Get them young: Merkel plans EU education

Pupils should be given a “European Union education” in the classroom to tackle “ignorance” and growing public Euroscepticism, according to an election manifesto signed by Angela Merkel and eight other leaders.

The German chancellor and the leaders of Ireland, Poland, Spain, Hungary, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Latvia were in Dublin to launch a pro-EU, centre-Right manifesto for the European elections in May.The European People’s Party (EPP), a pan-EU political grouping, which David Cameron’s Conservatives left in 2009, will campaign around a 40-page, five-year programme that will aim to transform the EU into “a genuine political union”.

The programme calls for the introduction of “EU education in schools across Europe in order to prepare the next generation for future challenges and to nurture a European approach”.

“Europe has been in crisis for more than five years. Many people, especially the young, do not foresee a positive future. Euroscepticism is growing,” the manifesto said.”United, we can make sure that young people look at the future with optimism, hope and confidence.” Chancellor Merkel was a “strong supporter” of the proposal, said officials, because she believed lessons about the EU would “contribute to a common European identity and knowledge about history”.

The call for a federal Europe and European school lessons will put the Prime Minister at odds with Mrs Merkel, who is regarded as his key ally, and further isolate Britain at a time when other EU countries are seeking closer integration.In contrast to Germany and the bloc of EPP countries wanting “political union”, Mr Cameron is seeking to repatriate powers from Brussels and last year the Government cut references to the EU from the National Curriculum because the lessons were seen as biased.Syed Kamall, the leader of Britain’s Conservative MEPs, said the proposal showed that the Prime Minister had been right to pull the Tories out of the EPP, to set up their own grouping, while he was leader of the opposition five years ago.

“Schools should be quipping students with the skills and knowledge they will need to create a globally competitive Europe fit for the 21st century – not navel-gazing over a 1950s vision of what Europe means,” he said. Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg, was chosen by the EPP to be its leading candidate during the EU elections and as contender to be the next president of the European Commission in October. Mr Juncker, is a passionate supporter of the idea of a “United States of Europe” and chaired meetings of the eurozone at the height the EU single currency’s debt crisis until he resigned as Luxembourg’s leader amid a scandal over illegal phone tapping.

“The knowledge of Europe has to be deepened in school progranimes,” he said. “There is ignorance about the basics and this was evident during the so-called euro crisis.” In 2011, Mr Juncker courted controversy when he was caught on tape saying that he “had to lie” in his role as chairman of the eurozone and that important economic decisions could only be taken in “dark secret rooms”.”I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious,” he said on a video recorded by the EUobserver website. 

“When it becomes serious, you have to lie.”Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party accused the alliance of European leaders of wanting “to squeeze children into a one-size-fits-all scheme of thought”.

Post note: All official ‘histories’ of Europe now refer to the Second World War as “The European Civil War”.– Rev Philip Foster

 

EU calls for Portugal wages to fall by a further 5%

Portugese flag
The European Commission has argued that Portugal needs a further 5% average reduction in wages to ensure a balance between the unemployment rate and wage rates.

Portugal’s government responded by saying that it continued to disagree with that view, arguing that recent increases in exports show that wage adjustment in the private sector has been “sufficient”.

In its report on the 10th regular review of Portugal’s economic and financial assistance programme, released on Thursday, the European Union executive states that “Portugal needs wage moderation sufficient to absorb unemployment” and outlines some estimates.

According to the commission’s calculations, “a reduction of one percentage point in the unemployment rate demands a reduction in real wages of about 2.4%” – which it said means real wages falling 5% if the gap is to be closed between the current jobless rate and that at which wage levels will not lead to new increases in unemployment.

The report notes, however, that its estimates should be viewed “with caution” and that they are “very sensitive to the measure used for productivity”.

The commission stresses the “significant adjustment” made since 2010 in terms of unit labour costs, which have fallen by almost 6% in the private sector over three years. However, it notes that Portugal is losing net foreign investment, meaning that even an improved trade balance is not sufficient to reduce the vulnerability in relation to the global economy.

In response to the commission report, Portugal’s economy minister said that the wage adjustment in the private sector is “sufficient” and that companies’ competitiveness is “well demonstrated” by the increase in exports in recent months. António Pires de Lima was speaking to journalists in a break from a meeting of a council of ministers in Brussels.

“The position of the Portuguese government on this matter is that which it has been defending in the troika’s reviews,” he said. “We believe that the wage adjustment made in the private sector was sufficient through the rules that we implemented in the labour laws.”

Mont Pelerin Society General Meeting Speech: We Are Not on the Winning Side by Václav Klaus

Vaclav KlausI already had a chance to say earlier this week how pleased I am and we all are to host the Mont Pelerin Society General Meeting here in Prague. I hope you have been enjoying your stay.

More then 20 years ago, two years after the fall of communism in this country and this part of the world, we had here the MPS Regional Meeting, in which some of you participated. At
that time, we were in the crucial moments of our radical transition from communism to free society which was in many respects based on the ideas connected with the Mont Pelerin Society. This meeting gave us important moral support and helped us in our efforts to get rid of the past and to build a free society in a MPS sense.

Since then, we have succeeded in changing the country substantially in this direction. As you may see, the Czech Republic has made a visible step forward. Yet, it would be inappropriate to declare victory.

For someone like me, who after the fall of communism actively participated in preparing and organizing radical political and economic changes, the world we live in now is a disappointment. We live in a far more socialist and etatist society than we had then imagined. After the promising beginning, we are in number of respects returning back to the era we used to live in in the past and which we had considered gone once and for all. Let me stress that I do not have in mind this country only but Europe and the whole Western world.

Twenty years ago, it seemed to us that right in front of our eyes a far-reaching shift was taking place on the “oppresion vs. freedom” and the “state vs. market” axis. It was a justified feeling. It was reinforced by the fact that our Velvet Revolution had taken place at a time of the historically unique era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Thanks to them and in the world of ideas thanks to Hayek, Friedman, Stigler and a few others, we believed that capitalism, at least for a certain period of time, succeeded in defending itself against global socialism. People like me knew that these individuals were exceptional and unique, but we did not expect that what they achieved would be so quickly forgotten. We erroneously hoped that the changes that had been taking place at that time were irreversible.

Today, many of us no longer have this feeling; at least I certainly do not. Once again,
almost invisibly and in silence, capitalism and freedom have been weakened. My friend Pascal Salin, a former MPS President, must have had a similar feeling when he in his presidential address in 1996 in Vienna made the following remark: “We are not the winners
of the present time”. In 1996, the fact that we were losing did not seem as obvious to me, as it does today. The system of political freedom and parliamentary democracy was established quickly, thus replacing the former authoritarian, if not totalitarian political regime; the market and private ownership instead of planning started to dominate the economy and overall liberalization, deregulation and de-subsidization took place. The state radically receded in all its roles and the free individual got to the forefront.

Our optimism was based on the strong belief in the power of principles of free society, of free markets, of the ideas of freedom as well as in our ability to promote these ideas. Today, at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, our feeling is different. We ask ourselves: Did we have unreasonable and unjustified illusions? Did we perceive the
world in a wrong way? Were we naive and foolish? Were our expectations mistaken?

These questions deserve serious answers. We could, and may have been wrong, there is no doubt about it, but it was not because we were under any illusions about the West, in particular about Western Europe, about the EU. People like me were not misled by any illusions about a possible convergence of capitalism and socialism, very popular in the West starting in the early 1960s, or by dreams about possible third ways. We rejected those without any hesitation.[1]

We saw a number of things already then, and thanks to our life in communism, we saw them more clearly than some of our friends in the West including those sharing the same political and ideological ideas. Let me start by indicating what we were aware of and afraid of as regards the future already in the communist era.

1. We knew that socialism, or socialdemocratism, or “soziale Marktwirtschaft“ is here, is here to stay and – due to its internal dynamics – will expand.

2. From the turn of the 1960s and 1970s, that is from the establishment of the Club of Rome and its first reports, I became afraid of the green ideology, in which I saw a dangerous alternative to the traditional socialist doctrine. It was evident that it was another radical attempt to change human society. The alleged depletion of natural resources and the so called population bomb were merely a pretence. At that time it was not possible to see the Global Warming Doctrine that arrived later, nor the power and dangers hidden inside it.[2]

3. Even during our life under communism, people like me were aware of the leftism of intellectuals[3] since we had the chance to see for ourselves that it was the intellectuals or their vast majority who served as the main driving force behind communism and doctrines close to it. Authentic representatives of the working class, that is Marx’s proletariat, have never been true believers in communism. Already at that time, I followed with great concern the “excessive production of under-educated intellectuals” that emerged in the West as a result of the rising university education for all. One of its implications was and is the superficiality of public discourse that has reached extraordinary dimensions.

Intellectuals are to a great extent socialists because – as Hayek put it – they are convinced that socialism is a “science applied to all fields of human activity” and thanks to that, it is a system created “exactly for them.” “Intellectuals feel they are the most valuable people”[4] and that is why they do not want to be evaluated by the market, since the market often does not share their high self-evaluation.

4. Socialism (or rather communism, as we say today) has from its very beginning been based on an apotheosis of science and on a firmly rooted hope that science shall solve all existing human and social problems; that is why it is not necessary to change the system. It suffices to make it slightly more enlightened. Our communist experience tells us that this idea is absurd. It did seem to us back then that the West believed in the same fallacy.

We did not believe in the technocratic thinking, in the belief in the rightfulness of science and technology to organize human society. I was not able to appreciate Herman Kahn, Jay W. Forrester, Alvin Toffler (and recently also Max Singer and his book “History of the Future”[5]) because I felt the risk that stems from underestimating social or systemic characteristics of human society by those people and from their unjustified technological optimism, which actually did not differ much from the Marxist doctrine. In this context, I have always had Aldous Huxley and his unsurpassed “Brave New World” as a warning memento in front of my eyes.

We learned a lot from Hayek’s seminal article “The Use of Knowledge in Society”.[6] Whilst socialist ideologues (in the East and also in the West) regarded nothing else but science and other organized and organisable learning as knowledge, we – in line with Hayek – unterstood that the most important knowledge was practical knowledge dispersed within society that people use in their everyday life, and not just write books about. The nowadays so fashionable notion of the “knowledge economy” is empty. Each and every economy in the past has been based on knowledge, what mattered was how the people managed to use it.

These were the main problems I was aware of, but there are issues – as we see them now – that we underestimated or did not see. I will name some of them.

1. We probably did not fully understand the far-reaching implications of the 1960s. This “romantic” era was a period of radical denial of the authority of traditional values and social institutions. As a result, generations were born that do not understand the meaning of our civilisational, cultural and ethical heritage, and are deprived of having any compass guiding their behaviour.

2. We underestimated certain problematic aspects of a standard, formally well– functioning democratic system that lacked an underlying set of deeper values. We did not see the power of the demagogical element of democracy that allows people within this system to demand “something for nothing”. We did not expect that the political process will lead to such a preference of decision-making that brings “visible and concentrated benefits” at the price of “invisible and dispersed costs”, which is one of the main reasons for the current Euro-American debt crisis.

3. Already in the past, I feared the gradual shifting away from civil rights to human rights, which has been taking place for quite some time. I feared the ideology of human-rightism, but did not anticipate the consequences of this doctrine. Human-rightism is an ideology that has nothing in common with practical issues of the individual freedom and of free political discourse. It is about entitlements. Classical liberals and libertarians do not emphasize enough that the rights interpreted in this way are against freedom and the
rational functioning of society.

Human rights are in fact a revolutionary denial of civil rights. They do not need any citizenship. That is also why human-rightism calls for the destruction of the sovereignty of individual countries, particularly in today’s Europe. Positive human rights also contributed heavily to the present era of political correctness with all its destructive force.[7]

4. Related to human-rightism and political correctness is the massive advancement of another contemporary alternative or substitute for democracy, juristocracy. Every day we witness political power being taken away from elected politicians and shifted to unelected judges.[8] “Modern judicial activism is in many ways an expression of the old belief that democracy must be tempered by aristocracy” (p. 17), in other words that democracy without a certain “chosenness” (i.e. unelectedness) of this judicial aristocracy cannot function well. It is also worthwhile to realise that “the main method how this judicial activism is implemented is the path of rights” (ibid.), yet it is not the path of civil rights, but rather human rights. All
that is a part of an illusion about potential (and desirable) abolition of politics, in other words of democracy. Juristocracy is another step towards the establishment of a post- political society.

5. Likewise, I did not expect the powerful position that NGOs (that is civil society institutions) would gain in our countries and in particular in the supranational world, and how irreconcilable their fight with parliamentary democracy would be. It is a fight that they are winning more and more as time goes by.[9] Institutions such as NGOs, which are the products of organised groups of people who in an apolitical manner strive for advantages and privileges, bluntly deny the liberalisation of human society that had taken place over the past two centuries. I do not recall where I first came across the statement that those institutions represent a new re-feudalisation of society, but I consider it to be a very good one.

6. We lived in a world of suppressed freedom of the press for too long, and that is why we considered the unlimited freedom of the media as the necessary prerequisite for a truly free society. Nowadays we are not sure about it. Formally, in the Czech Republic as well as in the whole Western world there is almost absolute freedom of the press, but at the same time an unbelievable manipulation by the press. Our democracy quickly changed into mediocracy, which is yet another alternative to democracy, or rather one of the ways to destroy democracy.[10]

7. In a closed communist world, in which we opposed, due to the tragic experience with the imperial policy of the Soviet Union, everything supranational, i.e. coming from Moscow, we failed to see the danger of the gradually ongoing shift from national and international to transnational and supranational in the current world.[11] In those days we did not follow European integration very closely, perhaps for understandable reasons. We tended to see only its liberalising aspect rather than the dangerous supranationalism that destroys the democracy and sovereignty of countries.

8. I also did not expect such a weak defence of the ideas of capitalism, free market and minimal state. I did not imagine that capitalism and the market would become almost inappropriate, politically incorrect words that a “decent” contemporary politician should better avoid. I had thought that something like that was only some kind of a compulsory coloratura of the Marxist or communist doctrine. Only now do I see the real depth of hatred towards wealth and productive work, only now do I realise the role of human envy and of a completely primitive thought that other person’s wealth is solely and purely at my expense.

9. I did not expect such popularity of public goods, of the public sector, of the visible hand of the state, of redistribution, of wisdom of the anointed in comparison with the wisdom of the rest of us. As an economist who has for decades, in fact from the mid-1960s, carefully followed Western economic literature, I did not expect that the ideas of monetarism would be so quickly abandoned, that people would so quickly forget that the word regulation is yet another expression for planning, that social policy would not differ much from communism, that people would forget that the market either is or is not, since it has to be formed spontaneously, that after a radical removal of grants and subsidies of all kinds we will be – by means of a new re-subsidisation of the economy – once again forced to introduce them, that such mistakes would be made in the economic policy, in the establishment of monetary unions, etc. We did not expect that people would be so unwilling to take on the responsibility for their lives, that there would be such fear of freedom, and that there would be such trust in the omnipotence of the state.

Why have we as MPS members allowed this to happen?

I do not think that we failed analytically. There are other reasons. There is certain recklessness, if not laziness in our thinking and behavior. There is insufficient personal courage involved, fear of standing alone with one’s opinions. Even we have failed in the sense that we are not being heard loud enough, that we no longer actively promote freedom, that we no longer have any Milton Friedmans among us. Even though it is important that we address one another at meetings such as this one, I fear that we are not being heard outside of this circle. We are pleased that we publish one another’s articles in our own journals and newsletters, but we have to strive to enter the “other” journals – journals for “the others”. Even though ideas promote themselves, they do so only in the very long run, and that may already be too late.

Likewise, we have to concede that we are not producing serious empirical, descriptive, positive socio-economic analyses. What prevails are pieces of partial analyses and shallow normative ideological papers. What is missing are non-declaratory texts, a deep “anatomy” of the current situation.

I would be glad if I were wrong. I would be glad if it showed up that the robustness of capitalism was such that all that would be corrected. Even though it will eventually happen, it will certainly not happen spontaneously. Hayek rightly argued that “freedom cannot endure unless every generation restates and reemphasizes its value”. Now it is our turn. Our generation and the generation of our children have to do it. And we should start doing it before it is too late.

Václav Klaus, Mont Pelerin Society General Meeting, Prague Castle, Prague, September 7,
2012

[1] More about this topic can be found in my address at the MPS Regional Meeting in Vancouver in August 1999 “The Third Way and Its Fatal Conceits”, published in a book “On the Road to Democracy”, NCPA, Dallas, 2005. Even today in various countries around the globe, I am constantly confronted with people recalling my statement from January 1990 made in Davos that “the Third Way is the fastest way to the Third World”.

[2] I refer to my book “Modrá, nikoli zelená planeta” (“Blue Planet in Green Shackles”), Dokořán, Prague, 2007 and its publications abroad (it is already available in 18 languages).

[3] Friedrich von Hayek: “The Intellectuals and Socialism”, The University of Chicago Law Review, Spring 1949. Available at http://mises.org/etexts/hayekintellectuals.pdf.

[4] Robert Nozick, “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism”, CATO Policy
Report,Washington, D.C., No. 1, 1998.

CRISIS ATHENS: How austerity is destroying those who would compete with multinational power by John Ward

Greece 6

Greece 5

These pictures are of a main Athenian thoroughfare, Stadiou. Think ‘Tottenham Court Road’, and then imagine every kiosk, stall, shop and indoor precinct closed down, every small shop empty and impossible to rent, and the once-bustling pavements half empty.

The Greek media that care run endless stories about starving children, lack of medication, old people dying because they cannot afford heating, and huge cuts in welfare relief. These are all worthy topics for anyone still unclear about the catastrophic social effects of repayment-focused austerity in ClubMed. But if nobody buys in shops, eats in restaurants, sits in cafes or furnishes homes, businesses die in very short order.

Greece 4

In three short years, the banks of the world, the bureaucrats of the EU, and the Central Bank of Mario Draghi have wiped out Stadiou. Like the American South after the Civil War, it is a culture gone with the wind. All that remain are kids shooting up in the darkness of formerly thriving alleyways, and bill posters advertising things nobody has the money to buy.

 Behind much of Athens’ attraction as a tourist centre lies another layer of self- sustaining business: the wholesale trade. This above any other is small family business, where honesty, trust and quality are the basis of commerce. It too has been decimated, as both domestic and tourist consumption of goods plummeted after 2010.

Greece 3

Everywhere are grills, graffiti, parked scooters, litter, and locks. Nowhere is any business being done. An entire sector of the City’s economy has been surgically removed. But nobody bothered to stitch up the open wound afterwards.

What you can see in Athens is the death of independent small business competition, the desecration of families that depended on it, and the reassuring certainty for the fat cats that in future, where once there was community liberty and self-reliance, there will before too long be imported global goods produced by multinational companies, cheap property ready to be torn down by developers, and the State enjoying control over a demoralised population totally dependent on it.

 Greece 1

 

Greece 2

 

The Far Right is getting 1 vote in 8, and the Radical Left looks like having the largest number of Deputies after the next election. Both have reached these positions from having been tiny (<4%) Parties three years ago.

But now at last, the focus is beginning to move away from corrupt old Parties and polemic ideologues towards a sort of patriotic pragmatism that no longer wants the euro. I spoke to several business people during my stay in Athens; most of them were not politically radical, but they recognised the need for a radical change to the economic model.

“The austerity programme is counter-productive because it destroys economic consumption in order to pay off State debt,” said a middle manager in a larger foreign-owned Greek furniture business, “this is like asking Berlin to pay off French municipal debt. It is resented, but more importantly it is sacrificing recovery to the lenders’ needs. The lenders may get their pound of flesh, but afterwards the patient is paraplegic.”

“The euro is the problem, no doubt,” said the co-owner of a medium-sized hitech business, “but if Greece were to go it alone and quit the euro, our business would be destroyed by a loss of credit confidence internationally. People like us want the euro to fail completely, so everyone will have to start again”. 

His partner agreed. “The biggest problem we have right now is liquidity with which to expand, and credit so we can close deals with customers. Every week we work more and more to make less and less”. 

“These fantasies of the Troika,” one CEO of a rapidly-growing political lobbying consultancy began, “they are all bullsh*t. The New Democracy and Pasok go along with it because they are weak and corrupt. But now things are far too serious for this to continue. The threats to Greek business and national sovereignty will get worse as the lenders’ demands get more and more crazy. We have to elect commercial people now who will gain public respect, and say “No” to the EU.” 

Resentment towards the State sector and powerful bureaucrats is every bit as visceral as the disdain felt about the Troika. Said one small entrepreneur, “These Troika people, so well dressed, such nice attache cases. They stay in the Hilton at Greece’s expense. None of them has any idea about business – only debt and repayment schedules. Now they insist that 150,000 civil servants be fired. Hah! That’ll be the day. Now they try to retire them off with fat pensions, but still they demand that the empty desks are filled with young recruits. They will cling onto our skin until we are all dead.” 

There is a lot for the body politic to change here. The attitude to the euro, the weak resistance of Troika demands, fear of the bureaucrats, and the development of under-appreciated export businesses such as olive oil and wine. Nobody I met thinks the current crop of MPs is ever going to be capable of it. But there are endless scenarios in play as to how drastic change might come.

Greece & The ERT Shutdown: Explosive new evidence of EU dirty tricks. by John Ward

Despite vehement denials from both the Troika ad the EU in Brussels about any involvement in the loopy Samaras decision to close down Greek State broadcaster ERT, evidence is coming to light that calls such claims into question.

According to the website publicserviceeurope.com, officials from the European Commission threatened to take “action” against the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation – or ERT – for failing to broadcast pro-European news just days before it was taken off the air by a dubious emergency Greek decree.

The „Troika‟ claimed last week that it had “not sought the closure of ERT” – despite Greece being under constant pressure to lay off government employees. But the EC is now admitting to a dispute with ERT over the pro-EU Pravdaesque Euronews, which ERT management forced off air in December 2012.

It seems that ERT staff were well aware of the slavishly pro-Brussels line consistently adopted by Euronews, but the Greek Broadcasting Council ruled in February that Euronews had the right to broadcast, and ordered that the signal be restored. The decision was never implemented, and so there are allegations that EU officials used their position within the Troika to punish ERT for being off- message.

The European Commission has handed out millions of euros in grants aid to expand its pet news station. Such funding, opponents claim, ensures that coverage remains pro-EU. Observing what the station puts out, it is hard to avoid that conclusion.

As a whole, however, what this story tends to suggest is that the ferocity of EU denial about something is almost 100% correlated to the truth. Plus ca change, as we say here in France. Winston Smith, eat your heart out.