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Translation: Trichet or the Single European Unthinking

by Migeru Tue Dec 7th, 2010 at 06:04:38 PM EST

So I was looking around the intertubes and I found that the French European Parliament list Europe Écologie has a website for its MEPs. One of the French Green MEPs is Pascal Canfin, who sits on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, as well as others such as the special committee on the Crisis. His Europe Écologie page is basically a collection of "above the fold" excertps from his blog on the Liberation.fr site. One of the latest blog posts is about our Dear ECB President and his ideological blinders.

Without further ado, here's my translation.

Échos d'euro-écolos: Jean-Claude Trichet ou «l'apensée unique»Echoes of the Euro-Greens: Jean-Claude Trichet or the "single unthinking" - 01/12/2010
La commission des affaires économiques et monétaires du Parlement européen a auditionné Jean-Claude Trichet pendant deux heures hier après-midi. Comme tous les deux mois, ce dialogue monétaire se révèle un exercice frustrant: comme cet échange a lieu en présence de plusieurs dizaines de journalistes, les propos du président de la Banque centrale européenne sont préparés à la virgule près. Et certains députés se sentent même obligés de commencer leur question par une formule disant en substance «je sais que vous ne pouvez pas répondre à cette question à cause de la presse mais je vous la pose quand même car elle est importante».The EP's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs held a hearing on Jean-Claude Trichet for two hours yesterday afternoon. Like every two months, this monetary dialogue reveals itself a frustrating exercise: since this exchange takes place in the presence of dozens of journalists, the ECB President's utterances are scripted almost to the last comma. And certain MEPs even feel obliged to start their questions by a formula saying in substance "I know you cannot answer this question because of the press, but I ask you anyway because it is important".


Mais ce qui est encore plus frustrant que la forme de l'exercice... c'est le fond! Jean-Claude Trichet est un vrai européen, il n'y a aucun doute là dessus. Et en ces temps où les intérêts nationaux l'emportent trop souvent sur l'intérêt général européen, c'est une qualité importante!But even more frustrating than the form of the exercise is the substance! Jean-Claude Trichet is a true European, there's no doubt about that. And at this time where national interests too often trump the general European interest, it's an important quality!
Mais, pour le reste, le président de la BCE continue de dérouler les dogmes de la pensée unique comme si la crise n'avait pas eu lieu.But, otherwise, the ECB president continues to roll out the dogmas of market fundamentalism as if the crisis had never happened.

I am translating "pensée unique" as "market fundamentalism". There is no English translation (though the term exists in Spanish, for instance), but the concept originated around 1990, when the Third Way was being formulated and the message was that there is no alternative. The emerging economic consensus has made, as we know, the European Social Democrats almost indistinguishable from the European People's Party when it comes to economic policy over the past 15 years, to the point that the PES has been harder-hit electorally by the crisis than the EPP, as they are equally responsible in the eyes of the voters. Anyway, "third way", "Brussels Consensus", "Cozy consensus", "market fundamentalism", all describe various aspects of what we're talking about but don't capture the literal meaning of "single thought" which Canfin uses for his play on words in the title: "the single unthinking". Maybe the "Single European Thought" would be a good English term, too?

Les réformes financières? Tout va bien. L'agenda du G20 avance, pas la peine d'en faire plus. La réforme du pacte de stabilité et de croissance? La Commission ne va pas assez loin. Il faudrait des sanctions automatiques et confier la politique budgétaire à des "sages" .Financial reform? All goes well. The G20 agenda marches on, there's no point in doing more. The reform of the Growth and Stability Pact? The Commission isn't going far enought, sanctions should be automatics and budget policy should be entrusted to "wise men".
Or, rappelons que l'Espagne et l'Irlande étaient jusqu'à la crise les bons élèves de l'Europe en matière de déficit et de dette publics. Si leur modèle est en train d'imploser aujourd'hui, ce n'est pas à cause du déficit public, mais bien à cause de l'explosion de la dette privée, liée notamment à la bulle immobilière, qui plombe les comptes des banques et des ménages. Or, de la dette privée, pas un mot. Pas un mot en deux heures sur l'inflation du prix des actifs qui tranche particulièrement avec la maîtrise des prix à la consommation, à mettre sans aucun doute à l'actif de la BCE. Ceci est particulièrement inquiétant quand on sait que, dans un mois jour pour jour, Jean-Claude Trichet deviendra le président du nouveau Conseil Européen du Risque Systémique, chargé précisément de surveiller les bulles sur les marchés d'actifs.However, let's recall that Spain and Ireland were until the crisis the good pupils of Europe on the subjects of public deficit and debt. If their model is imploding, it's not because of public deficit, but because of an exposion of private debt, tied mostly to the real-estate bubble, which weighs heavily on households and banks' accounts. However, of private debt, not a word [from Trichet]. Not a word in two hours about asset price inflation which contrasts sharply with the control of consumer prices, no doubt a success of the ECB. This [omission] is particularly worrying given that, within a month, Trichet will become chairman of the new European Council on Systemic Risk, in charge precisely of watching for bubbles in asset markets.
Les déséquilibres macroéconomiques au sein de la zone euro? Le président de la BCE ne parle que des pays dont la balance courante est en déficit (Grèce, Portugal...) et non de ceux en excédent (Allemagne, Pays Bas...). Or, les excédents des uns impliquent par définition les déficits des autres dans une économie aussi intégrée que celle de la zone euro. Au lieu d'organiser la convergence des modèles macroéconomiques (ce qui implique à la fois d'augmenter la demande, donc les salaires, en Allemagne et la productivité du travail en Grèce), Jean-Claude Trichet voudrait transformer tous les pays de la zone euro en pays excédentaires. Un exercice par nature impossible.Macroeconomic imbalances within the Eurozone? The ECB President only talks of countries with a current account deficit (Greece, Portugal) and not of those in surplus (Germany, the Netherlands) However, the surpluses of the ones imply the deficits of the others within an economy as integrated as the Eurozone. Instead of organising the convergence of macroeconomic models (which implies both rising demand and thus salaries in Germany, and labour productivity in Greece), Jean-Claude Trichet wants to transform all the Eurozone countries into susplus countries. An impossible exercise, by its very nature.
Enfin, le dernier graal de la pensée unique, les fameuses «réformes structurelles»: «elles restent à faire même dans les pays qui affichent de bons résultats aujourd'hui», affirme Jean-Claude Trichet. Comprendre: la flexibilisation du marché du travail, partout. Déduire de la crise financière qui trouve son origine dans la dérégulation des marchés financiers qu'il faut flexibiliser le marché du travail pour sortir de la crise m'est incompréhensible. S'il y a bien une chose que l'on peut déduire de la crise actuelle,  c'est justement que ni les salariés, ni les fonctionnaires, ni les chômeurs n'en sont responsables.In the end, the Holy Grail of market fundamentalism, "structural reforms": "they are still to be made, even in the countries which can post good results today" claims Jean-Claude Trichet. Read: flexible job markets, everywhere. To draw from a financial crisis having its origin in the financial markets the conclusion that one must make job markets more flexible to come out of the crisis is incomprehensible to me. If there is something one can deduce from today's crisis is that salaried workers, public servants, the unemployed, are not responsible.
Mais le pire avec Jean-Claude Trichet, c'est que justement, il n'est pas le pire. Quand on entend son successeur possible, Axel Weber, on finit par trouver équilibrés les propos de l'actuel président de la BCE! La pensée unique est toujours bien présente à la BCE. Mais peut-être faut-il maintenant la qualifier d'«apensée unique».But the worst about Jean-Claude Trichet is, precisely, that he's not the worst. When one hears his possible successor Axel Weber, one end up finding the utterances of the present ECB President quite balanced. The Single European Thought is well represented at the ECB. But maybe it would have to be called "the Single European Unthinking".

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Central bankers, central wankers.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 7th, 2010 at 06:06:17 PM EST
Well, a massive "unthinking" of existing economic dogma is certainly what is needed. I wonder if any MEP even asked Trichet about the role of (previously) private debt in Ireland and (currently) in Spain.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 7th, 2010 at 11:35:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they did, they probably prefaced it by I know you cannot answer this question because of the press, but I ask you anyway because it is important.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 04:24:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unthinking the Single European Unthinking?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 04:26:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a point in which some education is necessary is that, to quote you quoting Robert Parenteau
a country with a current account balance in deficit cannot run both a fiscal surplus and a private sector surplus as a simple matter of accounting definitions.
In other words, regardless of the interest rate policy run by the ECB, the Growth and Stability Pact constraints on public deficits, together with the "Lisbon Agenda" imperative for GDP growth, means increasing private debt in deficit countries. And in the presence of intra-EU balance of payment imbalances without a countervailing redistributive policy introducing a negative feedback loop on the size of the current account deficits (and surpluses), debt bubbles are pretty much guaranteed.

Trichet is ideologically unable to see this, and yet he will chair a Committee to watch out for asset bubbles.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 07:23:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps Pascal Canfin Could arrange a hearing before the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in which both Parenteau and Trichet testify and answer questions, with Parenteau appearing first and presenting his three sector fiscal accounting model. Might be a good idea to invite Jose Manuel Barroso and Axel Weber as well.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 11:20:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It reminds me of a segment title in a 1980's subversive children's program on Spanish National TV: unteaching to unlearn how to undo things.

With a wink to kcurie...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 9th, 2010 at 03:43:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"La pensée unique" can perhaps be translated by "one-way thinking", or "one-track thinking". Add "European" or "un-" or "non-" as wished.

The expression is of course used by the right to designate redistributive social policies, the "one-track thinking" of the left. SOP - if the enemy has a strong point, turn it upside down and use it.

This is the origin of the term:

La pensée unique, par Ignacio Ramonet (Le Monde diplomatique) - 1995

Qu'est-ce que la pensée unique ? La traduction en termes idéologiques à prétention universelle des intérêts d'un ensemble de forces économiques, celles, en particulier, du capital international. Elle a été, pour ainsi dire, formulée et définie dès 1944, à l'occasion des accords de Bretton-Woods. Ses sources principales sont les grandes institutions économiques et monétaires - Banque mondiale, Fonds monétaire international, Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, Accord général sur les tarifs douaniers et le commerce, Commission européenne, Banque de France, etc. - qui, par leur financement, enrôlent au service de leurs idées, à travers toute la planète, de nombreux centres de recherches, des universités, des fondations, lesquels, à leur tour, affinent et répandent la bonne parole.

What is the one-track way of thinking? The translation into would-be universal ideological terms of the interests of a set of economic forces, in particular those of international capital. It was, so to speak, formulated and defined in 1944 with the Bretton Woods agreement. Its main sources are the big economic and monetary institutions - World Bank, IMF, OECD, GATT [now WTO], the European Commission, Banque de France, etc - which, by their funding, enroll to serve their ideas, across the planet, numbers of think tanks, universities, foundations, which, in their turn, hone and spread the word.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 02:08:06 AM EST
I like one-track mind.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 04:25:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that it carries a sex-mad connotation in colloquial English.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 04:34:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i call it 'monorail' thinking...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 10:26:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
single-minded?
narrow-minded?
by jjellin on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 01:24:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Emotionally Compartmented. Normal human stress relief thinking.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sat Dec 11th, 2010 at 02:42:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is the best I can do. The implied irony is clear, at least to native English speakers. It corresponds pretty well to the French "idées reçues", as popularised brilliantly by Flaubert.

In fact, that might be a pretty fine project. Let's start an anthology, a modern "Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues de la Pensée Unique",

"Dictionary of the Conventional Economic Wisdom of the Serious People".

The principle is simple : define the various doctrines and dogma in such a way as to underline their absurdity, self-contradiction or hidden agenda. While making the reader laugh of course.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 06:53:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Conventional Wisdom was a term coined by the elder Galbraith, whose last book was called The Economics of Innocent Fraud and which was precisely about the conventional wisdom of the serious people.
One of the many "frauds" that he says capitalism foists on us is that of "accepted fraud", whereby shareholders in a company are deluded into thinking they actually own it and therefore have a say in how it is run. I couldn't help thinking about "our" stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland. We taxpayers bail it out and to all intents and purposes now "own" it, as the Government keeps reminding us, yet I've never been asked what direction I think "my" company should take; have you? Another "fraud" highlighted by this great economist, who died in 2006 at the age of 98, is the division of labour and the wonderful contradiction it produces: "work is thought essential for the poor; release therefrom is commendable for the rich."


Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 07:00:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Galbraith did not invent the term:
The term is often credited to the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who used it in his 1958 book The Affluent Society:[1]

    It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability, and it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability. I shall refer to these ideas henceforth as the conventional wisdom.[2]

The term in actuality is much older and dates at least to 1838.[3]

Conventional wisdom was used in a number of other works prior to Galbraith, occasionally in a positive[4] or neutral[5] sense, but more often pejoratively.[6]

It's perhaps not an exact translation of "pensée unique", because it carries connotations of a conspiracy of dunces, whereas "pensée unique" has more sinister, authoritarian mind-control overtones.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 07:49:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The existence of money is another fraud.

Money is pre-Newtonian, never mind pre-Galilean or pre-Einsteinian. It's entirely intuitive as a concept, and entirely wrong practically.

Economics doesn't make sense because the ethical and philosophical basis of NCE is social Darwinism. The point of money isn't to make useful things happen or to increase trade, it's to establish a hierarchy of winners and losers - and to increase the power and survival possibilities of the winners while torturing and killing off the losers.

The existence of money relies on an atavistic primate herd instinct. Banking and politics are instantiations of that instinct.

Which is why "work is thought essential for the poor; release therefrom is commendable for the rich."

It's going to be impossible to have sane long term planning and resource management until this motivation changes.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 07:55:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:

Which is why "work is thought essential for the poor; release therefrom is commendable for the rich."

It's going to be impossible to have sane long term planning and resource management until this motivation changes.

agree 100%

i had a friend in the early seventies who told me the next and last great problem humans had to face and conquer (i should say 'come to peace with!) would be what to do with all the leisure time we'd have.

it hit me quite hard, coming from a family of workaholics, the concept seemed so alien, yet over the years i have reflected often on it, and now i find it quite prescient.

computers are picking strawberries now.

i guess you could better frame it as our chief enemy in life is ennui.

as a massage therapist i would add unproductive levels of tension, but they are far from mutually exclusive.

i find it quite obvious we have previously untold opportunities for cultural self-enrichment, and count ourselves fortunate in this regard.

along with mother's milk we have absorbed certain proclivities, which must be addressed and modulated, in order to become better, more rounded human beings.

chief among these is competition for competition's sake, a very cheap road to the wrong kinds of endorphins.

in hawaii, the biggest problem teachers have is the children want to help each other solve problems, in accordance with the millennia of experience in their genes. this indisputably noble seed of co-operation has to be cauterised, or the kids will be unprepared for the 'real world'. just as their ancestors were found wanting in the immune system dept, when craptain crook arrived with his boatloads of prime euro-nurtured colds, flu and STD viruses.

so to return to your excellent point, we need a new source of motivation to supplant the recipe for tunnel-visioned, over-specialised cog-in-the-machinehood.

it's no secret to me what can supplant that, but it may as well be, because it's impossible to explain to people unless they have felt it too, in which cases it is pure pleasurable validation.

to those unclued it doesn't look or feel right, to opt out of the status games, consumption marker collections etc.

the gulf between the two worldviews yawns, yet somehow must be bridged, if we want to arrive at different results that those surrounding us presently.

the level of communication i find here, and the gravity of the subjects we dare to discuss, are Good Things, and augur well for the future leisure society.

along with wealth distribution, should come the freedom distribution, that was only available to those with the luxuries of education and spare time.

along with the social justice side of things, that for example may permit all to eat, be housed and clothed, if food were grown and distributed more sanely, there would be a psychological justice, which would enable children of all backgrounds to enjoy a good education, in order for them to fully grok the wonders of the planet onto which they've been born, to learn the cautionary tales of world history, and to develop and mature their personalities in a well-rounded, globally informed manner.

nuff blather...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 10:16:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The principle is simple : define the various doctrines and dogma in such a way as to underline their absurdity, self-contradiction or hidden agenda. While making the reader laugh of course.

Easiest way is to quote the 2007 economists from the NYTimes.com

Or Max Boot on foreign policy.

Or david brooks on anything.

Department of unintentional self-satire.


Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sat Dec 11th, 2010 at 02:49:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am immediately reminded of Margaret Thather's famous phrase "There is no alternative"...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 08:04:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So maybe apensée unique could be translated as there is no 'there' there.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 08:09:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]


The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 11:29:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TINA = there is no alternative
Is perhaps the colloquial equivalent to "La pensée unique" - now being challenged for the cliche of the year award by
WAWWA = we are where we are
(i.e. please ignore the fact that we have just stolen €70 Billion of public money = 50% of GNP - and given it to private foreign investors in consequence of which we must now "reform" public services to pay for the resulting increased interest burden)

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 01:24:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 01:26:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Trichet will become chairman of the new European Council on Systemic Risk, in charge precisely of watching for bubbles in asset markets.

You've got to be kidding me - the guy already presided the committee that came up with the Basel III recommendations and seems to think that the capital adequacy bromide they came up with is sufficient to guarantee financial stability.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 04:42:00 AM EST
..the Holy Grail of market fundamentalism..

Full frontal attack against labour by political elites is not "market fundamentalism." It is political fundamentalism. But, if market economy by design is unfair and destructive, how can political power support it in a democracy? Why isn't there even proper economic education and "science"?
There is a long way to go with this thing called "democracy."

by kjr63 on Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 11:23:22 AM EST
You mean the political system where power comes from informed voters whose representatives vote their will or intent?

Hyuk, hyuk.

That was a system designed by Xenu as a cruel game.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sat Dec 11th, 2010 at 02:51:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Xenu

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Dec 11th, 2010 at 10:56:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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