Years ago, I bought a DVD on the hilariously failed attempt by Terry Gillam to film his The Man Who Killed Don Quijote in Spain back in the early 2000s. This had been his 7th attempt and, hard as it is to believe, the obsessed chap has now embarked on his 8th. See here on this. Good luck to him.
Changing Spain?: Fancy a non-religious funeral? Well, you'll be pleased to know these are increasingly common in this ex-Catholic country.
Old Spain 1: Here's an article – in Spanish – on the fraud perpetrated – apparently with impunity - by electricity companies here. Essentially, your supplier (company A) colludes with company B to trick you into switching to company B and then back again to company A, with the objective of getting you out of the 'regulated market' into the 'free market', where you can be fleeced. I think reader Eamon might have experienced a version of this when a new operator called him and claimed to be a local office of his existing operator.
Old Spain 2: I treated myself to a Snickers bar yesterday. I paid over the odds for it at a 24/7 store but one expects this. More surprising was its small size. A quick check revealed that the weight wasn't disclosed on the wrapper. But there was the legend: Not to be sold separately.
Talking about Old Spain, recent Comments to this blog have centred on aspects of Spanish society in the early 20th century, especially in poverty-stricken Galicia. Going further back still, I cited a paragraph from George Borrow's The Bible in Spain, of the 1830s. My Dutch friend Peter Missler has offered this relevant chapter of his annotated version of Borrow's famous book. Enjoy!
Spanish Language Corner:-
- Google's machine recently translated arma blanca as 'white weapon'. In fact, it means a 'bladed weapon'. Or 'knife'. I've no idea why. Any suggestions?
- Here's a headline I'm having some difficulty with this morning: Soy el de las 'fucking rules'.
I recently listened to a podcast on the difference between nationalism and patriotism, and to a debate on 'nationalism'. What surprised me is that no one made the point that nationalism is defined by its enemies and by separate/'different' values. One only has to listen to Galician, Catalan and Scottish nationalists for a few minutes to see this in action. Patriotism is a very different animal, far more compatible with multiculturalism and internationalism. Contrast this with the attitudes of that most stupid, dangerous and ridiculous nationalist of the moment, Donald Trump.
Which reminds me . . . . Today's cartoon, from The Times – The new Oval Office. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy . . . .
Finally . . . At the end of this post, there's an article from today's Telegraph which embodies my own view of the EU. I, too, was very much in favour of the UK joining what we were told back then would be merely a large trading block, not a nascent superstate.
By the way . . . As I've noted before, there are commentators who have supported Brexit but who are very concerned about the incompetent way it's being negotiated. Here's the most informed – and most despairing - of these, Richard North.
We were right to join and we are right to leave: where did the EU go wrong?
Roger Bootle, chairman of Capital Economics
Last Saturday was the European Union’s 60th anniversary. With delicious irony, this week the UK will begin the formal process of leaving the EU. I am afraid that I was not minded to wish the EU many happy returns, having keenly supported Brexit, and seeing the EU as an inhibitor of European economic growth. Indeed, I am greatly looking forward to our rebirth as a fully independent country. But it was not ever thus. So I have been reflecting on where the EU went wrong.
Even if we are right to be leaving the EU (and I think we are), this does not necessarily imply that we were wrong to join in the first place. I realise many of you will aver with pride and pleasure you were against the Common Market from the start. Good luck to you. You can reasonably claim to have been vindicated. But this is not my position. In fact, I was in favour of joining in 1973. Moreover, in the 1975 referendum I voted to stay in. I do not believe this was a mistake: I believe that we were right to join and are right to leave.
Let me explain. Since those days, the EU has changed, the world has changed, and we have changed. The original European Economic Community was formed in the shadow of the last world war, and in the imagined foreshadow of a new and more terrible war that might begin between the Soviet Union and the US. When we joined what we then called the Common Market, now the EU, in 1973, this was before the internet, globalisation and the collapse of communism.
Compared to now, the members of the EU accounted for a larger share of both world GDP and the UK’s trade. Moreover, around the world, tariffs on trade in goods were much higher, and services (which are not subject to tariffs) a smaller proportion of international trade.
Since then, of course, not only have tariffs come down dramatically around the world but trade in services has substantially risen, while the EU has fallen in importance. It now accounts for not much more than 20pc of world GDP, down from about 30pc 10 years ago. At the same time it is the destination for about 45pc of the UK’s exports of goods and services, down from about 55pc 15 years ago. Countries, such as India and China, that in 1973 economists could regard as broadly irrelevant for the world economy, now account for the bulk of economic growth. Not only that, but the communications revolution has brought almost all the world together at the click of a mouse.
When we joined, we were influenced by the fact that the members of the Common Market had enjoyed strong economic growth, whereas in the UK, although growth was high by our own historical standards, it was well below theirs. So in relative terms we seemed to be slipping back. Ironically, not long after we joined, our relative economic performance was transformed.
In the early years of the EU’s existence, apart from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which involved a ludicrous waste of money, it did not make any monumental economic mistakes. Nor was it obvious that the EU was going to become the bureaucratic nightmare that we know today. But before too long, the regulatory bandwagon started rolling. The single market became the mechanism through which the same crackpot over-regulation would be applied across the whole of the European Union.
For all its faults, provided that the world economy remained fairly stable, the EU would probably have been able to stagger on reasonably well. The trouble is, though, that over the past few decades the world has undergone three enormous shocks: the collapse of communism, the advent of globalisation and the communications revolution. These shocks demanded the utmost flexibility in order for the economy to adjust to them. But flexibility is exactly the thing the EU has learned not to do.
Not only that, but more recently it has made three big mistakes. The first is the formation of the euro, which many economists, including me, correctly identified as a prosperity-destroying machine long before its inception. The second was the failure to amend the free movement rules once the EU had been extended to encompass the former communist countries of eastern Europe. The third was the introduction of the Schengen passport-free travel zone, which has proved to be a security nightmare at just the time that security is at a premium.
In my view, these bad decisions should not be viewed as one-offs. The EU is so badly formed and its institutions so weak and brittle that it has an in-built tendency to make poor decisions. This means that whenever a serious issue emerges that demands efficient decision–making and good governance, it will be likely to fall short.
There are also two big issues coming up in the lift that will pose serious challenges to the EU: the ageing population and the advent of artificial intelligence and robotics. I confidently expect the EU to make a botch of both.
I suppose you could say that the fundamental source of all its mistakes was there right from the beginning of the EU, namely the belief on the part of its elites that the countries of Europe should transform themselves into a single or federal state. In 1973 and 1975 I failed to see the full consequences of this vision. Today, in common with the majority of my fellow citizens, I can see them all too clearly.