Monday, December 13, 2010

Talking to a Spanish friend last night about my insistence that folk here lack social antennae, she told me that the Spanish use the expression poner las antenas to mean ‘to eavesdrop’.

Back to education. And to startling evidence that chucking money at a problem is rarely the real solution. Per capita spending is the USA is way above anywhere else and that of the UK is significantly higher than in countries which do far better. Most telling of all, two countries which do remarkably well – Finland and New Zealand – have low levels of per capita spend. Apart from (small) size and possibly greater social cohesion, I wonder what else they have going for them.

I’d guess everyone’s read or heard something about the wildcat strike of Spain’s air traffic controllers over last week’s long bank holiday. Ironically, it appears to have been triggered by (cackhanded?) attempts by Madrid to deal with what would be termed ‘Spanish practices’ in the UK. Or ‘intolerable privileges’ as the government here called them. It turns out there’s a long history of governmental incompetence in this area, leading to a denouement virtually guaranteed by the current administration’s habit of acting late and shooting from the hip on critical economic issues. Click here for more depth on this from Qorreo.

Locally, it’s interesting to read we may be having a Cataluña-type referendum on bullfighting here in Galicia and impressive to note that the region has regained its number one position as regards the entry into Europe of cocaine. Needs must, I guess.

Finally . . . If you’re not interested in the eurozone crisis, log off now . . . . . Otherwise, what on earth can be said, now that Germany and France have said No to the only conceivable (perceivable?) solution of a de facto debt union? Well, I guess the least we can say is that all bets are off. Our Ambrose opines, of course, that it’s “no surprise to eurosceptics that Europe should have reached this fateful point where leaders must choose between the twin traumas of EMU break-up or giving up their countries. Nor is it a surprise to an inner-core of schemers within the EU system, who have always calculated that they could exploit such a crisis to catalyse political union. However, it is a big surprise to Europe’s leaders, and they do not know what to do about it.” He goes on to say that “The reflex of the EU elites is to blame this structural mess on lack of [German] statesmanship”. But then asks “Was EMU not dysfunctional from the first day? Did it not inflict negative real interest rates on Club Med and Ireland in the boom years, driving them into disastrously pro-cyclical policies? Did it not lock in chronic imbalances between North and South? Has it not left victim states trapped in debt deflation or slumps which have gone too far to respond to an austerity cure, and from which there seems to be no escape on terms acceptable to Germany? Should we blame the current hapless leaders, or the guilty men of Maastricht who created this doomsday machine? If the project itself is rotten, surely what the eurozone needs most is an undertaker.”

We await developments with mouths open, as Europe’s politicians flounder in their attempts to defend and progress the political vision that they all bought into, without fully understanding its economic and social consequences. Meanwhile, I leave you with the views of one famous eurosceptic, while merely pointing out it’s possible to be in favour of the EU but against the premature introduction of European Monetary Union. Which, for what it’s worth, has been the stance of all British governments of recent times. Here’s just a sampler from the article, which will surely be accused of demonstrating rampant schadenfreude . . . . “All those snooty Europhile politicians and journalists who sneered at us for our doubts should be forced to crawl in penitence to Dublin Castle, scourging themselves with copies of the Maastricht Treaty. We have been vindicated, and the least they can do is admit it.” A big ask, I fear.

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