May 9, 2017

The French presidency is sorted, but what about the opposition?

Filed under: Europe, France — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle reports on the state of the two former mainstream parties in France after both were unable to get their presidential candidate past the first round of voting:

When I arrived in France a week ago, many Americans were asking whether this election was going to be the French Brexit, and Marine Le Pen the French Trump. Given the strength of Emmanuel Macron’s lead in the polls, I thought this was the wrong question. France, in fact, already had a Brexit-sized political earthquake, when neither of the two mainstream parties of left and right made it into the second round.

The center-right Republican Party currently seems to be flailing around, trying to decide where it goes next. It is nonetheless in better shape than the left’s Socialist Party, whose devotees are currently standing around its sickbed, speaking in hushed tones. Jean-Luc Mélenchon pinched many Socialist voters, particularly lower-income and unemployed urban dwellers, with his “France Insoumise” (France unbowed) platform; Macron won over the prosperous by coming out full-bore for Europe, globalization, economic reform, and immigration. Even Le Pen got a few in the second round, mostly those who identify as “far left.” One hates to prematurely report a death, of course, but it’s certainly hard to see how the Socialists manage to recover from their humiliating single-digit performance in the first round of this election.

With both major parties in disarray, the question naturally arises: If Emmanuel Macron’s brand of ardent globalization becomes the focal ideology for one side of the political spectrum, what will constitute the natural opposition?

[…] Right now French politics doesn’t have two poles; according to political scientist Arun Kapil, it has five: the far left, the small and hardy band of loyal Socialists, En Marche!, the Republicans, and the National Front. And one possibility is that these poles winnow somewhat, but never come back to the old intra-right and intra-left alliances that stabilized French politics into something approaching a two-party system. Mélenchon is a true believer who so far seems unwilling to make strategic alliances, and the National Front is similarly uncooperative, even if other parties wanted to cooperate with them, which they don’t. If those blocs hold onto enough voters to tip an election, but never quite enough to win one, future French elections may get kind of wild.

It’s too early to tell yet which of these possible futures will hold. But we may start to get some guess in June’s legislative elections. How well En Marche! does will provide clues to just how big a shift Macron has actually achieved in French politics. How well the Republicans do will give us some sign of whether they can get their mojo back. And the performance of the far left and the far right will indicate whether France is on its way to establishing a “new normal” not that much different from the old — or striking out for uncharted territory, where there may well be some dragons lurking.

US Joins WW1 – Spring Offensives 1917 I THE GREAT WAR Summary Part 9

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 8 May 2017

After a rather quiet winter, the war erupts into action in 1917. Not only do the United States join the war after weeks of unrestricted submarine warfare and the uncovering of the Zimmermann Telegram. The British and French launch their own spring offensives. In the East, chaos spreads in post-revolutionary Russia and Lenin returns from exile. And in Mesopotamia the British take Baghdad.

Historical ingratitude

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, D.J. Webb asks what Europe — individual European nations, not the EU — owe to Britain:

I do believe that historical perspective is important, and that we should deal with other nations on the basis of historical memory. For example, we recall in our dealings with Greece and Italy that these countries have been of vital importance to the historical development of civilization in Europe, and at a long remove, we should be cognizant of the cultural and economic advantages bestowed on the Roman province of Britannia by the Romans. At a minimum, they evoke in us a residual affection. Of course, as history recedes, the ability of these countries to demand a special status owing to their illustrious history has to decline too. But some recognition of the achievements of the most glorious nations and what they have done for all of European civilization is in order.

Britain is a special country — we are told in the media and in the schools today that this is not the case — but a cursory reading of history shows that we are of vital importance to Europe. Economically, we gave the world the industrial revolution and capitalism. Politically, democracy and human rights (even where absurdly misinterpreted) are among our gifts to the world. Culturally, literature, drama and film are among the arts to which we have made great contributions that remain to this day part of the canon of world literature. Scientifically, Europe looks to us for having provided electricity, railways, automobiles, planes, computers, the telephone, television and the Internet. It is not an exaggeration to state that the prosperity of the whole of Europe, and indeed of every country in the world, comes on the back our our ancestors’ — and not their ancestors’ — achievements. English children should grow up with a knowledge of and pride in this.

Geopolitically, we have always sought to prevent combinations on the Continent, and stood against the Habsburgs and Imperial Spain, Napoleonic France, the Kaiser’s Germany and Nazi Germany. We also made an outsized contribution in the Cold War. Numerous European countries owe their freedom to us. I do not deny that historical memory works both ways. Maybe — I say this for the purpose of discussion — the prominence of Polish airmen in the Battle of Britain provides us with good reason to take, if possible and where facilitated by Poland’s own foreign policy, a pro-Polish view of modern international affairs, and if we need immigrants going forward, we could well consider prioritising Poland, as well as Czechs, Belgians, Frenchmen, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, all represented in the Battle of Britain. However, there is no other European country that can lay claim to being the author of European freedom. True, Russian blood was expended to an immense degree in the defeat of Germany, but many European countries will be mindful that Russia was ultimately engaged in its own war of imperial conquest of Eastern Europe.

We are special, and do deserve recognition in Europe. Yet we get none. Or less than none, as all 27 EU countries have agreed to try to punish Britain for asserting its sovereignty. Would Luxembourg be free today without Britain? Jean-Claude Junker’s treatment of Britain is disgusting from a Luxembourgeois national. Does he not know that Luxemburgers huddled round the wireless in the 1940s listening to the World Service, hoping or praying that Britain or America would come to their salvation? I cannot abide the continental Europeans who refuse to acknowledge this. They will end up making an enemy of Britain, with long-term consequences.

It’s time to realise that the European nations we liberated were not worth it. They turned out to be ingrates. We need to face up to this. We wasted the lives of our servicemen for nothing. Who would wage war to liberate Belgium now?

Ned Kelly – IV: Kelly Country – Extra History

Filed under: Australia, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 8 Apr 2017

Hunted by the police, the Kelly Gang decided to strike back instead of hiding. Since he blamed the rich for all his troubles, Ned took aim at the banks and pulled off a pair of brazen robberies that helped win him renown across the countryside.

QotD: Wage floors and rent ceilings

Filed under: Economics, Government, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

[Progressives] tend to favor policies such as New York City’s rent controls, and the new $15 minimum wage being gradually phased in in some western cities. I like to think of these policies as engines of meanness. They are constructed in such a way that they almost guarantee that Americans will become less polite to each other.

In New York City, landlords with rent controlled units know that the rent is being artificially held far below market, and thus that they would have no trouble finding new tenants if the existing tenant is unhappy. So then have no incentive to upgrade the quality of the apartment, or to quickly fix problems. They do have an incentive to discriminate against minorities that, on average, are more likely to become unemployed, and hence unable to pay the rent. Or young people, who might damage the unit with wild parties.

Wage floors present the same sort of problem as rent ceilings, except that now it’s the demanders who become meaner, not the supplier. Firms that demand labor in Los Angeles in the year 2020 will be able to treat their employees very poorly, and still find lots of people willing to work for $15/hour.

Scott Sumner, “How bad government policies make us meaner”, Library of Economics and Liberty, 2015-08-25.

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