I see he’s just typed out, ‘The cat’s in the bag, and the bag’s in the river.’ It took my breath away, right from his brain to my brain
May 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
To insist that the Spanish crisis is the consequence of venality, stupidity, greed, moral obtuseness and/or political short-sightedness, which has become the preferred explanation of moralizers across Europe begs the question as to why these unflattering qualities only manifested themselves after Spain joined the euro. Were the Spanish people notably more virtuous in the 20th century than in the 21st? It also begs the question as to why vice suddenly trumped virtue in every one of the countries that entered the euro with a history of relatively higher inflation, while those eastern European countries with a history of relatively higher inflation that did not join the euro managed to remain virtuous.
The European crisis, in other words, had almost nothing to do with thrifty Germans and spendthrift Spaniards. It had to do with policies aimed at boosting German employment, the secondary impact of which was to force up German national savings rates excessively. These excess savings had to be absorbed within Europe, and the subsequent imbalances were so large (because German’s savings imbalance was so large) that they led almost inevitably to the circumstances in which we are today.
For this reason the European crisis cannot be resolved except by forcing down the German savings rate. And not only must German savings rates drop, they must drop substantially, enough to give Germany a large current account deficit. This is the only way the rest of Europe can unwind the imbalances forced upon the region in a way that is least damaging to Europe as a whole. Only in this way can countries like Spain stay within the euro while bringing down unemployment.
But lower German savings don’t mean that German families should become less thrifty, only that the average German household should be allowed to retain a much larger share of what Germany produces. If Berlin were to cut consumption taxes, or cut income taxes for the lower and middle classes, or force up wages, total German consumption would rise relative to GDP and so national savings would fall – without requiring any change in the prudent behavior of German households.
To ask Spanish households to be more “German” by saving more is not only impractical in an economy with 25 percent unemployment (it is hard for unemployed workers to increase their savings), it is counterproductive. Lower Spanish consumption can only cause even higher Spanish unemployment, until eventually Spain will be forced to abandon the euro and so regain control of its ability to absorb or reject German imbalances. This abandonment of the euro will be driven by the political process, as those in the leadership (of both main parties) who refuse to countenance talk of leaving the euro lose voters to more radical parties until they, too, come around. read more
FILM: Tedd Tramaloni
February 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
All the water you drank today was sewage in the recent past and very possibly excreted by the person sat next to you right now.
Their output made your coffee possible. That and the stewed cowpats in which the coffee grew.
Water operates in a cycle, and therefore starting at any point on that cycle is as valid as any other point. But the emotional impact is vastly different.
The standard water cycle always starts with evaporation. Even the pre-treatment of water to make it drinkable is barely mentioned, and we certainly don’t go into the mechanics of what happens after you flush.
But wind that cycle back a stage and you can immediately generate a severe disgust reaction. So much so that even in areas with a severe shortage of water any attempt to use our advanced technological knowhow to short-circuit the evaporation/precipitation part of the cycle gets a label: “toilet to tap”.
And that tends to stop any rational debate on the subject stone dead.
Precisely the same trick is used with government spending. Government spending is just like the pre-treatment of water. It is an artificial intervention into the natural system that stops people and businesses dying unnecessarily. It is why we have an advanced economy rather than all of us having to stew our own cowpat juice.
And, like water, any spending in a credit economy creates a form of effluent that has to be dealt with by an active intervention. These are the excess saving desires of the non-government sector. They have to be sorted out or everything starts to go very smelly very quickly. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Jessica Tremp