Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 11.14.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.


The EU
  • Yesterday I referred to the 'ludicrous euro ambition'. Right on cue comes somebody who: 1. knows more about these things than I do, and 2. is even more critical and pessimistic than I am. He opens the article posted below with the claim that The Brussels empire is collapsing before our eyes. Tasters: Prematurely introducing the euro to try to force the pace towards political union was the Federalists' greatest mistake. And: It infected the entire ‘project’ with a wasting disease that remorselessly destroys its legitimacy. Wow, couldn't have put it better myself. But then he gets quite harsh:- Brussels responded to democratic resistance to its political ambitions with further bureaucratic complexity, taking the the EU into the Zone of Risk of Collapse where it now stands.
  • Besides this chap, Don Quijones seems rather timid in his comment that pumping £435 billion into the economy via QE is really only the thin end of a monetary wedge which has defined the past decade. Thanks to this, he avers, the wealthiest 10% of households are £350,000 richer than they would have been. Echoing one of my comments yesterday – perhaps he reads this blog - DQ comments that: As one gazes out upon a country where the gap between young and old is widening, in which it is more difficult than ever to get on to the housing ladder, it is clear we are still living out the consequences of this policy. And he asks: Is it any wonder so many people at the middle and bottom of the income and wealth spectrum are so furious, or that they’ve turned on the centrist politicians who presided over the crisis? The only real surprise is that the very institution most responsible for the wage squeeze and for the jump in the wealth of the top 1% remains as powerful as ever.
  • More here on the implications of the arrest of Fart's personal lawyer.
  • Hard as it might be to believe, I suspect the writer of this article is right to claim that, in the USA: The mainstreaming of the fringe is the political story of the last three decades. It has created an alternate reality that a significant percentage of voters now reside in, one that has no relationship at all to the real world. It’s a world where facts and logic simply do not matter.
Social Media
  • Surely everybody is getting sick and tired of Mr Zuckerberg's endless mea culpas. But you have to admire his attempts to avoid looking smug. Perhaps he'd have had a tougher time with questioners aged less than 60 and who knew at least something about social media and how it works.
  • Galicia's tax office is slowly hauling itself into the 21st century. When I came here, 17 years ago, the official value of one's house – in the Catastral register – bore little relationship to its market value. Which cost them a lot of money, as municipal taxes were based on the former – lower – value. But this was an obvious thing to rectify in the state's desperate search for post-boom replacement revenue. And so it happened. But not only that . . . Armed with the modern technology of drones, the local tax office has discovered, in the Pontevedra province alone, 64,000 undeclared-but-taxable properties. Most of them extensions, I believe. No one can argue with this, of course, but it's to be hoped that the tax office, as it modernises both itself and the system, becomes rather more 'principled' than it has been to date. And accepts, for example, that the Modelo 720 law of 2012 is as illegal as Brussels says it is. Rather than appealing the judgment and continuing to apply it over the next 5-10 years of judicial process. And then not paying back the fines illegitimately levied. Well, hoping is free.
  • Good to know, perhaps, the city of Pontevedra is to get its second Boorgher Keeng, albeit on the outskirts of town, near to (I guess) the one MacDonalds we have. The pioneer BK, sadly, is right in the centre of town. Albeit almost discreet.
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 11.4.18


The Brussels empire is collapsing before our eyes - but Remainiacs just don't see it: Gwythian Prins, Emeritus Research Professor at the LSE

There are two strange things about ‘remainiacs’ – the self-important 5% of the country who are trying to halt Brexit. The first is well known. It is their disrespect for the biggest winning democratic vote for any issue or any government in British history.  But the second is not. This is their weird attitude to the EU. Their frantic ‘virtue-signalling’ finds all fault with Britain and none with the unelected Brussels machine in our mud-wrestling ‘negotiation’ to leave.

But what is the actual state of health of this institution to which they would keep Britain shackled in a ‘Hotel California’ Brexit – one where you can check out anytime but you just can’t leave?

I am an historian and cultural anthropologist, so I decided to compare the EU to similar complex social systems in the past, using the academic tools of my trade. My main finding should worry Mr Selmayr, the German uber-bureaucrat who just took effective charge of the EU in a surgical coup d’état last month. And it should reassure everyone who voting to leave the EU in 2016.

By getting out now we may just avoid the cliff-edge of major crisis in the EU. And the ‘remainiacs’ just don’t see it. If we apply a famous technique for analysing the risk of collapse in complex societies to the EU, we find that it is squarely within the zone of that risk.  How so?

First, we have to identify what sort of institution the EU is. Well, it looks like an empire. It walks like an empire. It certainly talks like an empire - listen to Mr Tusk. It treats its subjects like an empire. They grumble rebelliously, as vassal-states do. Its rulers, the Brussels elite, feather their nests just like their predecessors in function did in the USSR. In 2007 the President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso actually called it an empire. I think we may safely say that the EU is an empire. And empires collapse. Is this one facing that risk? And if it is, how would we know?

The leading methodology today for analysing the risk of collapse in empires was first used by an American archaeologist in a comprehensive review of mainly ancient empires. He borrowed it from the world of finance and adapted it to measure the perceived marginal benefit that you either do - or do not - get if you increase the complexity of a social structure. Professor Tainter’s point is that empires are only strong when the benefits from increasing complexity are positive. It is when more complexity yields less benefit that an empire enters the zone of risk of collapse.

So I ran the detailed history of the European ‘project’ through this methodology and the results show pretty clearly that since the introduction of the Euro, the ‘project’ has been badly on the slide. What’s happening? Across the EU – not just in Britain – we, the peasants, are revolting!

The facts are stark. In referenda and increasingly in national elections too, since Denmark and Sweden rejected the Euro, we have had almost twenty years of rejection after rejection of the EU’s wishes by the people.

The premature introduction of the Euro to try to force the pace towards political union was the Federalists greatest mistake. It infected the entire ‘project’ with a wasting disease that remorselessly destroys its legitimacy. The next crisis was 2005/6 when the Dutch and the French rejected the ‘EU Constitution’ only for it to be rammed through as the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish bridled, so they had to be whipped over the fence at the second attempt. The Brussels elite reran referenda when they could because they believe their own Vanguard Myth which tells them they know best. Or, in 2015, they simply ignored the Greek referendum and imposed even harsher terms on this troublesome colony.

The biggest cluster-crisis started then, grew with Brexit and Germany’s immigration crisis. The revolts in Italy and now in Hungary are just the latest and possibly most threatening. All this evidence of citizen rejection while Brussels responds with further bureaucratic complexity, has plainly taken the EU into the Zone of Risk of Collapse where it now stands.

In order to deter any other prospective escapees, Brussels is shaky but defiant, bullying, hoping to dishearten the British (some hope!), intent on punishing us for taking back control. Hardly a sign of self-confidence. Across the EU, the cost in terms of alienation mounts as citizens, resentful of being treated so contemptuously, rationally choose less complexity at the national level. Less complexity is no catastrophe. It’s the historical norm. And that’s the key.

If people don’t regard an empire’s power as legitimate, they rebel. Empires are like Peter Pan’s fairy friend Tinkerbell. They can only live if all the children clap. And across Europe, the people aren’t clapping any more. This empire is collapsing before our eyes but it’s no crisis for the ‘Brexiteer’ Many, only for the ‘remainiac’ Few.

The Government should understand this evidence. We are by far the stronger party facing this rickety EU. Stop being so timid. Thank goodness that ordinary people had to good sense to get us out in the nick of time.

Gwythian Prins is Emeritus Research Professor at the LSE. His report is published on the university-based website ‘Briefings for Brexit’ set up by academics who back the majority decision to leave the EU.


Perry said...


The Article deserved a wider audience & is now comment 429 at with H/T link to your blog.

Colin Davies said...

Manyt thanks, Perry.