšič is minister of education and sports, so his is the only budget a sports object can be financed from in the first place. Kind of like Maribor stadium couple of years ago. Not that anyone took issue with that. Secondly, out of that sum, 8 mil is actually EU cohesion funds and “only” 1,4 mil is Slovene taxpayer’s money.

    True, no one really disputes the fact that the public tender was created in a way that made only Stožice eligible for the funds, but that – as we both know – is neither the first nor the last time something like this has happened in this country. So, yes, shady, shitty, stinking backwater shenanigans, but – what else is new?

    And as for us paying for all of this is concerned, you’re basically right. We might end up paying for it. Just like we do for every pavement, street-light and football pitch in every 198 out of 210 Slovene municipalities which are not financially self-sufficient. And a lot of that are text-book cases of pork barrel politics.

  4. So again, you are basically defending the spending spree and calling Sustersic’s article crap because of the use of phrase “pork barrel”?

  5. In terms of political theory the article is utter crap. Other than that it’s just a political pamphlet. Nothing more and nothing less.

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