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Anglo Or Not, It's A Disease

by afew Fri May 3rd, 2013 at 05:48:37 AM EST

In a special issue (offline) of Alternatives Economiques, Christian Chavagneux argues that too great a size of the financial sector slows economic growth, and cites evidence from recent BIS and IMF working papers in support.

Though the development of financing circuits is indispensable to the functioning and growth of economies, the recurrent tendancy towards bubbles of credit and asset prices (stocks, real estate...) shows that beyond a certain threshold, finance has a very negative impact on the dynamics of activity.
(My translation)

An excessive financial sector reduces the rate of productivity increase, according to BIS working paper Reassessing the Impact of Finance on Growth (Cechetti and Kharroubi, pdf), which shows that a level of credit to the private sector at 75-100% of GDP (or greater) causes drag on average GDP-per-worker growth. To take into account differences between economies (developed, high-finance economies grow more slowly than less developed ones for a variety of reasons), the authors present this scatter plot based on deviation from the country mean (data from 1980-2009):

A falling-off in credit to the private sector/GDP (predictably, if one considers pro-finance common wisdom) correlates to a slowing of GDP-per-worker gains, but so does an increase. The effect, according to Cechetti and Kharroubi, is even more marked when only bank credit to the private sector is considered.

An IMF working paper, Too Much Finance? (Arcand, Berkes, Panizza) reaches similar conclusions: starting from 80-100% private-sector credit/GDP and beyond, economic growth is negatively impacted.

Chavagneux explains the negative impact by the mechanics of bubbles, see below the fold.

Read more... (41 comments, 487 words in story)

French minister calls for €300B ECB stimulus

by afew Sat Mar 16th, 2013 at 02:47:01 AM EST

This is eurogreen's diary that wouldn't post correctly... now front-paged - afew

Rigueur : "On se tire une balle dans le pied", estime Canfin - Le Nouvel Observateur Rigor: "We are shooting ourselves in the foot," says Canfin - Le Nouvel Observateur
Avant l'ouverture du sommet des chefs d'Etat européens, le ministre du Développement propose que la BCE mette 300 milliards d'euros au service de la croissance. Interview.Before the opening of the European summit, the Minister of Development proposes that the ECB puts up 300 billion euros to create growth. Interview.

Unfortunately, it's "only" Pascal Canfin; the proposal hasn't been covered widely. But it's nice to have a minister talking sense on this subject...

Read more... (29 comments, 1992 words in story)

Stéphane Hessel, Outrageous

by afew Sat Mar 2nd, 2013 at 09:55:46 AM EST

Stéphane Hessel est mort Stéphane Hessel has died
Stéphane Hessel, auteur d'Indignez-vous !, est mort dans la nuit du mardi 26 au mercredi 27 février à l'âge de 95 ans, a-t-on appris mercredi. L'ancien diplomate et résistant "est mort dans la nuit", a confirmé son épouse, Christiane Hessel-Chabry.Stéphane Hessel, author of Indignez-vous! (Time for Outrage!), died on the night of Tuesday 26 to Wednesday 27 February at the age of 95, it was learned Wednesday. The former diplomat and resistance fighter "died in the night" , confirmed his wife, Christiane Hessel-Chabry .
Né le 20 octobre 1917 à Berlin, "l'année de la révolution soviétique", aimait-il à rappeler, dans une famille juive convertie au luthéranisme, il arrive en France en 1925. Sa mère, Helen Grund, sera le modèle de Catherine dans "Jules et Jim", l'histoire d'une femme aimée par deux amis que Truffaut portera à l'écran en s'inspirant du roman de Henri-Pierre Roché. Son père, lui, traduit Proust en allemand avec le philosophe Walter Benjamin.Born on October 20, 1917 in Berlin, "the year of the Soviet revolution" , he liked to remind people, in a Jewish family converted to Lutheranism , he arrived in France in 1925. His mother, Helen Grund was the model for Catherine in "Jules et Jim", the story of a woman loved by two friends that Truffaut brought to the screen based on the novel by Henri-Pierre Roche. His father translated Proust into German with the philosopher Walter Benjamin.
Naturalisé en 1937, reçu à Normale Sup en 1939, Stéphane Hessel, qui parle allemand, français et anglais, est l'incarnation de l'intellectuel européen. Il suit les cours de Merleau-Ponty, lit Sartre. Mobilisé en 1939, fait prisonnier, il s'évade et rejoint Charles de Gaulle à Londres. Envoyé en France en 1944, il est arrêté et déporté à Buchenwald, où il maquille son identité pour échapper à la mort. Il s'évade de nouveau, est rattrapé, saute d'un train, rallie les troupes américaines et arrive gare du Nord en mai 1945.Naturalized in 1937, joining Normale Sup in 1939, Stéphane Hessel, who spoke German, French and English, was the epitome of the European intellectual. He attended Merleau-Ponty's classes, read Sartre. Called up in 1939, taken prisoner, he escaped and joined Charles de Gaulle in London. Sent to France in 1944, he was arrested and deported to Buchenwald, where he disguised his identity to escape death. He escaped again, was caught, jumped from a train, rallied the American troops and arrived at Gare du Nord in May 1945.
A la Libération, il rejoint le secrétariat général de l'ONU, participe en tant que secrétaire à la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme et devient diplomate. Elevé à la dignité d'ambassadeur de France par François Mitterrand en 1981, il milite pour les sans-papiers - il est médiateur lors de l'occupation à Paris de l'église Saint-Bernard - et pour les Palestiniens, ce qui lui vaut les foudres des associations juives.After the Liberation, he joined the General Secretariat of the UN, participating as a secretary in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and became a diplomat. Raised to the rank of ambassador of France by François Mitterrand in 1981, he campaigned for undocumented migrants -- he acted as mediator during the occupation of the Saint-Bernard church in Paris -- and for the Palestinians, which earned him the ire of Jewish groups.

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Eurozone subthread

by afew Mon Feb 18th, 2013 at 04:56:28 AM EST

In talos' diary Greece: Of paupers and taxes, LEP made this comment:


Isn't it rather obvious that the bad investments of the rich countries that were made in Greece are going to remain bad and in fact are lost. What is the point of continuing these sadistic policies; there's nothing more to be bled from Greece.

How can this be stopped? Is it time for a leader of one of the large countries to declare that the euro is a failed experiment and call for an orderly breakup.

As someone who knows little of economics I do know that this crisis has brought out the worst in all parties.

There followed a long subthread that became unmanageable, squeezing up against the right margin. Read it in the original by going to LEP's comment, it would be difficult to summarize here.

Most of it, however, concerned France's historical role in the creation of the single currency. Major themes: fixed exchange rates; "sound money" and conservativism; the geographical origin of macroeconomic theories. Comment further here if you wish.

Comments >> (30 comments)

News From Our Favourite Lobbies

by afew Mon Dec 3rd, 2012 at 10:23:07 AM EST

Two items stand out in today's Salon. The first concerns the UN Climate Change negotiations in Doha, that are now halfway through.

IPS - Fossil Fuel Lobby in the Driver's Seat at Doha | Inter Press Service

Countries have come to Doha unprepared to make the necessary commitments to actually stay below two degrees.

"There have been a number of voices suggesting (that) keeping temperatures below two degrees C is not possible. That simply isn't true. It is perfectly feasible," said Schaeffer.

Yes, but:

countries are going in the wrong direction, spending 523 billion dollars in 2011 in public tax money to subsidise the burning of fossil fuels, said Michiel Schaeffer, a scientist with Climate Analytics that produces the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) with Dutch energy consulting organisation Ecofys and Germany's Pik Potsdam Institute.

"The 2011 subsidies for fossil fuels were a 30-percent increase over 2010, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency)," Schaeffer told IPS.

By contrast, the IEA said that solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy received only 88 billion dollars in subsidies, one-sixth of the amount given to the highly profitable fossil fuels sector.

Even though 194 states and the European Union are here at COP18 to ensure the heating of the planet stays below two degrees, they are not discussing how to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.

So subsidies to fossil fuels rose by a freaking 30% between 2010 and 2011. And renewables, that we incessantly hear are hopelessly expensive and subsidised, get one-sixth of the amount fossil fuels get. Are we getting round to understanding that the propaganda effort by incumbent energy industries is not only real but it is working?

Read more... (35 comments, 685 words in story)

Hollande: Colours To The Mast

by afew Sun Nov 18th, 2012 at 05:31:26 AM EST

Laurent Delahousse, news anchor on public TV channel France 2, asks the Minister of Education if François Hollande can now be called a "reformist social-democrat". Le Monde's Elysée correspondent Arnaud Leparmentier congratulates Hollande on being "social-liberal" (liberal in the economic sense, not as used in the US) and says "No, it's not a dirty word". Pundit Françoise Fressoz, in the same newspaper, writes that at last Hollande is taking it on himself to be "Hollandist", which she seems to define as being a social-democrat who will do supply-side stimulus. Michel Rocard says a signal has been sent to private enterprise, and about time too.

Though many of us might call Hollande's party "social-democrat", it defines itself as socialist. "Social-democrat", in current French political jargon, means pretty much "Gerhard Schröder". So there seems to be consensus in the political microcosm that Hollande is going Schröder's Way (aka Third).

There was a mammoth presser the other day at the Elysée (two and a half hours, four hundred journalists present), in which Hollande laid out the three pillars of his policy: a new direction for Europe, a forced march towards deficit reduction, and competitiveness.

The new "orientation" for Europe means solidarity, not austerity, says Hollande. To a considerable extent it looks as though he thinks most of that was achieved at the June summit, the one Germany back-pedalled from afterwards. Otherwise, this rather incantatory new direction is likely, in my view, to be invoked to validate any palliative measures that make the hurt just a bit less painful.

Because accepting the double German demand -- deficit reduction (along with the so-called golden rule) and competitiveness -- has nothing to do with solidarity and everything with austerity. And Hollande more than accepts both, he claims them as guiding principles.

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Wind Costs More? Think Again

by afew Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 07:05:51 AM EST

The Imperial College, London, report that demolished fantasy forecasts for the UK of massive balancing needs supplied by use of Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT), led to some discussion concerning the importance to the system of Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT). (See UK Wind Power "Debate" : Latest). Ernst & Young (commissioned by Spanish and Portuguese energy companies Acciona and EdP), have brought out a report throwing new light on the comparison between wind turbines and CCGTs, for the EU27 and for specific European countries.

Wind technology was selected as the reference renewable energy source in this study and is compared here to Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT). This is based on the idea that natural gas is progressively becoming a significant source of electricity generation due to lower CO2 emissions compared to other fossil fuels and to its price competitiveness. The analysis  presented in this report could be extended to other renewable or conventional energy sources.

The present study provides insight on a number of costs and benefits of renewable energy policy measures, which are currently not systematically taken into account in the decision-making process:

► Job creation (direct and indirect) of policy measures in the renewable energy sector

► Contribution to the GDP and additional tax revenues

► Energy security

► Integration of wind capacities on the network

► Environmental externalities (CO2 emissions)

► Impact of wind power on electricity pool prices


Several existing studies have analysed the respective Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) of these two technologies but did not include a comprehensive analysis of their additional economic costs or benefits.

Value Creation of Renewable Energy Policies (pdf)

In other words, comparisons based on the levelized cost, expressed in € per MWh over the estimated lifetime of the capital investment, do not take into account positive and negative externalities that the report proposes to quantify.

(Added to the Wind Power series.)

Read more... (20 comments, 1359 words in story)

UK Wind Power "Debate" : Latest

by afew Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 03:53:23 AM EST

This diary is a joint effort by DoDo and afew

The UK Parliament's Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change held a hearing on the economics of wind energy last July (transcript here). Evidence was brought by, among others, Professor Gordon Hughes of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and Dr Robert Gross of Imperial College, London. Hughes later contributed supplementary written evidence, to which Gross et al responded a couple of weeks ago with further supplementary evidence.

What's at issue is how much wind generation capacity should be brought into the energy mix in view of the UK's renewables targets for 2020, and what the economic effects of an increasing share for wind would be. Britain has the largest wind resource in Europe, yet policy has veered wildly from planning for a very considerable wind build-out to outright discouragement.

The deceptively-named Global Warming Policy Foundation (often mentioned on ET, try here and here) think-tanks on climate change (obfuscation), renewable energy (opposition), and conventional energy sources (support). In this case, the Imperial College team (from the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology plus the Business School, and help from the Department of Electrical Engineering) refute the main planks of the GWPF's testimony before the Committee, and in passing present some interesting arguments and new research data.

(Added to the Wind power series.)

Read more... (71 comments, 2594 words in story)

Going Down Next Floor Basement

by afew Thu Sep 13th, 2012 at 11:38:16 AM EST

Not that OECD releases are spectacular, but four in a row today are reading from the same music.

G20 GDP growth slows to 0.6% in the second quarter of 2012

    Quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the G20 area slowed to 0.6% in the second quarter of 2012 compared with 0.7% in the first quarter. This marks the third consecutive quarter of slowing growth in the G20 area but masks diverging patterns across economies.
    Growth accelerated in the second quarter of 2012 in Brazil (to 0.4% compared with 0.1% in the previous quarter), China (from 1.6% to 1.8%), Indonesia (from 1.4% to 1.6%), South Africa (from 0.7% to 0.8%), and Turkey (from minus 0.1% to 1.8%).
    Growth slowed strongly in Australia (to 0.6% compared with 1.4%), in Japan (0.2% compared with 1.3%) and in Korea (to 0.3% compared with 0.9%).
      Growth decelerated more moderately in Germany, India, Mexico, and the United States while in Canada and France growth rates were unchanged from the previous quarter.
    GDP contracted for the third consecutive quarter in the United Kingdom and for the fourth consecutive quarter in Italy. GDP also contracted by 0.1% in the European Union as a whole, and by 0.2% in the euro area.

Quarterly GDP in volume terms for the G20
Percentage change on the previous quarter, seasonally adjusted data


Read more... (7 comments, 625 words in story)

Montgolfière Photoblog

by afew Sat Sep 8th, 2012 at 03:56:01 PM EST

OK, the flight wasn't arranged for me, and it was by chance that I happened by earlier this evening just as a friend dropped by with his new hot-air balloon. So there was no room for me in the nacelle, but it was impressive watching the set-up and lift-off.

Is this pancakes, my friends?

Read more... (3 comments, 135 words in story)

The Rubble Of Neoliberalism

by afew Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:29:51 AM EST

At Melanchthon's instigation, I've translated a tribune by French (ex-PS went by EELV now without party label) politician and researcher Pierre Larrouturou. The piece was in Monday's Le Monde. As this is an appeal for support for the Roosevelt 2012 Collective (of which Larrouturou is a founder), I'm hoping there'll be no copyright problems - particularly as I'll offer the translation to the Collective.

"Nous ne voulons pas mourir dans les décombres du néolibéralisme !" "We do not want to die in the rubble of neoliberalism!"
Les systèmes tiennent souvent plus longtemps qu'on ne le pense, mais ils finissent par s'effondrer beaucoup plus vite qu'on ne l'imagine." En quelques mots, l'ancien chef économiste du Fonds monétaire international, Kenneth Rogoff, résume bien la situation de l'économie mondiale. Quant au gouverneur de la Banque d'Angleterre, il affirme que "la prochaine crise risque d'être plus grave que celle de 1930"...Systems often hold on longer than we might think, but they end up collapsing much faster than we imagine." In a few words, the former chief economist of the IMF, Kenneth Rogoff, gives a good summary of the situation of the global economy. As for the Governor of the Bank of England, he says "the next crisis is likely to be worse than 1930" ...
La zone euro ne va pas bien, mais les Etats-Unis et la Chine, souvent présentés comme les deux moteurs de l'économie mondiale, sont en fait deux bombes à retardement : la dette totale des Etats-Unis atteint 358 % du produit intérieur brut (PIB) ; la bulle immobilière chinoise, presque trois fois plus grosse qu'elle ne l'était aux Etats-Unis avant la crise des subprimes, commence à éclater.The euro area is in poor health, but the United States and China, often presented as the twin engines of the global economy, are actually two time bombs: the total debt of the United States has reached 358% of gross domestic product (GDP); the Chinese housing bubble, almost three times larger than it was in the U.S. before the subprime crisis, is beginning to burst.
Vu le contexte international, comment le PS et l'UMP peuvent-ils continuer de tout miser sur le retour de la croissance ? Il n'y a qu'une chance sur mille pour que ce rêve devienne réalité. "Ça va être effroyable, me confiait récemment un responsable socialiste. Il n'y aura aucune marge de manoeuvre. Dès le mois de juin, on va geler des dépenses. Dans quelques mois, le pays sera paralysé par des manifestations monstres et, en 2014, on va se prendre une raclée historique aux élections."Given the international context, how can the (French) PS and the UMP go on gambling on the return of growth? There isn't one chance in a thousand for this dream to become reality. "It will be terrible," a socialist leader confided to me recently. "There will be no leeway. As soon as June, we will freeze spending. In a few months the country will be paralyzed by mass demonstrations and, in 2014, we will take an historic beating in the elections."
L'austérité est-elle la seule solution ? La gauche au pouvoir est-elle condamnée à décevoir ? Non. L'Histoire montre qu'il est possible de s'extraire de la "spirale de la mort" dans laquelle nos pays sont en train de s'enfermer.Is austerity the only solution? Is the left in power condemned to let everyone down? No. History shows it is possible to get out of the "death spiral" which our countries are now shutting themselves into.

Read on...

Read more... (100 comments, 2637 words in story)

April In Paris: Meet-up THIS Week

by afew Thu Apr 19th, 2012 at 07:03:22 AM EST

The main meet-up will be on Saturday 28 April. Meet from 12 noon for lunch, prolongations ad lib.

Where? Le Cantalou, where else?

Le Cantalou, 8, avenue de Versailles (map)

Who will be there? Let's see...

  • Jerome a Paris
  • dvx
  • Helen
  • Wife and Husband of Bath
  • Colman
  • Migeru and SteelLady
  • gk
  • Bernard
  • Ted Welch
  • Luis de Sousa
  • afew
  • redstar +++
  • LEP
  • Cyrille
  • linca
  • eurogreen
  • pi?

Add your name in comments if you've been forgotten in this list or if you're a late adopter!

Friday evening, details below the fold. Any ideas for Sunday?

Read more... (102 comments, 233 words in story)

Sarkozy : Danse Macabre

by afew Wed Apr 18th, 2012 at 03:16:49 AM EST

Not that there was ever much doubt. Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in 2007 thanks to posturing as the xenophobic hard man of the moment, siphoning part of the Front National's electorate and winning with the support of the over-65s. He promised to clean up the cités (sink estates, housing projects) with a pressure hose. His administration and its mouthpieces proceeded to continue with the talk and the gesticulation, stigmatising youth, immigrants, and Muslims, which alienated part of centrist opinion while being insufficient to guarantee the loyalty of the extreme right. French contributors to ET have said this again and again: every time Sarko pandered to that electorate, he was working for the Front National.

Now it's payback time. He is forced to run to the right to have any chance of winning, and so has raised the xenophobia and anti-Muslim bidding (halal, Schengen, etc), the effect of which keeps him out of the centre where a good proportion of voters are not scared of Hollande. He has never been more frantic in his jumping from one lead to another (from the far right to ludicrous attempts to curry favour in the centre by letting it be known he would consider François Bayrou as Prime Minister, to the silly talk slapped down by Germany about how growth should be part of the ECB's remit) and in dramatising the stakes: the end of the world as we know it if Hollande wins; channeling John-Paul II with the repeated injunction "Do not be afraid" at the mass rally on Sunday... Twitching, gesticulating, in a genuine danse macabre... Because he's going to lose.

UPDATE 18 April : the latest poll (CSA) gives Hollande 29% Sarkozy 24% in Round One, 58-42 in Round Two.

Read more... (156 comments, 970 words in story)

ET Paris Meet-Up 2012 (2 UPDATE)

by afew Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 02:14:27 AM EST

This year's main Paris meet-up will be on
Saturday, April 28.

Read more... (119 comments, 164 words in story)

Ordoliberalism 1: Beginnings

by afew Fri Mar 9th, 2012 at 04:20:17 AM EST

Monetarism, Austrianism, Austerianism, Austeritarianism, gold-buggery... The terms have not been lacking on this forum to attempt description of the mindset obdurately (and increasingly apparently parochially) shared by a majority of German economists, central bankers, and political personnel. Just recently, the word "ordoliberalism" has made its entry. What follows is an attempt to pull on a few threads and find out more about what ordoliberalism means and where it comes from.

In a paper for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Sebastian Dullien and Ulrike Guérot contend that

...there is more to Germany's distinctive approach to the euro crisis than the much-discussed historical experience of the hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic on the one hand and simple national interest on the other. Rather, there is an ideological edifice behind German economic orthodoxy with which Germany's partners must engage. While a change in the government after the next general election, in 2013, would lead to a change in German economic policy, it is unlikely to dramatically change the country's approach to the euro crisis.

Dullien and Guérot point to the post-WWII economic history of Germany, and to an influential school of economic thought called ordoliberalism:

While ordoliberalism nowadays is no longer an important academic current in Germany, most economists have at some point in their career been influenced by ordoliberalist ideas. Conversely, unlike in other European countries and the United States, there are very few influential Keynesian economists in Germany.

So what kind of liberalism is ordo?

Read more... (112 comments, 1842 words in story)

Cohn-Bendit: Politically Stateless?

by afew Sat Feb 25th, 2012 at 08:14:24 AM EST

Libération publishes an internal note dated 24th February that Daniel Cohn-Bendit sent to Europe-Ecologie-les Verts (EELV) (a French movement he belongs to and was instrumental in starting up), in which he slaps EELV around, not because the presidential candidate, Eva Joly, is not the right one (he's already abundantly said that) but because of the decision of the three Green deputies to vote against the ESM ratification in the Assemblée Nationale.

What he says is that he is touched by the number of requests for him to support EELV candidates in the legislative elections that will follow the presidential, but that he intends to say what he thinks, so caveat emptor. And the main reason:

Cohn-Bendit se dit «politiquement apatride» - Libération Cohn-Bendit declares himself "politically stateless" - Liberation
Les positions récentes contre le mécanisme européen de stabilité (MES) permettant, pour la première fois, d'aider concrètement les pays de la zone euro qui ne peuvent plus emprunter m'ont consterné. Au lieu d'argumenter, les élus d'EE se fondent indistinctement dans le slogan "Pas de cadeau à Sarkozy" au point de ne même plus savoir ce qu'ils font. Si demain, Sarkozy copiait son idole "Angie Merkel" en décidant de fermer 5 réacteurs nucléaires, le bon ton à gauche serait de s'y opposer! C'est tout simplement aberrant!!The recent positions against the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which enables, for the first time, to bring practical assistance to countries in the euro area which cannot borrow, appalled me. Instead of proposing a reasoned position, the EE representatives base their action indiscriminately in the slogan "No gifts for Sarkozy" to the point of not even knowing any more what they're doing. If tomorrow, Sarkozy were to copy his idol "Angie Merkel" in deciding to close five nuclear reactors, it would be in good taste for the left to oppose it! It's just ridiculous!!

Read more... (167 comments, 2038 words in story)

Sarkozy: Enemies Ahoy!

by afew Fri Feb 10th, 2012 at 04:21:43 AM EST

Over the last two weeks, the not-yet candidate whose candidature is supported by Angela Merkel, has nailed his colours to the mast: hard over to the right. First act, two Sundays ago with his six-channel TV spectacular, he announced that France would adopt the policies that have done so well for Germany, including an increase in VAT of 1.6% and the usual "necessary reforms" (in other words, reduce labour costs). Now, to appear in the magazine of the UMP's house newspaper, Le Figaro, he comes out with more bold plans: he will hold a referendum on the questions of whether foreigners should be more easily thrown out of the country or not, and whether the long-term unemployed should be forced into training and/or work, or not.

Shorter Sarkozy: I'll bring your wages down, but I'll offer you scapegoats.

Read more... (63 comments, 574 words in story)

The Imitation Of Germany

by afew Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 09:03:50 AM EST

Media peddling of received wisdom likes to dwell on the Economy to Emulate du jour. Seeriouss People™ are reported or filmed saying they've crunched the numbers or just returned from a visit to such and such a place, and my word they're impressed. Journalists repeat the puffwords "successful, vibrant, surging, stellar, GDP growth, full employment..." In the 1980s, in the French media at least, it was Japan. Then Japan hit a rock and has since gone off the radar. In the Blair years, it was the UK England London. No more now. For long it was the "insolent good health" of the American economy, just when that economy was rotten to the core. Don't hear that any more. These days it's Germany.

So Nicolas Sarkozy went on six French TV channels last Sunday, with much pomp and obsequious journalists asking predetermined questions, to say he was going to make France imitate Germany. Raise VAT, reduce employers' payroll contributions, put an end to the 35-hour working week, weaken collective bargaining even more than in Germany with enterprise-by-enterprise renegotiation of hours and pay (more of one and less of the other). As usual with Sarko, it was smoke and mirrors, since he was announcing as decisions on his part measures that would be applied after the presidential elections... when he stands a good chance of being an ex-president, and the measures of not being applied. But, through the smoke, it's an image that he wants to project of the tough guy telling it like it is, and "like it is" is TINA - Germany is right, we have no choice but to copy the Germans.

If anyone wonders why any other eurozone country, France in this case, should want to copy Germany, Sarkozian smoke billows. Too much emphasis on German exports might sail close to the dangerous waters of the effect of those exports on the eurozone. So it's the success of the German economy - GDP growth, full employment - that is touted.

Read more... (31 comments, 680 words in story)

Democracy in the EU

by afew Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 at 05:04:58 AM EST

ET was contacted a week ago by Stronger Europe  for feedback on their upcoming campaign for the direct election of the president of the European Commission. There was discussion of this here.

Their main page now shows a video ad for this campaign, followed by this text:

Stronger Europe

We believe the President of the European Commission who holds significant powers in the European Union should be directly elected by the people of Europe.

A directly elected president would make the EU more accountable to ordinary Europeans and allow us to choose the direction policies take. At the moment, aside from decisions originated by the European Parliament, we have policies forced on us by Brussels. Shouldn't we choose who makes those policies?

Electing a President of the EU Commission does not mean giving more power to Brussels. It means the opposite: making Europe more accountable, transparent and forcing bureaucrats in Brussels to go to the people.

Electing a President of the EU Commission would also mean that European citizens take the time to decide together on what direction they want Europe to follow.

At its most basic, it is the ability to take our own decisions. We passionately believe this would be a victory for democracy and that a legitimate President would give Europe the leadership it needs.

Well, yeah... There's no doubt there's a huge democracy gap in the EU, and electing the EC president would be one move towards filling it. But I can't help feeling there are a couple of misconceptions here.

Read more... (52 comments, 924 words in story)

ET Paris Meet-up 2012 RE-UPDATE

by afew Sun Jan 15th, 2012 at 05:10:16 AM EST

As this open-thread discussion is sliding into oblivion, here's a diary to keep the topic alive.

April-May have been suggested as a better time of year for the main Paris meet-up. Here again is a comment I made listing the possible weekends:

OK, practically, weekends in:

April 2012

  • 7-8 is Easter (Monday = Bank holiday)
  • 14-15 looks quiet
  • 21-22 first round, presidential election
  • 28-29 probably quiet but the Tuesday is 1st May (BH)

May 2012

  • 5-6 second round of elections, the Tuesday is 1945 Armistice BH
  • 12-13 looks quiet
  • 19-20 part of Ascension Thursday (BH) long weekend
  • 26-27 Whit, the Monday is BH

The fact of being part of a long weekend (ie tied on to a Bank holiday) could mean more French visitors to Paris, though the last two weekends there are probably the biggest. Elections are not really an obstacle.

I don't think we should count on these dates being out of the tourist season, this now seems much longer than it used to be, as looking for hotel rooms in October showed us.

I'm going to suggest the 12-13 May weekend, which means the main meet-up on Saturday 12th.

Over to you.

UPDATE If we want this to happen in April-May, we should perhaps get ahead with a decision. May 12 fits for a number of people, but not all - April 28 is another possibility. Please pile back in with your thinking on dates.

RE-UPDATE 15 Jan 2012 Even split down there in the poll, and we should reach a decision soon if we want to get reasonable travel and accommodation prices. Migeru has given a good reason for his choice (a long weekend over the April 28 date, which makes it easier for him to attend), so, though I voted "No preference" I'm going to come down on that side. Whadda you say?

re-re-bumped - afew

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