We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

One less brick in the wall

At the risk of inviting opprobrium, I must admit that the murder of Anna Lindh did have me reaching for the tin-foil to wrap around my head.

Even with the solid support of the entire Swedish political class, the ‘yes’ camp was still trailing the ‘no’ camp in every single opinion poll and it did briefly cross my mind that a ‘heroic sacrifice’ might have been arranged to swing the vote. The stakes here are certainly high enough.

But, on balance, probably not. Political assassination is common enough in Europe not to have to ascribe a conspiracy to this one. Even if there was more to her murder than meets the eye, it didn’t work. The Swedes voted ‘no’ to the Euro.

On any reading this is a blow for the EU project and the coming weeks will see a deluge of federast seething, threatening and whining. Their will has been thwarted and that it just intolerable. They will even try to float the notion that the result of the Swedish referendum was ‘undemocratic’. I also expect the Swedish government to begin agitating for another referendum to get the desired result but, given the margin of the ‘no’ victory, they may not get away with that.

Quite aside from all the furore and recriminations that are bound to follow, I wonder if this could be the catalyst which leads to the unravelling of the whole project. It isn’t very likely but neither is it altogether impossible. In fact, I quite like the idea of a ‘Euro-Watch’ sweepstake: who will be the first to bail out of the Euro?

For the record, my money (sterling!) is on the French. The Germans will stick with it because they have always had an emotional investment in the European project. It enables them to be ‘Europeans’ and thus serves to expiate their guilt about being German. They will endure a lot more economic pain before they begin to think the unthinkable.

But not the French. For them, the EU has always been about advancing their national interests. All the kumbaya mummery about a united Europe is just window-dressing to disguise the self-serving reality. If it looks like wrecking their economy (or, more particularly, it begins biting into the privileges of the political class) the French will simply dump the Euro and swan off to look for another boondoggle.

Not inevitable by any means, but possible. In anticipation, I would like to extend my thanks to the Swedish electorate. They may just have done us a great favour.

97 comments to One less brick in the wall

  • Brian Micklethwait

    I was surprised by the size of the margin. All the reporting assumed that the Lindh murder would narrow the gap, but it doesn’t seem to have made much difference.

    I wonder if there may even have been some people who felt somewhere in their Swedish bones that if they said Yes too enthusiastically to Europe, more nationalistic murderers might go on the rampage against other Yes-persons. So they voted No, because they were scared. If the murder was an extreme version of a No vote, maybe it worked better than everyone was assuming.

    In other words, just like those dimwitted “onlookers” whom Steyn was so unkind about who might have tried to save Anna Lindh but who actually just let the murderer do his worst and then run away, maybe some people gave in to violence.

    Just a thought.

  • Don Eyres

    No, the French won’t be the first ones out of the Euro. They have been making too much of a fuss about the EU & the Euro as the way of the future; to bail out would shred what little credibility they have. Besides, they are already jumping on Euro fiscal rules with both feet- so why bother?
    My money is on Italy: a country and economy large enough to be confident of its ability to go it alone, and a Prime Minister not afraid of controversy (even when he should be!).

  • Germany exports nearly 30% of its GDP, which is extremely high. Like any export-dependent nation, they need a weak currency. But, since much of their exports go to other countries using the same currency, the Euro, the need for a weak currency is reduced. Thus if Germany got off the Euro they would be in a strange fiscal situation requiring them to keep their currency weak against the Euro. Maybe they could do this, but it seems awfully risky, and I think this risk will keep them from being too adventurous about changing currencies.

    The nation most likely to jump would be the one with a lot of trade outside the Euro countries, and which has a favorable trade balance (lots of exports) and therefore suffers a bit when the Euro gets too strong. Who does that describe? Ireland and Finland. Finland would make it a Scandinavian hat trick (along with Sweden and Norway), so that may be the best bet. But Ireland has the best economy in Europe and would have the most to lose from stupid Euro central banker tricks, so I’m picking them.

  • I thought that part of the charm of the Euro was that there is no opt-out mechanism – membership is a one-way ticket, or, I suppose, a roach motel.

  • The French have little work ethic, a 30-hour work week (of which 10 or so hours are comprised of shaking hands and drinking on the job), and heavy socialist union powerhouses. There is no way they’ll leave the Euro to stand on their own. The German, Belgian, and other Northern and Eastern Europeans have a strong work ethic, so they’ll only be dragged down by France, Spain, and Italy.

    The Euro will fail miserably, just as any currency based on Socialist ideology has and will.

  • E.Legall

    Oh somebody start this! I can’t wait for the nonsense to collapse.
    I want Great Britain to go first. They have so much, but they seem to want to discard it all for some ill-defined “Europe”.
    I prefer Queen Elizabeth and the House of Windsor to Valery Discard (aka Giscard-Destaing) any day!

  • Johan from Norway

    EU is an immensly bureaucratic and static state, incapable of internal reform. The old idea of promoting free trade has turned into a nasty nightmare of endless regulations and social engineering.

    Read the EU constituion (If you can stay awake, that is). It is quite possible the worst founding document ever conceived in human history.
    And these people think they can equal the genious of Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin?

    Pluuuueease…

  • Döbeln

    I think it’s tad curious that you, that usually are able to see the deluded conspiracy mongering among the peaceniks for what it is, “reach for your tinfoil hat” at the very moment some random political event goes against your will. If nothing else, it could offer some insight and understanding into the workings of the LLL. (Just imagine some pro-euro event on the scale of 9/11 – not merely some deranged person stabbing the foreign minister…)

    Second, I would be very surprised if anyone would assail our referendum as “undemocratic”. No-one here has done so, and it would be very bad publicity for anyone i Brussels to do so, so they will most likely keep their mouth shut.

    Third, with this result, we won’t have to worry about another referendum for quite a while. Politicians rarely want to spearhead a lost cause – bad for their standing, ya know…

    And yes, I did my duty to king and country yesterday – no worries – but your paranoia is seriously misplaced.

    / Döbeln

  • Biased Observer

    Re: “the coming weeks will see a deluge of federast seething, threatening and whining”.

    Given that “seething, threatening and whining” is a registered trademark of the Arab/Islamist world, perhaps the EU has learned this technique as a result of their cozy relationship with the Palestinians.

  • Johnathan

    I saw the BBC 10 O’Clock News broadcast on the referendum result. The look of grave disappointment was palpable on the face of the journalist. Beautiful.

    I dunno about the French being the first to leave, though. Funnily enough, Germany might be the one to crack.

    One of the commenters above said the Germans, being so dependent on exports, would value a weaker currency. Well the euro started on a weak note for quite a while before appreciating about six months ago vs the dollar and this doesn’t seem to have helped. During the 60s and 70s the old deutschemark was one of the strongest currencies in the world and yet German manufacturing industry boomed.

  • JB

    Funny that the BBC article on the referendum (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3108292.stm) features 5 profiles of Swedes explaining why they voted Yes, and just one No.

    No, there couldn’t be any bias here, could there?

  • Ron

    I can’t remember where I heard or read it (probably my half-asleep dozing to the BBC World Service after lights out), but I’m sure I heard someone senior in Swedish politics saying a few hours ago (to paraphrase):

    “Well now we’ve had our referendum, we won’t need to have one the ‘next time’, and we can just leave it to the Government to make the decision”.

    What part of ‘nej’ don’t they understand!!!

  • Verity

    First, the Swedish prime minister has already announced that there will be another referendum in around 10 years. What part of the word “no” do European politicians find so hard to figure out? Anyway, it’s still good news because in 10 years, of course, there won’t be any euro to vote on anyway.

    First to go? Germany. I understand from a friend who works there that many Germans started having regrets about having given up the DM around six months ago. It wouldn’t take much to tip them over into going back to their strong and respected currency. France? Are you kidding? They adore the EU project and they think, as the French always do about everything, that it’s all about them. I would say they love their EU-imposed 30 hour week, although most of them seem to regard it as an unfair imposition forced on them by the cruel state to keep their noses to the grindstone. They certainly resent being at work, witness the dark office windows and empty parking lots at 5:32 p.m. I guarantee you, France will be the last one to leave. They’ll cling on, trying to manipulate alternatives, drag in N Africa, invent fanciful dual currencies and anything else they can think of rather than have the euro fail.

    Meanwhile, Mr Persson, Sweden’s prime minister and pro-euro advocate, is quoted in The Telegraph as saying, “Right now, I’m depressed. I think I’d like to become a priest or a teacher or a forestry worker.” Any of those three would be fine. Every socialist that leaves politics is a vote for a healthy economic future.

  • Dave O'Neill

    What part of “Nej” don’t they understand?

    I wasn’t aware that No was for ever?

  • Johan

    Brian Micklethwait,

    the murder of Anna Lindh could have affected people in the sense that they felt they had to go and vote. At least in Sweden, the press and many others were screaming that the best way to “honor” her would be to vote and not necessarily to vote YES. Maybe many who voted NO decided to vote because they were afraid that her murder would make people vote YES, so instead of staying home they made sure that never happened.

    Just as Döbeln said, and as I just said in a comment to the “Sweden says NO to the Euro”, none of the YES bureaucrats or politicians will run the risk of being overthrown or damage their political status by joining the EMU anyway, despite what people voted. As David Carr say, “given the margain of the ‘no’ victory”, another referendum is far away…at least a few years.

  • The German interest in a single currency consisted the latter’s capacity to prevent the currencies of their principal importing markets, ie other EC member-states, from weakening to the point where the Mark would never be competitive. Likewise, the high social costs in Germany were entrenched in the other EU states in no small measure because that, too, levelled the playing field.

    The one great difference between the Germans and the rest that would forever underpin German industrial strength and protect exports was to be industrial productivity. But external factors, including the impossible social costs of Kohl’s one-for-one reunification model and also the unforeseen strength of the US economy thoughout the 1990′s, kicked a hole in that. The world moved on, demanding a degree of structural flexibility that, despite a few modest reforms, Schroeder does not have the elbow room to deliver.

    The question is: will the Swedish vote cause the German people to dissent from the course set by their political class? As we see with Blair’s vacillation here, it is not impossible.

  • mark holland

    Like Guessedworker I always thought the reunification of the German currency was one Ostmark for one Deutcshemark. But in the film Goodbye Lenin* they are being exchanged 2o
    Ostmark/1Dm.

    I feel sorry for the Eastern Germans. They waited 40 years to get ahold of Deutschmarks and just over ten years later, poof, they’re gone to be replaced by the Teuro.

    *BTW you really really must see this film it’s brilliant

  • mark holland

    that should be 2 Ostmarks for 1 Deutschmark

  • I really pity the French. Imagine having (+/-) the same GDP as the UK, but with fewer hours worked. It’d be terrible.

  • G Cooper

    Dave O’Neill says:

    “I wasn’t aware that No was for ever?”

    Why not? “Yes” would have been.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Why not? “Yes” would have been.

    Becuase things might make “Yes” sensible at some stage in the future.

    Are you seriously saying that the Euro may NEVER be an option? If so, why?

  • Verity

    G Cooper – Oooh, very good!

    John B – At the cost of horrendous and potentially destabilising unemployment, plus the strangling social costs, plus 20 – 30% inflation since the euro was introduced 20 months ago, plus red tape which makes expanding a business all but impossible, plus maternity leave from the minute you find out you’re pregnant, plus payment from the state for getting pregnant, plus after-birth maternity/paternity leave, plus teetering toward breaking the keystone of the euro, the Growth & Stability Pact. Yup. That’s what I call a freewheeling, dynamic economy.

  • Will

    Judging by the Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm’s remarks last week, perhaps the Netherlands will be first to flee the zone. Place your bets, gentlemen, please.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Verity,

    plus 20 – 30% inflation since the euro was introduced 20 months ago

    You do have some evidence to support that number? Looking in my copy of The Economist it gives the rate for France as 1.8%, which is about what I thought it was.

    The growth rate is low and the unemployment high, OTOH, they have good steady trade, productivity rates which put Britain to shame even with that high unemployment etc…

    Of course, if you actually consider the “real” rate of unemployment in the UK compared to the “official” rate, the picture while still better than France isn’t as good as it should be.

    It’s always fun to bash France, having had to work their I could write a huge diatribe on working in the place, however, they do a lot of things right which Britain ought to be paying more attention to. Not least of which how they manage to out produce us even when only working such short hours.

  • Dave F

    In related news, no prizes for who is getting the blame for sinking the world trade talks in Mexico:

    ‘Development campaigners said no deal was better than a bad one for poor countries. “The blame game will start right away, but as far we are concerned, Pascal Lamy [Europe's chief trade negotiator] is chief suspect number one and two,” said Duncan Green, policy analyst at the Catholic Agency for Development, Cafod. “He opposed the interests of developing countries right to the end and this is the price we have to pay.”

    Under pressure from other African countries, the Kenyan delegation left the talks at midday, blaming the EU for insisting on talks on the so-called Singapore issues, four new negotiating areas including investment and competition which poor countries say they are not ready to discuss.

    When Mr Derbez reconvened the meeting after lunch, Europe’s offer to withdraw investment and competition, the most contentious issues, was rejected by Botswana, speak ing for the poorest countries. “Lamy, the great negotiator, pushed the talks over the brink,” said Matthew Lockwood, of Action Aid.’

    Quotes from Grauniad and Indy.

  • Verity

    Dave – Are you seriously contending that the French figures are not fudged? Also, please bear in mind the undeniable fact that France is an export economy, so they are not playing by the same rules as Britain. They buy very, very little from the outside world. Try buying an English, German or Italian car here, for example. Try buying anything imported.

    Do I have proof of my contention that pricess have gone up by 20 to 30% since the euro came in? Well, the French government has admitted to 20% and I had the evidence of my own eyes this summer in the stores. Petrol and bread are the same. For the first six months of the euro, all price raises were against the law – a statist, meddling directive that is anti-free enterprise, but there you are. As though someone fired a starter’s pistol, at the six month mark, everything one didn’t buy frequently and therefore couldn’t really remember the price paid last time, went zooming up. For example, a toothbrush, a paint brush, a plastic bucket, deodorant, hairspray, a frying pan, a toaster, etc, went zooming up by 25 to 30%. Little by little, things one bought more frequently started their upward creep as well. But the most telling thing of all is, the French government has admitted that the euro is responsible for 20% price hikes. Breaking a 50 euro note was like breaking a five pound note in Britain. It’s gone that quickly. Poof! Even Joan Collins, in The Spectator Diary, who has a holiday home in France, wrote that the prices this year sent her reeling.

  • G Cooper

    Dave O’Neill writes:

    “Becuase things might make “Yes” sensible at some stage in the future.”

    Which is the predictably disingenuous Europhile response.

    If a “yes” vote would have been binding, by virtue of the near-impossibility of extracting one’s economy from this experiment, by what twisted logic is an irrevocable entrance acceptable and an irrevocable refusal, not?

    As so many have pointed out, the Europhile Left will go on asking the same question until it gets the answer it wants.

    Thank you for confirming that.

  • Shaun Bourke

    David,

    I beg to differ, the Froggies and their Kraut buddies will be the last to dump the EUro, because both these clowns view the EUro as the counterbalancing currency to the Greenback…..maybe you have missed the fierce Anti-Americanism eminating from these two countries over the past few years.

    There also seems to be a great missunderstanding about the “whys and wherefores” of the various former Eastern Block countries that have, or are likely to, join the EUro.

    Over the last couple of centuries both the Froggies and Krauts, by various ways and means, have brought considerable wreakage and misery to these East European countries. And now they find it is “Reparations Time” …..and what better way of gaining this major “payback” than to be invited to join your former foe’s currency and bleed it for all its worth…….quite fitting, dont you think ??? and not a single shot fired in anger !!!

    As for the countries most likely to bolt the Euro….I am placing “eachway bets” on Italy and Spain. Both have the most to gain by bolting and most to loose by staying. I strongly suspect the Italian and Spanish cultures have more in common with each other than with any of the clowns to their north. Add to this the strong rapport that the U.S. is building with Italy and Spain along with the growing animosity this generates in the Froggies leaves you with only one question……When ??

    Much is being made of the “oneway ticket” that EUro membership brings, but this is just a “red herring”. There is in fact no way to enforce this “law”……in a couple of years time even trade sanctions from EUroland will be useless as EUrolands cost structures and Government deficits continue to soar they are already pricing themselves out of the world marketplace. The attendent problems of EUroland’s main economies was well on display at the just finished WTO assembly in Mexico. And can you imagine a EUroland Military Force attempting to occupy Madrid and or Rome……..

    I must also tip my hat to the Swedes who have by a WIDE margin told the Froggies et al to F**k Off.

  • The Euro has performed pretty well so far. We have internal price-stability and the risk of wildly flucuating intra-European exchange rates is gone, which makes it much easier for firms doing business here.

    The real problem is the stifling stability-pact that puts restrictions on fiscal policy (granted, that was a German idea). This pact will have to go, not the Euro.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Which is the predictably disingenuous Europhile response.

    No, sorry to alarm you but its a matter of fact. Sorry.

    If things got bad enough in a country, the government would almost certainly be replaced by one which promised to pull people out.

    I don’t recall needing to vote on re-voking decilimisation recently despite my Grandmother demanding it.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Verity,

    Are you seriously contending that the French figures are not fudged?

    Define “fudged”, then explain to me how they manage to get it 19% wrong and not have a problem.

    Anecdotes are fun but they don’t consitute evidence. Sorry.

    Do you have any source that can confirm your “feeling” on the inflation rate?

    I was in Paris last month and yes, I’d say it was 20% more expensive than the last time I was there. Looking at the Franc amounts still shown on receipts, the prices were roughly the same as I have ever paid. What had changed was the exchange caused by the much much weaker pound.

    Even Joan Collins, in The Spectator Diary, who has a holiday home in France, wrote that the prices this year sent her reeling.

    I read a reprint of that, didn’t make a lot of sense to be honest. I was in Cannes in February, it was expensive but no more so than it was last February. Paris last month was a lot more expensive than usual but that was due to the exchange rate.

  • Shaun,

    sorry, but that’s all nonsense.

    You can’t bleed a currency, all you can do is run up a defict, which won’t help them much. With their still pretty small economies the effect will be negligible for the large countries.

    And if everyone emphasized grievances from causes that go back centuries there’d be continual warfare between all countries and each country would also have civil wars along ethnic and religious lines. Like it or not, Europeans nowadays are putting the past to rest.

  • G Cooper

    Dave O’Neill writes:

    “If things got bad enough in a country, the government would almost certainly be replaced by one which promised to pull people out.”

    Perhaps Mr. O’Neill would now like to explain to us precisely how a country withdraws from the Euro?

    A passing reference to the costs of entering and exiting wouldn’t go amiss, either.

  • G Cooper

    Ralf Goergens writes:

    “Like it or not, Europeans nowadays are putting the past to rest. ”

    There speaks the true voice of a Europhile. The willingness to believe what one hopes to be true, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  • Ralf,

    The Euro-currency, per se, is not actually that big a deal. In fact, for most European countries it represents an improvement on the national currencies they used to have (e.g. 20 billion drachma = one dogshit).

    The real problem is the political and constitutional arrangements that come with it. I am actually more worried by the EU Constitution that I am about the Euro. However as long as we stay out of the Eurozone our place in the project looks shakey. That is what I want.

    Dave O’Neill,

    I say NEVER to the Euro. Never, never, never.

  • Ralf,

    The key to stability is Europe is democracy not union. Two genuine democracies have never warred. But, of course, the EU is anything but democratic.

    I’ll go further and speculate that forcing different peoples and cultures into an artificial and unwanted union will, like all strong positives, be occasioned by a strong negative. Of course, no one can be sure about the nature of the strife that will break it apart. Perhaps it will just be economic and not socio-political, national or racial. But don’t expect endless vistas of sunny, continental contentment. Life tomorrow is never the same as the wonderful dreams of yesterday.

  • Verity

    Dave – No, I don’t have a “feeling”. I have what we call, in technical parlance, “bank statements, credit card statements and store receipts”. You immediately related my post to yourself and assigned my price-hikes contention to the exchange rate, assuming your experience to be universal. But my experience with French price hikes has absolutely nothing to do with the exchange rate. I don’t even know what a euro is worth in pounds sterling. Sorry. That dog won’t hunt.

    Once more with feeling: since the introduction of the euro, prices in France, by and large are up between 20 and 30%.

  • David,

    I’m gainst the EU constitution myself, as I had stated before.

    Guessedworker,

    if conflicts ever become as acute as you fear the EU will be reformed, with or without the so-called elites consent. For all its drawbacks it’s too advantageous for the people on the continent to be discarded that easily. Nobody wants to go back to showing his I.D. at every border he comes to, for example.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Dave,

    Economics 101

    “I was in Paris last month and yes, I’d say it was 20% more expensive than the last time I was there. Looking at the Franc amounts still shown on receipts, the prices were roughly the same as I have ever paid. What had changed was the exchange caused by the much much weaker pound.”

    The prices you paid are REGULATED so you would expect them to be the same for a long period of time. What you received at the exchange window was not a “lower” value in the Pound but an “Inflated” value for the EUro. What you are experiencing is the start of the longterm decline in the value of the EUro……errrr collapse would be the proper word.

    Do you remember the Russian Rubble….errr Ruble ??

  • Döbeln

    “productivity rates which put Britain to shame even with that high unemployment etc…”

    Erm, increased unemployment tends to increase labour productivity in itself. The most inefficient jobs are for obvious reasons the first to go, so to speak.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Ralf,

    There is an area just north of Greece….its called the Balkans. I understand it continues to taint European Politics to the point that the gutless bastards that run EUroland cannot even cleanup their own shithole of a backyard. Last I heard the Americans had to cleanup after them AGAIN.

    And if you had even bothered to read David’s posting you would discover that he mentions that assassinations remain “common enough” !!

  • Shaun,

    the Balkans isn’t part of the EU (and those parts of the Balkans that are about to join are peaceful and stable, like Slovenia). Anyway, if you had your way the world would be like the Balkans (fighting over grievances going back centuries etc).

    I bothered to read the post, thank you. Those assasinations have nothing to do with historical grievances. Pim Fortuyn was murdered by a radical animal-rights activist (remember how Louis XIV, Bismarck or Napoleon went to war over animal rights? ;) An economic advisor of the Berlusconi government was shot by leftists who calim to be the heir of the Red Brigades, there was an attempt on the Pope that may have been organized by the Bulgarian version of the KGB etc. I see no historic dimensions in those, and nutcases don’t need any to kill people.

    As to Ann Lindh and Olf Palme: Both were moving among the public without bodyguards. They probably were assasinated because they were easy targets. Or are you suggesting that historically-minded Russians did it because Sweden made life so hard for Peter the Great? :)

    PS: You are right that Europe ahould have cleaned up the Balkans itself, though.

  • Ralf,

    Thanks for the response. Can you name another advantage to the EU besides driving across open borders with a pocket full of Euros? There has to be something more to this sociopathic juggernaut than convenience.

    Anyhow, as far as convenience is concerned whether or not to incorporate the “pass-port” aspects of Maastricht into border agreements in a post EU Europe would be a matter for individual states. I don’t think we Brits would rush to do this. But it would be open to the others, if they wanted.

    As with anything, the trick would be to balance the cost/beneit equasion favourably. Today, as youm say, it’s jolly nice to be able to drive from Corunna to Malmo and never see a border guard. But is it SO nice that we have to lose our financial and political independence?

  • Guessedworker,

    the European market is another advantage. Now, completely free international trade would be preferable, but as you can see from the collapse of the talks in Cancun that can’t taken for granted.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Ralf,

    You are doing quite well there my friend…..as you slowly swerve into the truth. All the starters of wars and assassins you mention are leftists or dictators, and since EUroland is both leftist and a dictatorship by another name…….history of Continental Europe tells us that war is around the corner.

    What side are you going to be on young man ???

  • S. Weasel

    You know, Guessed, that particular pro-EU argument always puzzles the hell out of me. The one about security checkpoints. Like the only way to get around showing your papers at the borders is for everyone to surrender national sovereignty and adopt a common currency and so on. Couldn’t you just…agree not to have security checkpoints at the borders?

    As for that pocketful of Euros, such a thing has never been less necessary for the wandering tourist. We already have a de facto universal currency: the credit card. You can smack down the plastic just about everywhere in the developed world. For the little stuff, you put the plastic in an automatic teller machine, and out comes a few quatloos in local currency.

    So much easier than the old days of currency exchanges and traveller’s checks. Miles easier than abandoning your own traditional banknotes, too. Kilometers, even.

  • Marcus Lindroos

    Jeez — Samizdata seems to be a magnet for EU-phobic morons.

    Someone asked what the European Union is good for. Well, I work for the European space industry and I generally like pan-European cooperation since it means more work for European aerospace. The U.K, France, Germany and Italy don’t have much clout on their own, but we can accomplish great things (e.g. the Airbus aircraft and Ariane rocket) when working together.

    MARCU$

  • Dave O'Neill

    Verity et al,

    Then you’ll be able to produce some data from sources other than your say so about this 20%. As I don’t expect you to post your bank statements etc… you could I am sure find reference to a year of massive inflation somewhere… I’ve checked my last few expenses claims and the amounts don’t look that different to me.

    Of course if it is…

    The prices you paid are REGULATED so you would expect them to be the same for a long period of time.

    So, now these prices are regulated and not increased “over a period of 18 months” by 20%…

    Which is it guys?

    G Cooper,

    I know of no method to exit at the moment. I don’t believe that it is impossible. Expensive, but possible I am sure. Assuming it was necessary that is.

    David Carr,

    NEVER is a very long time. Emotional attachments to the Pound aside, do you have a credible libertarian attachment to a currency?

  • Dave O'Neill

    the credit card.

    Heh.

    I travel quite a lot and credit cards are marvellous for meals out, hotel bills and plane tickets. They are a pain for taxi’s, the occasional beer, newspapers and sundries which we all need.

    Not all taxi’s, for example, take cards, the transaction “fee” is very high for many retailers and they get very very annoyed with low cost transactions which can cost them a disproportiate amount of a transaction. Its certainly not practical to pay for a couple of beers if you are in a hurry.

    So the credit card is a useful invention, but its still no replacement for cash.

    Last year I was in Menton in the South of France. My wife and I popped over to Italy for some market shopping and lunch before popping back. None of the small market traders took credit cards but they were happy to take the Euro.

    Unless, that is, you think all retailers should be also forced to accept the major credit cards too?

  • Shaun,

    “You are doing quite well there my friend…..as you slowly swerve into the truth”

    instant contact with the truth would have killed me. I needed to get used it gradually. ;)

    Seriusly though:

    “since EUroland is both leftist and a dictatorship by another name…….history of Continental Europe tells us that war is around the corner”.

    The EU is leftist, and I’m no fan of Chirac or Schröder, but the EU is no dictatorship. Germany and France haven’t got the clout to dominate the EU anymore. That’s why I’m pretty optimistic about the prospect of successful reforms once the East Europeans are in. In the worst (and in my opinion unlikely) case the EU will simply break apart by having members leave.

  • S. Weasel,

    I named one advantage that indivuduals notice the most whern travelling, but it’s not the only one.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Dobeln,

    “Erm, increased unemployment tends to increase labour productivity in itself.”

    Wrong…….Increased productivity reduces the requirement for labour.

    Unemployment rates are a function of supply and demand, weather you leftists out there like it or not, unemployment will rise as employers find it uneconomic to employ workers and vise versa.

    The primary reason unemployment in EUroland remains high STILL is solely due to government regulations governing employment practices. Recently there were media comments concerning Adolf Schrodoer eyeing a bill requiring Krautland Companys to hire even more employees. This is straight out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook, but there again what would you expect from “brothers in arms”.

    This should be fun to watch as investors dump their stocks and flee. Then watch for further drops in the value of the EUro…….

  • S. Weasel

    Ah, I can see Dave got the memo. The one suggesting use of the phrase “emotional attachment” to belittle opponents of a single currency. A Google search of “emotional attachment” and “euro” turns up 900 like-minded Eurobots.

    Currency is monetary policy. Give up control of the one and you lose control of the other. That’s about as unemotional as it gets.

    And no, Dave, I don’t advocate forcing merchants to take credit cards. Any more than I would advocate forcing them to take Euros. The list of things I would advocate forcing people to do (or not do) is shockingly small.

  • Dave O’Neill,

    I thought I had made my objections pretty clear already. It is not any emotional attachment to a state-backed fiat currency (although sterling is more stable and more tradeable than most). My arguments are against the political and constitutional arrangements that come with package. I am bitterly opposed to the dirigiste, top-down, heavily interventionist nature of the proposed EU constitution and I also think that Corpus Juris is inferior to and less liberal than our own Habeas Corpus.

    Libertarian enough? Or do I have to repeat it all again at some point?

  • Döbeln

    Shoun:

    //”Erm, increased unemployment tends to increase labour productivity in itself.”

    Wrong…….Increased productivity reduces the requirement for labour.”//

    …for a given task. Unless you are assuming completely fixed demand here, the labor freed up by higher productivity should be able to go work elsewhere in the economy.

    As you correctly point out, regulation and unemployment subsidies are the root causes of Europe’s chronic high structural unemployment, as they prevent this from occuring

    That in turn means that the lower rung of low-productive jobs is killed off by the regulations and de-facto wage floors – The low producing jobs are the ones which get chopped first when another regulation gets added, or the minimum wage goes up.

    And that in turn means that the average employee is more productive than he would have been otherwise – as the most unproductive jobs have been eliminated by government decree.

    / Döbeln

  • Dave O'Neill

    Currency is monetary policy. Give up control of the one and you lose control of the other. That’s about as unemotional as it gets.

    Which monetary policy did you have in mind S Weasel?

    If its that important perhaps we should have local regional currencies? That would give areas more control over things wouldn’t it?

    What makes English monetary policy ok for Scotland and Wales and European monetary policy not?

  • Dave O'Neill

    David,

    I don’t recall seeing you make those points in that way before. Sorry for making you repeat yourself!

    Interestingly I have similar problems with the application of our dear old Habeus Corpus which makes me rather cynical about the UK. Certainly our current government, and the powers future governments of other hues will have scare me rigid. In that respect the EU is far less terrifying than what a British state with a large majority can get away with.

    Given the alternatives are currently the EU or the status quo, absent the flexible view of the “state” as suggested by SF writers like Stephenson, MacLeod or Stross, I think I’d rather go the EU route myself.

  • S. Weasel

    If its that important perhaps we should have local regional currencies? That would give areas more control over things wouldn’t it?

    Yes, of course. Local needs drive currencies to smaller boundaries, the complexity and inconvenience of exchange drive them to larger boundaries.

    I would argue that the US suffers from being too large to be covered by a single currency, for example. If you’ve ever lived in an area of the US where the bottom has fallen out of the local economy – or, almost as scary from a consumer point of view, an area of dramatic economic boom – the effects on the ground are terrifying. This would be a more serious problem were it not relieved by American mobility. People pick up and move.

  • Dave,

    I share your fears about the direction in which the British state is headed but I reject the proposition that salvation (or even relief) lies with Brussels and Strasbourg.

  • LB

    Who will be the first to opt out of the Euro experiment?

    “Place your bets, gentlemen, please.”

    In dollars or pounds please – none of that hincky euro-scrip.

  • Dave O'Neill

    S Weasel,

    People pick up and move.

    As, according to the articles starting to appear are the Europeans. It’s taking a little while, after all, labour mobility has only been with us for 10 years, but there is a lot more movement of people and capital. It will take time, of course, but the largest movement at the moment is from the UK and Germany to Spain, Italy and Southern France… hardly a surprise of course.

    I have lived in the North of England where the effects of the collapse of the local industries have left entire areas highly empoverished when the South East has been through 2 booms and is richer than ever.

  • Andy Duncan

    Speaking of BBC bias, I don’t know why Radio4, this morning didn’t just shut down, for the day, and play funeral music, such was the sombre mood of gloom. Mr Naughtie was in Stockholm obviously preparing for a Pro-Euro party, and you Swedes just failed to read the script, you naughty people.

    The questions got as unbiased as this:

    “So Mr Howard, you presumably think this No vote is a good thing. So now you’ve aligned yourself with the extreme left, and the extreme right, where does that leave your claims to be in the centre?”

    It went downhill from there, with lots of luvvy-duvvy stuff with Pro-Euro politicians about how the Swedish government didn’t put its message across “properly”. And did I detect the first glimmerings of the “Anna Lindh’s death skewed this election, so we’ll have to re-take it next year” argument?

    Whatever the case, don’t worry, Johan, if you’re reading this. You’ll get plenty more goes to get it right, unless the Euro collapses first, or either Germany or France do bail out. Hopefully the Swedish action has helped hasten this collapse. Let’s hope so.

  • Dave O'Neill

    David,

    I share your fears about the direction in which the British state is headed but I reject the proposition that salvation (or even relief) lies with Brussels and Strasbourg.

    There we will have to differ. My local concerns over the power of the British state are significantly higher than my concerns over the ability of the EU to actually act cohesively against individuals.

    That may change, but the day to day operational considerations of governing something the size of the EU even with the worst nightmare you can come up with, leave me less nervous than another 5 years of Blunkett in the home office.

    At least the EU constitution gives me some firm rights that I can rely on in a court. The current British State doesn’t even do that.

    I would like to see a fundementally different structure of government, of course, but I am pragmatic and have to consider what is most likely and what is least likely to impact on me, personally, in a negative way.

  • Nick

    Re the Dave/Verity dispute, I wanted to find some numbers to support V’s argument, since I want to believe the assertion out of schadenfreude. I was unable to document anything in the range of 20-30%. However, I did find that the Union Fédérale des Consommateurs did a random analysis of prices at the retail level and came up with an 8% figure, which is still very high. Definitely a far cry from the 1.9% figure (for France) getting thrown around by the government-controlled media.

    Sources:

    http://www.humanite.presse.fr/journal/2003-01-01/2003-01-01-255948

    http://www.lexpansion.com/art/15.266.64778.0.html

  • S. Weasel

    As, according to the articles starting to appear are the Europeans. It’s taking a little while, after all, labour mobility has only been with us for 10 years, but there is a lot more movement of people and capital.

    I don’t doubt it. But, while it does help take the sting out of the rise and fall of local economies, I wasn’t suggesting such mobility was a happy thing for the people who do it. In fact, short of the few born drifters, I don’t believe that it is.

  • Ralf,

    Free trade? Well, my family business concerns steel products imported from the Far East, upon which the import duty is now 0.5%. Meanwhile, it’s true that the EU is free-trading internally at 0%. But if it had never happened we would only be paying half a percent more – and we’d have all the priceless gifts of independence.

    No, I’m sorry but you’ll have to do better than that. Where is the advantage to the EU that justifies the cost?

  • Dave O'Neill

    8%? Seems high, I’ll be interested to see the basis. I suspected for a long time there would be a burst of “rounding” inflation like we got in 1971 but thanks for the links.

    I wasn’t suggesting such mobility was a happy thing for the people who do it. In fact, short of the few born drifters, I don’t believe that it is.

    I can’t really say myself, I tend to move where the opportunity takes me. Looking at the near term options for me, a sojourn back in the US is looking likely. Coming from a family of immigrants and being married to an immigrant I have probably got a far more flexible take on this than most people.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Dobeln,

    There are 3 ways of improving productivity,
    Improved worker attitude,
    Longer worker working hours,
    Upgrading the equipment used by worker to improve worker unit production time.

    The minimum wage is a “red herring” in that you are in reality refering to entry level jobs and this is why EUroland has such high youth unemployment.

    In Euroland as productivity improves at higher levels in the company, positions that become vacant at those levels tend not to be filled.

    Since Euroland’s economic planners operate in a dreamland, fewer and fewer new companies are going to be formed which will only lead to higher unemployment.

    Which also is going to be fun to watch as government tax receipts fall further in real terms leaving even larger deficits………

  • Verity

    Dave – No I won’t be producing the reference works you require because I only do things I want to do. If I bought 1 1/2 litres of paint last year for 6.80 euros and I buy another 1 1/2 litres of exactly the same paint this year and it costs 8.29 and this experience is duplicated with household goods, toiletries and things from the hardware store, I don’t need The Economist to tell me there have been some pretty hefty price hikes within the course of one year. Especially as they’re all French products, as France is a protectionist country. Bread, petrol and visits to the doctor have remained constant. Everything else has zoomed up and “fun” as you think anecdotes are (although how do you feel about sad anecdotes?), I don’t see how your experiences in Paris and Nice are germane to the discussion because you were involved in exchanging pounds for euros, which is not what we’re talking about.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Where is the advantage to the EU that justifies the cost?

    Well, I’ve worked in global professional services for the last decade. The EU’s freedom of movement since 1992 has made life for us a lot easier in moving Engineers on assignment around the EU. It means you can have a pan-European consulting service without having to worry about visa’s and so forth.

    Without that our business would be unable to grow at the rates we’re currently managing and we wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the Eastern expansion of the EU like we are.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Verity,

    I was referring to the Euro cost shown on the receipts. To whit: if 0.5 litres of beer cost me E3.50 last year, and E3.50 this year I can make the same argument as you.

    Something to support your 20-30% other than your say so will be great thanks.

  • Dave O'Neill

    I have a South African friend who was the manager of a Cement Factory in France. When he moved to France he could not believe the production statistics given the hours worked and holidays. The French plants were the most productive anywhere on the planet.

    Outside of production jobs you also tend to find office workers and management in French companies work much harder than other people. It wasn’t unusal in the Paris office I was based in for people to arrive around 8.30am and not leave before 8.30pm.

  • Verity

    Nick – I never hesitate to enjoy a spot of schadenfreude myself, but I can’t help you with references. I’m going by personal evidence and everyone else talking of price hikes. For example, 3.95 euros to buy a melon grown down the road. 4.95 a kilo for plums grown in an orchard down the road. As I said, the creep was slow among things one bought weekly, say; but things bought on an infrequent basis, like purchases from the hardware store and toiletries, leapt up, on the assumption that the purchaser wouldn’t be able to remember exactly what he paid last time. And it always went up to funny amounts (as in 8.29) to add to the shopper’s sense of misremembering.

  • Sandy P.

    – Like it or not, Europeans nowadays are putting the past to rest.–

    Except w/the Americans, Ralf.

  • R.C. Dean

    “Outside of production jobs you also tend to find office workers and management in French companies work much harder than other people. It wasn’t unusal in the Paris office I was based in for people to arrive around 8.30am and not leave before 8.30pm.”

    I thought that was illegal. Is the 35 hour work week restricted to “production” jobs, whatever those are?

    BTW – 12 hour days are not at all unusual for many US professionals.

  • Guessedworker,

    it’s not obvious that tariffs would be as low as 0.5 % without the EU. Britain on its own wouldn’t have gotten favorable enough terms from the countries in the Far East that 0.5 %would have been palatable to the Bristish electorate.

    Another reason for the EU would be that most European countries are insignificant on their own. The EU makes it possible for them to make their voice heard in the wold. For all the carping of Denmark, Belgium etc how the big countries dominate them they’d be worse off without it. And the bigger countries have more global influence than thesy would otherwise, even if the advantage isn’t quite as big for them.

    And please consider: Nobody is keeping Great Britain in the EU except the British government itself. There *is* an option to leave and as far as I know any country that doesn’t sign the EU constititution is out by default. If Briatain won’t leave, blame Blair, not the EU.

  • Sandy,

    I meant our age-old conflicts, not the relations with America (and the Czechs, Poles and Hungarians are thinking of much more recent history than that anyway). It’s the norm and not the exception that EU members have wildly divergent views of foreifn policy.

  • Sandy P.

    –It wasn’t unusal in the Paris office I was based in for people to arrive around 8.30am and not leave before 8.30pm.–

    5 days a week? 6? Why weren’t they subject to the 30/35-hour rule?

  • Verity, Nick,

    the husge price-hikes reported in the press are mostly imaginary. And here they aren’t consumers (and sometimes anti-trust authorities) aremeting out punishment as needed.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Is the 35 hour work week restricted to “production” jobs, whatever those are?

    The way I’ve had it applied when working there and what people who work in offices in France have said is that the 30/35 hour rule is for factory workers and people who would normally work to a timeclock or are subject to union rule.

    Management and office workers are expected to be in the office a lot longer than 35 hours.

    12 hour days are common all over the UK too – at least in London and other cities.

  • Verity

    Ralf – I’m assuming from your name you live in Germany? My only experience on the ground in a meaningful sense is in France and I assure you, these price hikes are real. So real, it’s insulting that they expect you not to notice that a product has been raised from 8.95 euros to 11.39, say. Some things are jacked up more than that. The huge rises are in products, as I keep saying, that one doesn’t buy every week, so the prices are hazy in one’s mind. “I thought I paid 8 euros something for this last time … uh, maybe it was 10 something…”. But if you made a specific mental note last time, you are shocked to find the hike is indeed real. It has been done cynically and with guile.

  • There are times when I despair of current political debates. For instance, the conflict between libertarians and socialists makes me wonder about both sides.

    I tend toward the libertarian myself. But to say that because free market capitalism is better than state socialism (seems true to me) every thing capitalists do is better than socialists does not seem true.

    For instance, socialist governments can inhibit innovation and productivity growth in myriad ways. They can:

    1. Tax the hell out new enterprises.

    2. Create regulatory regimes that markedly inhibit adoption of new technologies.

    3. Force significant investment in obsolete technologies at the expense of newer, potentially better ones (think NASA and the shuttle).

    4. Probably other ways as well.

    So, we must conclude, free market systems are superior in all ways for the adoption of new technologies and economic growth. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

    Much has been made about French productivity and their short work hours. How could this be? It could be that French practices are actually better than American in some important ways.
    How could shorter working hours promote productivity? Let’s consider a few factors:

    1. Exhausted workers make more mistakes.

    2. Exhausted workers are less able to learn new things. That fancy new tool is worthless unless people learn how to use it.

    3. Exhausted workers are less open and imaginative. They’re less likely to come up with those wonderful innovations that promote productivity growth.

    4. Exhausted workers are more deferential to management. Screwups are therefore worse because they go on for longer periods of time.

    I’m sure we all could go for quite some time making observations like this. I’ve just tried to make a thoughtful comment that might spark some people to actually embrace more flexible, creative thinking.

  • Jacob

    The profound hatred of British libertarians (i.e. Samizdata) toward the EU and the Euro is clearly exagerated.
    The EU has many positive aspects that have been pointed out here – free travel, free trade, open borders. The Euro currency itself isn’t a bad idea, and surely isn’t worse than the national fiat money currencies it replaces.
    Fearing the loss of national sovereignity and identity isn’t a very libertarian thing. Libertarians should not be too deep in love with the Nation-state.
    The proposed EU constitution is bad, sure, and the policies of Brussels bureaucrats are silly. But exactely the same policies are beeing practiced by the beloved HMG, under NuLabor, with no improvent in sight, as the loyal opposition is so loyal that it advocates the same statist policies or worse ones.
    So joining the EU and the Euro won’t make things so much worse than they already are, won’t make a big difference.
    I’m not trying to deny you the joy of hating the EU, I myself hate them too – especially the grotesque leaders of France and Germany.
    Still a tone a little more level-headed seems to me appropiate.
    For example – I’m asking about Sweden: are her domestic policies so liberal, that freedom will be reduced if she adopts European policies – or is it the other way around ?

  • R.C. Dean

    I keep seeing references to the high level of French productivity.

    I wonder if some of this isn’t a reaction to the draconian wage laws, that essentially added a new “incentive” to squeeze out a few more drams of productivity since you couldn’t keep the workers around after 4:30. In effect, a beneficial effect of the work rules. Although, in my experience, workers who have job protection are much more difficult to motivate, and thus less productive, than other workers.

    I wonder how reliable the productivity numbers are. To the extent they are government-generated numbers, they are to some degree suspect.

    On the anecdotal front, I have heard a few people say that French units are quite productive, and others say that the French waste more time in a day than anyone else they know (except possibly the Dutch).

    Regardless, the (equally suspect) GDP numbers indicate that the US has widened its GDP lead, and the UK has closed the gap with France, casting doubt, in my mind, on the high French productivity numbers.

  • R.C. Dean

    “Fearing the loss of national sovereignity and identity isn’t a very libertarian thing. Libertarians should not be too deep in love with the Nation-state.”

    I have long favored a view of national sovereignty that likens it to the watertight compartments on a ship, preventing the disastrous policies of one nation from infecting the rest unless and until the local demos have given their approval. Strong attachment to sovereignty and national identity is one of the primary reasons that the Anglosphere has been able to resist the blandishments of various kinds of Continental statism over the decades.

    The EU and transnational progressivism are pretty direct descendants (either ideologically, tactically, or both) of Marxists, the old Communist Internationale, and all the megalomaniacs in history who wouldn’t be satisfied until they ruled all of Europe. Nationalism and sovereign independence are essential antidotes to this latest wave of statist overreaching.

    The EUniks are attempting, not to do away with or reduce government, but to create a super-government that implements the ideas of a small band of elites that could never pass muster with the demos as a whole. This is a project that is utterly inconsistent with liberty, and if nationalism and sovereignity are the bulwarks that will stop this awful tide, I will be happy to man them.

  • Jacob

    ” … national identity is one of the primary reasons that the Anglosphere has been able to resist the blandishments of various kinds of Continental statism …”
    Sometimes Nationalism is necessary and helpful, but many other times it is the cause of horrible regimes and wars. We must be careful with this idea.

    “The EU and transnational progressivism are pretty direct descendants (either ideologically, tactically, or both) of Marxists, the old Communist Internationale”

    Many Marxist influences are evident in EU policies, but descendents of the Communist International they are NOT. They lack the beligerence, the brutality and violence of Communism. They are not undemocratic, and not totalitarian in the sense they don’t use a huge amount of brutal force to impose themselves on others. So the sentence above is an instance of the shrill and exagerated hate retoric that I deplored.

  • Jacob:

    Fearing the loss of national sovereignity and identity isn’t a very libertarian thing. Libertarians should not be too deep in love with the Nation-state.

    Well, I’m American, so I may be off regarding “British” libertarianism, but these two sentences seemed to make no sense.

    Aren’t libertarians the world over interested in the reduction of government power, and in the localization (to the extent possible) of what government power remains? If so, then doesn’t it seem self-evident that a libertarian would favor devolution of power from transnational to national governments?

    And how, if all of this is true, does this make libertarians fans of the nation-state as regards state, province, or municipal government?

  • Give me liberty, or give me death (EU)!

    It’s sad to see that some libertarian/right thinking individuals are still refusing to believe that the former Common Market which was based on free trade has now turned into a socialistic nightmare called the “EU”.

    The EU of today and the future, as clearly demostrated during the recent constutional convention, is not one that emphasizes individual liberties and capitalism. Instead, it seems to eagerly embracecentral plannning, minute detail regulation and en-masse collectivism.
    .
    Sure, it’s great that you now can travel from Herenveen to Rimini without being disturbed.
    But that will never have a significant impact on social mobility or economic growth. The anemic EU GDP growth didn’t improve after EU freed labor movements and introduced the Euro, it worsened. And the chronic EU unemployment illness did heal, it got sicker.

    The cultural barriers of language and customs, the undeniable and invisible borders of nations, will always exist. Thus, the dream of continent where anyone can easily relocate to an area where free capital welcomes it, will always remain a hopeless utopia.
    It might exist on a small scale among certain professionals and EU beaurocrats, but for the vast majority of EU citizens, leaving your country is never an realistic option. Relocating from Malmö to Athens will never be as easy as moving from California to Idaho.

    So what are you left with? A centrally planned state that was supposed to support the free flow of labour and capital, but today support the free flow of socialism and red tape instead.

    No thanks.

  • Dave O'Neill

    the UK has closed the gap with France

    It has? Last I looked the UK had edged ahead by a nose due to the strength of the pound. Otherwise it looks like the UK will fall behind again.

    Given the UK is nominally growing faster than France, although that’s not consistent, and has lower unemployment, it suggests the French productivity is higher.

    Unless there’s something I’m not thinking of?

  • Dave O'Neill

    Actually according to most studies labour mobility is increasing dramatically. Given we’ve only had it for a decade that’s something.

  • Johnathan

    Jacob, it is true, and I happily, as a libertarian, plead guilty to an “exaggerated” hatred of the EU. What started out in theory – at least that is how it was sold to the British electorate – as a free trade zone has become, all to clearly, a project to create a heavily centralised European state, from which it will be very difficult to disengage.

    As I have remarked in previous posts, my opposition to the EU does not depend on my taking a hostile view of other nations in said organisation. Indeed there is a great deal that we in Britain can learn from the Continent. But that is besides the point.

    On the currency front, I have nothing against a common currency for Europe or indeed an even wider geographical area. The late Frederick Hayek’s idea of competiting currencies would have certainly encompassed the idea of a common currency developing within a free market. Indeed the old gold standard was in some ways just that.

  • Jacob

    It seems to me there IS free flow of, not just tourism, but people, merchandise, businesses and capital between all EU countries, and you can relocate just like you move from California to Idaho. This is great. (If it is not so, if my facts are wrong, please someone correct me).
    There are language and cultural barriers, but they are not to blame on governments, and are not insurmountable.
    The EU tries also to impose a superstructure of regulations that are too intrusive and centralized. True, and bad. But most of those regulations, and then some, already exist in the member countries, imposed by their national governments.

    ” … doesn’t it seem self-evident that a libertarian would favor devolution of power from transnational to national governments? ”

    That depends on the policies of each government. If the transnational government were more liberal than the nationl one I would advocate joining the transnational entity. I think that may be the case with some of the new countries joining the EU – they think the transnational entity is more steady, reliable and even just that their previous national entity.

  • R.C. Dean

    Many Marxist influences are evident in EU policies, but descendents of the Communist International they are NOT. They lack the beligerence, the brutality and violence of Communism. They are not undemocratic, and not totalitarian in the sense they don’t use a huge amount of brutal force to impose themselves on others. So the sentence above is an instance of the shrill and exagerated hate retoric that I deplored.

    The International did not engage in brutality, violence, brute force, etc. because it was not (yet) the state. Really, though, this was more an impressionistic comment on my part about the ways in which the EU seeks to export its ideas to the rest of the world.

    The EU does not strike me as a democratic organization, as it seems very concerned with insulating itself from direct accountablity to voters. Its “totalizing” tendencies I leave for another day, but it does seem to be interested in stripping competing polities within the EU of their power and influence.

    Last I looked the UK had edged ahead by a nose due to the strength of the pound. Otherwise it looks like the UK will fall behind again.

    As I recall, the nominal GDP gap between France and the UK used to be broad. Apparently, it has now closed to the point where currency fluctuations determine the leader. I regard that as a closing of the gap, even if it hasn’t been eliminated entirely

    Given the UK is nominally growing faster than France, although that’s not consistent, and has lower unemployment, it suggests the French productivity is higher.

    I’m not sure why lower unemployment and higher growth in England are inconsistent with higher or lower relative levels of French productivity. Growth and employment levels are independent of productivity in any event, I think. You can have high growth, low unemployment, and high productivity all at once. This would be a wealthy society, and on its way to getting wealthier, but still.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I read somewhere – can’t recall exactly – that the French 35-hr week is resented by some, because they have to work intensively during the workweek, often in ways that lead to problems. So a slightly longer work week would be easier, not a burden.

    I often find in my job that it is hard to get hold of people in Paris during the working day because of the short hours. I dunno whether it is directly affecting productivity but in the long run this is damaging the French service ethic, not terribly good in the first place.

  • Dave O'Neill

    As I recall, the nominal GDP gap between France and the UK used to be broad.

    Do you recall when and by how much. My memory of the last 30 years is that they’ve been pretty much muscling each other over 4th and 5th place in the size stakes.

    The French produce more currently per worker than the UK. With 9%+ unemployed the potential for expansion of the French economy is sginificantly greater than the UK with just 5%(ish) unemployed. There is some figure fudging here, of course, as the UK hides a lot of unemployment in the statistic, but certainly in certain areas the UK is running at frictional unemployment. I don’t believe that to be the case in France.

    There have been several occasions over the last 5 years where the French economy has grown dramatically in comparison to the UK. While the UK seems to be more steady, France goes through fits and starts.

    I think to write them off as an economic has-been is therefore somewhat premature.

  • Dave O'Neill

    but in the long run this is damaging the French service ethic, not terribly good in the first place.

    I have to admit that I was not aware that France had a service ethic ;-)

  • R.C. Dean

    But most of those regulations, and then some, already exist in the member countries, imposed by their national governments.

    Often because the EU requires such harmonization. In any event, it will be nearly impossible for the citizens of any single country that decide to get rid of these regulations to succeed once they are ensconced at the EU level. WHen they were “merely” national, they were much more subject to democratic accountability.

    Dave, I really don’t recall, beyond a dim recollection of a previous debate over GDP stats here at Samizdata. You’re probably better informed than I am.