Tag: Europe


Can someone clever PLEASE explain what is going on here?

Over the weekend, US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner called on countries running trade surpluses – which includes Germany – to increase their spending.

Tim Geithner? You can’t get much higher in responsibility for the US economy, yet he comes out with what to the layman seems an absolutely insane statement.

Germany is ALSO heavily in debt. The German coalition government has just announced a “Sparprogram” of €80 BILLION euros. Families, the unemployed and the civil service are all going to be hammered.

Germany like everyone else has overspent and of course been hit by the bankers’ insane greed and the ensuing financial crisis. (By the way, the latter was a total breakdown by regulators and if Obama really wants to rant at someone he should rant at the people responsible for organising the regulation of finance in the USA … oopps …. that was the politicians! No wonder BP makes an easier target.)

Tim Geithner

But returning to Geithner, does he REALLY think that we can get out of this mess by Germany getting more heavily into debt? It’s potty, isn’t it? Someone said recently “You don’t give a drunk more alcohol.”

Someone, somewhere, someone has got to say “ENOUGH – NO MORE DEBT” And anyway, why SHOULD Germans be expected to shoulder the responsibility for everyone else?

No Mr Geithner! Your government can continue to spend money it hasn’t got if you like (the US up to a $ trillion of debt now?) , but please leave us over here in Europe to sort this mess out in our own way. You are beginning to sound like ex- (God, how I love that prefix) British PM Gordon Brown, who spent 13 years playing Fantasy Finance, with the results all too clear.

Maybe I’ve got this all wrong – salvation really does come by incurring ever more debt? If so, perhaps the economists can explain it to me.  Can we find two economists who agree?

The funny thing is, my Mum and my Gran both agree. In their day if you overspent you were in trouble and could neither blame anyone else nor hope that some benevolent soul would bail you out …. perhaps they should be running western economies?

By Chris Snuggs

Laughing as you sink!

John Clarke and Bryan Dawe on the million dollar questions – courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

This sketch is doing the rounds and deservedly so – it’s a very funny skit on Europe’s troubling financial situation.

As ex-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, is reputed to have quoted, “The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other peoples money.

By Paul Handover

Euro Crisis Master Plan

STOP PRESS – Now we have a Master Plan!

EU Foreign Ministers meet to draw up a policy re euro crises.

Herman Van Rompuy

European Council President Mr Herman Van Rompuy (aren’t we so lucky to have yet another tier of vastly-expensive management – a President of a country that doesn’t even exist?) said: “Everyone shares the will to go forward together”.

Indeed. It would be rather strange if one or more didn’t share “the will” and preferred to go backwards. But going forwards together infers at the same speed and in the same direction.

The Meeting drew up this plan of action.

  • greater budgetary discipline (will you tell France and almost every other country that never stuck to the 3% budget deficit or shall I?)
  • find ways to reduce the divergences in competitiveness between member states (so German IS going to take over Greece then? What fails in war can be achieved in the economy.)
  • establish an effective economic crisis management mechanism (you mean, prepare to borrow billions more to bail out those who fail in the above two areas?)
  • strengthen economic governance to be able to act quicker and in a more coordinated and efficient manner to deal with any future economic crises (yes, you could get a bit more efficient  than ignoring the rules for 10 years – certainly scope for improvement there.)

Is there any way not to be simultaneously cynical and depressed about Europe at the moment?

By Chris Snuggs

Merkel loses the Plot

This beats the annual Christmas Pantomime

Well, every day the eurofarce gets more surreal. Yesterday, Frau Merkel said this:

“The current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced in decades. If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”

What on earth does she mean by “Europe fails”? Why this recourse to sensationalism?

If the euro is sinking it is because people don’t think it is serious. If that is the

Two happy leaders!!

case, the only thing to do is MAKE it serious. This is not to be done by borrowing EVEN MORE money.

In the worst-case scenario (which Merkel’s antics are rapidly talking us into) the euro collapses and we go back to our old currencies. This would be a failure of the EURO, not of EUROPE.

Germany would return to being the economic powerhouse of Europe under the strong Deutschmark. Italy, Greece and other usual suspects would return to their quaint old ways with frequent devaluations.

So what? Better to be honest than go on suffering from a vast ego-bubble that will inevitably collapse in an explosion of hubris. (Thank you for the vocabulary, dear Greeks)

Read the rest of this Post

Greek Farce: Act III, Scene I

Greeks taking farce to new heights


Well, Ancient Greeks used to have tragedies; modern ones are better at farce, and so the “Shall we bung Greece billions of taxpayers’ money or not” farce rumbles on ….

It seems that the rising cost of borrowing for Greeks plus various warnings from people like George Soros about the possible collapse of the euro have pushed the EU (and in particular Germany) down a path they would have preferred not to go.

A vast loan at 5% has been offered, which is substantially below what the Greeks were having to pay before. So, crisis over? They can sleep well in Brussels again?

Errrmmmm …… hands up those who think Greece will ever be able to repay this money? Oh, at the time of writing (Monday 12th April) they haven’t yet ASKED for the money …. it really IS a farce rather than a tragedy, isn’t it?

Is there anyone on the planet who thinks they WON’T have to take the money? That they can get out of this mess WITHOUT it? No, nobody, except perhaps (as I speak) the Greek government itself. Well, they got the country into this humungous shambles in the first place so you’d hardly expect them to know what to do about getting out of it. This of course is in sharp contrast to the British government, which claims it is the ONLY party that can get out of the mess it itself created.

The reaction of German and British taxpayers to the bailing out of Greece (even though technically speaking it hasn’t yet occurred) is not yet clear ……. Neither is that of the other group of PIGS (Portugal, Italy and Spain). Incidentally, I am not sure how close the UK is to becoming a member of this rather grisly club, but as the country is still borrowing vast amounts at every tick of the clock it can’t be far off qualifying for full membership.

I did see a calculation this morning that the British taxpayer (I refuse to say government; all they do is pass on OUR money) will have to cough up around £600 million to help save Greece.

Of course, in return the Greeks will immediately start working as long and hard as we do, collecting taxes as efficiently as we do and avoiding corruption as well as we do. Yes, I am reporting from cloud-cuckoo land.

Well, we seem to be around Act III, Scene I in this farce, so there is plenty more entertainment yet to come, no doubt some of it tragic.

Today’s quiz question: What have lazy, corrupt, inefficient little countries in common with large, obscenely-rich banks? Answer -> They can’t be allowed to fail and some poor, hard-working mutt somewhere is going to have to bail them out, not that he’ll have any choice in the matter, this all being decided by the Great and Good (and Rich) in some posh office somewhere far away.

What you once couldn’t have made up now seems an almost daily occurrence.

By Chris Snuggs

Burning the Bridges in Europe

A very far-sighted view of European collaboration from 12 years ago!

Once again, Learning from Dogs welcomes a guest post from Per Kurowski.

Per Kurowski


I was intrigued by a recent Post on Learning from Dogs entitled Poor Old Europe.  It included two commentaries from elsewhere about the state of Europe and how the feeling of trying to force, politically, very disparate countries together was still ever so dominant.  It reminded me of an article that I wrote for my own Blog nearly 12 years ago just before the Euro came into effect.  Reading it today is interesting, to say the least.

In just a few weeks, on the 1st of January 1999, eleven European countries will forsake the right to issue their own currency and accept the circulation within their boundaries of a common currency, the Euro. Monetary policy related to the Euro will be set by a European Central Bank. One fact that struck me as curious is that in all the abundant legislation that regulates this process, there is no mention whatsoever of how to manage the withdrawal or future regret of any of the union’s members.

The absence of alternatives in this case evidently represents a burning of the bridges, but this may be necessary to achieve credibility. There is no turning back and there is no doubt that this is a truly historical moment. As participants in a globalized world in which Europe has an important role, we must naturally wish all members luck, no matter what worries we might secretly harbor.

Until 1971, all money used throughout the history of humanity was backed in one way or another by something physical to which a real value was attributed. Sometimes the backing was direct, pearls for example, while in other cases it was indirect such as the right to exchange bills for a certain quantity of gold.

This physical backing in itself did not necessarily mean it consisted of something of fixed value. The value of a pearl, for example, is in itself subjective. The promise to exchange bills for gold did not guarantee anything either, since this promise could easily be voided by fraud. Whatever the backing was, however, it did at least offer the holder of the money the illusion that it was supported by something concrete.

In 1971, the United States formally abandoned the gold standard and the direct backing, however imaginary, disappeared. Since the Dollar is a legal currency, it could always be used to repay Dollar denominated debt. Today, however, in spite of the fact that the Dollars may have lost some of their purchasing power, a holder of excess Dollars can only hope that the Government of the United States will exchange his old bills for new ones of the same tenor.

This apparently precarious situation must be the raison d’etre of the motto printed clearly on the bills which states “In God We Trust”.

Since 1971, the real value of the Dollar as an element of exchange, has lost some of its value due to inflation. Today, we would need many more Dollars to buy the same houses, cars, movie tickets and gold than we would have needed in 1971. In spite of the above, with few exceptions such as the end of the ‘70s during which inflation increased dramatically, few would dare qualify the United States’ elimination of the gold standard as a failure.

The world’s economies have managed to increase international commerce drastically and with it, sustain a healthy growth rate. Many analysts would explain this phenomenon by saying that the discipline exacted by the gold standard represented a brake on international commerce. The growth rate registered in commerce after 1971 was the result of the release of this brake. Other more critical analysts sustain the thesis that, due to the fact that we have abandoned the discipline required by the gold standard, the world has accumulated gigantic accounts payable, which we may be coming due very soon.

I personally swing back and forth between amazement of the fact that the world has accepted such a fragile system and satisfaction that it actually has done so.

The Euro has one characteristic that differentiates it from the Dollar. This characteristic makes me feel less optimistic as to its chances of success. The Dollar is backed by a solidly unified political entity, i.e. the United States of America. The Euro, on the other hand, seems to be aimed at creating unity and cohesion. It is not the result of these.

The possibility that the European countries will subordinate their political desires to the whims of a common Central Bank that may be theirs but really isn’t, is not a certainty. Exchange rates, while not perfect, are escape valves. By eliminating this valve, European countries must make their economic adjustments in real terms. This makes these adjustments much more explosive. High unemployment will not be confronted with a devaluation of the currency which reduces the real value of salaries in an indirect manner, but rather with a direct and open reduction of salaries or with an increase of emigration to areas offering better possibilities.

What worries me most is the timing. The world is facing the possibility of a global recession. This will require very flexible economic and monetary policies. The fact that the search for initial credibility for the Euro is based on trying to assure markets around the world that the new currency will be guided by a philosophy closer to that of Bonn than that of Rome, probably goes against the best interests of the world.

Published in Daily Journal, Caracas, November 19, 1998

By Per Kurowski

The USA v Europe? Objectivity v Prejudice

The honourable practice of in-depth debate


Sherry Jarrell wrote a response on the 6th November to the idea posed earlier by John Lewis about consumer protection for financial products. Her words included the sentence, “The reason the U.S. economy is as strong and vibrant as it is is because of our labor market, our capital market, and free enterprise.

This, in turn, was picked up by Patrice Ayme who referred to this in a recent Post on his own Blog and also submitted a long comment in Sherry’s Post.  Rather than have a debate within the comments section of Sherry’s Post it seemed better to make it a separate Post.  As Patrice compared the USA unfavourably to France, where he presently is, it seemed appropriate for me to contribute my thoughts, as I lived and worked in France for many years.  Chris Snuggs.

What follows is now my response to Patrice, with Patrice’s words in bold:

It may be argued that the worldwide power of USA based corporations, and supply chains directed towards the USA, go a long way to explain the riches of said USA. Cause and effect confusion, no? The supply chains and military power came from the business, not the other way round!

In any case, the assertion that the “US economy is strong and vibrant” needs to be stridently revised. So Sherry is asserting that at the present time! I personally am still giving Obama some more time for a final judgement. At least he’s got his health bill through (unlike the  Clintons) which may help to remove a national disgrace in the US. As for “strong and vibrant”, experts can better comment than I, but from where I sit it is of course nonsense. What IS true is that the US economy has fantastic underlying strength, but what you have at the moment is a stupendously productive cow that is on its knees, having been over-milked and basically abused. Do you really doubt that once it gets up, it will once again surge ahead?

California, where everything seems, weak, decaying, falling apart, and crucial elements of society seem on their way out. I can’t argue with your local knowledge (though other locals may have something to say!), but I did spend a week in NW New Jersey some 15 years ago, when I went to stay with my au-pair daughter. I was staggered at the reality of New York compared to the image. It was clean, well-organised, and stupendous. The taxis seemed new, Liberty and Ellis Islands were sublimely well-done. Central Park was amazing; Harlem looked to me far nicer place to live than Brixton in London. True, I didn’t get to visit the Bronx …..

The train we came from Edison into New York Central seemed to be made out of stainless steel. We went on a tour to Atlantic City, then Washington, West Virginia, Gettysburg. Everywhere we met wonderful, friendly, courteous people, excellent value for money. The White House was amazing; I remember some kids playing street hockey in front of it.

My overwhelming impression was one of deep, genuine human values and a terrific interest in quality in all respects. No doubt all is not rosy in all the USA; it is a vast country, but let’s not carried away by our “Europe is better” illusions, shall we? Have you been to the satellite towns round Paris recently?

The French built the world’s tallest bridge in three years, a few years ago, with a freeway on top (the five kilometer long Viaduc de Millaut, built by Vinci, a private contractor). The French have great engineers. Who denies it? But the USA has some of the world’s most amazing bridges, skyscrapers, buildings …. do you deny THAT? I am not sure of your point. What DOES seem to me true is that many people, many States, many countries and the Human Race as a whole are LIVING BEYOND THEIR MEANS.

This is true of the British government and clearly of California as a State …. it has been technically bust for years and is now approaching the precipice I believe ….. Sadly, it is only when the depths have been plummeted that people come to their senses and start to put things right …. I believe the Yanks can do this, but the process hasn’t really started yet.

The bridge elements were built in France, on the spot, not in China. Industry is not all about financial tricks to make Wall Street critters richer, it’s also about common sense. You can’t lump all American business along with the crass, incompetent and venal bankers. Yes, America has relied too much on cheap, Asian imports, but then so have we all. This will even itself out ….. what you should be worried about is that the Chinese are starting to build their own machine tools and robots …… how is the French robot industry? Probably at least better than the British …. thank God at least that we have the Germans in Europe.

The USA has become increasingly an unreal place which has frequently assigned other parts to war. The USA as “Warmonger”? Oh Dear ……

  • It got sucked into World Wars I & II – (both started in and by Europe) and in both cases saved Europe from dictatorship.
  • It defended Europe during the Cold War and without this help we may well have been overrun by the Soviet Union. Even WITH their defence it was sometimes a very close thing.
  • It defended South Korea and at enormous sacrifice saved the people there from 50 years of horrendously-gruesome dictatorship, which is what they have in the North, where the scale of human misery over decades is frightful.
  • It tried to do the same in Vietnam, but failed. The consequences there have not been so terrible as in North Korea, but who can predict these things in advance?
  • It has notoriously defended some very indefensible regimes in South America, partly because of the belief that the alternative to these horrible regimes was something even more horrible and partly to promote economic and political interests it had there. With hindsight, democracy would have been better served by it staying out.
  • It even – and inexcusably – supported Sadaam Hussein’s murderous attack on Iran to the point – I believe, but am prepared to stand corrected – where it gave Iraq military intelligence it used to gas young Iranians. Once again, it supported what it believed at the time to be the lesser of two evils; one can hardly deny that Iran is a basket case; the antithesis of democracy and ruled by a bunch of ageing lunatic fundamentalists.
  • It is in Afghanistan because an act of war against the WHOLE planet (I believe innocent citizens of over 70 countries died in the Twin Towers) was committed by a terrorists aided and abetted by that country’s then government. Once again, this is a case of the lesser of two evils; we are inevitably supporting a corrupt government (since practically all governments are corrupt, particularly in non-democratic and developing countries) against an evil, nihilistic and basically lunatic sect, the Taliban. Incidentally, if the Allies are struggling, it is because the rest of the world is doing little to help the forces of good against those of evil. Including, once again, France but excluding the usual suspects, the Brits, Canadians and the Germans (sort of) –  If the Taliban take over again, prepare once more for video of beheadings on football fields converted into “correction facilities”, the burning of libraries, the denial of education to women, the burning of books, paintings and music media and all the rest of it. If we have to leave, it is going to be very, very distressing for ordinary people there.
  • It invaded Iraq because that country’s leader was a megalomaniac dictator who had already started one war against Iran, invaded Kuwait, not stuck to the deal drawn up after Kuwait and was attempting to develop nuclear weapons. This last point can be debated endlessly, but the facts are that he was not cooperating with the IAEA inspectors, had in previous years been trying to develop WOMD and when none materialised during the invasion even his own troops were astonished that they had nothing, so good was his own propaganda and perhaps fantasy. Saddam Hussein was a mass-murdering, megalomaniac dictator and that France – so keen on doing business with SH before the invasion – should so long and loudly campaign against the so-called warmongering Americans who in fact liberated (a bit of a habit of theirs) Iraq from their gruesome leader is really a great shame from a country that itself had to use force to rid itself of dictatorship in the Revolution and therefore – until recently – was widely admired as a symbol of freedom. Now it is a symbol of realpolitik.

The Americans almost always defend democracy; that should make them the bosom allies of France. They saved France TWICE (quite apart from 200 million Russians and all the rest of us); that should make them the ETERNAL friends of France.

Now the long term, sustainable, much more democratic European model is rising. That is an assertion of yours. We’ll see how long-term and sustainable the European model really is. Some would say it is over-bureaucratic, over-dogmatic, and lacking in moral and physical courage. You may have forgotten that it was the YANKS (at no real advantage to themselves) who liberated Kosovo, a defenceless Muslim minority. It helps little to see all this in black and white; Europe has many great virtues, but for your description, the jury is out in terms of a flourishing civilisation as against a supposedly decomposing American fading dream.

“much more democratic”? When a European country votes against a Brussels treaty (they can rarely vote, of course), the Brusselcrats just wait a while and get them to vote again till the “right” decision is made. The British were promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty by its government, which then refused it. The recent treaty has gone through WITHOUT referendums in most countries, because that suited the political elites there. “Much more democratic”? You are having a laugh, aren’t you?

I would guess that a majority of people DO NOT WANT a European President. They DO NOT WANT a United States of Europe, but that is what Brussels is slowly forcing on them. I am surprised that France seems to want that. This is possibly because it still thinks it can control the EU just as it did in the early days; this could be an illusion.

“the decomposing system in the USA.” – I believe that a study of the history of the USA will show a country prepared to reinvent itself through the dynamism and inventiveness of its people and its work ethic. They are going through tough times – and they will get tougher – because the political and business elite got too greedy and forgot the basic virtues of thrift, hard-work, decency and honesty that made the country great. But the pendulum will swing back and then Europe may have to look to its sclerotic, over-regulated business model to see where it went wrong.

It may be time for the USA to learn, from overseas. Are you suggesting that European banks were somehow blameless in this fiasco? The rot may have started in the USA, but there were plenty of stupid and greedy bankers in Europe, and of course governments benefiting from this temporary and insane feeding frenzy.  I see no particular signs that Europe is developing a banking model that will stun the world with its integrity and efficiency. The whole of Britain’s economy was built on the sands of easy credit during the 90s, and the greatest of ironies is that the British Finance Minster responsible for all that is now lecturing the rest of the world as a so-called “Global Giant” on how to put things right. You couldn’t make it up, except that with successive supine, incompetent and short-termist European governments, we are so used to it that we know what’s going to happen almost before it does.

By “we” of course, I mean the mass of the people, who often seem to me to have far more common sense than the political heavyweights of Europe that seem to impress you.

If the “game” organized by the government is biased in favor of a few particular individuals (as it is right now in the USA, be those individuals private-public politicians, or Big Bankers, friends and clients of the preceding, and vice versa), what has happened to democracy, equal opportunity, freedom and the like?

Yes, a good question …… Democracy is in pain … the industrial, military, political power elite in the USA has too much power ….. this is obvious to me, but we’ll have to wait and see when it becomes so obvious to the people of the USA that they start to put it right. They voted for Obama in the hope that he WOULD start to put this right …… the jury is still out, but real change certainly won’t come overnight …..

As for the favoured elite, are you implying that this doesn’t exist in France? I am sorry to say that it is not only existent but thriving …. Many of the top people all go to the same few Grandes Ecoles.  Someone told me recently that 30% of the French education budget is spent on just 4% of the elite schools. Hence the decaying, inefficient, sub-standard university education for the plebs. And this is from France, that likes to think itself superior in culture, education and so on. YES, there are world class French companies with brilliant engineers, but they train at super-privileged schools while the masses put up with a sclerotic, conservative and basically crap education system. I should know; my stepsons are in it because I couldn’t afford the fees for a posh school.

On French coins it proudly boasts, “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”. It is a LIE. There is little equality when it comes to higher education. And when the elite get their fancy diplomas, most are recruited by Old Boys of their elite schools; the cronyism and inherent corruption are easily as bad as anything in the USA, so let’s not get too self-righteous, shall we?

The elite? When Chirac became President, he said that the exaggerated power of the ENA (the top school for Administrators of the French state) would be cut back as it was not good for France. He was right, but did nothing whatsoever about it. He either lied or couldn’t deliver against the powerful vested interests, and by golly those are just as powerful in France as anywhere else. More so; they are completely institutionalised. I can’t list one single profound, structural reform that Chirac achieved.

Take just ONE small example. They have a lunatic system of taxi-licences in Paris. Basically, you buy your licence to run a taxi from an existing driver who retires or dies, the current price being about €100,000 ($148,000). Paris has the fewest proportion of taxis to people in the whole of Europe, I believe, but they can’t issue more licences or the price of licences would fall and the taxi-drivers would be cross. So when you arrive in Paris A) there aren’t enough taxis and B) those there are cost too much.

The dying embers of Chirac’s lame-duck administration tried to reform this, but the taxi-drivers instantly blocked the peripherique and the reform was abandoned just as instantly. Not for nothing do they say in France: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Democracy, the Law and Equality? Before becoming President, Chirac ran Paris for 15 years and it is common knowledge that there was a whole raft of illegal activities going on to finance his party; fictitious jobs, diversion of funds and in general a regime of corrupt political chicanery, cronyism and corruption. This was kinda tolerated by the French people because, well, “c’est comme ça”. One is so used to it one can only shrug one’s shoulders. At last, nearly two decades after Chirac ceased to be Mayor of Paris, he is about to appear in court for the crimes that occurred under his leadership. He couldn’t be prosecuted while President because the French President is “too important” and is therefore above the law. Let’s compare that to the USA, shall we, where wrong-doing by Nixon drove him out of office? The Clinton affair was ludicrous nastiness by the Republicans, but shows at least that the Americans put the law above politicians, not the reverse. “Egalité”? The French Presidency (which is even more elitist and powerful than the Washington version) is currently reeling under allegations of nepotism ionvolving Sarkozy’s son Jean. Not yet fully qyualified, he was earmarked to run a prestigious multi-million project at “La Défencé until even the French could not stomach it and he was forced to back out.  So let’s not have lectures from France about “democracy”, shall we? There is a world-wide problem of corruption almost everywhere among political leaders (except possibly in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Canada and a few other enclaves of hope), but let’s get the US in perspective.

What sort of integrity was it to give or lend or guarantee to Big Bankers so many trillion of dollars, without anything in return from them? Are the richest people in the USA so used to get money for nothing (thanks to a perverse tax structure, and decades of buying the most powerful politicians), that they cannot even say thank you? It wasn’t any sort of integrity at all; it was panic. But never under-estimate the power of the elite and rich, either in the USA OR in Europe (especially France) . All the banks should have been allowed to go bust and their directors go on the dole. Then the assets would have been bought up by someone else who would have installed new directors and started doing business in a better, wiser way, while we waited for a more efficient regulatory regime. Instead, governments panicked, poured in billions overnight, telling us it was for OUR OWN benefit, allowed most managers responsible for the mess to keep their jobs and – surprise, surprise – a year or so later the banks are at it again with their vast bonuses. It is no wonder the average Joe is mighty angry, and this could have bad consequences down the line, even for democracy itself.

Western, civilisation needs a massive reality check; the mad consumerism – and greed of the elite – have to be checked. ENRON gave us a warning we didn’t heed. There you had directors already rich beyond the dreams of most people and yet who even so wanted more, to the point where they engineered false breakdowns at power-stations to put up the price of electricity. That was a wake-up call that went unheeded as far as Wall Street was concerned.

People with a democratic and republican mind ought to ask these questions, instead of celebrating. Who exactly is celebrating? Seems to me that only those at Goldman Sachs and in comparable positions are celebrating … your average American is suffering, mostly through no fault of his own.  If some are talking up the economy it is of course because morale counts for a lot … I believe that standard economic thinking is that if people feel better they’ll spend more and the economy will grow …..  Well, the people may indeed at some stage “feel better”, but they will need to SEE and EXPERIENCE it rather than believe it in the mouths of pundits, since as far as I can see the average pleb is fed up with “talking”, spin and image.

an incomparable rot.: there is rot, but it is not incomparable. All “empires”, and in its size, wealth and power the US is comparable to an empire (a demopire, perhaps?) go through these cycles, and in many cases they go into terminal decline. However, I believe in the Americans’ inherent qualities to get them out of this, but it will not be easy.

Nobody can predict the future, but I will be very interested to see – if I am still around – how Europe and the USA compare in 20 years’ time. I don’t think I will be surprised, but maybe you will be, Patrice …..

What’s good in France? Technicians are highly-skilled; civil works are good; I mean public gardens, parks, infrastructure. But of course we pay very high taxes for all this, and especially employers. It is so expensive to employ people that employers try not to. Instead, they find ways of working better, which results in the productivity per worker being higher in France than in the US but unemployment in France being persistently higher than almost anywhere else, especially among the youth. Successive governments in France seem not to understand the connection between very high labour costs and high unemployment. Or they understand it and don’t care.

Sorry – this was supposed to be about good things in France!! Well, motorways are very good, but increasingly more expensive. They are much safer, but poor people prefer the normal roads, which are free but more dangerous. Ergo, better-off people are safer!! Vive l’égalité!

Food is excellent, restaurants cheap, except in chic parts of major cities. Wine is cheap. Standards in general are high, healthcare is excellent but the system is creaking under heavy costs. The bureaucracy is appalling for an Anglo-Saxon, but the British are becoming as bad. (French bureaucracy – which I lived under for 10 years – deserves an article of its own …..)

Let’s retain a sense of proportion, however …..

By Chris Snuggs