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Buying time [Part 2] : Marktvolk vs. Staatsvolk

by eurogreen Thu Aug 21st, 2014 at 09:52:49 AM EST

Continuing my review of Wolfgang Streeck's Buying Time : The delayed crisis of democratic capitalism. (The first installment is here)

I want to strongly recommend reading the book.  Streeck is a philosopher and sociologist, and his take on economics is a refreshing re-injection of the social element that orthodox economics so rigorously excludes and ignores. My feeling is that, in the fightback against neoliberalism, "Buying Time" is as important as, and convergent with, Thomas Piketty's "Capital".

Chapter 2 : Neoliberal reform : from tax state to debt state

Streeck documents the progressive disenfranchising of actual electors, as each nation's creditors gain the whip hand after the transformation of our "tax states" into "debt states", and aggressively counters the neo-liberal meme that the slide into debt has been the product of demagogic profligacy.

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Buying time : Where now for capitalism and democracy? [Part 1]

by eurogreen Fri Aug 15th, 2014 at 12:53:53 PM EST

Wolfgang Streeck, leading figure of the Frankfurt school of philosophy, has published an incisive and compelling analysis of the interplay between capitalism and democracy in the developed world over the past forty years or so : Buying Time : The delayed crisis of democratic capitalism.

Eurotrib having been offered a copy, I have undertaken to review it. I feel suited to the task because I have nothing but an autodidact's random smattering of economics, sociology and philosophy, and will mostly restrict myself to a naïve synthesis of Streeck's theses, leaving my far more erudite and insightful readers to do the serious work. I will resist quoting directly from the text because I wouldn't know where to stop; everything is eminently quotable, written with admirable clarity and humour, nicely translated, a constant pleasure to read.

The book, based on the 2012 Adorno lectures, was published last year in Germany, and the English translation (by Patrick Camiller) has just been published by Verso, an imprint of New Left Books. It can be ordered in physical form from the publisher, or electronically from Amazon, iTunes, or Nook. (Yes, it's buying "Buying time" time).

The three chapters correspond to the three lectures on which they are based. Despite the book's relative brevity (less than 200 pages, excluding the extensive bibliography and index) I propose to do a diary on each chapter; each one is of sufficient density to merit discussion.

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Friday open thread

by eurogreen Fri Dec 27th, 2013 at 11:22:09 AM EST

The regulars are already down the pub...

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Delphine Batho blows the whistle on Hollande

by eurogreen Sat Jul 6th, 2013 at 02:38:43 AM EST

Minister of Ecology of Ayrault's government until she was fired on Tuesday 2nd July, Delphine Batho held a press conference yesterday to give some background on the affair.

She explains that powerful interests are blocking France's energy transition, which was Hollande's electoral policy and which she was working to implement, and that these interests got her fired. I find it sufficiently explosive to merit a diary, though I don't have time to develop the subject.

Here's an extract from Le Monde :

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Crowdfunding a documentary

by eurogreen Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 04:31:24 PM EST

Funding film making has always been a challenge. Government assistance is welcome, but opens up possibilites for some interesting scams :
Film tax-credit fraudsters jailed | UK news | guardian.co.uk

Five fraudsters who pretended to be making a Hollywood blockbuster as part of a £2.8m VAT and film tax credits scam have been jailed.

Tax inspectors were told that A-listers from Hollywood were starring in a £19.6m production that would be shot in the UK.

But the film, Landscape of Lies, was never made and the only footage shot was seven minutes of "completely unusable quality" filmed in a flat and costing just £5,000.

In the USA, copyright trolling appears to be a viable way to extract a revenue stream from any film that people can be persuaded to download; and circumstantial evindence suggest that there exists an industry of producing industrial-grade movies for the sole purpose of sending people threatening letters to obtain money.

It is pretty much the conventional wisdom that downloading films on the internet is damaging to the "film industry". Is it damaging to the art of film? That's less clear. The internet is also, of course, immensely enriching for cinema fans, and for all who work in the medium.

One of the most transformational ways the internet is useful to cinema is as a means of raising finance.

This diary is basically a plug for a film which needs funding if it is to be completed : Je suis une peau rouge [I am a redskin] by Virginie Valissant-Brylinski.

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What is marriage?

by eurogreen Sun Nov 4th, 2012 at 04:10:26 AM EST

I read an article in Le Monde this morning which rather irritated me. His Eminence Twenty-Three (yes, that's his name), cardinal-archbishop of Paris, indignantly opposes the Government's proposal to extend the possibility of civil marriage to same-sex couples :

« Mariage pour tous »: à Lourdes, Mgr Vingt-Trois dénonce « une supercherie » et les « lobbies » | Digne de foi" Marriage for all" : in Lourdes, Mgr Vingt-Trois warns of a "hoax" and "lobbies"
Ce projet n'est pas seulement une ouverture généreuse du mariage à de nouvelles catégories de concitoyens, c'est une transformation du mariage. Ce serait le mariage de quelques uns imposé à tous ». Pour l'Eglise, « la question fondamentale est celle du respect de la réalité sexuée de l'existence humaine. Imposer dans le mariage et la famille une vision de l'être humain sans reconnaitre la différence sexuelle serait une supercherie qui ébranlerait un des fondements de notre société et instaurerait une discrimination entre les enfants». Il a une nouvelle fois regretté l'absence de débat national, qui aurait permis d'aller au-delà « de sondages aléatoires ou de la pression ostentatoire de quelques lobbies ». "This project is not merely a generous opening up of marriage to new categories of citizens, it is a transformation of marriage. This would be the wedding of a few, imposed on all". For the Church the fundamental question is that of respect for the sexual reality of human existence. To impose in marriage and on the family a vision of the human being without recognizing the sexual difference is a deception that would shake a cornerstone of our society and introduce discrimination between children" . He again regretted the absence of a national debate, which would have enabled us to go beyond "random opinion polls or the heavy-handed pressure of a few lobbies".

My impression is that his eminence is mistaken, or is trying to mislead us, as to the nature of marriage.

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Euro Deathwatch Diary

by eurogreen Wed Sep 12th, 2012 at 05:57:44 AM EST

Little quick and dirty diary to commemorate the Day when the German Constitutional Court broke the back of the Euro.

Or not. Stay tuned...

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French presidential election : your prediction

by eurogreen Sun Apr 22nd, 2012 at 07:30:41 AM EST

No, you don't get to vote, it's just an unscientific opinion poll (tautology alert!)

To help to place your bet, I suggest this summary of opinion polls, and this article on abstention rates (news on participation at midday puts this year's abstention as somewhere between the 16.2% of 2007 and the 28.4% of 2002).

Please comment your prediction in this thread.

This poll closes at 6.30pm French time. Happy voting!

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New Zealand general election

by eurogreen Fri Nov 25th, 2011 at 04:20:18 PM EST

Here are some personal notes on this weekend's election.

Anyone interested in the mechanics of the thing, and in following results, can check out the Wikipedia entry.
Don't bother with the NZ online press, unless you're extremely enthusiastic, as it is pretty much incomprehensible, even to an expatriate like me, but here it is :
NZ Herald
Stuff
Scoop

Just to kill any suspense :

the polls are unequivocal.

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French Socialist primary : Round Two

by eurogreen Thu Oct 13th, 2011 at 07:50:15 AM EST

Tonight, Wednesday 12th October, we have the TV debate between second-round candidates Martine Aubry and François Hollande. The vote is on Sunday, and is impossible to call for the moment. This may well be the decisive moment...

I will attempt to live-blog it, giving a bit of background, and my subjective impressions.

The debate can be followed live here, and it will certainly be available here after the event.

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[UPDATED] Daniel Cohn-Bendit in Lyon

by eurogreen Wed May 25th, 2011 at 03:39:46 AM EST

Political ecology in France has often been a bitter and fractious affair. The Green Party (Les Verts) has always been its leading representative, but rarely the only party vying for the ecologist vote. The party itself is explicitly organized on factional lines, with frequent power struggles, based not on discernible policy differences, but on tactics and personal power-seeking. There is also a Jacobin (or Leninist) culture of centralized decision-making and control, which is in flat contradiction with the roots and formal structure of the party, which is a federation of regional groups.

Les Verts have a reputation, largely deserved, for squabbles and bust-ups, and there is not the slightest doubt that this has cost us considerable electoral support over the years. The flip side of this is that we are undoubtedly the most democratic party in France; but the exercise of this intra-party democracy absorbs all our energy, leaving us exhausted and ineffectual.

Enter Dany Cohn-Bendit.

DCB, having been expelled from France by De Gaulle in 1968, has spent almost all of his adult life, and political career, in Germany, with die Grünen. Since the late 90s, he has been making guest-star appearances in the French party. Over the past couple of years, he has been involved in a determined effort to shift the political culture of Les Verts, and this is what brought him to Lyon [last Thursday].

promoted by Jerome

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The Anthropocene controversy

by eurogreen Fri May 13th, 2011 at 07:37:04 AM EST

Climate science is a fascinating and rapidly evolving field. It is now clear to all, except to those who don't want to understand, that human-induced climate change is already a problem, and a rapidly worsening one, that requires political and economic action. Not to save the world (that would be rather arrogant and pretentious), but perhaps to save humanity.

Palaeoclimatology, the study of the history of the world's climate, is a vital vector for understanding where we are now and where we are going : if we can closely model past climate trajectories, we can more closely constrain the possible futures.

The major vector of human influence on the climate has been the huge pulse of gases released by the burning of fossil fuels, starting with coal in the 19th century and worsening with the current orgy of oil and gas. The many gigatonnes of carbon released in only a couple of centuries constitute a cataclysmic climate event, orders of magnitude greater than any previous human influence. So, by convention, pre-industrial human influence was more or less politely ignored. It was easily demonstrated, by running a few computer simulations, that land-use changes due to agriculture might have had a marginal effect, but human population was so small that the climate effect could only have emerged from background noise by about the 18th century, so that it was almost immediately swamped by the fossil fuel effect.

However... what does the climate record actually have to say on the subject? When does the Anthropocene commence - with the industrial age, or ten thousand years earlier?

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ECB rate rise : the beginning of a new phase?

by eurogreen Fri Apr 8th, 2011 at 05:28:15 AM EST

This is more of an inquiry than a diary.

With today's rise of the repo rate from 1% to 1.25%, we seem to be exiting "emergency mode" and, according to the ECB's logic, returning to "business as usual". Inflation greater than 2% is anticipated, therefore, automatically, interest rates must rise. It now seems likely that they will continue to rise, tending to 2% before year's end.

Problem : most of Europe is enduring cost inflation, while wages do not follow; only Germany meets the standard criteria for increased interest rates.

Worse : the distressed nations (Greece, Portugal, Ireland) will be further stressed by rate increases. To say nothing of distressed mortgage holders...

The new phase would seem to spell disaster for debtors (individual or governments), for whom inflation would seem their best hope of long-term solvency.

This seems prima facie evidence that the ECB is the Bundesbank by any other name... and smells as sweet.

But perhaps There Was No Alternative?

Discuss.

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Explaining the world financial meltdown : a novel approach

by eurogreen Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 05:48:13 AM EST

I'm sure we all have moments of despair when we listen to broadcast news, or read mainstream newspapers, explaining sententiously how financially ill-disciplined countries must pay for their prodigal ways, and how we must sacrifice more virgins to appease the angry gods of the Market.

A recurring theme at the European Tribune is how we can help to break through this "pensée unique", the "There Is No Alternative" syndrome, and implant alternative explanations in public consciousness. In order to, one supposes, mobilise civil society to pressure the Wise Heads who govern us into stopping the madness.

Jake's Financial Meltdown card game is a fabulous idea, but with, I would expect, a rather limited audience. ET itself as a think-tank / pressure group / e-zine is an ongoing subject...

But, personally, on a good day I am barely able to understand the economic discussions here, let alone usefully contribute. What could I do to help progress public awareness?

The other day, an idea for a novel popped into my head. (I have had a couple of tries, but never finished one yet. Perhaps this will be the one.) The germ of the idea is shamelessly derivative of a certain ongoing news phenomenon, as you will see.

My future novel goes something like this : one member of a small clique of progressive thinkers becomes depositary of a document dump from a whistleblower. This person, an insider in international finance, has accumulated damning documentation of financial skulduggery, involving

[INSERT HERE : laundry list of everything that's wrong with the international financial system].

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Carbon pricing in Australia

by eurogreen Thu Sep 30th, 2010 at 08:11:53 PM EST

A quick note to provoke thought and discussion, about perhaps the biggest challenge facing mankind over the next couple of decades.

There is surprisingly wide concensus among Serious People, all over the world, that putting a price on carbon is both necessary and urgent, in order to mitigate the risks of runaway climate change. (The fact that the US Senate is not part of this concensus, is both unsurprising and a major obstacle.)

This concensus notwithstanding, both major parties in Australia (Labor and the Liberal/National coalition) went into this month's elections with stated policies of no carbon pricing.

This is astonishing, for a number of reasons :

  • Australia is on the bleeding edge of climate change. Its extensive agricultural sector is in decline, partly because of unsustainable land management, but partly from demonstrable effects of global warming. The major cities now all have expensive, energy-hungry desalination plants in operation or in construction, because of the dramatic decline in water resources.
  • Climate change was the major political issue in the previous legislature. Public opinion was (and is) in favour of urgent action, including carbon pricing. Industry lobbied against it, but was expecting and preparing for it.

Kevin Rudd's Labor government prepared legislation on carbon pricing, but could not find a majority to approve it in the Senate. They needed the support of either the Greens or the right-wing opposition. Their proposal was too weak to win Green approval; thus, they counted on the Opposition accepting the inevitability of carbon pricing, and letting it through.

However, climate change was the reason that the leaders of both major parties got rolled, in the year before the election. When Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull staked his leadership on allowing the legislation to pass, he lost to "climate  sceptic" Tony Abbott. Then, after Rudd ignominiously shelved the whole question until after 2012, he was ousted in favour of Julia Gillard, who pledged that she would be introducing no carbon taxes.

At the time, I interpreted this as a heavy defeat for the fight against global warming, not only for Australia but internationally. But democracy is a funny old thing...

In the event, neither party won a legislative victory: after a week of horse-trading, Gillard patched up a majority with three independents and the one Green MP in the Lower House.  In any case, she does not control the Senate : the Greens were the big winners there, and now hold the balance of power. This means that all legislation requires Green approval (or that of the Opposition) to be passed.

 Interestingly, the agreement between Gillard and the Greens is very succinct, and contains very few guarantees : they will vote confidence and supply, and on everything else they will consult. They are holding the whip hand. Let's hope they play their position wisely.

So, why did Labor back away from climate change legislation? Why did the Coalition assume the "skeptic" stance?

It is not out of the question that both were bought off by industry. Australian politics can be extremely raw and crude, and corruption is endemic.
But as far as I can tell, both parties were pandering to supposed popular sentiment against any increase in taxes. If so, they badly underestimated the intelligence of the voters.

The Greens have imposed the creation of a climate change committee, which will prepare pricing options. Clearly, the Greens will be pushing for legislation as quickly as possible, and they have the means to impose it.

This is a complete turn-around with respect to the prospects of international agreement. A decade ago, Australia was Bush's sole ally in opposing climate change action; this was a natural position for them, as an extractive economy, they saw no reason to be on the leading edge of economic sacrifice (this position has since been inherited by Canada). After tasting the reality of global warming, decisive action seemed possible, then impossible, now possible again...

There is a distinct perspective of Australia joining the leading nations (notably Europe and Japan) on climate action. This could have far-reaching consequences on the possibility of moving forward internationally.

So, what's the moral of the story? The stupidity of politicians should never be underestimated. Especially when they are Australian politicians.

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News and Views

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by afew - Sep 16, 39 comments

Your take on today's news media

 15-16 September 2014

by afew - Sep 14, 62 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Start The Week Open thread

by Helen - Sep 15, 33 comments

Linking my thinking with computer technology.

 Roll Out The Weekend

by afew - Sep 12, 22 comments

Like the red carpet

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