Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I’ve mentioned previously the cartoonist of the ABC newspaper, citing his ability to accurately but cruelly depict Spanish politicians. If you click here and then scroll down to the small picture of 11/11 under the name of Martinmorales, you’ll see what I mean. You need to click on it to enlarge it, of course

Panic being the other side of the emotional coin from greed, it would be understandable if any government stretched the truth a little to avoid making a bad situation a lot worse. Some people believe the Spanish government, its construction industry and the banks might just have been colluding to do this with the house price statistics here. Stretching credulity beyond breaking point, the government insists that prices are still rising, albeit only marginally so. Yesterday, though, the Ministress of Housing said she thought they’d fallen by 15%. Whereupon she was summarily corrected by someone else, with the implausible line that she’d just been referring to some other idiot’s statistics. Mark Stucklin comments on this over at Spanish Property Insight.

It’s easy to make in impression in/on tin. And also, I guess, in/on gods made of the stuff. So it is that the Catalan government has had its ‘embassy’ in London send a formal letter of complaint to The Economist over references to this region in its review of Spain. And why not? If you’re going to claim/pretend to be a state, then you’ve got to find ways – however petty – to act as one. As a rule, nationalists are pretty good at criticising – and whingeing about – others but remarkably sensitive when it comes to comments about themselves. But, then, people with a victim complex always are. If I were the President of Spain, I’d get shot of them all. The problem in a democracy, of course, would be getting a majority of Catalan, Basque and/or Galician turkeys to vote for Christmas. So, failing that, I’d work with the opposition to forge a true federal state. For everything else, the opportunity costs are simply too high. Or would clearly look so if you could raise your gaze above tomorrow’s headlines.

The section on devolution in the review has now received almost 500 comments, many from angry or very angry Catalans. Given the tribal tone, It all makes for rather depressing reading. But I did learn something when ploughing/plowing through the rants; Christopher Columbus was not - as they think here in Galicia - from just outside Pontevedra but from Cataluña. Although I don’t think they’d entirely agree in Genoa. Still, I don’t suppose anyone will complain about Cataluña putting his head on their version of a Euro note, once the place is independent. Or an autonomous region of Grand Europe.

There’s no shortage of stuff to read on the global financial crisis, of course, but I’ve enjoyed this debate on the issue of whether capitalism should be transformed. Even more so this article on the failings of the international financial system, described by the author as “a greedy giant out of control”. I may be doing him a disservice but my summary is he thinks it impossible for the invisible hand to work when there’s a combination of greed, dishonesty and artificial churn rendering the market far from perfect. Resulting in a world in which the suckers are you and me and the financiers can make phenomenally profitable one-way bets in a casino which is rigged in their own favour. Until they bring the house crashing down, of course.

So . . . more regulation or better regulation? I guess we’ll have the answer after the New York conference. Perhaps.

Finally . . . God knows I’ve criticised Spanish bureaucracy over the years. But here’s an article on British aspects of the same monster by the inestimable Theodore Dalrymple.


moscow said...

Obviously, I don't have the slightest idea about Santander, Colin. I'd take no pleasure in it's fall down - if it happens - although I ahve to admit I think Mr. Botin is full of.....hubris. And I don't like blokes who go around shooting down elephants and then stand in front of the carcass for the picture in a silly safari suit&rifle.

A long time ago I went for an interview in the city, and this guy at the bank was scathing about Spanish companies: parochial, risk averse, unwilling to get out of Spain, in a word, backward. Sometimes, I pinch myself how much things have changed.
This was 1989. It seems like yesterday.

Colin said...

You should worry . . . I feel the same about 1969!

But, yes, Spain has changed. I first came in 71, when it even smelled a lot different!

mike the trike said...

I had a similar experience when driving across northern Spain in 1967. Each town I passed through had a different smell. Today A Coruña doesn't have the same smell and perhaps it is because there are more buildings and the heavy industry has been moved outside the city. In 1967 there weren't many cars on the roads and motorbike riders used to have a plastic sheet from the handle bars up to their chest as they rode along to keep the wind off I guess.

Colin said...

They still do down in Portugal!

Colin said...

And in the Galician hills.

Mark said...

They still have cows pulling carts in northern Portugal. Plenty of mopeds with built-in tarpaulins and you can smell the country. The last corner of old europe...