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Münchau on the politics of redistribution

by Carrie Thu Aug 29th, 2013 at 05:47:27 AM EST

In his fifth and final column on the economic programme of the major German parties for the upcoming elections, Wolfgang Münchau has this to say about Die Linke: Wahlprogramm der Linken: Rot-Rot-Grün ist die beste Lösung für Europa (Spiegel, 28.08.2013)

Das Wahlprogramm der Linken in puncto Euro-Krise zeugt von Ehrlichkeit und Intelligenz. Damit ist die Partei den Großen weit voraus - und der ideale Partner für SPD und Grüne.
Election program of The Left: Red-Red-Green is the best solution for Europe (Spiegel, 28.08.2013)
The Election program of the Left shows, on the Euro crisis, honestly and intelligence. Thus the party is far ahead of the big parties, and the ideal partner of the SPD and Greens.
Going beyond the Euro crisis analysis, which is standard around here, Münchau discusses the international dimension of redistributive policies. Quote and translation below the fold.

Read more... (22 comments, 636 words in story)

Modern money and the public purpose I: Historical Evolution of Money

by Carrie Fri Aug 23rd, 2013 at 03:59:45 PM EST

Modern Money and Public Purpose is an eight-part, interdisciplinary seminar series held at Columbia Law School over the 2012-2013 academic year.

This video is 1h45' long
Starting at 4'45" is Randy Wray, followed by Michael Hudson.

You could just watch the first 4 minutes of Randy Wray, though.

Comments >> (2 comments)

LQD: Iran at the crossroads

by Carrie Tue Jul 9th, 2013 at 07:14:40 PM EST

From our very own Chris Cook: Iran at the crossroads (Trend, 9 July 2013)

...  today's high oil prices have not only acted to deter consumption, but have enabled Iran to act against unsustainable energy subsidies and pin the blame for an unpopular policy firmly on the US and EU. Iran's far-sighted strategic decision to process Iranian oil and gas into petrochemicals is now bearing fruit, since it keeps in Iran value previously extracted by the country's oil buyers, and transcends sanctions on crude oil.


... being ejected from the international SWIFT bank payment system meant that Iranians would necessarily have to use their renowned ingenuity to do something else. I also pointed out that the inability to access Swiss hard currency bank accounts would deter anyone tempted to take advantage of an official position.

In my view, even if Iran is tempted through negotiations to go back down the Western financial road, the toxic combination of partisan US politics and external relationships are such that financial sanctions are to all intents and purposes irreversible, at least in relation to the dollar.

You can read the rest over there, and comment over here.

Comments >> (18 comments)

It's okay if you're a conservative

by Carrie Sun Jul 7th, 2013 at 02:47:00 PM EST

I got to thinking about the rhetoric of monetary austerity and There-Is-No-Alternative, and I remembered the following oft-repeated argument by Thomas:

It annoys me that I keep having to point this out, but if the environmental movement is seen to stand for - to advocate- mass poverty, it will loose all popular support, and die a highly deserved death. This entire line of thinking is a dead end, because if it is mistaken - and I am quite confident it is -  it is Evil, in exactly the same way austerity is Evil, and if correct we are in any case doomed, because the course of action that would imply will never ever happen.
Austerity is evil. Austerians (and first among them, Merkel and Schäuble) continuously promise decades of recession and mass poverty. But it doesn't seem to be losing popular support; or if it is, it's losing popular support more slowly than the opposition. The "opinion leaders" in the media are not attacking Austerity with this kind of argument that voluntary poverty is unacceptable as they would be if those in power were "back to the land" environmentalists.

So, if Austerity™ "will lose all popular support and die a highly deserved death", why is it not happening? Does it happen "in the long run", when we're all dead anyway?

Read more... (2 comments, 454 words in story)

A short note on extreme flooding (wonkish)

by Carrie Sat Jun 15th, 2013 at 05:36:59 AM EST

We just had a discussion of whether the Central European floods of the past week are an indication of a change in climate regime or not. A particular bone of contention was Jeff Masters' throwaway remark (quoted by ATinNM) that

If it seems like getting two 1-in-100 to 1-in-500 year floods in eleven years is a bit suspicious--well, it is. Those recurrence intervals are based on weather statistics from Earth's former climate. We are now in a new climate regime ...
One difficulty here is that the meaning of "100-year flood" seems to be unintuitive. As I explained in the thread:
the correct way to think about this is as the probability of the waiting time. Thus, "two events in 11 years" means "one waiting time of 11 years" so we're talking about just one observation, not two. The first flood resets the clock, so to speak. If we knew the date of the previous "100-year flood" in Central Europe, we'd have two observations to compare with the 100-year average waiting time.
ARGeezer, however, puts his finger on a key methodological issue:
I was originally thinking about the appropriateness of the designation of a certain level of flood as a 'hundred year event' and how that designation was achieved. Was it that no such event had been seen for 100 years, that the known frequency of such events was 100 years or was it simply assigning a designation in the face of knowing that the historical record is sketchy.
The fact is that detailed river flow statistics only exist for about 100 years, often less, and are extrapolated to larger flood sizes using theoretical probability distributions. In a 1994 paper [PDF] for the Geological Society of America, Donald Turcotte wrote
For large floods the fractal predictions (F) correlates best with the log Gumbel (LGu), while the other statistical techniques predict longer recurrence time for very serious floods. The fractal and log Gumbel are essentially power-law correlations, whereas the others are essentially logarithmic. The Log Pearson type III (LP) is the Federally-approved distribution for evaluating the flood hazard in the United States. For station I-1805 the 100 year flood predicted by the fractal correlation is a factor of 1.6 greater than the 100 year flood predicted by the Log Pearson type III correlation. For station 11-0980 the 100-year flood predicted by the fractal correlation is a factor of 2.3 times greater than the 100 year flood predicted by the log Pearson type III correlation. If, in fact, fractal statistics are applicable, then the use of log Pearson type III statistics consistently underestimates the severity of the 100, 150 and 200 year floods.
With the fit parameters given by Turcotte, "under the fractal model" the 100-year flood sizes given by the "Federally aproved" model are actually 40-year floods. Further evidence in favour of self-similar distributions over the log-Pearson type III is given, for instance, in this 2006 paper (only abstract available). The immediate question is whether the Europeans are making the same model assumption as the Americans and thus the so-called "100-year floods" are actually 40-year floods, in which case to have two of them in 11 years is not really that shocking.

Below the fold, some more wonk on recurrence time statistics.

Read more... (135 comments, 863 words in story)

The Brussels Consensus: economic disaster in EU candidate countries (III)

by Carrie Tue May 7th, 2013 at 03:56:50 PM EST

This is what a currency peg to the Euro does to an economy on the fringes of the EU: The Economic Winter Will Stay in Croatia (6 May 2013)

Quite pessimistically is titled the spring forecast of the European Commission for Croatia - "Recovery slipping further away. Stuck in recession". Only two months before its accession to EU, the moods in Croatia are not at all festive. The economy has been in recession since 2008 as by now the economic activity has shrunk by almost 12%. The first signs of recovery are expected in 2014, but the conditionality is huge. In 2013, the Croatian economy is expected to contract by 1% as the main hamper to growth still is domestic demand which will continue to decline. The main reasons are continuing growth of unemployment as well as the nominal cuts of public sector wages by 3%. Inflation, too, is a factor for the not good economic perspectives ahead of the future 28th EU member state.
What? The Commission doesn't think cutting public sector wages in a recession is a good idea? Someone should tell Portugal!

Read more... (8 comments, 575 words in story)

Ferguson hates on Keynes

by Carrie Mon May 6th, 2013 at 02:30:01 AM EST

From everyone's favourite sorry excuse for a historian: An Unqualified Apology (05/04/2013)

During a recent question-and-answer session at a conference in California, I made comments about John Maynard Keynes that were as stupid as they were insensitive.

I had been asked to comment on Keynes's famous observation "In the long run we are all dead." The point I had made in my presentation was that in the long run our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are alive, and will have to deal with the consequences of our economic actions.

But I should not have suggested - in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation - that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes's wife Lydia miscarried.

Niall Ferguson omits the third and important way his comments were stupid: he should not have suggested that Keynes advocated deficit spending when the economy is far from full employment because he was indifferent to the long run.

front-paged by afew

Read more... (100 comments, 1127 words in story)

All of Draghi's Horses

by Carrie Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 11:36:43 AM EST

You can read the whole piece on The Court Astrologer

I have an analysis piece up on Eurointelligence: thoughts on banking union and the Cyprus 'solution' (28.03.2013)
"The central bank defends the payment system every day, every hour, every minute." Scott Fullwiler calls this "the fundamental truth of central bank operations" and I will call it the essence of monetary union.


In sum, the case seems compelling for a Eurozone-wide clearing system, liquidity provision, deposit insurance, banking regulation and supervision, and a special resolution scheme for banks. The case is underpinned by the necessity to provide a unified and efficient payments system for the currency area, and the need to ensure its safety and defend its integrity. Arguments against joint supervision hinder the Central bank in distinguishing between illiquid and insolvent institutions. Polemics against joint deposit insurance actually foster cross-border deposit runs. And rhetoric against Target2 undermines the integrity of the payments and clearing system itself.


In conclusion, even if an immediate bank run due to Cyprus is avoided in the rest of the Eurozone, will all of Draghi's horses and all of Draghi's men be able to put together the broken egg of public confidence in deposit insurance, and more generally in the Eurozone's commitment to the integrity of its payments system?

You can read the full article over there, and comments are enabled on the site.

front-paged by afew

Comments >> (21 comments)

Austerity kills (part 2)

by Carrie Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 03:35:54 AM EST

Reuters: EU in "denial" that sick economy costs lives, health experts say (March 27, 2013)

"There is a clear problem of denial of the health effects of the crisis, even though they are very apparent," said lead researcher Martin McKee of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, a group backed by the World Health Organisation.

"The European Commission has a treaty obligation to look at the health effect of all of its policies but has not produced any impact assessment on the health effects of the austerity measures imposed by the troika."


Despite a devastating financial crisis, Iceland rejected austerity, following a referendum, and instead continued to invest in its social welfare system. As a result, the researchers found there had been no discernible effects on health since the crisis.

Iceland's economy has now returned to growth, but the recovery is patchy and inflation has remained stubbornly high.

The Lancet study is here:

Read more... (18 comments, 453 words in story)

A great week for Turkey

by Carrie Sun Mar 24th, 2013 at 09:54:50 AM EST

This has been a great week for Turkey. I won't say 'let me explain' because it explains itself:

Jerusalem Post: 'Syria crisis necessitated Turkey apology' (03/24/2013)

Netanyahu says fear that Damascus's chemical weapons will fall into the hands of terror organizations led to apology.
Take that, Avigdor Lieberman!

Then there was the Persian new year announcement:

Hurriyet: Leader of PKK in northern Iraq declares cease-fire (March/23/2013)

The jailed leader of the PKK in Turkey, Abdullah Öcalan, declared a cease-fire in a message conveyed during Nevruz festivities in Diyarbakır on March 21, to hundreds of thousands people. He also called on armed militants to withdraw from Turkish soil, indicating that these moves would mark a milestone for "a new era" and herald the building of a "new Turkey."

And the European Union's handling of Cyprus presents an opportunity for Turkey to advance its interests there, too.

(more below the fold)

Read more... (10 comments, 387 words in story)

Il Gattopardo

by Carrie Fri Mar 1st, 2013 at 01:40:48 AM EST

One of the all-time greatest political quotations comes from the Italian novel Il Gattopardo: everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same. And the result of the Italian election indicates that the 20-year process of change initiated with Tangentopoli and Mani Pulite is coming to a close, leaving everything as it was before.

Read more... (55 comments, 405 words in story)

How bad is it in New York City?

by Carrie Fri Nov 2nd, 2012 at 02:40:34 AM EST

Seeing some things on my twitter feed: @poemless

For the past several days I have observed noted disconnect between MSM and twitter re: amount, severity of #Sandy damage.
Media portray it as inconvenient, people on twitter as harrowing. Why? I doubt anyone not on the East Coast comprehends the situation.
Dire message from a fellow parent in my kid's school about the situation in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn: link removed ... Can anyone help?

Read more... (79 comments, 633 words in story)

There's no greater unknown unknown than that which one chooses not to see

by Carrie Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 05:37:00 AM EST

A correspondent sends me notice of the latest paper by Jean Pisani-Ferry of the Bruegel think tank: The known unknowns and the unknown unknowns of the EMU (26th October 2012). There is even a related video on the Bruegel website!

Bruegel, as some people may remember, is hardly my favourite think tank...

And given that Jean Pisani-Ferry and his Bruegel think tank live off reinforcing the Eurocracy conventional wisdom, I am actually pleasantly surprised to find the following paragraph in there:

The second reason has to do with what the Maastricht treaty did not include, ie the prevention of non-fiscal imbalances. When thinking about possible threats that EMU should be defended against, policymakers in Maastricht looked back at past experience and identified two: inflation and fiscal laxity. Financial instability was at the time perceived as being of minor importance and, even though currency unification was expected to reinforce financial integration, no provision was envisaged to deal with the effects of private credit booms-and-busts. EMU was conceived as an economic and monetary union, not as a financial union. True, the EU could have relied on the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPGs), a catch-all procedure rooted in the treaty, but it was in fact a weak, non-binding and rather neglected procedure. This view proved to be short-sighted. While public indebtedness in the southern countries remained broadly stable or even declined during the first decade of EMU, private indebtedness financed by capital inflows skyrocketed, resulting in the previously described massive macroeconomic divergence.
Which basically means that the Eurozone policy response and the crisis diagnosis itself have been terribly flawed for 4 years and continue to be flawed. Not one of the Eurozone's policy developments purported to respond to the crisis would have made a difference to the private financial sector dynamics of the past 10 years had they been in place from the start.

Read more... (93 comments, 1189 words in story)

Perfunctory Spanish regional election thread

by Carrie Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 01:42:42 AM EST

Sunday, 21 October, saw two simultaneous regional elections, in Galicia and in the Basque Country. The main result has been a collapse of the PSOE regional parties, conceding a larger absolute majority to the PP in Galicia, and second place in the Basque Country to EH-Bildu, the successor party of the ETA sympathiser parties that were illegal for the past decade, until ETA gave up a year ago.

El Pais: Popular Party to keep Galicia following a low-turnout race

  • PNV wins in Basque Country but without absolute majority
  • EH Bildu becomes second force in region
[editor's note, by Migeru] I don't have much time tonight so I'll post a results advance and I may promote information from the comments to the body of the diary if others pitch in.

Read more... (29 comments, 422 words in story)

[UPDATED] The Brussels Consensus: economic disaster in EU candidate countries (II)

by Carrie Mon Oct 15th, 2012 at 04:44:11 AM EST

From Eurointelligence last Friday (seen in the Salon):

Anti-austerity demonstration in Zagreb as EU states ratify Croatia's accession treaty

Between 5,000 and 10,000 people demonstrated in Zagreb's main St. Mark's square on Thursday against the government's austerity policies, with an estimated 1,500 going on to march towards the government building, reports Croatian tPortal (English Edition). The NY Times on Thursday reported on the European Parliament appearance of EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle, who said that the Commission would "associate enlargement countries" to the enhanced economic governance of the eurozone as this would 'boost economic resilience' and foster job creation and growth 'before they join'.

(Croatia is slated to join the EU in July 2013, but has been maintaining a dirty Euro peg which puts it in a similar macroeconomic and political situation to mediterranean Euro countries. Krugman and Füle obviously disagree on the benefits of Eurozone macroeconomic policy for accession countries.)

Union leader Vilim Ribić spoke of class war, and said that one billion euros had been given up by public sector workers in three years and not one job had been created by the austerity policies which would hinder recovery and lengthen the crisis.

(more below the fold)

See also:

Read more... (9 comments, 683 words in story)

Merkel's nationalegotism

by Carrie Sat Sep 29th, 2012 at 02:01:08 AM EST

Thursday evening, ZDF talkshow hostess Maybrit Illner invited "the" former Chancellor (as Helmut Kohl is out of commission) Helmut Schmidt and the current president Joachim Gauck to her show. Among the most intense moments is this:

"Warum noch an Europa glauben?" - ZDF.de "Why believe in Europe still?" - ZDF.de
Altkanzler Helmut Schmidt (SPD) hat der Bundesregierung erneut vorgeworfen, in der Europapolitik zu nationalegoistisch zu agieren. Wenn Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) anderswo in Europa mit einer Hakenkreuzbinde karikiert werde, sei das "zum Teil ihre eigene Schuld", sagte Schmidt in der ZDF-Sendung "maybrit illner". Merkel habe in der Finanzkrise "eine viel zu starke Zentralisierung der ganzen Fragenkomplexe auf ihre Person vorgenommen".Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD) has again reproached the Federal Government for acting too 'nationalegotistically' in European politics. If German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is caricatured elsewhere in Europe with a swastika, that is "partly her own fault," Schmidt said in the ZDF program "Maybrit Illner". [According to Schmidt], in the financial crisis Merkel has "centralized around her person the entire complex of issues."

The linked page contains video of the entire show, and a selection of (sanitised) quotes.

Read more... (35 comments, 1660 words in story)

Democracy in America

by Carrie Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 03:38:14 AM EST

The Twank said:

Received the CA voters guide in the mail today ... about 1/2 cm. thick. 11 propositions in all and I have NO interest in reading all the details. What to do ,,, what to do.  Look to who/what organization is for or against each one. For example, you NEVER see anyone with Republican in it ... Repubs are so unpopular in CA that they don't have the nerve/stupidity to identify themselves. So they go under codewords of "Chamber of Commerce" and "Taxpayer Watchdogs" hoping the rest of us are as stoooooooopid as they are. Fat chance! So it took me about 15 minutes to sift through all that bullshit ... not a problem. Anything with "Nurses" or "Teachers" in it is usually a go. Someone wants to repeal the death penalty in CA ... I want to extend it to all Repubs but who listens to me!!!
I was going to answer in a comment, but I figured this was good for a short diary, too.

My answer below the fold.

Read more... (91 comments, 239 words in story)

European austerity: breast cancer edition

by Carrie Sat Sep 8th, 2012 at 09:11:04 AM EST

This is just going to be a quick lazy translation diary, because it comments itself.

Punts de Vista: Hagan el favor de irse muriendo, que hay que ahorrar: las mujeres pobres, primero

Cada día nos desayunamos o almorzamos con un nuevo recorte en la sanidad.  Y cada vez son más agresivos. Y más letales. El proceso que siguen en el PP para hacer que nos traguemos más suavemente la píldora empieza por lanzar un globo sonda, como el de hace un par de días sobre el REpago de las mamografías. Luego se echa humo con prestaciones de otro tipo, a poder ser que tengan algo que ver con la estética para que el conjunto pierda el carácter de recorte severo: por ejemplo, la eliminación de los pliegues después del tratamiento quirúrgico a las personas muy obesas que han perdido peso en poco tiempo...  O insinuaciones más insidiosas sobre que no se destinen fondos públicos a financiar los problemas de fertilidad  (poniendo casi siempre la raíz del problema en la mujer, cuando cada vez es menos el caso).  Lo importante es hacer una buena mezcla, levantar mucho polvo, para disimular lo fundamental: que las mujeres son de nuevo las víctimas propiciatorias de los hachazos sobre la sanidad. Ahora, amenazadas con perder el derecho a mamografías a no ser que REpaguen. ¡En cuantas casas con dificultades económicas incluso para poder comer, se podrá destinar dinero para una prevención tan necesaria que puede salvarlas de un cáncer de mama!

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría pidió ayer que no se especulara sobre este tema "tan sensible para las mujeres", aunque admitió que se está revisando la cartera de servicios sanitarios y  que "una comisión de expertos" (¡ay, dios!) y las Comunidades Autónomas "trabajan" en el tema.... Con lo que vienen recomendando hasta la fecha los "expertos" de la FAES y las JONS,  y la mayoría de consejeros de Salud de las Comunidades (en lugar destacado,el de  Catalunya) ya nos podemos ir preparando.

Please get dying, we have to save: poor women first (September 8, 2012)
Every day we have breakfast or lunch with a new cut to health care. And they're ever more aggressive. And more lethal. The process followed by the PP to get us to swallow the pill starts by launching a trial balloon, such as the one a few years ago about repayment of mammograms. Then they spread smoke with other kinds of services, if possible having to do with plastic surgery so that the ensemble loses the character of a severe cut: for instance, the removal of folds after surgery for very obese people who have lost a lot of weight in a short time...  Or more insidious insinuations about not using public funds to finance fertility issues (always putting the root of the problem on women, which is less and less the case). What's important is to make a good mix, to kick up lots of dust, to hide the fundamental fact: that women are once again the victims of the hacking away at health care. Now, threatened with losing the right to a mammogram unless they pay. In how many homes with economic difficulties even to eat will they be able to devote money to such a necessary preventative measure that can save them from a breast cancer!

[Vicepresident] Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría asked yesterday [at the press conference after the cabinet meeting] not to speculate on this topic "so sensitive for women", though she admitted that the portfolio of health services is being revised and that "a committee of experts" (oh, God!) and the regional governments are "working" on the issue... With the recommendations so far coming from the FAES and JONS and the majority of the health councillors of Autonomous Communities (with the Catalan one in a prominent place) we can begin to get ready.

Notes: the blogger is Catalan, hence the swipe at the Catalan regional govenment; FAES and JONS is a pun on former PM Aznar's FAES "foundation" (a thonk-tink) and the old Falange party whose full acronym was "FE de las JONS".

Read more... (1 comment, 781 words in story)

Religion in society - pick two out of three?

by Carrie Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 02:23:28 AM EST

In the context of the second saga-length thread about religion, I pointed out that

secularism, separation of church and state, and freedom of conscience are three separate concepts.

I was of the opinion that, by and large, the US had freedom of conscience and separation of church and state, but it wasn't a secular society; on the other hand, Europe tends to have freedom of conscience and a secular society but no separation of church and state.

Is this one of those cases where you can pick two out of three?

A third mode is where you have a secular society and no state church, but also no freedom of conscience (the "compulsory atheism" of "real existing socialism" in the erstwhile Soviet bloc).

Eurogreen commented that maybe France is an example where the three features coexist.

And I am just now wondering whether the classification extends outside of Western (i.e. Mesopotamian) civilization. How about the Chinese and Hindu cultural matrices?

Comments >> (89 comments)

The Eurozone's giant sucking sound

by Carrie Wed Aug 29th, 2012 at 05:53:51 AM EST

Eurointelligence is running another column of mine: The Eurozone's giant sucking sound (28.08.2012)

As reported two weeks ago, Germany's current account surplus is projected to exceed 6% for 2012, likely triggering a warning from the European Commission. Such large German current account surpluses are not new, what's new is that since November 2011 the European Commission's Macroeconomic Imbalance Scorecard includes a 6% threshold on the three-year moving-average current account balance (the threshold for deficits is 4%). Here I will argue that Germany's persistently high current account surplus is dangerous for the stability of the Eurozone and corrective government action is needed (in principle concerted Eurozone government action, but in practice requiring that the German government 'own' the policy).
You can read it there, and comment here.

Previous columns:

Read more... (136 comments, 698 words in story)
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