First, an amazing post – lots to talk about. Secondly, (get the bad news out of the way first) the fact that you warmed to Brown when he became Prime Minister worries me, principally because the man was at best totally incompetent and at worst a moron, having totally messed up almost every aspect of British life one can think of but in particular the economy. It is only the fact that we started out from a better position that prevented (or prevents) us from “doing a Greece”. The waste and delusions were humungous; the basic management skills non-existent. I note that Mr Brown is going to make a speech in the House of Commons soon; I wonder if he is going to apologize for the appalling shambles he left behind or whether he is going to accuse the new government of not spending enough. His finest hour came when “saving the world” by encouraging governments everywhere to borrow vast amounts of money to save money. Had the overall consequences of his previous policies not been so disastrous this could almost have been funny. Well, it was funny for the banks, who of course were laughing all the way not only to the bank but at it.
CHINA: I’ve been to China – (wonderful people) the problem (if there is one) is not their economy per se but the fact that it is a dictatorship. There have been and indeed are worse dictatorships, but it is one nonetheless. As their economic power increases so does their sabre-rattling. Have there ever been any cases where mighty economic power has not been followed by territorial expansion? Patrice will know this; his overview of history in these matters is extraordinary. N° 1 Satan the USA may be, but without their umbrella free, democratic Taiwan would most likely already have been invaded by mainland China.
The YANKS? Humans are – in my humble opinion – often extremely conservative. Americans have been used for decades if not centuries to believing that their country is “the greatest in the world”. (they are not the only guilty ones, the French and Chinese run them close). It is going to take them some time to realize the junk value of that particular belief. While they are slowly internalising it we should be patient, remembering that they did save us from Hitler and/or Stalin. No doubt of course for their own selfish reasons, they did the same in Kosovo, too, (the Europeans – except those anti-European, Anglo-Saxon Brits of course – having done SFA) though I’m still trying to work out why – perhaps EXXON had geological surveys indicating vast oilfields around Pristina?
To save the US it will take someone with a lot more steel than Obama; that is the problem, and WHERE is this person coming from?
FRANCE: If there is any country mired in self-delusion apart from the USA it seems to me to be France ….. I am NOT anti-French – far from it. I lived and worked there for ten years ….. however, Patrice’s observation that most French people understand the need for change but most also support the strikes is revealing. This is the crux – they cannot make up their minds what they want – for too many in positions of power the status quo is too good – a bit like in the USA with the plutocrats. Thus they stagger about getting into a worse and worse situation, much like Britain did under Gordon Brownosaurus. The STATE in France is TOO BIG and SELF-IMPORTANT. Sarko realizes this, but his attempts to rein it in (forced by budget constraints) have been feeble and in any case the inertial resistance is stupendous. The phrase “reality-check” comes to mind.
THE EU: As for “STATE TOO BIG”, the EU is overreaching itself, having just committed to spending over €5 BILLION on a fatuous new diplomatic service run by a nonentity earning TWICE as much as the British and French leaders and which will give the EU FORTY-SIX “diplomats” on the island of Barbados. Nothing against the Barbadians – jolly good chaps and chapesses – but are they REALLY that important to the EU taxpayer? We’ll also have over 50 in that economic colossus of the universe, Madagascar. Meanwhile in Brussels, a new building is to be leased at a cost of a piffling £10,000,000 a year. It is said by the great and good in Brussels that this new diplomatic service is needed to “compete with the Chinese and Indians”. Absolute rubbish of course. The idea that a black-African country will trade with the EU and not the Chinese just because we have fifty odd “diplomats” in a spanking new building downtown is ludicrous. What the Africans want is good value (i.e. cheap) and reliability. Europe is getting past the stage of being able to offer much of those, bogged down as it is by 100,000 pages of European Law and mindless regulations designed à la française to improve the lot of “workers” but which in fact gradually destroy all their jobs.
I personally think the EU is doomed; destroyed by greed, arrogance and self-delusion. The British are already very anti-EU, NOT because we are anti-European; we are just anti venality, greed and overweeing self-delusion. However, in true EU spirit, we are denied the referendum we were promised on the Lisbon Treaty. Anyway, in the EU if you vote “No” in a referendum you just keep getting referenda over and over again until you say “Yes”, so what is the point?
EU TREATIES? A tremendous FARCE of course. Did you know that it is ILLEGAL for members states to bail each other out? But what happened with Greece? And now they have a NEW cunning plot to bail out the next failing economies: Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland must already be licking their lips at the thought of getting free German money. So, bailouts are ILLEGAL, but not apparently if we actually want to do it. So they are only illegal in THEORY then? So it seems. Now Frau Merkel and the usual stitch-up-the-rest suspects (France) have worked out their plan there remains the niggling little detail about it being ILLEGAL. So what is the solution? The humungously-overpaid and fatuous EU President (has he got his presidential jet yet?) has been asked to look at the problem and “see if he can find a way to bail the countries out legally.”
Of course, despite spending thousands of man-hours on the problem he won’t find a way that will stand up in court so the increasingly-fragile and erratic Frau Merkel is talking about “amendments to the Lisbon Treaty”. More hilarity – this took ten years to thrash out, agree and pass and yet she wants to muck about with it already. I find all this both hilarious and criminally venal, treating the European taxpayer with contempt. How do they get away with it? VOTER INERTIA – the same problem as in the USA, where they have a POOR choice of parties and lurch from one dinosaur to the other without ever seeming to explore alternatives. EUROPE? Do YOU know who your MEP is? Does he or she LISTEN to what you say? With Europe in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since WWII when EVERYONE in the real world (not Wayne Rooney of course) is cutting back, jobs are going, projects abandoned the MEPs voted for a 6% INCREASE in their budget. One wonders who their PR people are, but in truth they don’t have to bother much about PR since their accountability is about zero.
The EU initiatives are INSANE – power-mad. It is so transparent as to be laughable. As the British learned from “Yes Minister”, the bigger your budget the more important you must be and therefore the more you must pay yourself. This is the rational for EU top-brass being paid double what NATIONAL LEADERS get. (Oh, and for the “inconvenience” of living abroad of course, even though they get a whole raft of vast expenses including free schooling for their kids). Cameron knows it, but the Brits are so used to being slagged off by the Continent (especially statist France, which is always very glad to get its bills paid by someone else – will the Germans bail out France when their economy collapses?) that Cameron has to tread a tricky line. At heart, the Brits are FREE MARKETERS and NOT willing to be an outpost of The United States of Europe, which is of course what they want over the Channel. France wants that because it believes it can control it;, they could be deluding themselves – monsters one creates often become uncontrollable. And the Germans of course are kept on a leash because France still plays on German guilt for WWII, but is that ploy now looking a bit sick? It certainly can’t last for ever so milk it while you can, eh?
THE EURO: The recent EU jolly came up with a plan to “save the euro”; they were all happy as sandboys about this, but do they REALLY believe that Greece can EVER repay its debt without MORE vast donations from Germany? Do they think Germany will continue to bail out the feckless Mediterranean countries (plus Ireland …)? Some of these countries shouldn’t BE in the euro, unless of course the EU can control their economies. AHA, THERE WE HAVE IT! That is the agenda of course … more central control = more power and in particular more “harmonisation” of taxation. Don’t you just love that word; it sounds so PC. ‘harmony’ = balance, peace, contentment ….. all the right marketing vibes … but what it means of course is “harmonisation” UPWARDS to match the preposterous tax levels in Germany and France. The Germans are so efficient that they seem to get by with such high taxes, but they are crippling France. Despite their fatuous 35 hour week – introduced to create more employment (why didn’t they make it 10 hours per week – surely that would have created even MORE employment?) – their unemployment rate is still way above the average, and this for DECADES.
Well Patrice, I agree with much of your analysis of the USA, but I suspect Yanks will be up in arms. (the “greatest country in the world” syndrome). I am reminded of the importance of education; is it SO difficult to learn from the past? Apparently so – humans are so deep-rooted in the immediate present and so few take a long-term view, especially in our “democratic” systems of government where Obama has only been going for two years yet is effectively starting the next election campaign. And as we know, British politicians will do and say anything to gain power and having done so very often ignore much of what they promised. I myself do not remember the British Labour Party promising to ruin the country in 1997, yet that is what they have done in many areas.
Where I disagree is with the impression I have from your post that Europe is doing much better than the USA. I don’t think we are. I think we are in a tremendous mess and have NOT yet understood what faces us – see strikes in France for a start. One bright light? the economic performance of Germany, the only “serious country in Europe – apart from those magnificent Scandinavians of course. Another bright light? The performance so far of the British Coalition, at least having the courage not to take the easy but long-term catastrophic path of “Spend, spend, spend” so honed and perfected by the previous bunch of charlatans.