by Jerome a Paris
Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 06:07:12 AM EST
Below, a pot-pourri of extracts of articles from last week's Economist, and today's Financial Times, just to show the kind of onslaught we're dealing with.
This is on the front page of the FT today:
End in sight for German wage restraint
After five years of severe wage restraint, leading politicians in Germany and even some employers are backing union claims for a bigger share of rising profits in Europe’s largest economy.
Generous wage deals next year could alarm the European Central Bank, which will worry about their inflationary impact.
In real terms, the average household’s income is lower today than it was 15 years ago. In the past three years in particular, there has been a marked decoupling between fast-rising corporate profits and falling wage income.
- When things are bad for companies (the only proxy for the economy these days), workers need to make an effort to ensure the survival of companies.
- When things are going well, workers need to make an effort not to kill the recovery, or not to undermine the competitiveness of the economy.
- When things are going exceptionally well, workers should be patient so as not to trigger worries about inflation.
The usual argument to focus economic policy on the well being of companies is that eventually they will flow to workers ("today's profits are tomorrow's investments are the future's jobs"), but I fail to see exactly when this will be happening under the above rules.
Poland's awkward government
Businessmen are rather less pleased that strong growth has allowed the government to splurge on social programmes. It has introduced higher child benefits and tax breaks for families; it has also agreed to raise salaries for police, border-guards, medical staff and teachers next year, as well as putting up the national minimum wage.
Besides clumsy diplomacy and dubious economic policy, (...)
So spending money which is available to government thanks to growth on social programmes is "dubious economic policy" and displeasing. Which again suggests that no social programme will ever be acceptable under this economic model.
The Turkish train crash
During the past year Turkey and the EU have squabbled bitterly over Cyprus, over clauses in the Turkish penal code that limit free speech and over a French proposal to make it an offence to deny the Armenian genocide of 1915. These may be real issues, but they have not affected Turkey's Western orientation, as embodied in its NATO membership and its impressive reform programme. The economy is growing by 6-7% a year;
This is not just about economic policy, but it helps us understand what the definition of the West is: any country that:
- "reforms", and
- that is subservient to US geopolitical objectives.
Of course, France and Germany cannot really be expelled from the West, but they are declining and thus should no longer be listened to, just like the old embarrassing drooling senile uncle at family reunions.
Russia, of course, was for a while seen as a prospective member of the West, but no longer. It gets the treatments for wayward kids: dripping contempt:
Russia deserves pity as well as fear
Although its economy has recovered and its diplomacy is more assertive, Russia has an awesome array of problems, any one of which would be seen as cataclysmic in most rich countries.
But the threat it poses to the rest of the world has been overstated. Russia is neither exporting a defunct ideology nor fighting proxy wars with America, as it did during the cold war. Its hints at disruptions to Europeans' gas supplies are mostly bluff. Indeed, the biggest dangers Russia poses to the West may be as an incubator of assorted diseases and of Islamist extremism.
(...) For the biggest risk of all is that Russia's weakness and instability will at some point produce a regime much nastier even than Mr Putin's, which will inherit Russia's strengths: oil and gas pipelines and nuclear weapons.
Russia is doing bad, behaving badly, and trending even worse. But it's not a real threat to us, only to poor hapless Russians who thus need the enlightened help of the West.
But it's not just reluctant countries that need to be brought in line. Evil focus on anti-economic behavior must be similarly eliminated:
Running our of road
No one really knows what the bill for this chronic road congestion is, although the Confederation of British Industry suggests a figure of around £20 billion a year.
Things are no better on the railways. A 44% rise in passenger numbers over the past 12 years looks good, but it has come at vast cost. Subsidies are now £5 billion a year, over four times as high as when rail was privatised in 1994.
After years in which policy has been buffeted by competing requirements for efficiency, cheapness, social justice, productivity and greenery [Sir Rod's report] is at least is welcome.
- Subsidies are bad (even if they seem to at least be contributing to the solution)
- Anything said by companiers or their representatives is true
- social justice is incompatible with efficiency and productivity
- "greenery" (ew, what an ugly word) is incompatible with social justice, and of course with efficiency and productivity
- cheapness is incomatible with social justice, greenery and prodcutivity
We know which ones we should focus on, of course.
There you have it, the permanent, mindless propaganda that permeates all discourse. What is good for BP or Wal-Mart is good for all, and if you don't agree, you're in decline.