Monday, November 08, 2004


The best place in the world to do business (edited)

While Western Europeans loathe just about everything the U.S. is up to, that sentiment is not shared by Europe's movers and shakers. The prospect of unregulated greed in the United States has made them sit up and salivate. And indications are that they're planning to follow the Bush-Rove model.

According to Larry Elliot in the Guardian,

Taxes are too high. The labour market is too cushy. Too much nannying is sucking the risk out of people's lives, stunting innovation. Europe, according to the CBI's president, John Sunderland, has to change and change fast.

Reform in Europe will be a central theme of the annual conference of the employers' organisation, which opens in Birmingham today. Sunderland, the chairman of Cadbury Schweppes, will use his opening speech to call for a Europe which is leaner and fitter. More like the United States, in other words.

The CBI believes last week's report from Wim Kok shows that even European policymakers have seen the light....

European capitalists are losing the game. When you reach their level, money is just the measure of winning or losing—

Europe's overall performance in the past four years, Kok says, has been disappointing. Growth has been weaker than in the US or Asia - the result both of continuing structural weaknesses and sluggish demand.

So come on, team! Let's see what we can get done!

The report calls for more R&D expenditure, the completion of the single market, cutting down on burdensome regulation to create the right climate for entrepreneurs, more investment in human capital to create an adaptable labour market and exploiting environmentalism for competitive advantage.

Does any of this sound familiar? Did you notice how they nestle the "burdensome regulation" theme among some good ideas?

And what will happen if the European populace doesn't follow them?—

"At risk - in the medium to long run - is nothing less than the sustainability of the society Europe has built [the social contract that underwrites the risk of unemployment, ill-health and old age] ... if Europe cannot adapt, cannot modernise its systems and cannot increase its growth and employment fast enough then it will be impossible to sustain these choices."

Why, they're just going to have to take away their social security!

Unheard of here in the U.S., the Guardian offers an opposing point of view—

According to Professor James Galbraith, one of America's leading Keynesian economists, this is not just a misreading of reality, but for European progressives a dangerous fantasy. "By accepting it they find themselves acknowledging the existence of an economy led to full employment, at least for a time, through the application of free market principles, including radical deregulation and the destruction of unions.

"Progressives thus find themselves in the position of defending the dismal economic performance of modern Europe - specifically, its high rate of unemployment - on the grounds that the alternative has unacceptable social costs. In this way acquiescence in mass unemployment becomes the price of defending civilisation. The case for social democracy is fatally weakened by the concession that it requires 10% of the population to remain idle or to labour off the books in the grey economy."

Gee! I didn't know the patient was so ill. Remaining idle and laboring off the books is what the wealthy do every day, and I've still to detect an adverse effect on them.

Also unheard of in the U.S. media, the Guardian presents an economic plan that does not take as its goal the maximization of profit—

Galbraith suggests an alternative blueprint. For a start, he gives far greater saliency to demand, arguing that the objective of full employment should be made a core objective of all policy-making institutions. "This includes the fiscal authorities and the central bank. It must be more important in practice than either price stability of fiscal balance, and the authorities must recognise that fiscal balance is a consequence, not a cause, of full employment.

Now I'm not saying that I necessarily agree with Professor Galbraith's objective—I would need to understand better his sense of the word "employment"—but at the very least it is a plan that serves the interests of the governed over the interests of their governors.

Europe, the former Dutch premier [Wim Kok] concludes, has failed to live up to the promise made in the Lisbon agenda of 2000 to make Europe the best place in the world to do business by 2010.

The best place in the world to do business is not a people-friendly place.

We are so brainwashed that we can read a sentence such as "the case for social democracy is fatally weakened by the concession that it requires 10% of the population to remain idle or to labour off the books in the grey economy" without even asking what that means, much less what kind of values it represents.

In fact, in a true "social democracy" the people would be asking their electees how they are serving their interests—be they economic, or in health, or in defense. And the role of the media would be to ask those questions for the people and faithfully report the politicians' answers as well as the facts related to those answers.

I know. I live on another planet. And I will grant that the capitalists have a certain demented objectivity. They don't see the entire picture very well, but they have an excellent grasp of the parts in which they're interested. So we are ruled by idiots-savants.

The Bush-Rove strategy has been a real eye-opener for the European Right. So you will not be surprised if I tell you that a move is now afoot to restore "traditional Christian values" to Europe.

Rocco Buttiglione, whose nomination as the EU's justice commissioner was forced to be withdrawn last month, began a public campaign at the weekend to form a European "theo-con" movement for those who believe traditional Christian values should be part of public life.

Mr Buttiglione, a fervent Catholic and friend of the Pope, was forced to stand down after the European parliament balked at his views on homosexuality and marriage.

Rather than retreat, he intends to lead a "battle for the freedom of Christians" against what he calls the "creeping totalitarianism" in Europe that stifles anyone who does not share the beliefs of the majority.

This is a movement originating from Berlusconi's Italy. As it was for the Nazis, Buttiglione's sense of victimization is very powerful. Hitler did time. But not enough.1

Related post
EU Constitution signed; anti-gay candidate backs off


1As described on a UK educational site,

After hiding in a friend's house for several days, Hitler was arrested and put on trial for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch [high treason]. If found guilty, Hitler faced the death penalty. While in prison Hitler suffered from depression and talked of committing suicide. However, it soon became clear that the Nazi sympathizers in the Bavarian government were going to make sure that Hitler would not be punished severely.

At his trial Hitler was allowed to turn the proceedings into a political rally, and although he was found guilty he only received the minimum sentence of five years. Other members of the Nazi Party also received light sentences and Eric Ludendorff was acquitted. [emphasis added]


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