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.

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