DSK, PPK, WTF

By Felix Salmon
February 23, 2011
Dominique Strauss-Kahn continues his campaign-in-all-but-name for the French presidency, another Gallic technocrat, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, is running for president of Peru.

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As Dominique Strauss-Kahn continues his campaign-in-all-but-name for the French presidency, another Gallic technocrat, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, is running for president of Peru. They have much more in common than the fact that they’re both commonly referred to by their initials — they both represent the old guard, the well-schooled elite, the ancien regime in a world where such regimes are crumbling by the hour.

PPK, whose full name is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski Godard, is the first cousin of Jean-Luc Godard and speaks French as well as, say, John Kerry. He’s a true global cosmopolitan, having spent much of his life globe-trotting on behalf of various Wall Street investment banks, including a decade as chairman of First Boston. He studied at Oxford with John Williamson, the inventor of the Washington Consensus, and they remain close; they co-edited a book in 2003. And, of course, he’s the father of Alex Kuczynski, she of the plastic-surgery book and hedge-fund manager husband and privileged articles which push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable even in New York, let alone Lima. He’s never been elected to anything, but noblesse oblige and all that.

The weird thing is that Peru doesn’t need PPK at all. Under leftist Alan García, Peru has performed stunningly well through the global financial crisis, growing at 8% in 2006, 9% in 2007, 10% in 2008, and then bouncing back to 9% growth in 2010 after modest-but-still-positive growth of 1% in the worst crisis year of 2009. Peru doesn’t need el gringo to provide what Eric Schmidt might call “day-to-day adult supervision”; in fact, it doesn’t need a 72-year-old president of any description when the median age is just 26.

PPK is a man of the past, a policy wonk who’s more interested in implementing policies than providing real leadership. DSK is not much different: both of them are former economy ministers who are naturally at home in Washington’s most rarefied circles and who can talk for hours about global macroeconomic imbalances or coordinated responses to systemically-important risk factors. Both of them, too, contributed more to the problem when it came to the financial crisis than they did to the solution.

It’s time to move on from these wise old men. France and Peru deserve presidents who will lead — someone much less lugubrious, much more vivacious, a creator of the 21st Century rather than a throwback to the 20th. The generation of DSK and PPK had its chance, and did what it could. It’s time for them to move aside and see what the generation of Obama and Cameron can do next.

Comments
6 comments so far

/vuvuzelas/

Posted by EricVincent | Report as abusive

Sadly I’m not quite sure that the Obama/Cameron/Sarkozy generation will prove any better than the one that preceded it. The results aren’t very good so far.

This is the generation that breathed and lived the Washington consensus and knows no other world. I’m afraid we’ll have to wait another decade to have a political class that will rise up to the challenge.

Posted by lemarin | Report as abusive

Yuck Felix…

The older and wiser the the canadate the longer the track record of successes and failures by which to judge him.

If you had to pick a someone to manage your company would you chose Buffett or Eddie Lampert? Both have great histories managing businesses… one for nearly 20 years one for over 60 years.

I’m 33 but hate the idea that a 73 year old can’t contribute their productive energy for the common good.

Posted by y2kurtus | Report as abusive

I do not entirely share your negative opinion of DSK. Sarkozy billed his presidency as transformative. He has so far failed to move the needle, mostly because of the profound mismatch between his inflated ego and his competence. Sarko was always best at campaigning. He relishes the brawling, the invectives, the brash declarations and berating of opponents of a good old fashioned political fight. But when it comes to actually govern, his heart’s not really into it. His grasp of economics is shaky, his understanding of geopolitics is non-existent, and his ability to command loyalty from brilliant people is hindered by his notoriously flippant temperament.

So he’s surrounded by mediocre courtiers – case in point, the Foreign Minister whose family is in business with Ben Ali’s clan, and who declared in Parliament that she would really like to share France’s experience with policing and crowd control with the Ben Ali regime, 3 days before said Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia. So that’s the current French government. A bunch of demagogues devising policy on the fly, hoping to keep one step ahead of scandals and polls.

Sarko’s plan for the 2012 election is to have a national debate on Islam, so as to run up Le Pen’s daughter’s numbers and prevent the Left’s candidate to be in the runoff. A replay of 2002.

Compared to that, and notwithstanding his longtime problem with his voracious sexual appetite, DSK seems like the adult in the room.

Posted by mansa | Report as abusive

I’ve lost track of PPK over the past few years, but your put-down seems superficial. Your criticisms boil down to the man’s advanced age and the elites with whom he rubs shoulders.

Re: “PPK is a man of the past, a policy wonk who’s more interested in implementing policies than providing real leadership.” what does this mean? What’s wrong with a developed country being governed by a person who’s interested in “implementing policies”? I hope your idea of “real leadership” is not the populist demogoguery of a chavez or an evo morales or (to pick examples from both sides of the ideological divide) of an Alan Garcia (toned down in his most recent stint). True, PPK has disturbingly little in common with most of the people he would represent as president of Peru. It sounds like he has spent far too much time away from his country in the past decade. I myself worry that even with good policies a figure like PPK is too easy to accuse of technocratic elitism to have any hope of persuading a country to make tough choices.
But the case against PPK should be much more nuanced than your ageist, populist takedown.

Posted by siraca | Report as abusive

I’m french and I lived in Peru in the late 90′s
It was Fujimori and Montesinos’ period and people in that country weren’t very happy (sorry for my language).
Just a thing about DSK : may be you can’t consider it, but France, as many european countries, is experiencing now the capitalism failure and its consecuencies : there is no place for an FMI CEO in the people’s hope !
Regards,
Astringues

Posted by Astringues | Report as abusive
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