If business is challenging when entrepreneurs make decisions for sound business reasons, it’s doomed when politicians become involved, because they make decisions for political reasons. Politicians like to pay off big campaign contributors by steering government contracts their way, regardless of how dubious the campaign contributors might be as business executives.For one thing, they are sad attempts to prove their bad economic theories, for another:
politicians expect that those who receive government funding will help their re-election campaigns. No surprise that many businesses have chief executives best known for their ability to find a place at the public trough, rather than boosting sales in free markets.Very simply, to quote Iowahawk (after a fashion,) if you don’t want to be drugged and forcibly sodimized in the van, don’t take the candy.
Government attempts to pick winners are most likely to increase the amount of money lost betting on losers. This is because with the power to tax, subsidize and mandate, politicians are able to pour money into unprofitable projects that private investors would never touch voluntarily.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
The French like to think they are better than other Europeans at resisting Americanizationwrites Christine Ockrent in the International Herald Tribune as she discusses France's main opposition party.
So don’t tell the Socialists they have given in, first by holding France’s first-ever party primaries, and second by embracing the mantra of their newly anointed champion, François Hollande, about reviving the “French Dream.” In contrast to the American Dream (whatever has happened to it), we’ve not heard much about a French one. In France individualism and self-improvement are supposed to be sacrificed for the common good on the altar of “la République.”
In any case, Hollande has every right to savor a personal victory few people bet on last summer, and to hear the change in the way people talk of him. Gone is the unfocused, indecisive, inexperienced party bureaucrat. The 57-year-old member of the National Assembly from central France is now hailed as “a true statesman” by former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who never gave him a government post. To some of his former rivals, now eager to gather under his banner, Hollande is a “born leader,” a pragmatist clever enough to bury the ideological party platform they prepared in deference to the imperatives of the current crisis.
Europe has a long tradition of alternating conservative and left-wing governments. France has been doing that since the 1980s, which makes it more difficult for either side to blame the other for a huge increase in the national debt or unemployment.
Still, the French Socialist Party is in many ways the most archaic in Europe — riddled with Marxist-tainted platitudes, reluctant to adjust to the more mainstream social-democrat stance adopted long ago in Britain and elsewhere on the Continent. So it is worth noting that Hollande’s team now calls him “a true social-democrat” — something that not long ago was almost an insult in the official party lexicon.
This stance explains in part his victory over the official party leader, Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille and a member of governments under François Mitterrand and Jospin. Hard working, stubborn, possessed of an acid tongue, but warm with the few she trusts, the woman who implemented the 35-hour work week is the daughter of Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission who opted out of the French presidential contest in 1995, to the despair of the pragmatic left. Hollande, clever, agile and humorous, has long posed as the political heir to Delors — the spiritual son against the true daughter.
Hollande and Aubry have always disliked each other intensely. Their fight for the nomination was both brutal and constrained — Aubry more on the left, doctrinaire side of the party, Hollande more to the center, smooth, cautious, conciliatory, calling constantly for party unity.
His campaign for the primaries was a good indication of the course he will follow to try to reach the Elysée Palace. Thinner than before, his hair dyed dark, with custom-tailored suits and new spectacles, Hollande imitates Mitterrand, copying his gestures, even his rhetoric, as if to revive memories of gentler economic and social conditions. From the start, he has been pleading for a “normal” presidency, far from Nicolas Sarkozy’s frenzied and chaotic performance. He thus appeals to a kind of French conservatism which has more to do with style than politics, a longing to be comforted rather than challenged.
The socialist candidate seems to have caught the mood of a nation more anxious than most about globalization, torn between universalism and provincialism, plagued with economic frailties that no government has been brave enough to confront. Even if their country is not the worst off in Europe, opinion surveys show that the French are the most pessimistic about the future, and consume the most anti-depressants.
What will be Hollande’s platform? To win the primaries, he never went far from his party’s mantra — create jobs without increasing public debt, foster economic growth, take money from the rich and regulate the banks, retire at 60 as if there were no demographic and financial constraints (although he was more cautious on that score than his competitors). But the gravity of the economic crisis is bound to have a sobering effect on the campaign. Hollande is a pragmatist. That is why he is such a dangerous adversary for Sarkozy, who will have to be making difficult decisions right up to the spring election.
The conservatives at first sneered at the Socialist primaries, then quarrelled over the need to do the same. In the end, Sarkozy has let the opposition monopolize the discussion, and blame the crisis all on him. In the meantime, scandals have stained his entourage; his party leaders keep bickering; his rating in public opinion polls is lower than ever, and he appears to have been rejected by many of those he seduced four years ago, including traditional conservatives.
Were the election held today, polls show that Hollande would win by a 10 percent margin — and that’s without a clear program. There are still six months to go. Sarkozy is a formidable campaigner, but he has a difficult uphill battle to fight.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Your article about the rising number of black unmarried women in America illustrates society’s prevailing double standard regarding race (“Down or out”, October 15th)writes Honolulu's Ken Pedersen in (and to) The Economist.
It informs us that “fewer than one in ten black women intermarries” with other races because it is their “greatest taboo”. We are told that some black women “find non-black men unattractive” and that others fear the children of such marriages might not be “black enough”, but that the most common reason for not intermarrying is that black women regard it “as tantamount to betraying the race”. One black woman explained that if she were to marry a man from another race it would be akin to turning in her “black heart”.
If The Economist had reported that racial intermarriage was white women’s greatest taboo, that some white women find non-white men unattractive, that others fear their children would not be white enough and that it was common for them to view intermarriage as a betrayal of their race, such views would be utterly condemned. If a white woman said that she would have to turn in her white heart to marry out of her race, she would be called a racist. But isn’t this double standard itself racist?
“Yes, but what is a European?”A student asked Gareth Harding, a freelance journalist (and journo-publicist for hire) based in Brussels. He replied:
And yet I found myself stuttering and stammering as I searched for an answer. I waffled for a bit about European values – freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law – but realized any American or Australian could also lay claim to these values.Well the answer is clear. You see it now in plain view in any image of the rioting hooded masses or the needy, long-screwed-over pot-bangers. The bickering masses causing, when otherwise not wondering why leaders are putting off disastrously big issues until the last possible moment. Heads of state making the ritual of sumiteering and negotiating the height of their leadership itself.
In the end I settled on a statement of the blindingly obvious. “A European is someone who lives in Europe.”
I didn’t convince myself, let alone the class. I left utterly dejected and deep in thought.
A people deserve the leaders they elect, so I think we can appoint “the social thing” that they laud far and wide as a mark of neo-everything-ism. Today we see it, with all of its chaotic pointlessness acting out in a bloodless form of natural European interaction.
The more I mulled the question over the more I came to the conclusion that after over half a century of European integration and over 200,000 pages of EU laws, we still have little idea what Europe is, what it stands for, what binds its people together and where it is going?He cites a moment from 2004, which itself came too late after much delay, about the very same question, and it makes one ask: is European civilization just a cozy human warehouse with artifacts, traditions that no-one practices, and beliefs that people ignore?
Until recently these could have been dismissed as existential questions – of interest only to policy wonks, Economist readers and Brussels eurocrats.
Then came Europe’s most profound economic crisis since the 1930s. Like the United States Europe is in the midst of a deep depression. Unemployment is high, growth low, banks are collapsing and indebted governments are running out of money. Some countries, like Greece, Ireland, Portugal and possibly Britain, Spain and Italy, face the prospect of a generation of penury.
Those who argue for an ever wider union – or even an even deeper one – often fall-back on the argument of common European values in an effort to prove that Europeans share a set of immutable ideals that bind them together. Yet they are often sketchy as to what those values are.For which I think we see the answer. A people afraid of having to personally make good on those values, for whatever postmodern or selfish reasons vigorously DO define the state of the Union and its capacity to come unglued. Privacy violator Wikileaks is widely regarded as a democrat, many have personal expectations that all of their life needs will be served by their neighbors, and the rest of humanity is expected to bail them out of whatever trouble they’re in. There’s your value system at a glance.
The Dutch government held a series of seminars about European values during its presidency of the EU in 2004. “European fundamental values are sacred,” intoned former Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende at one event. But when it came to defining those values, he was fuzzier. “We have been discussing the idea of Europe for the last 12 hundred years. But we cannot grasp what it means, we cannot pin it down,” he said.
Values matter because they are the glue that binds a country together.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Needless to say, Le Monde's Serge Audier gives the book short shrift, with an ironic title for his book review ("Vive le capitalisme!") and a review multiplying the usage of words and expressions such as "icon", "ideology", Rand's "cultish book", and "one of the most radical apostles of an unhibited capitalism."
Icône du mouvement Tea Party, la romancière et philosophe Ayn Rand (1905-1982) est mal connue en France. La traduction de son livre culte aux Etats-Unis, Atlas Shrugged, ainsi que la biographie d'Alain Laurent (Ayn Rand ou la Passion de l'égoïsme rationnel, Les Belles Lettres, 240 p., 25 ¤) font découvrir l'une des plus radicales apôtres d'un capitalisme décomplexé célébrant la " vertu d'égoïsme ". Ce roman dresse le tableau d'une époque de collectivisme et d'étatisme généralisés, que bouleverse soudain une grève inédite : ses protagonistes sont des inventeurs et industriels qui supportent le poids du monde grâce à leur effort. Refusant d'être culpabilisés et ponctionnés par cette société égalitariste, ils fomentent une résistance victorieuse, sous l'inspiration de l'énigmatique ingénieur John Galt. Adapté au cinéma, ce récit d'action et d'amour reste une référence centrale de l'idéologie dite " libertarienne ", hostile au legs du New Deal et à l'Etat interventionniste.
de Ayn Rand,
traduit de l'américain par Sophie-Bastide-Foltz, Les Belles Lettres, 1170 p., 29,50 ¤.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Pimco’s Bill Gross: Cesi n'est pas une summit
This is no summit. It’s a coffee klatch filled with petit fours and empty promises.And another big thank you to EUropastan...
EU is a dysfunctional family. Recession ahead even if agreement is reached. Greek default certain, Portugal/Ireland loom.He put more succinctly though:
fiscal contraction is long term scenario. Risk off.
The Europe needs to get some head:
The latest summit in Brussels marked a turning point in the euro crisis that has been raging for two years now. For the first time, the denial of Europe’s leaders about the true gravity of the situation seems to finally be lifting.That’s a strange sort of solace to take. What they have done is wait too long for too long.
Much like their vaunted celebration of their unity, one-ness, etcetera, born largely out of the fact that it only took a millennium of murdering on another to get there, the idea that they would call this week’s events a breakthrough is somewhere between bizarre and a sad attempt at positive spin.
I mean, try to find the rah-rah, we are one unity in this:
The report of “Troika” inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, the EU Commission, and the European Central Bank reads like a horror story. It also calls into question all of the previous attempts to rescue the euro.It makes one sentimental for endless general strikes the good old days of Italian governments lasting about 4 months. Oh. Wait a minute.
Still worried about revanchist “each man for himself” nationalism, are we?
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
23 years after its creation, the Canal + nightly news parody is feeling old and doesn't make people laugh out loud any more, hardly making them even smile.
Ceux qui travaillent quotidiennement sur l’émission le savent et en conviennent volontiers : "On n’est plus à la mode", concède Yves Le Rolland. Tout aussi sincères, les auteurs, Lionel Dutemple et Julien Hervé, arrivés en 1999, et Philippe Mechelen, qui les a rejoints en 2009, font le même constat.A lot of readers agree, with one of them saying:
Il est temps de s'en rendre compte... Les Guignols sont devenus ringards depuis déjà quelques années, ne faisant plus jamais sourire (le rire, on n'en parle pas), nous resservant toujours les mêmes antiennes, sortant le grand jeu de la bonne conscience moralisatrice pour mélanger les genres et tomber dans le pire des populismes... Il y a un côté Huchon dans cette pathétique guignolade. Si ce n'est justement qu'il le nourrit, ce populisme. Allez ouste!
Monday, October 24, 2011
Les " révélations " de Robert Bourgi sur le financement de responsables politiques français par des chefs d'Etat africains remettent en lumière les relations troubles de la France avec ses ex-colonies. Tenez-vous pour un fait cette " corruption mutuelle " et, dans ce cas, comment en expliquez-vous la persistance cinquante ans après les indépendances ?When asked by Philippe Bernard whether Les échecs de la démocratie en Afrique reflètent-ils l'incapacité des Occidentaux à exporter leur " modèle ", ou l'immaturité des Africains ?, Achille Mbembe adds that
Les révélations de M. Bourgi n'en sont point, car ces pratiques étaient connues. Le fait que l'un des acteurs importants de ces marchandages prenne la parole en public maintenant montre que cet anachronisme que l'on a appelé la Françafrique est condamné à terme. Aujourd'hui, l'important est de porter nos regards sur ce qui vient, sur les dynamiques neuves. La France n'est plus le soleil de l'Afrique, car elle se trouve en compétition avec des acteurs nouveaux comme la Chine, le Brésil et l'Inde. Elle n'en est même plus le miroir et je crois que cela est bon. En même temps, un tissu de liens humains s'est constitué au fil des siècles entre la France et l'Afrique. Il faut investir dans ces relations humaines pour faire naître des solidarités neuves qui dépassent les rapports entre Etats. …
Après le " printemps arabe ", un " printemps africain " est-il possible ?
Non, aucun régime africain ne court ce risque. Les conditions qui ont conduit aux événements du printemps n'existent nulle part. Au sud du Sahara, les classes moyennes existent depuis cinquante ans tout au plus et n'ont ni le recul historique des égyptiennes, ni le niveau de professionnalisation des tunisiennes.
Vous avez écrit qu'avec l'immigration, " la France récolte ce qu'elle a semé avec sa politique africaine ". De quelle façon le passé colonial pèse-t-il sur la politique française d'immigration ?
Il faut dédramatiser : la France n'est plus le pôle privilégié de l'immigration africaine en direction de l'Occident. Le nombre d'Africains qui ont pour objectif d'aller en France est très petit et va décroissant. Les discours français sur l'immigration africaine relèvent du fantasme. Ils sont liés à la période particulière que nous vivons, marquée par une rebalkanisation du monde, une redistribution planétaire très inégale des possibilités de mouvement, la construction de murs et la militarisation des frontières. Cela n'est pas typiquement français, mais la France s'exprime en mettant la peur de l'immigré au service d'une politique raciste, en attisant le fantasme d'une France sans étranger, une idée qui est contraire à son histoire.
Les Africains ont une vieille culture de la délibération. Le concept de la " palabre " renvoie à une structure sociale où la confrontation des points de vue est une donnée de légitimation du pouvoir. Les cultures africaines tolèrent plus ou moins l'idée de l'inégalité, mais les idées d'exclusion et de non-partage y sont frappées d'anathème. Ces pratiques culturelles, si elles étaient prises en compte, ouvriraient la voie à des schémas institutionnels capables d'" inculturer " la démocratie. La question n'est pas de savoir si les Africains sont mûrs pour la démocratie, mais de s'atteler à ce travail patient et critique d'invention de formes sociales d'échanges qui correspondent à la mémoire et aux pratiques des gens. Or pour le moment, l'affrontement politique en Afrique est un jeu à sommes nulles où le gagnant gagne tout et le perdant perd tout.
Thet are NOT the 99%. Among their Anti-Korporate-Kidz style demands are these:
Demand investigation into the source of secret funding for CIA occupation programs since WWII, the cover up of the trillions of dollars that aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union and may have ultimately instigated the 911 attacks as well as their cover-up. Not to mention a lot of that passive-aggressive “we’re just asking questions” crapola to blunt what is obviously the exact same sort of obfuscation defined by old-school agit-prop:
The destruction of the contents of the basement of the World Trade Centre - less than a billion in gold, but hundreds of billions of dollars of government securities? In addition why were specific brokers from the major government security brokerages in the Twin Towers eliminated? To create chaos in the government securities market? To create a situation wherein $240 billion dollars of covert securities could be electronically “cleared” without anyone asking questions? Which happened when the Federal Reserve declared an emergency and invoked its “emergency powers” that afternoon.They even use the trope of the violent, hate-fulled, inhumane revolutionaries of the last century. With foam around the edges of their lips, you get underpuntuated paragraph after paragraph of this kind of thing:
It suggests that certain key unknown figures in the Federal Reserve may have been in collusion with key unknown figures at the Bank of New York to create a situation where $240 billion in off balance sheet securities created in 1991 as part of an official covert operation to overthrow the Soviet Union, could be cleared without publicly acknowledging their existence.These securities, originally managed by Cantor Fitzgerald, were cleared and settled in the aftermath of September 11th through the Bank of New York. The $100 billion account balance bubble reported by the Wall Street Journal as being experienced by the Bank of New York was the tip of a three-day operation, when these securities were moved from off-balance-sheet to the balance sheet.So... no, these are not just “aggrieved American family-man types”. The movement is being taken over by socially programmed radicals who could care less whether or not the tent-dwellers get a job, or any of the “free this” and “free that” that they’re demanding, because they would have you live in a model consistent with the temperament of their screeds, which is the authoritarian socialism of the last century in eastern Europe, where the message to people was: Don’t be unique. Don’t speak out. Don’t try to leave the country, not to mention the ultimate message of socialism: you don’t eat if you don’t work, and don’t do what authority assigns you, and humanism and charity are no longer needed.
The above gives an idea of the intricate activities both to perpetrate and then to cover the crime, which was then used under its "terrorist attack" label as an excuse for the attack on Iraq.
The fine words are merely to buy public affirmation. “Crises” will be used to explain why you aren’t given what you’ve been promised. Social excuses are and will be made for their using coercion to a form of political conformity, and when many of life’s basic needs are distributed by official organs of society, they will be used to enforce that conformity for reasons like the sake of your health. If you think that’s a kooky thought, consider how welfare and old-age benefits recipients are used as a political constituency. Leftist would use all of society to advance their power, and define society’s makeup.
Unlike these cretins thinking that they’re just making the world “nicer and fairer”, I saw the kind of world that inevitably comes from those ideas first hand. They may not impose that on anyone ever again. Every word of it is anti-American, un-American, and did not originate in American society.
To call that a red-baiting comparison using the history of failed Marxist-Leninism is flawed. It isn’t the panzer Communism that made that era awful as much as the ideas the collectivism and social-dependency part of it that the radicals in the “Occupy” movement try to hint was “the good part” of Socialism. It was all bad. The use of force was merely a detail in all of that, albeit an inevitable one.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
There was always, at least for its critics, something preposterous about the idea of Turkey entering the European Unionquips John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune.
It meant, in their eyes, Europe literally extending its frontiers to the borders of Iran, Syria and Iraq, and the E.U. adding to its membership a predominantly Muslim country whose population would soon give it the biggest number of seats in the European Parliament. As for Turkey’s government, its uncertain relationship with democracy was exemplified by 57 journalists in jail — more, at last count by international watchdogs, than either China or Iran.
Now, at an increasing pace over the last six months, Turkey is portraying itself as a regional power in the Middle East, threatening to send its ships to challenge Cypriot or Israeli gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean, talking up “an axis” with Egypt, and warning of a “real crisis” with the E.U. if it allows the Republic of Cyprus to hold, as scheduled, its six-month rotating presidency next year. To its backers in Europe, this Turkey can no longer look much like an idealized bridge to a world beyond clashes of civilizations.
… [Also] the question of Turkey’s new engagement in the Arab world, its falling out with Israel, and general bluster is a more intimate one for Europe. Some Europeans would like to minimize the problem.
… But if you take Turkey’s Middle East power ambitions as serious — and not blowhard fantasizing — then it is the Turks who are forcing the E.U. to turn away from its candidacy. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said, “A Turkey that wants to become a regional power must build up its political and economic influence on the waterways from the Aegean to the Adriatic and from the Suez Canal to the Persian Gulf.”