Imagine you're a member of a club of 27 - or even just 17 - members. And each of you has a representative on the Committee which runs the outfit - representatives who differ from each other quite significantly in a number of ways. Well, the question is - Do you think this would make for an effective decision-making team? No, I thought not. So, now imagine a period of crisis. Even less effective, I'm sure you'd agree. This, of course, is the EU/eurozone set-up. In the real world, one would have an Executive Committee, comprising a much smaller number of representatives than 27 or 17. And I guess the EU and eurozone have had this since time immemorial in the duumvirate of France and Germany. This, of course, has now auto-dissolved, following the election of M. Hollande, leaving an executive team of one - Germany. Who shows little sign of wanting to actively manage the development of the club, preferring to say Nay (well, Nein, really) to every proposal that comes forward for consideration. Even though all the other members think that Germany was complicit in bringing about the crisis. As a result, the rest of the Committee is beginning to get restless. And even more worried than usual. So, rebellion is in the air, led by Spain, which faces bankruptcy in the absence of even more charity than it's already had over the last two decades. There's been an Emergency Committee meeting today (one of a long series of these) so we, naturally, await the outcome with breath bated.
Talking of Spain, here's the take one observer there:- Spain's real estate boom: that's the cause of our troubles. It's all our fault. Or is it? Experts have proven repeatedly that real estate booms are as uncontrollable as earthquakes. Of course, the Spanish economy benefited from the influx of capital from the centre. But the centre also benefited from higher returns from the periphery. Property bubbles were not an anomaly in the eurozone. They were a direct consequence of the single currency – they were its intended consequence. To create capital flows from rich to poor countries was the whole point of the project. Rules were set in place to make it almost impossible for governments to stop it even they had wanted to. The euro did not cause the crisis but it was ill-conceived to deal with it. So instead of obsessing with enforcing the flawed rules of the eurozone we should be looking into ways of changing them. More here.
Talking of ugly creations, here's a list of the ten most unappealing buildings in London
While the EU management team applies itself to the challenges (including death?) which beset it, down in the real world the Spanish government is looking for new ways to collect taxes. And they've hit upon the Catholic Church. No one who reads any history of Spain will come away without an understanding that it was only recently that the Church ceased to be as powerful as it had been for centuries; but it's still just as rich. Partly because it pays little by way of tax. But things look like they're about to change. And not before time.
I took delivery of James Michener's Iberia this week. The paperback edition, which Amazon (rightly) calls 'cheap'. I'd read some of a friend's copy a while back and was looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with the book. For obvious reasons, I decided to go to the Santiago de Compostela/Galicia chapter, which is the last one of the book's 938 pages. Rather disappointing, it has to be said. At times, rambling and at times tendentious, the thing that really switched me off is Michener's narration of all the ridiculous myths that abound along the Camino without the slightest hint at scepticism. Or even rationality. One can only assume that, though a Quaker and not a Catholic, he swallowed them all whole. Let's hope the other 810 pages are more satisfying. Or at least less annoying.
Talking of writing - and nothing to do with Michener - here's an excellent site for those who want to make sure their work is both clear and short. And here's their thesaurus of alternatives for pretentious first thoughts. Interesting to ask how many of the words in the left hand column are Latinate and how many on the right are Germanic in origin.
Finally . . . I have an email address for all those sites which demand that you register before they will deign to respond to you. The first half of this is 'dross'. So it is that companies who've bought my data come to address me as 'Dear Dross'. Which tickles me. BTW - Don't click on the loudspeaker icon. You get some awful American pronunciation of the word 'drarrss'. Just joking. Honest.