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Too pessimistic? (Edited)

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 at 12:55:45 PM EST


Some things will never be the same again and to imagine it will soon be 'business as usual' may well be wishful thinking. Photo: Aine McMahon/PA Wire

The Irish Independent (and Irish Examiner) have published my letter on the possible end of a golden age for European politics. Apparently some browsers aren't rendering the screen grab of the letter properly, so I reproduce below the fold the image, text and link.


Europe's golden age may fade in the face of new challenges

Historians may well come to regard the 75-year period from 1945-2020 as a golden age for European politics. We’ve had an unprecedented period of peace, growing prosperity and, despite huge pressures, generally high levels of social cohesion.

Technological progress has improved the quality of life for many with the internet providing much-improved connectivity and productivity, and with smartphones, microwaves, affordable cars and air travel enabling greater comfort and convenience for the vast majority.

Educational standards have improved to the point where a third-level qualification has become the norm rather than the exception available only to the wealthier classes. Healthcare has improved, life expectancies have been extended and fewer people are dying of preventable causes.

But is all of this uneven improvement now going to end with a deteriorating climate, rising seas, recurring pandemics, urban congestion, rising immigration pressures and nationalism within Europe and global tensions between the US and China?

Ireland faces a perfect storm of huge challenges. To mention just a few: Managing the end of lockdown without a resurgence of infection; economic recovery after the pandemic; radically revamping the health service to overcome endemic delays in accessing services; overcoming a crisis in the availability of affordable public housing; developing an affordable national childcare model; overcoming the effects of a hard Brexit on our food industry; maintaining peace and social cohesion in the face of demographic changes and a possible break-up of the UK; global and European corporate tax reform resulting in significant loss of tax revenues; a decline in world trade impacting disproportionately on our open economy; and an ambitious and expensive Green New Deal, including an average 7pc annual reduction in carbon emissions.

One cannot but wish the new Government well in addressing these challenges, but we may have to temper our expectations. Some things will never be the same again and to imagine it will soon be “business as usual” may well be wishful thinking.

Frank Schnittger Blessington, Co Wicklow

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Can't quite grasp starting date 1945 ... Europe was devastated ... colonies fought for independence ... atrocities continued on a large scale ... wars were being fought ... my early youth changed dramatically with emigration to the New World in 1957 ... tens of thousands of Europeans left their country of birth ... a much better starting date would the founding of the EEC, the early shaping of the Economic Union ...

That date 25 March 1957, was our arrival date in Hoboken NY or was it Ellis Island NJ. An adventure about to happen ...

by Oui on Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 at 03:09:42 PM EST
I'm working off the assumption that the previous 40 years 1914-1945 was an absolute low point in European affairs with two world wars, severe depression, hyper-inflation, the rise of Nazism and Fascism, and the Holocaust.

Anything would be an improvement on that.

The Marshall Plan combined with the restoration of Democracy and the rise of Labour to power in the UK in 1945 resulting in the NHS and a huge rise in public housing in the UK were a step change, if slow and gradual improvement.

Of course there were also problems in the Balkans and N. Ireland and Reagan/Thatcher led to a reactionary politics in response to the 1968 high point of social revolution/civil rights against the Vietnam war, racism, Apartheid etc, but we also had Glasnost and an end to many conflicts in the 1980s. Things have been going downhill for a while with Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and associated refugee problems, but nothing comparable to the Holocaust and WWII.

So all in all, a distinct improvement on the 1914-45 period...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 at 03:47:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My parents born in 1905 and 1908 spoke of the best years 1918-1929 ... the Roaring Twenties was a period of cultural highlights and advances in technology ... great improvements in Family Life and alleviating heavy household chores ...

The 1960s was well on its way to become a blooming period ... America, Western Europe, an occupied West-Germany ... however Eastern Europe controlled by the tiranny of Soviet Communism ... in Asia under the dictatorship of Mao Zedong many tens of millions either starved to death or were put to death for views not aligned with Mao's Red Book.

Revolution and counter-revolution. The Liberal Revolt of the sixties caused the counter movement of Barry Goldwater and extreme right-wing Republican force of political power. The years of Reagan, GW Bush and Trump devastated the ideals of America as a Force for Good and that beacon of Freedom ... those earlier years have gone forever.

Lacking new leaders, the world is on a journey to totalitarian states, stalemate on Freedoms and Human Rights. Inequality is the vice of greed spoon-fed in politics of pure capitalism.
Many opportunities missed ... changes after the 9/11 attacks, the financial crisis of 2008 ...
Today a great opportunity to tackle indemic racism across the Western nations with a history of slavery and colonialism. At what moment is Man truly Free? Great question 🦉

by Oui on Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 at 04:52:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I normally avoid diaries on very broad topics as you end up making many partially inaccurate sweeping generalisations. A Letter to the Editor allows even less scope. However I felt that much of the debate around the formation of a new government in Ireland had an air of utopian unreality about it all, was very insular, and took many things for granted which I think may no longer be tenable.

For instance, there is almost no public awareness that several billion of our corporate tax revenues relate to activities outside Ireland and which may well be (and should be) taxed where they actually take place in the future. Vested interests in the professions have also hugely inflated the costs of goods and services and penal rent extraction is rife.

Without a social/economic/political revolution not much will change, and to expect otherwise with the current (and any currently possible alternative) government is delusional. Is suspect many people are in for a period of disillusionment in the future, and I just wanted to help prepare them for the realities which lie ahead.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 at 05:12:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having been MIA for the last week + I am confused by the 'diary' without an opening text. What is 'too Pessimistic?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jul 5th, 2020 at 04:34:51 PM EST
The headline refers to the content of my letter to the editor as published by the Irish Independent. Normally I provide some context for readers outside Ireland, but I felt that on this occasion that wouldn't be necessary. I think there are a number of factors, some almost unique to Ireland, which are going to make the next few years particularly difficult - added to the problems the whole world is likely to face. My question is whether, when viewed from the outside, I am being too pessimistic? Certainly I think there is a lack of appreciation, in Ireland, of the scale of challenges we face. Hence my letter.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 09:57:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I now get the picture, but not the text of the letter.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 02:33:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Found the text on FB! (Knew I had seen something somewhere.)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 02:45:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Its just a screen grab picture of the letter, so I so I don't understand why you can't see it!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 04:13:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't either.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 05:15:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a link to a screen grab I posted on Facebook. Can you see it on FB?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 06:35:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that is where I was able to read the letter.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jul 7th, 2020 at 03:38:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've started posting images I want to use on Facebook and linking to then there because photobucket wanted to charge and tended to expire after a while. I've noticed photos in old diaries disappearing, so maybe FB isn't the solution either.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jul 7th, 2020 at 03:49:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since release 74, back in March, Firefox enables a special Facebook container tab system. The isolated container also applies to Instagram and all FB properties. This is just a cordon sanitaire.

Since your image is stored on a FB site, Firefox won't display it in the same tab as ET: we just see a small box with some symbol on it. You'll need to right-click on the empty box and select "ViewImage"; this will open it in another tab which is a "FB container".

by Bernard on Tue Jul 7th, 2020 at 06:58:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this - I didn't realise others had to click on a container to view separately. For me it just comes up as a picture within a story or comment. It doesn't seem ideal from a presentation and ease of use POV. Anybody got any good ideas for where to store pictures you want to use in stories? I used to use photobucket, but they seem to have screwed up all my old pictures in stories.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jul 7th, 2020 at 09:09:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 05:45:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 06:33:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brexit: The return of the UK land bridge dilemma - Rony Connelly RTE

Irish hauliers and exporters are worried about how this is going to be resolved, especially if the EU-UK future relationship talks break down in acrimony. "There's a real risk we get caught in the crossfire," says one Irish official.

Someone agrees with your no-deal assessment:

In a mad Brexit world, "no deal" makes some kind of sense - Brendan Donnelly - The Federal Trust

Now armed with a substantial Parliamentary majority, it is now able and condemned to follow the path of a "no deal" Brexit, because no negotiated accord on Brexit can ever fulfil the wilfully incoherent mandate of 2016. ... Boris Johnson by contrast is happy to live in a political world of generalised incoherence and unreality, of which a "no deal" Brexit will be an eminently fitting conclusion.
I don't agree with his corollary. People can get used to almost anything, especially mediocrity.
These latter barriers to a sustainable relationship with the EU are likely to remain in place for some years to come and the UK will be the systematic loser from this impasse. In the view of this writer, the only eventual escape for the UK from this crippling circle of self-harm will be for it to resume as soon as may be its place inside the EU, but this time as a full and leading member.

.... A Rejoiner coalition standing against the Conservative government at the next General Election now seems a remote prospect. But in volatile times the improbable can become the inevitable with startling rapidity.

Another question for Ireland: will a SF/Green type of coalition emerge at the next election?

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sun Jul 5th, 2020 at 09:20:49 PM EST
epochepoque: "Another question for Ireland: will a SF/Green type of coalition emerge at the next election?"

Seems to me that is pretty much what happened in this most recent development with the new Irish government.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 02:49:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Both SF and the Greens did well, but not well enough to lead a left wing coalition and no-one wants to work with SF at the moment anyway. But who knows in 5 years time. The age profile of FG and particularly FF voters is getting older and older...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 04:23:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Had they failed to form a government this time around and a second general election been called, I would have expected it to have been a two horse race between Fine Gael and Sinn Fein, with everyone else an also ran. But in 4/5 years time? It all depends on the degree to which the economy recovers and this government deals with all the issues I highlighted in the letter.

But it does look likely that Irish politics has switched to a left/right polarity with Sinn Fein the dominant party on the left and Fine Gael more likely than Fianna Fail to become dominant on the right. It's also possible, but unlikely, that all three parties will remain at roughly equal strength in the 20-25% support range.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 04:18:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland has the triple disadvantage of being a relatively small economy, being geographically isolated and having the Euro. I agree that tax harmonization may well deprive Ireland of much of the tax revenue it currently derives from tax arbitrage. And I see no quick or affordable solution to land transport to Europe - except what quasi-legal tarrif workarounds the dual status of Northern Ireland offers.

The major problem for Ireland is that German-EU monetary policy is far from optimum for Ireland. But increased autarky, especially on energy, will help, and that means renewable energy, especially wind and tide. If Ireland can feed itself and provide its own energy the rest can take care of itself. Cheap manufactured goods from China or other mostly Asian sources will still need markets and Ireland can be one such market.

The entire service sector can become self sufficient with enough investment in education. Figuring out how to increase spending on green energy, education, housing and health care will be a challenge within the existing EU. But these are problems the EU will have to resolve if the existing EU is to continue to exist. The biggest challenge could turn out to be affording the material to build the needed new housing.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 03:05:28 PM EST
High density housing significantly cuts construction costs and material use.  High density housing also allows various Public Services such as mass transportation, local medical services, & etc. to be made available at much lower costs.  

It also significantly cuts into developer profit so it probably won't happen.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 03:44:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For some reason there is a huge stigma attached to high density housing (AKA Flats) in Ireland. Everyone wants a three bed semi with gardens front and rear, even quite close to city centres. Flats have connotations of older social housing and anti-social behaviour. This is, of course, hugely inefficient in terms of land use, public transport, and utilities.

If you want to get planning permission for a once off house down the country you need a minimum site size of 1 acre, which is even more unnecessary and inefficient.  As a result, site costs are a huge proportion of total build costs.  Unlike most European cities, there aren't huge numbers of privately owned apartments (as up-market flats are called), but the numbers are slowly growing, especially as family sizes decrease and the population ages.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 06:43:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the advantage of a semi-detached house? They are rare in the US, but they are all over the place in the UK. Why?
by asdf on Tue Jul 7th, 2020 at 10:12:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are marginally cheaper and require less land than a fully detached house but can still offer gardens front and back with outside access between them for lawnmowers/bicycles etc. There appears to be much less pressure on land in the US. Here in Ireland, the site cost can be half the build cost.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jul 7th, 2020 at 10:27:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Without the Euro there would be no way we could borrow at near 0% as we can now. I agree German imposed austerity exacerbated the depression post 2008, but that is not a problem at the moment.

We can possibly grab a lot of EU financial services business from London and direct Dublin Rotterdam RoRo and container shipping capacity is being increased for agricultural and other exports. Most of our beef goes to the UK, however, and that could be difficult to re-direct to other markets if it is displaced by US/Brazilian exports to the UK.

The bigger problem will be who will sub-vent Northern Ireland to the tune of €10 Billion p.a. if the UK breaks up, as I expect it will. That is not to mention the social/political disruption that will result - only tangentially alluded to in the letter.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 04:32:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Belfast Telegraph has belatedly published an edited version of this letter to the editor adapted for a Northern Irish readership and omitting reference to "a possible break-up of the UK" (Their ommission). The text is unfortunately not available on the internet as they do not publish letters on-line, but here is an image of the letter:



Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 9th, 2020 at 10:37:45 AM EST


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