Author Topic: Why Europe Keeps Failing........ merged with "EU Seizes Cypriot Bank Accounts"  (Read 544905 times)

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Offline Chris Pook

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Janet Daley (Daily Telegraph) does an impressive job of summing up Charlemagne's Heirs:

Quote
There’s nothing new about this European folly

 The governing class in Europe thinks it knows what is best - and once again, the people are being forced to accept it.

Bigger than the people: European union abandons common sense in favour of ideological delusion Photo: EPA

By Janet Daley

9:00PM GMT 12 Nov 2011

Have we learnt nothing from the terrible century that finished just over a decade ago? Talk about generals fighting the last war: Europe seems determined to remain locked in the first flush of post-war peace, repeating over and over again, with ever more hysterical urgency, the formula that once seemed like a miraculous antidote to its own worst inclinations.
 

Even as the prescription – the permanent integration of those wicked old nation-states into one unified whole – proves damaging and dangerous, it cannot be abandoned, because it is, by now, the received definition of progressive thinking about the future.
 

But it is not about the future at all. Its remedies and pieties, as well as its anxieties and confusions, lie almost exclusively in the past. That is why it offers answers to questions, and solutions to problems, that are so discordant with life as it is actually lived. (So much so that elected governments must be displaced before its mechanisms can be put in place.) The plague of bellicose nationalism is no longer the preoccupying threat to modern European life, yet that is the demon which the EU is most dedicated to driving out. Germany’s fear of hyperinflation is out of touch with its present robust economic reality, yet that is what prevents the ECB from taking the obvious measures to save the Italian economy.
 

But the European project is an anachronism in a much more profound sense. Its institutions may have been developed as a consequence of (and an act of repentance for) the world wars, but its philosophical roots go back much further: this dream of a “modern” Europe is just the latest model of utopian ideology to leave wreckage in its path.
 

Its antecedents are the German and French systems of political theory which held that perfect methods of governing could be derived from first principles: that human behaviour and social interaction could be predicted and controlled in ways that would maximise welfare and happiness. What you hear in the grandiose speeches of European leaders and the bumptious pronouncements of EU officials is precisely this: we have an ideal system which can guarantee infinite security and wellbeing, provided that everyone behaves in ways that are consistent with the rules of life as we describe them.

 
The great irony of the mess we are now in is that this concept of a totally rational, perfect society which must be imposed on actual people, each with his own distinct experience and perception of life, was the same delusion that wreaked havoc in Europe for generations. From one Terror to another, Robespierre to Stalin, the enforced experiments ran their course. And virtually every one required the “temporary” expunging of democracy.
 
Of all the disturbing aspects of the past few weeks, none has been more alarming than the frank contempt that has been expressed for public opinion and democratic accountability: the idea that these decisions are too important to be left to the people, with their inchoate resentments and their self-serving sentimentality. Somehow, while we were busy heading toward the progressive enlightened future, we ended up being forced to accept the most retrograde formula of the past. The governing class knows what is best, and the people must be made to accept it.
 
How did that happen? And what sort of tortuous logic made it seem acceptable? Answer: the economic imperatives that follow when the commonsense understanding of how people behave is abandoned in favour of ideological delusion. This was the 21st-century version of the experiment. Allow countries that have traditions of corrupt, chaotic governance to enter the domain of free money (easy credit and low interest rates) and see if they automatically turn into well-ordered, responsible nations. Now we know: they don’t. So instead of Greece and Italy having dodgy currencies (to match their dodgy governments) that could be devalued whenever necessary, they were locked into one that was supposed to be invincible and could not be devalued.
 
But instead of their national temperaments being remodelled and their populations propelled into the glorious discovery of probity and sound borrowing habits, they continued to be themselves. And the Germans, for all their official commitment to the grand theory, continue to be themselves as well. They have their memories and their inherited fears of inflation and the debauching of their currency to contend with. So here we are at the same old impasse: human beings are not perfectly rational and they will not behave as the beautiful system dictates. (It seems bizarre, in this light, that it is Eurosceptics who are described as “ideologues”.)
 
Perhaps it is not so surprising that we have made this mistake yet again: it seems to be a feature of the European intellectual tradition. But it is outrageous to compound it by pretending that it is unprecedented. Once we accept that the EU is not a pragmatic project at all – not a practical proposition designed to meet specific, actual needs, but a metaphysical system which relies on the reinvention of human nature – then it becomes much easier to understand why it is coming so spectacularly adrift.
 
Meanwhile, in Britain, we fight over the old 20th-century ideological ground, but there is no debate in any meaningful sense. There is an absurd argument going on about the evils of capitalism – only this time around, in the wake of Marxism’s inglorious collapse, there is not even a plausible alternative being proposed to replace it. So the attacks are nihilistic in the strict technical sense of the word, as well as being misguided.
 
However repugnant the present generation of capitalists may be, and however much personal disrepute they may incur, it is not capitalism that is about to destroy the prosperity of the populations of modern Europe. It is the folly of enforced uniformity – yet another dream of enlightened perfection – that will accomplish that.
 
What the architects of the dream, and even those of us who are caught in the backwash, will have to accept is that capitalism is probably incapable of producing enough wealth to cover the cost of limitless “social protection” programmes as well as providing uniform levels of prosperity for all working and non-working citizens. Soon, we will have to make radical choices not just about the power of unelected officials, but between economic freedom and what those who run the EU call “social cohesion”. Or rather, they will have to make the choices. I doubt that we – or the peoples of Europe – will get any say in it at all.
 

Frankfurt and Strasbourg still believe that if only they try a little harder, spend a little more money, draw a little more blood, then they can achieve in Europe that which "The Sun King's" (copyrighted, registered trade mark, patent pending) topiarists achieved at l'Orangerie at Versailles: nature ordered, manicured and trimmed to present the image of sublime order.

Louis wanted to have a peaceful haven in a world of disorder: Where everything was in its place and he could stop worrying.  The fact that he employed armies of gardeners expending their lives to let him relax appears to have escaped the attention of both Himself, the Eurocrats and their fellow travellers that believe that "Order" and "Nature" can be made synonymous.

The controlled managed chaos of the English country garden, and the constant attention of its gardener, is poorly understood on the Continent.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 12:33:59 by Jungle »
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2011, 07:56:44 »
I think this idea, odious debt, is what we are going to see in Europe in the next few years. The article is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/a-new-euro-crisis-strategy-deny-the-debt/article2242826/
Quote
A new euro crisis strategy: deny the debt

GRAEME SMITH
ATHENS— From Monday's Globe and Mail

Last updated Monday, Nov. 21, 2011

It’s always hard to discern a message during a riot, amid fistfights and tear gas, but an undercurrent of ideas runs through street protests in the debtor countries of Europe. When demonstrators scream “Make the bankers pay,” or the equivalent in Greek, Spanish, or Italian, many of them are embracing a concept that has gained popularity during the crisis. It’s a deceptively simple way of dealing with a crushing sovereign debt: Declare the loans illegal, or “odious.”

The doctrine of odious debt was first proposed in 1927 by an obscure legal scholar named Alexander Sack, but did not gain currency until the late 1990s when poverty activists started applying the term to Third World debts. The argument is that when a lender knowingly gives money to a corrupt or dictatorial regime for purposes that don’t benefit the country, the debt should be erased when the tyrant falls.

Iraq invoked the term to shrug off the debts of Saddam Hussein; Ecuador used similar logic when it defaulted on some foreign creditors in 2008.

Now the term has spread to Europe, finding its way into speeches by politicians –both left- and right-wing – as they face rising frustration from voters about the belt-tightening required to keep their countries out of bankruptcy.

None of Europe’s finance ministers have proposed anything of the kind, but they have been forced to explain why not. Peter Matthews, an accountant who serves as a member of parliament for the centre-right Fine Gael, the biggest faction in Ireland’s coalition government, challenged his own party’s policy when he made a public appeal last month for the European Central Bank to write down $75-billion of his country’s loans, calling them “odious.”

Ireland’s Finance Minister quickly dismissed the proposal as “deranged and crazy,” but Mr. Matthews stood by his position, saying that many Irish taxpayers sense that the European lenders are more interested in squeezing money from the public coffers than finding a practical recovery plan for their country.

“They’ve been browbeaten by the bankers,” Mr. Matthews said in an interview. “That’s the true problem across Europe.”

On the other side of the continent, and the opposite end of the political spectrum, left-wing Greek parties have emerged as leading champions of debt denial. Two major political parties have dominated Greek politics since the 1970s, both of which gave their endorsement on Nov. 16 to an interim coalition that has declared it will enforce unpopular austerity measures. But even those involved in the new coalition say that a backlash against the policies may hurt them in the coming elections.

“Our party will take it on the chin, but we all make sacrifices,” said Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a member of parliament from the New Democracy party, the second-largest faction in the new government. He acknowledged that voters may drift toward those who favour the “odious debt” idea, such as Alexis Tsipras, head of the left-wing party Syriza.

“The problem is that Tsipras doesn’t have any credible solutions,” Mr. Mitsotakis said. “His ideas are something like you’d find in North Korea, or maybe Cuba.”

For his part, Mr. Tsipras says his proposal to repudiate the debt represents the only fair outcome after the “orgy of corruption” in recent years. His party calls for an audit of the debt, to determine which loans were handed out improperly – for example, to fund corrupt deals surrounding the recent Olympics, or for the purchase of submarines, tanks, and other unnecessary weapons.

“There are other countries who refused to pay a large part of their debt, because it came as a result of corruption and scandalous contracts,” Mr. Tsipras said.

Such ideas have been popularized by the documentary film Debtocracy, and by lobby groups – the Jubilee Debt Campaign, and the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt – that previously focused their attention on the developing world.

Eric Toussaint, president of CADTM Belgium, said his group’s website has seen a 30-per-cent increase in traffic during the crisis and their latest book, La Dette ou la Vie, has almost sold out; they’re working on another volume for release next spring.

“In polls across Europe, you can see a growing majority that rejects the austerity measures,” Mr. Toussaint said. There is also a growing consensus, he said, that the International Monetary Fund doesn’t always have the best prescriptions.

“The IMF said that Canada did not deregulate its banks enough,” he said. “You didn’t follow their advice, and look at how well it turned out for you.”

Despite the rush of enthusiasm for the concept of odious debt, the doctrine remains highly controversial among legal experts. In an acidly funny paper titled “A Convenient Untruth: Fact and Fantasy in the Doctrine of Odious Debts,” in a 2007 issue of the Virginia Journal of International Law, the authors note that the idea attracted few admirers for more than a half-century after it was first proposed.

“The doctrine of odious debts was either overlooked by reviewers or criticized by those who noticed it,” the journal concluded.


The advantage of the doctrine of odious debt is that it excuses politicians from the domestic price of default. In countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and, yes, France, the people are of mixed minds: they do not want to pay the price of years decades of overspending but they have enough national pride to not want to be labelled "deadbeats." The idea of odious debts is that the current levels of debt were run up by bad people - the Greek colonels (1967-74), Franco (1947-75), even Berlisconi (1994-2011 (with breaks)) - and, therefore need not, indeed should not be repaid. It's default, that's what the banks will know it is, that's what everyone will call it, but the people will be able to excuse their default by saying, "No, no! We're not defaulting, not at all, we are not deadbeats; we're just renouncing these odious debts." It will, probably, work in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and a few other European countries. It is unlikely to even be discussed in Iceland and will, also most likely, be rejected by Ireland.

My question is: will it spread to America? Can Obama's (or his successors) make the case that George W Bust ≈ Berlesconi and that the massive levels of debt that some (many) economists equate to the impact of the Bush tax cuts are "odious?"
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as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Online tomahawk6

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2011, 09:12:03 »
Europe is failing because of socialism pure and simple.

Offline Haligonian

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2011, 10:11:35 »
Europe is failing because of socialism pure and simple.

Care to explain further?

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2011, 10:29:24 »
Care to explain further?

The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money. - Margaret Thatcher

I would add that those from whom you borrow money want it back some day, and that day appears to be now.
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Offline Nemo888

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2011, 11:26:15 »
The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money. - Margaret Thatcher

I would add that those from whom you borrow money want it back some day, and that day appears to be now.

And Thatcherite "trickle down"  deregulation has worked so well. What did work well was Roosevelt's plan to save capitalism after the last great financial collapse. A controlled Keynesian economy with huge investments in infrastructure and education. Combined with taxing the rich to the point where they want to reinvest in their businesses and a stiff inheritance tax could turn things around again. Health care would need a revamp though. Most of the money we are spending is wasted on retirees while young people can't get the cutting edge treatments that would actually give a return on investment by making them more productive. Just my 2c.

Offline Haligonian

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2011, 11:41:50 »
Care to explain further?

The reason I ask is that simply saying that "socialism" is the problem is too general a comment to contribute to the discussion.  There are a whole legion of different variations on socialism all that result in different policies.  I don't think any of these countries that are doing so poorly have the majority of their industry owned by the government and at the same time there are some countries they have done very well with socialist policies.  So what are the specific "socialist" policies or trends that are causing these countries to fail?

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2011, 11:54:06 »
And Thatcherite "trickle down"  deregulation has worked so well. What did work well was Roosevelt's plan to save capitalism after the last great financial collapse. A controlled Keynesian economy with huge investments in infrastructure and education. Combined with taxing the rich to the point where they want to reinvest in their businesses and a stiff inheritance tax could turn things around again. Health care would need a revamp though. Most of the money we are spending is wasted on retirees while young people can't get the cutting edge treatments that would actually give a return on investment by making them more productive. Just my 2c.


Some quite reputable economic historians will say that what Roosevelt did (aided by the US Congress) was to turn an ordinary depression into the Great Depression.

There might a lot to recommend Keynes if anyone, ever, implemented his plan: spend in hard times but cut spending and pay off debt in good times. No one bothers with the second half so Keynesian economics remains a totally unproven theory.
 
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Chris Pook

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2011, 12:11:42 »
"Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France" -
Metaxas, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Petain - and to round out the last of the PIIGS - de Valera. 
The last of the veterans that fought against them and their policies are not yet in the ground - nor are their supporters.

As to the man with the best plan for sorting the greatest financial collapse of 1920s......an Austrian Corporal.  He too had, and has, his supporters.

Give me chaos.  It is less troubling.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2011, 12:16:19 by Kirkhill »
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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2011, 12:40:19 »
And Thatcherite "trickle down"  deregulation has worked so well.

I made no commentary on that. My point was you can't continue to spend money you don't have ad infinitum. Eventually your economy is going to collapse under the weight of the debt... as we're seeing now.
WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher,smarter, faster and better looking than most people.
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. (H.L. Mencken 1919)
Zero tolerance is the politics of the lazy. All it requires is that you do nothing and ban everything.

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2011, 13:52:14 »
A quick lesson in Eurozone Economics is making the rounds online, so....

Some years ago a small rural town in Spain twinned with a similar town
in Greece. The Mayor of the Greek town visited the Spanish town. When
he saw the palatial mansion belonging to the Spanish mayor he wondered
how he could afford such a house.

The Spaniard said; "You see that bridge over there? The EU gave us a
grant to build a two-lane bridge, but by building a single lane bridge
with traffic lights at either end this house could be built".

The following year the Spaniard visited the Greek town. He was simply
amazed at the Greek Mayor's house, gold taps, marble floors, it was
marvelous.

When he asked how this could be afforded the Greek said; "You see that
bridge over there?"

The Spaniard replied; "No."


 ;)


Sadly amazed at people cheering on the spread of kakistocracy.   :not-again:

Offline Brad Sallows

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2011, 20:36:25 »
Europe is failing because it spends too much of tomorrow's money today.  Much of it is spent on socialist policies and aims, but the problem isn't exclusively a socialist one.  Short of miraculous growth, the only way out is to cheat.  We are just watching the ongoing negotiations to decide who will get shafted, although we know ultimately they are going to go after the holdings of frugal people.
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2011, 22:30:47 »
Europe is failing because people like this are running the show:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/8897662/EU-bans-claim-that-water-can-prevent-dehydration.html

Quote
EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration
Brussels bureaucrats were ridiculed yesterday after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration.

NHS health guidelines state clearly that drinking water helps avoid dehydration, and that Britons should drink at least 1.2 litres per day Photo: ALAMY
By Victoria Ward and Nick Collins6:20AM GMT 18 Nov 20111738 Comments

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

Last night, critics claimed the EU was at odds with both science and common sense. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large.

“The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true.

“If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

NHS health guidelines state clearly that drinking water helps avoid dehydration, and that Britons should drink at least 1.2 litres per day.
The Department for Health disputed the wisdom of the new law. A spokesman said: “Of course water hydrates. While we support the EU in preventing false claims about products, we need to exercise common sense as far as possible."

German professors Dr Andreas Hahn and Dr Moritz Hagenmeyer, who advise food manufacturers on how to advertise their products, asked the European Commission if the claim could be made on labels.

They compiled what they assumed was an uncontroversial statement in order to test new laws which allow products to claim they can reduce the risk of disease, subject to EU approval.

They applied for the right to state that “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration” as well as preventing a decrease in performance.

However, last February, the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) refused to approve the statement.

A meeting of 21 scientists in Parma, Italy, concluded that reduced water content in the body was a symptom of dehydration and not something that drinking water could subsequently control.

Now the EFSA verdict has been turned into an EU directive which was issued on Wednesday.

Do you think water hydrates?
Yes - It clearly refreshes my body's liquid levels.
No - I agree with the new EU ruling.
Not sure - I feel that the jury is still out.
I simply don't care - this research is a complete waste of time and money.
VoteView ResultsShare This
 
Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall said the ruling made the “bendy banana law” look “positively sane”.

He said: “I had to read this four or five times before I believed it. It is a perfect example of what Brussels does best. Spend three years, with 20 separate pieces of correspondence before summoning 21 professors to Parma where they decide with great solemnity that drinking water cannot be sold as a way to combat dehydration.

“Then they make this judgment law and make it clear that if anybody dares sell water claiming that it is effective against dehydration they could get into serious legal bother.
EU regulations, which aim to uphold food standards across member states, are frequently criticised.

Rules banning bent bananas and curved cucumbers were scrapped in 2008 after causing international ridicule.
Prof Hahn, from the Institute for Food Science and Human Nutrition at Hanover Leibniz University, said the European Commission had made another mistake with its latest ruling.

“What is our reaction to the outcome? Let us put it this way: We are neither surprised nor delighted.
“The European Commission is wrong; it should have authorised the claim. That should be more than clear to anyone who has consumed water in the past, and who has not? We fear there is something wrong in the state of Europe.”

Prof Brian Ratcliffe, spokesman for the Nutrition Society, said dehydration was usually caused by a clinical condition and that one could remain adequately hydrated without drinking water.

He said: “The EU is saying that this does not reduce the risk of dehydration and that is correct.
“This claim is trying to imply that there is something special about bottled water which is not a reasonable claim.”
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2011, 10:46:29 »
Europe is failing because it spends too much of tomorrow's money today.  Much of it is spent on socialist policies and aims, but the problem isn't exclusively a socialist one.  Short of miraculous growth, the only way out is to cheat.  We are just watching the ongoing negotiations to decide who will get shafted, although we know ultimately they are going to go after the holdings of frugal people.


Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute takes a few paragraphs to say what Brad explained in a couple of sentences in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/greece-is-broke-and-so-is-its-concept-of-democracy/article2245167/
Quote
Greece is broke, and so is its concept of democracy

MICHAEL WALKER
Globe and Mail Update

Published Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011

It is often the role of the economist to point at the impending doom with which reality confronts our fondest wishes. For that reason, Thomas Carlyle referred to economics as the dismal science. It is made the more dismal for the economist when the fondest wishes are held and extolled by friends and those whom one admires.

I find myself in this predicament with the pronunciations of two such people on the issue of the Greeks and their political reactions to the gifts borne to them by Germany in the guise of the European Union. In assessing the gift of monetary rescue, wrapped in the sackcloth of fiscal austerity, then-prime minister George Papandreou unexpectedly proposed that there should be a referendum. This gesture caused pandemonium in markets and, after stern ultimatums from the European Union, the Greeks found that they could accept the lifeline without waiting four months for a referendum.

Two Canadians of substance who have given us reason to admire them, Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, and Preston Manning, founder of the Reform Party and Fraser Institute senior fellow, supported the notion of a referendum. Mr. Carney told the House of Commons finance committee that a referendum was a good idea because it is “imperative that there is widespread support” for the tax and spending reforms that would have to be adopted and maintained for a long time. Mr. Manning, a reliable and able democrat, recently wrote in The Globe and Mail to support Mr. Carney.

The problem with these assessments of the Greek tragedy is that they ignore the fact that in Greece and an increasing number of countries, democracy itself is in deficit. It is in deficit in the sense that a majority of the Greek electorate has been bribed with payments from government – payments for which nobody in Greece is having to pay in taxes.

Corrupted at its very foundation, Greek democracy no longer speaks for the public interest and cannot be relied upon to solve the problem. In effect, that is why the European Union is involved in the lives of Greeks in the first place.

Democracy rests on a delicate balance of economic interests. Citizens both pay taxes to, and receive benefits from, government which is controlled by the democratic process. Rhetoric notwithstanding, the normal pattern in Western democracies is that lower-income families are net beneficiaries and higher-income families are net payers. The crucial balance point for democracy is where the crossover in the weight of the electorate occurs.

The normal circumstance is that fewer families are net overall beneficiaries than are net payers. The ongoing process of democracy is persuading those who pay more than they receive to support the social infrastructure because it does provide some benefit to them and to the society in general. Fiscal democracy works in this context as long as the attempt to spend more is met by resistance from those who must pay – resistance of a kind that it might take the creation of a reform party to effect.

The problem with deficit financing – which unfortunately is being forgotten – is that it makes possible the delivery to the population of current benefits for which nobody pays – or at least nobody who is voting at the moment. Deficits shift the burden of spending forward onto the shoulders of children not yet old enough to vote and those not yet born. And in the case of the Greeks, owing to the system of transfer payments imbedded in the EU, at least part of the cost of their spending could be shifted to voters not yet born in other countries of the union.

The demonstrations in the streets of Athens were not the manifestation of democracy at work. They were the vanguard of the clear majority of citizens who are disconsolate at the prospect of losing their ability to continue to feast at the expense of their children. As past Greek and other experience has demonstrated, the only way that democratic frenzy comes to a halt is when the country hits the wall and can no longer borrow the money to carry on.

The fondest wish of the creators of the European Union was that the fiscal discipline that has historically eluded some European countries would somehow emerge from the great EU democratic coming-together. Regrettably, that wish took no account of the delicate balance of interests that is the crucial underpinning of all successful democracies and which, in the case of Greece, is simply broken.

Michael Walker is the founding executive director of the Fraser Institute.


I hate to bash on about culture matters (and see Samuel Huntington's (and Lawrence Harrison's) book of that name) but I'm afraid the answer to the "why" question is that none of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal or France are, inherently, liberal countries - they are, in fact, all fairly conservative, but of the unhealthy, statist form of conservatism rather than one of the healthy branches of conservatism (e.g. Confucian). Many conservative movements, including populist and statist movements, tend to morph into fascist/national socialist movements and then into totalitarian governments. That's my (sad) prediction for Europe's Latin tier. It's all about culture, not economics and not politics.

It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Chris Pook

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2011, 11:38:06 »
It often appears to me that the only lesson the aristocrats of Europe have learned from their unfortunate brushes with the mob (democracy as THEY see it) is that they can survive and conduct business as usual by the simple expedient of being less ostentatious and ignoring the noise in the streets.

Culture does indeed matter.
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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #15 on: November 23, 2011, 12:11:01 »
I hate to bash on about culture matters (and see Samuel Huntington's (and Lawrence Harrison's) book of that name) but I'm afraid the answer to the "why" question is that none of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal or France are, inherently, liberal countries - they are, in fact, all fairly conservative, but of the unhealthy, statist form of conservatism rather than one of the healthy branches of conservatism (e.g. Confucian). Many conservative movements, including populist and statist movements, tend to morph into fascist/national socialist movements and then into totalitarian governments. That's my (sad) prediction for Europe's Latin tier. It's all about culture, not economics and not politics.
Combined with the bottom-up culture in some countries of, "as long as the government pretends to provide services, I'll pretend to pay my full share of taxes."
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Offline Chris Pook

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #16 on: November 25, 2011, 15:07:12 »
From Der Spiegel via the Daily Telegraph

Quote
11/25/2011
   
Habermas, the Last European

A Philosopher's Mission to Save the EU

By Georg Diez

DPA

Jürgen Habermas has had enough. The philosopher is doing all he can these days to call attention to what he sees as the demise of the European ideal. He hopes he can help save it -- from inept politicians and the dark forces of the market.
 
Jürgen Habermas is angry. He's really angry. He is nothing short of furious -- because he takes it all personally.

He leans forward. He leans backward. He arranges his fidgety hands to illustrate his tirades before allowing them to fall back to his lap. He bangs on the table and yells: "Enough already!" He simply has no desire to see Europe consigned to the dustbin of world history.

"I'm speaking here as a citizen," he says. "I would rather be sitting back home at my desk, believe me. But this is too important. Everyone has to understand that we have critical decisions facing us. That's why I'm so involved in this debate. The European project can no longer continue in elite modus."

Enough already! Europe is his project. It is the project of his generation.

Jürgen Habermas, 82, wants to get the word out. He's sitting on stage at the Goethe Institute in Paris. Next to him sits a good-natured professor who asks six or seven questions in just under two hours -- answers that take fewer than 15 minutes are not Habermas' style.

Usually he says clever things like: "In this crisis, functional and systematic imperatives collide" -- referring to sovereign debts and the pressure of the markets.

Sometimes he shakes his head in consternation and says: "It's simply unacceptable, simply unacceptable" -- referring to the EU diktat and Greece's loss of national sovereignty.

 'No Convictions'

And then he's really angry again: "I condemn the political parties. Our politicians have long been incapable of aspiring to anything whatsoever other than being re-elected. They have no political substance whatsoever, no convictions."

It's in the nature of this crisis that philosophy and bar-room politics occasionally find themselves on an equal footing.

It's also in the nature of this crisis that too many people say too much, and we could definitely use someone who approaches the problems systematically, as Habermas has done in his just published book.

But above all, it is in the nature of this crisis that the longer it continues, the more confusing it gets. It becomes more difficult to follow its twists and turns and to see who is responsible for what. And the whole time, alternatives are disappearing before our very eyes.

That's why Habermas is so angry: with the politicians, the "functional elite" and the media. "Are you from the press?" he asks a man in the audience who has posed a question. "No? Too bad."

Habermas wants to get his message out. That's why he's sitting here. That's why he recently wrote an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, in which he accused EU politicians of cynicism and "turning their backs on the European ideals." That's why he has just written a book -- a "booklet," as he calls it -- which the respected German weekly Die Zeit promptly compared with Immanuel Kant's 1795 essay "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch."

But does he have an answer to the question of which road democracy and capitalism should take?

 A Quiet Coup d'État

"Zur Verfassung Europas" ("On Europe's Constitution") is the name of his new book, which is basically a long essay in which he describes how the essence of our democracy has changed under the pressure of the crisis and the frenzy of the markets. Habermas says that power has slipped from the hands of the people and shifted to bodies of questionable democratic legitimacy, such as the European Council. Basically, he suggests, the technocrats have long since staged a quiet coup d'état.

"On July 22, 2011, (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel and (French President) Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to a vague compromise -- which is certainly open to interpretation -- between German economic liberalism and French etatism," he writes. "All signs indicate that they would both like to transform the executive federalism enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty into an intergovernmental supremacy of the European Council that runs contrary to the spirit of the agreement."

Habermas refers to the system that Merkel and Sarkozy have established during the crisis as a "post-democracy." The European Parliament barely has any influence. The European Commission has "an odd, suspended position," without really being responsible for what it does. Most importantly, however, he points to the European Council, which was given a central role in the Lisbon Treaty -- one that Habermas views as an "anomaly." He sees the Council as a "governmental body that engages in politics without being authorized to do so."

He sees a Europe in which states are driven by the markets, in which the EU exerts massive influence on the formation of new governments in Italy and Greece, and in which what he so passionately defends and loves about Europe has been simply turned on its head.

 A Rare Phenomenon

At this point, it should be mentioned that Habermas is no malcontent, no pessimist, no prophet of doom -- he's a virtually unshakable optimist, and this is what makes him such a rare phenomenon in Germany.

His problem as a philosopher has always been that he appears a bit humdrum because, despite all the big words, he is basically rather intelligible. He took his cultivated rage from Marx, his keen view of modernity from Freud and his clarity from the American pragmatists. He has always been a friendly elucidator, a rationalist and an anti-romanticist.

 


Nevertheless, his previous books "Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere" and "Between Facts and Norms" were of course somewhat different than the merry post-modern shadowboxing of French philosophers like Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard. What's more, another of Habermas' publications, "Theory of Communicative Action," certainly has its pitfalls when it comes to his theory of "coercion-free discourse" which, even before the invention of Facebook and Twitter, were fairly bold, if not perhaps naïve.

Habermas was never a knife thrower like the Slovenian thinker Slavoj Žižek, and he was no juggler like the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. He never put on a circus act, and he was always a leftist (although there are those who would disagree). He was on the side of the student movement until things got too hot for him. He took delight in the constitution and procedural matters. This also basically remains his position today.

Habermas truly believes in the rationality of the people. He truly believes in the old, ordered democracy. He truly believes in a public sphere that serves to make things better.

More To Follow......
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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #17 on: November 25, 2011, 15:25:34 »
Quote
Part 2: A Vision of Europe at the Crossroads

This also explains why he gazed happily at the audience on this mid-November evening in Paris. Habermas is a fairly tall, lanky man. As he stepped onto the stage, his relaxed gait gave him a slightly casual air. With his legs stretched out under the table, he seemed at home. Whether he's at a desk or not, this is his profession: communicating and exchanging ideas in public.

He was always there when it was a question of putting Germany back on course, in other words, on his course -- toward the West, on the path of reason: during the vitriolic debate among German historians in 1986 that focused on the country's approach to its World War II past; following German reunification in 1990; and during the Iraq War. It's the same story today as he sits here, at a table, in a closed room in the basement of the Goethe Institute, and speaks to an audience of 200 to 250 concerned, well-educated citizens. He says that he, the theorist of the public sphere, doesn't have a clue about Facebook and Twitter -- a statement which, of course, seems somewhat antiquated, almost even absurd. Habermas believes in the power of words and the rationality of discourse. This is philosophy unplugged.

While the activists of the Occupy movement refuse to formulate even a single clear demand, Habermas spells out precisely why he sees Europe as a project for civilization that must not be allowed to fail, and why the "global community" is not only feasible, but also necessary to reconcile democracy with capitalism. Otherwise, as he puts it, we run the risk of a kind of permanent state of emergency -- otherwise the countries will simply be driven by the markets. "Italy Races to Install Monti" was a headline in last week's Financial Times Europe.

On the other hand, they are not so far apart after all, the live-stream revolutionaries from Occupy and the book-writing philosopher. It's basically a division of labor -- between analog and digital, between debate and action. It's a playing field where everyone has his or her place, and it's not always clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. We are currently watching the rules being rewritten and the roles being redefined.

 A Dismantling of Democracy

"Sometime after 2008," says Habermas over a glass of white wine after the debate, "I understood that the process of expansion, integration and democratization doesn't automatically move forward of its own accord, that it's reversible, that for the first time in the history of the EU, we are actually experiencing a dismantling of democracy. I didn't think this was possible. We've reached a crossroads."

It also has to be said: For being Germany's most important philosopher, he is a mind-bogglingly patient man. He is initially delighted that he has managed at last to find a journalist whom he can tell just how much he abhors the way certain media ingratiate themselves with Merkel -- how he detests this opportunist pact with power. But then he graciously praises the media for finally waking up last year and treating Europe in a manner that clearly demonstrates the extent of the problem.

"The political elite have actually no interest in explaining to the people that important decisions are made in Strasbourg; they are only afraid of losing their own power," he says, before being accosted by a woman who is not entirely in possession of her faculties. But that's how it is at such events -- that's how things go with coercion-free discourse. "I don't fully understand the normative consequences of the question," says Habermas. The response keeps the woman halfway at a distance.

He is, after all, a gentleman from an age when having an eloquent command of the language still meant something and men carried cloth handkerchiefs. He is a child of the war and perseveres, even when it seems like he's about to keel over. This is important to understanding why he takes the topic of Europe so personally. It has to do with the evil Germany of yesteryear and the good Europe of tomorrow, with the transformation of past to future, with a continent that was once torn apart by guilt -- and is now torn apart by debt.

 Without Complaint

In the past, there were enemies; today, there are markets -- that's how the historical situation could be described that Habermas sees before him. He is standing in an overcrowded, overheated auditorium of the Université Paris Descartes, two days before the evening at the Goethe Institute, and he is speaking to students who look like they would rather establish capitalism in Brussels or Beijing than spend the night in an Occupy movement tent.

After Habermas enters the hall, he immediately rearranges the seating on the stage and the nametags on the tables. Then the microphone won't work, which seems to be an element of communicative action in practice. Next, a professor gives a windy introduction, apparently part of the academic ritual in France.

Habermas accepts all this without complaint. He steps up to the lectern and explains the mistakes that were made in constructing the EU. He speaks of a lack of political union and of "embedded capitalism," a term he uses to describe a market economy controlled by politics. He makes the amorphous entity Brussels tangible in its contradictions, and points to the fact that the decisions of the European Council, which permeate our everyday life, basically have no legal, legitimate basis. He also speaks, though, of the opportunity that lies in the Lisbon Treaty of creating a union that is more democratic and politically effective. This can also emerge from the crisis, says Habermas. He is, after all, an optimist.

Then he's overwhelmed by the first wave of fatigue. He has to sit down. The air is stuffy, and it briefly seems as if he won't be able to continue with his presentation. After a glass of water, he stands up again.

He rails against "political defeatism" and begins the process of building a positive vision for Europe from the rubble of his analysis. He sketches the nation-state as a place in which the rights of the citizens are best protected, and how this notion could be implemented on a European level.

 Reduced to Spectators

He says that states have no rights, "only people have rights," and then he takes the final step and brings the peoples of Europe and the citizens of Europe into position -- they are the actual historical actors in his eyes, not the states, not the governments. It is the citizens who, in the current manner that politics are done, have been reduced to spectators.

His vision is as follows: "The citizens of each individual country, who until now have had to accept how responsibilities have been reassigned across sovereign borders, could as European citizens bring their democratic influence to bear on the governments that are currently acting within a constitutional gray area."

This is Habermas's main point and what has been missing from the vision of Europe: a formula for what is wrong with the current construction. He doesn't see the EU as a commonwealth of states or as a federation but, rather, as something newIt is a legal construct that the peoples of Europe have agreed upon in concert with the citizens of Europe -- we with ourselves, in other words -- in a dual form and omitting each respective government. This naturally removes Merkel and Sarkozy's power base, but that's what he's aiming for anyway..

Then he's overwhelmed by a second wave of fatigue. He has to sit down again, and a professor brings him some orange juice. Habermas pulls out his handkerchief. Then he stands up and continues to speak about saving the "biotope of old Europe."

There is an alternative, he says, there is another way aside from the creeping shift in power that we are currently witnessing. The media "must" help citizens understand the enormous extent to which the EU influences their lives. The politicians "would" certainly understand the enormous pressure that would fall upon them if Europe failed. The EU "should" be democratized.

His presentation is like his book. It is not an indictment, although it certainly does at times have an aggressive tone; it is an analysis of the failure of European politics. Habermas offers no way out, no concrete answer to the question of which road democracy and capitalism should take.

 A Vague Future and a Warning from the Past

All he offers is the kind of vision that a constitutional theorist is capable of formulating: The "global community" will have to sort it out. In the midst of the crisis, he still sees "the example of the European Union's elaborated concept of a constitutional cooperation between citizens and states" as the best way to build the "global community of citizens."

Habermas is, after all, a pragmatic optimist. He does not say what steps will take us from worse off to better off.

What he ultimately lacks is a convincing narrative. This also ties Habermas once again to the Occupy movement. But without a narrative there is no concept of change.

He receives a standing ovation at the end of his presentation.

"If the European project fails," he says, "then there is the question of how long it will take to reach the status quo again. Remember the German Revolution of 1848: When it failed, it took us 100 years to regain the same level of democracy as before."

A vague future and a warning from the past -- that's what Habermas offers us. The present is, at least for the time being, unattainable.

Summary - A nice old man that truly believes in the concept of people even if he doesn't like them individually.  A man scarred by Hitler's war that found solace in Marx and neither understands nor accepts capitalism.  A man that rails against the nation-state's leaders and yet supports the nation-state and yet craves a supra-national international state.... and all the time failing to grasp that everytime a crowd forms some intellectual heir of Ralph Klein will run to its head and take it wherever they will let him.   And the less they pay attention the farther Ralph Jr. will be able to go.

Halbermas reminds me a lot of a recent Canadian philosopher with internationalist tendencies.

Edit:  It is especially interesting to note his desire and intention to use the media to talk over the elected governments to the masses to undermine the authority of the nation-state.  And that undermining of the nation-state, by squeezing them between the twin jaws of supra-national institutions (like the EU and the UN), and "subsidiarity" (the nominal demand for decentralization of nation-state powers to their citizens so as to reduce the nation-states impact on their lives), that desire to deprive the nation-state of authority is key to the EU project and to the Socialist International project generally.

It has also been key to the Holy Roman Empire, the Catholic (Universal) Church and the Communist International - It is all about the Propagation of Faith.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2011, 15:35:52 by Kirkhill »
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2012, 08:55:14 »
Lord Black on the one leader who did turn things around for the UK (and if a similar leader were to emerge, perhaps again):

http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/iron+lady+vindication/5960844/story.html

Quote
An iron lady's vindication
Margaret Thatcher attends a 1980 summit in Paris.

Gabriel Duval, AFP, Getty Images

Margaret Thatcher attends a 1980 summit in Paris.

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Conrad Black, National Post · Jan. 7, 2012 | Last Updated: Jan. 7, 2012 5:31 AM ET

Though it is probably happening too late to be overly gratifying to her, events are piling on to vindicate Margaret Thatcher completely in her reservations about British integration in Europe. Her response to the proposal to reduce Britain to a local government in a federal Europe was, memorably: "No, no, no, and never." And her reward for her refusal to get on board what was then the thundering bandwagon of Eurofederalism, was to be sent packing by her own ungrateful party, though she was the only British political leader who had won three consecutive, full-term election majorities since before the First Reform Act expanded the electorate in 1832.

She was immensely popular with millions of Britons as a patriotic and courageous leader who took Britain off financial life support, saved it from strangulation by overmighty, almost anarchistic unions, built a prosperous, home-owning democracy, threw the Argentinians out of the little corner of the British Empire they had wrongfully seized (the Falkland Islands), and played a starring role in winning the Cold War.

But Thatcher was virulently unpopular with some influential groups. In particular, there were those who resented a female leader. A swath of males, from the "luvvies" of the British entertainment and cultural scene to Euroleaders and left-leaning journalists, were so frightened in her presence, they seemed to fear being hand-bagged, or even having a hair-brush taken to them.

And as she liberalized the economy; imposed a free, secret ballot for labour strikes; lowered all taxes; privatized industry, housing, airports, almost everything except the National Health Service and the BBC; jolting economic growth resulted. Unfortunately, its most conspicuous exemplars included many successful entrepreneurs and financier types who offended British sensibilities by their garish and spivvy ostentation. The basis of Margaret Thatcher's support was the Daily Telegraph-reading, gin and tonic-drinking, cricketloving middle class, the backbone of the nation. But her enemies identified her with an infelicitous combination of Colonel Blimp fuddy-duddies and sticky-fingered, vulgar parvenus.

She had a somewhat hectoring manner in debates, and was notoriously impatient with what she considered pusillanimity from senior colleagues, sometimes calling cabinet members "blancmanges," or "suet puddings," or even "spineless, boneless, men" (not necessarily inaccurately). Naturally less known was her exquisite courtesy and unaffected and egalitarian kindness to subordinates and strangers. It annoyed feminists that she was such a traditionalist, and weak men that she was a strong woman. But she triumphed by perseverance and courage; to the end, though a stirring speaker, she was nervous before a speech. She was a strong woman, but not at all a mannish one.

Because she was the first British female party leader, and the first in any important Atlantic country, and such a formidable character, Margaret Thatcher's personality encroached upon her public record as the principal source of voter opinion about her. She is rivalled only by Churchill, Disraeli, Walpole, Pitt (the Elder), Wellington and Palmerston as the greatest personality among the 53 people who have been the British prime minister, but she has even fewer rivals as the greatest of them.

When she came to office in 1979, it was because only she had dared challenge the twice defeated former prime minister Edward Heath for the Conservative leadership, and because she dared to propose a sharp break from the bipartisan consensus for softleft, high-tax, social democratic government. Britain was under daily audit from the IMF; currency controls prevented anyone from taking more than a few hundred pounds out of the country; and in the "winter of discontent" preceding the 1979 election, the garbage collectors, undertakers, transport workers and electric utility unions had all been on strike. The national newspapers never knew from one day to the next if they could publish the next day over the whims of the shop stewards; the railway and coal workers' union leaders had shown their ability to bring the government to heel.

Thatcher cut personal income taxes, forced democracy on unions, and broke those that imposed illegal closed shops and secondary boycotts. British Airways went from horrifying losses as a stateowned concern to huge profits and general recognition as the world's finest airline, once in private hands. British Steel followed a parallel path. Millions of slovenly tenants in tumble-down council houses became proud home-owners. Investment skyrocketed and London surged back to world financial leadership as Thatcher broke up the little log-rolling, back-scratching association of accepting houses (merchant banks) at the feet of the governor of the Bank of England.

When Argentina seized the Falkland Islands, Thatcher took great risks in sending two of the world's largest liners (the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Canberra), crammed with soldiers, into a war zone, and sent practically the entire Royal Navy to take the islands back. (As an unintended bonus, she also restored democracy to Argentina.)

When her polls were low and traditional elements of her government and caucus were wobbling badly, she sacked a handful of ministers despite a slender parliamentary majority, and told her own party conference: "U-turn if you want; the lady's not for turning." She was instrumental in assuring the installation of intermediate-range missiles in Western Europe in response to the Soviet Union's deployment of similar weapons, ignoring huge protests. She replied to calls for a nuclear-free Europe with her declared preference for a "war-free Europe," and carried British opinion with her. With Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl, and notwithstanding the wafflings of the French and opportunistic appeasers of the Kremlin such as Pierre Trudeau, she secured the intermediate missile agreement and the definitive winddown of the Cold War.

No one who heard Margaret Thatcher's spontaneous 1984 address to the Conservative Party conference at Brighton a few hours after the IRA brought much of her hotel down to rubble (almost killing her, and murdering several of her MPs), in which she foreswore any compromise with terrorists, will ever forget it.

As the privatization of state-owned industries proceeded, and unemployment temporarily rose to one million, then two, and finally three-million (before sharply declining), the London County Council, dominated by Marxists, was almost screaming for her blood. Mrs. Thatcher replied by abolishing the municipal government, put one of the greatest cities in the world under direct rule from the Home Office, sold the London government headquarters, County Hall, the largest building in the country, to Japanese developers to be turned into an aquarium, and London enjoyed better municipal administration.

She warned that one currency for all Europe, with a shared credit rating between all participating countries, would not work. She warned that fixed exchange rates would not work; that surrendering powers from Westminster to Brussels and Strasbourg wouldn't work; that importing to Britain European industrial relations, tax rates and union-dominated labour markets wouldn't work, and that subsuming British foreign policy, especially relations with the United States, into a European foreign policy wouldn't work either. In all of this, and in most other policy matters, she has been proved correct.

When Margaret Thatcher spoke at my company's annual dinner in Toronto in 1988, I introduced her as "one of the great leaders who has arisen in a thousand years of British history." This was nothing but the truth, and I can add that she is also a convivial companion and a loyal friend, as gracious out of office as in; that rarest of statesmen, a world historic figure who is also the salt of the earth.

- Margaret Thatcher was a senior member of the Hollinger International Advisory Board from 1991 to 2002, and served as Conrad Black's sponsor at his induction into the British House of Lords in 2001. The film The Iron Lady opens in theatres on Friday.

MONDAY

Richard Vinen on Thatcher's lessons for current British economic malaise
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2012, 20:47:28 »
Lord Black on the one leader who did turn things around for the UK (and if a similar leader were to emerge, perhaps again):

http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/iron+lady+vindication/5960844/story.html

The Iron Lady had alot of help from one Ronald Reagan as well. If there was a democrat in the White House it would have been alot harder for her to have been as successful as she was.

Our Maggie: Putting the Great back into Britain!
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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #20 on: January 07, 2012, 23:11:20 »
It was actually a trio;

Prime Minister Thatcher
President Reagan
Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul 2), who provided the moral authority and support for people who stood against oppression.

And of course an outstanding cast of millions who threw off their chains and brought the Cold War to an end.
Liberty of person precedes economic liberty, as John Locke well knew:

Quote
Freedom is...a Liberty to dispose, and order, as he lists, his Person, Actions, Possessions, and his whole Property, within the Allowance of those laws under which he is; and therin not to be subject to the arbitrary Will of another...The great and chief end therefore, of Men's uniting into Commonwealths...is the preservation of their Property
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2012, 01:13:27 »
It was actually a trio;

Prime Minister Thatcher
President Reagan
Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul 2), who provided the moral authority and support for people who stood against oppression.

And of course an outstanding cast of millions who threw off their chains and brought the Cold War to an end.
Liberty of person precedes economic liberty, as John Locke well knew:

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Freedom is...a Liberty to dispose, and order, as he lists, his Person, Actions, Possessions, and his whole Property, within the Allowance of those laws under which he is; and therin not to be subject to the arbitrary Will of another...The great and chief end therefore, of Men's uniting into Commonwealths...is the preservation of their Property

"During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or other, from mainland Europe, and the solutions from outside it." Margaret Thatcher

"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2012, 09:54:54 »
More pessimism about Europe, by a thoughtful source, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/fear-may-save-the-euro-but-not-necessarily-europe/article2315053/singlepage/#articlecontent
Quote
Fear may save the euro, but not necessarily Europe

TIMOTHY GARTON ASH

Davos, Switzerland— From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

Angela Merkel came to Davos on Wednesday and, in a speech as solidly built as a Mercedes, once again assured the world’s business leaders that the euro will be saved. But this time, there’s a difference: More of them seem to believe it. That immediately raises two further questions: Even if the euro zone is saved, where is the strategy for growth? And where would this saving of the euro leave the larger politics of Europe?

On the euro, I find a noticeable shift in mood. Six months ago, business and political leaders were not convinced that Europe in general, and Germany in particular, would do what it takes. A gradual accumulation of piecemeal, pragmatic steps – very much in Ms. Merkel’s style – has changed the balance of sentiment. There is the decision to accelerate the introduction of the European Stability Mechanism this summer, following hard on the heels of the existing European Financial Stability Facility. There is the very active role of the IMF, another indirect way for European governments to help out (and impose conditions on) other European governments.

There are the two Marios. I recently heard one leading banker describe Mario Draghi’s initiative to give generous three-year loans from the European Central Bank to European banks as the European form of quantitative easing. Mario Monti’s professorial program for Italy has also earned plaudits. This is not an American- or Chinese-style big bazooka; the European version of a big bazooka is an array of small- to medium-sized bazookas.

The mood may swing again, even in the next few days, if the apparent impasse over Greek debt is not resolved. But one increasingly hears Greece being discounted as a special case. In case of a Greek default, the euro zone would have to move very fast to show that it would not let Portugal go the same way. But that, if achieved, could also prove a positive turning point. A line would be drawn.

Let’s assume then, for the sake of argument, that over the next six months, the euro zone is saved. Two problems arise. The first: Where is the growth to come from? The German austerity recipe provides no clear answer to that question.

Unless Europe has a growth strategy, it is in danger of falling into a deflationary debt spiral, as George Soros warned Wednesday. If economies contract and tax revenues fall, the debt burden – the ratio of accumulated debt to GDP – would actually increase. Earlier this week, the IMF came out with a revised forecast, predicting a contraction of the euro zone economy by 0.5 per cent in 2012 – with, needless to say, some countries doing much worse than others, and Britain being pulled down with it.

That takes us to the politics. If markets are about perceptions and emotions, so are democracies. If the former are about those of the few, the latter are about those of the many. And the feelings in Europe are very bad.

Read the newspapers, watch television, check out the opinion polls, listen to debates in national parliaments, watch the demos in the streets: You will find precious little of what Ms. Merkel called Wednesday “the happiness of being able to shape things together.”

There are massive resentments between nations – Greeks against Germans and Germans against Greeks; northern against southern Europeans; Brits against almost everybody; almost everybody against Brits. There is a general crisis of confidence in the European project.

If we are witnessing the euro being saved, this is a triumph of fear, not of hope. Other great moments of the European project – the introduction of the single market, successive enlargements, the launch of the euro itself – were driven by hope. Here, it is fear that has led Germany and others to do the minimum necessary: fear that the costs of collapse would be higher than the unpalatable, resented alternative of bailing out the countries in trouble.

If the euro zone does not return to growth, or does so only in a few better-placed countries, these resentments will multiply. Even if it does, there will be legacies of bitterness. More and more people will ask, “What is this Europe really for?” (Remember that the European monetary union was conceived of not just as an economic step but also, perhaps even more so, as a political one.)

There are good answers to this question, and they urgently need to be spelled out. They have to do with our negotiating power in the 21st century world of emerging, non-Western giants such as China and India; global challenges like climate change; the Arab spring, the most hopeful development of this decade; and defending (with the help of essential, managed immigration from the Arab world) the domestic achievements of the last half-century, including a certain European mix of relative prosperity, quality of life, social justice and security.

It would be foolish to pretend that the euro has been the best and straightest path to those larger goals. If the euro did not exist, it would not yet be necessary to introduce it. But it does exist, with all the design faults that have now become evident. We have to start from where we are. To go back now would be worse than to go forward. Difficult though it will be, Europeans have to correct those design faults as they go along, working within the necessary constraints of national democracies, and adding a strategy for growth.

Above all, we have to recognize that saving the euro is no substitute for the larger political project, of which it was once meant to be both core and catalyst. The politics of fear may have saved the euro. We need a politics of hope to find a European answer to the Arab Spring.

Timothy Garton Ash is professor of European studies at Oxford University.


The "great project" of the 20th century was, arguably, the reconstitution of Europe, after 2,000 years of turmoil, as a peaceful, prosperous guild of nations.

But, perhaps, the Europeans paid too small a price for both the peace and the prosperity. General Hastings Lionel "Pug" Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay, KG, GCB, CH, DSO, is credited with a pithy quote about "why NATO?" It was designed, he said, "to keep the Yanks in, the Russians out, the French up and the Germans down." It, NATO, the EU, the Euro, worked: America is, 65 years on, still propping up an economic powerhouse; Russia is a stumbling, shambling monster - no longer a fearsome giant, just worrisome troll - but it remains, safely, outside of 'the new Europe;' The French remain, inexplicably, "up," - exercising far more power than they deserve; and the Germans might not be "down" any more but they are still reluctant to take up the mantle of leadership. The Europeans did not have to work very hard, until 2010, for their newfound peace and prosperity; the Americans, and to a lesser degree, Canadians, underwrote it, subsidized it for 40 years and still pay a too large share of the "price" for a stable, rich, peaceful Europe. Now most European countries are being called upon to "pay the piper;" a few, notably Britain, Iceland and Ireland, are doing that now, a few others, including e.g. Sweden, did their "paying" before the recent crash. But many, including France and Italy, are still trying to hide from reality.

My guess is that Europe can be saved - but only after a few (10±) years of real economic pain which must be felt by ordinary people - and under new leadership which, I suspect will involve Northern European countries: Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Britain.

It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline GhostofJacK

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2012, 11:25:32 »
My feeling on why Europe is in such an economic crisis is this...

(again, this is my opinion and a moderate rant)

Back in colonial days, those that came to America (by choice) knew they had to work and work hard IOT survive and make it. That kind of mentality has been passed down through the generations to today's generations - if you work hard, you will succeed. This drained Europe of a large number of these A-type personalities leaving behind societies of people who will 'weather the storm' or take time to enjoy the pleasantries of life. I argue this latter point due to seeing too many people around me always on the go-go-go (work and take on a million projects, get home, take the kids to karate and hockey, goto yoga class, pick kids up, do some paperwork before bed and repeat).

My feeling, especially for countries like Greece and France, is that there is no work ethic as we Westerners call it. They enjoy a fine wine, long dinners and relaxation. From what I know (based on many of my immigrated friends) is that they love family time and almost reserve time every day to relax. Therefore you get people who work because they have to and put it as not a big priority in life. This is passed down to those same people not making the oodles of cash that gets you the new car every 3yrs, the new house every ten, a new flatscreen TV every year and all the toys everytime they come out. Not having the money to do this prevents the government from gaining money through taxation such as income tax and sales tax.

The west is a very 'now' society. We -have- to know what our friends are doing on momentary basis with Twitter and Facebook. Our workplace is so sped up that we cannot physically go around to our departments to see what their status is and rather send out blanket emails for insant responses. Meanwhile, from what I view, Europeans have an opinion where 'what can't be dones today can be done tomorrow'.

Finally, the West has helped foster the impotency of Europe. It was told to me by a Bosnian vet that we (UN) went in there and gave them whatever they needed to build themselves up again. They needed a generator, water treatment plant, school, whatever? We just gave it to them. We did not make them do it themselves and therefore, as he described, it made Bosnia a welfare nation where they expected handouts rather than do it themselves. The same goes for the rest of Europe militarily. I'd say that after WW2, the big super-army of the US could protect all of Europe. Afterall, communism was bad so they even had a fully manned base out in Germany for a long time. Little France could go to the playground where the communist kids played and if they were given any grief, they could call in their big, bad, enforcer brother, the USA. After the Wall fell, this mentality continued until even Afghanistan where the US, Canada and UK took the volitile south while the other NATO countries 'did their part of contribution' and deployed to the safer regions.

Now I hear many of my friends complaining about the European debt crisis and how it is affecting them. Surely, even the 'we don't need them in NATO' topic comes up and there is more grumbling to be had. Sure, I may agree that the whole purpose of NATO is invalid now (protect against the Soviets) but until that is addressed politically, there is no sense in fretting about it now. As for their economic influence on our markets, all I say to them is 'that is the price of being a part of a global village'. Our economies are so intertwined together that if you drop one pebble in the pond, everyone will feel the ripples.


Now I welcome anyone who wishes to fire back at an inaccuracies or misconcerptions I have. I just remind that is it only my opinion and it can be swayed with logical argument rather than statements like 'You are an uneducated moron, Jack'. In fact, I welcome if anyone can shed light in an area I do not know a lot about.
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It's your choice whether or not you are the player or the pawn in the game of life. Either way, someone else will usually decide the next move you make.

Offline Chris Pook

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Re: Why Europe Keeps Failing........
« Reply #24 on: January 26, 2012, 13:27:04 »
TGA per ERCampbell
Quote
... “What is this Europe really for?” (Remember that the European monetary union was conceived of not just as an economic step but also, perhaps even more so, as a political one.)

There are good answers to this question, and they urgently need to be spelled out. They have to do with our negotiating power in the 21st century world of emerging, non-Western giants such as China and India; global challenges like climate change; the Arab spring, the most hopeful development of this decade; and defending (with the help of essential, managed immigration from the Arab world) the domestic achievements of the last half-century, including a certain European mix of relative prosperity, quality of life, social justice and security.

Or to summarize: Europe is about power for the few and a quiet life for the many.



Michael White, The Guardian, Thursday 26 January 2012 10.21 GMT
Article Link

Quote
...Under Thatcher and Reagan, Anglo-Saxon capitalism lurched away from the post-war social democratic consensus towards free markets and free trade. It was exactly what many continental mercantilists – more inclined to managed and protected markets and Catholic "social solidarity" – instinctively mistrusted....

Suffice it to say I am at one with Thatcher, Reagan and "British" capitalism. (Anglo-Saxon in this sense being a pejorative devised by Franco-Saxons with long standing grievances against their fellow Saxons).

This comes from a lifetime of being influenced by quotes of this sort:

Robert Burns, "A Man's a man, for a' that"

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The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!

or as Benjamin Franklin would have it:

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They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

or Robert Heinlein

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TANSTAAFL
"Wyrd bið ful aræd"