Trade Negotiations

trade

In trade negotiations, the larger party generally has an advantage. That’s why Britain is better off in the EU.

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May’s Brilliant Brexit Plan Revealed

tintin

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Idiocracy is true, apparently

Natural selection making ‘education genes’ rarer, says Icelandic study:

A study from Iceland is the latest to raise the prospect of a downwards spiral into imbecility. The research from deCODE, a genetics firm in Reykjavik, finds that groups of genes that predispose people to spend more years in education became a little rarer in the country from 1910 to 1975.

But the genes involved in education affected fertility too. Those who carried more “education genes” tended to have fewer children than others. This led the scientists to propose that the genes had become rarer in the population because, for all their qualifications, better educated people had contributed less than others to the Icelandic gene pool.

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Europe in Crisis

Edward Lucas says Europe is in crisis on every front:

“Europe” is not a monolith. It comprises several overlapping entities.

There is “Freemovementland” – the passport-free travel area that stretches from the Greek islands to the north of Norway. There is “Frontlineland” – the countries which fear Russian meddling and aggression. There is “Euroland” – the countries which use the common currency. And there is “Singlemarketland” – the area governed by the guardians in Brussels who try to guarantee the free movement of goods and capital, and prohibit protectionism and cartels.

There are two important things to know about these entities. The first is that all straddle the familiar categories of European Union and Nato. Finland, Sweden and Ukraine, for example, are in Frontlineland but not in Nato. Norway is in Frontlineland, Freemovementland and Singlemarketland, but not in the EU.

The second is that all these entities are beset by woes which are going to worsen in 2017.

Euroland is in the biggest pickle. A common currency is a splendid idea. It intensifies competition and cuts transaction costs – but only when the economies taking part are similar, or already converging fast.

Instead, the euro was used as a means to encourage convergence. A hard monetary constraint, the theory went, would encourage low-productivity, slow-growing economies like Italy and Greece to modernise and reach German standards.

Predictably in hindsight, that didn’t happen. Barred from its usual route to maintaining competitiveness – devaluing the lira – Italy was imprisoned in an iron triangle, with a fixed exchange rate and little room for expansionary fiscal policy. Debts ballooned; output stagnated.

Greece went on a borrowing binge which has left the country bankrupt. Cyprus was toppled by its penchant for highly leveraged offshore banking. Portugal, similarly uncompetitive, has had a decade of stagnation.

The price is not just lost output: millions of young Europeans have had their twenties and thirties blighted by lack of opportunity: living at home and working in dead-end jobs when they should be starting careers and families.

Germany has been the big short-term beneficiary of this. The D-Mark should have soared against other European currencies, reflecting Germany’s formidable productivity and competitiveness. Instead exchange rates stayed low: a huge disguised subsidy to German exporters.

Moreover, German savers sought high returns by lending to dodgy borrowers in southern Europe. The price is that Germany now has a soft currency: to stave off disaster in the south (and to prop up the German banking system) the European Central Bank has printed trillions of euros in a way that the Bundesbank would have never countenanced.

People are fed up with this, and with the smug attitude of the Euroland elite, which insists that everything is going to be fine.

Singlemarketland, too, is in trouble. Donald Trump has made protectionism and interventionism respectable, even fashionable. Globalisation is out of fashion. Britain – one of the strongest champions of competition policy – is leaving. Voters want their national governments to do more to prevent jobs flowing abroad, to prop up national champions and to lessen economic uncertainty.

Again, people are fed up not only with their situation, but with the smug attitude of the Singlemarketland elite, which insists that everything is going to be fine.

Freemovementland is also badly off. Abolishing national borders works brilliantly if the external frontier is properly secured, if the countries are of broadly similar standards of living, and if law enforcement can act smoothly and swiftly across the old national borders.

In Europe, none of those conditions apply. The external frontier – notably in the Mediterranean, but also with Turkey – is porous. Standards of living vary hugely, meaning that destitute Roma from eastern Europe can legally move to rich countries where their lives will be better, but where their chances of finding lawful employment and harmonious neighbourly relations are slim. And cross-border policing is hampered by strict rules on privacy and data-sharing.

Unsurprisingly, people are fed up with this, and with the smug attitude of the Freemovementland elite, which insists that everything is going to be fine.

It is Frontlineland, however, that faces the most dramatic danger. Vladimir Putin is on a roll. He has used the Syria conflict to show that Russia is once again a force to be reckoned with, able to project force beyond its borders.

He has successfully wooed Turkey – and is drooling at the prospect of Mr Trump in the White House. The president-elect believes diplomacy is about deals, not alliances. He reveres strength. He wants to make repairing relations with Russia a hallmark policy of his first months in office.

The states in Frontlineland tremble at this prospect. Nato is essentially a bluff: it relies on adversaries believing that an attack on any member of the alliance will invoke the wrath of the others, particularly the United States.

Mr Trump’s scornful remarks about allies, and his gushing admiration for Mr Putin, shreds the credibility of that bluff. Ukraine and Georgia will be the first victims: America under Mr Trump will drop sanctions and accept, de facto if not de jure, Russian sovereignty over Crimea. Further Nato enlargement will be ruled out.

That is terrible news for Sweden and Finland, which have always assumed that if they needed to join the alliance, they could.

Most dangerous of all, a Russian-American deal will demoralise the Baltic states – the weakest and most exposed members of Nato. Mr Putin does not want to conquer these countries; but he would like to subvert them. That would neatly shred Nato’s credibility and pave the way for a new European great power politics, in which Russia could play a full role.

People in Frontlineland are pretty fed up with this too. They wonder why they trusted Nato. In countries such as Hungary, some policymakers think it may be better to do a deal with Mr Putin while the terms are good, rather than wait for them to worsen.

At least on this issue, some decision-makers are no longer smug. In the dying days of his presidency, Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia which he should have slapped on eight years previously. Britain is belatedly waking up, as is Germany.

But in many countries, especially in southern Europe, the mood is still astonishingly complacent.

Timid, deluded and divided, Europe’s different entities are facing disaster. Yet the European ruling elites have missed countless chances to avert it.

And they are so convinced of their own rightness, and of their right to rule, that they show no sign of changing course – or of listening to the rumble of the approaching tumbrils.

Everything is not going to be fine.

Indeed it isn’t, and Europe’s leaders need to wake up to the threats that assail them.

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Eric Raymond on the Democratic Party

Eric Raymond thinks the Democrats are a mess, and that’s not good for America.

I emphasize that I am not issuing an ideological prescription here. I am not arguing in this essay that the present Democratic platform and strategy is wrong in an abstract moral sense, but rather that that it has become suicidal practical politics.

The most obvious thing is that you have to stop contemptuously dismissing the largest single demographic segment of the American electorate. Because believe me, they noticed. So did their wives and children.

This has larger implications than you may yet understand. It’s not just that you need to take any Democrat who uses the phrase “angry white men” out to the woodshed and beat him or her with a strap until he/she wises up. The whole apparatus of racial and ethnic identity politics is turning in your hand, reversing (like your old-media dominance) from an asset to a liability.

(Just to drive the point home, the gender card doesn’t work any more either. Trump is a feminist’s worst nightmare. He won anyway. He came close enough to winning the entire female vote to trigger bitter post-election denunciations of American women in general by feminists – which pretty much epitomizes the sort of reaction that isn’t going to help you.)

Your best plausible case is that the minority groups you counted on passively fail to add up to a winning coalition, as they did this cycle. Your worst – and increasingly likely – case is that white people now begin voting as something like an ethnic bloc. This is, after all, how you’ve been teaching other ethnic groups to play the game since the 1960s.

You will not prevent this development by screaming “racism!”. Here’s a hot tip: people you dismiss as retrograde scum will not, in general, vote for you. In fact, one of the things you Democrats most urgently need to do is banish “racism” and “sexism” from your political vocabulary.

While these words point at some real problems, they are also a trap. They lead you to organize your political pitch around virtue-signaling, exclusion and demonization. That, in turn, can be successful (though repulsive) politics when it’s used against a minority to mobilize a majority or plurality. But you’re in the opposite situation now. You were trapped by your own privilege theory. You demonized a plurality of American voters, and in return they gave you Trump.

If you continue to do this, you will lose.

I largely agree with this analysis. ESR concludes:

You Democrats don’t just need to reform [your gun policy and] your rhetoric about racism and sexism, you need to reform your attitude towards the voters to a place from which your present rhetoric looks as vicious and absurd as it does to them.

This is spot on.

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Maths Teacher

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Donald Trump Will Win the Election*

* as predicted by my cat Caligula.

In more detail, Caligula is predicting that it will look like Clinton is winning as the first results come in, but eventually it will be a Trump victory.

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