Quotulatiousness

January 6, 2018

The EU and its many separatist movements

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

Theodore Dalrymple explores an odd thing in Europe which has often puzzled me: that movements to separate linguistic or economically distinct regions from their parent country are almost all equally eager to remain part of the EU:

[…] But having said all this, we still have not explained why nationalist centrifugalists, if I may so call them, are so eager to form an alliance with EU centripetalists, who wish to efface the very thing the nationalists claim to be seeking. Several hypotheses are possible, and none susceptible of final proof.

The first is that that these nationalists are not even aware of the contradiction. Few of us are logical calculating machines who work out the full implications of our beliefs, let alone always act in our own best interests. I am only too aware that I have no consistent doctrine of life, morality, or politics, that I am not even consistent from day to day or moment to moment, and am, on the whole, quite untroubled by this. Entirely consistent men are apt to be spine-chilling.

Second, nationalist dislike of immediate neighbors, whether the explanation for it be reasonable or unreasonable, may loom so large that it overcomes logical thought. Jumping out of frying pans into fires is a well-known human phenomenon.

There is a third explanation, which is that the leaders of the nationalist parties or separatist groups want there to be more places at the top table — vacancies that they would then fill. They might even rise to the dizzying heights of the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who has long bestridden the world, or Europe at any rate, like a colossus. This he could never have done without the existence of the EU. In other words, personal ambition and the megalomania of petty potentates.

But what should be the attitude of leaders of the European Union toward the potential fracturing of the EU member states as they are at present constituted? In the short term, EU leaders have to pretend to support the current arrangements, because for the moment power is concentrated in the hands of the leaders of those member states. If the power in Madrid or London begins, however, to seep away, the path to a Europe not of the nations but of (as Professor Guérot puts it) “the regions” is cleared. Then, as she says, the citizens of Europe “will elect their president by direct universal suffrage. Finished with the system of checks and balances … ”

I can’t wait for all those terrible checks and balances to be swept away. And, while we are at it, why should this process be confined to Europe? Is Professor Guérot a closet nationalist — even a racist? If Europeans can, why can’t the entire population of the world, elect their president (of a Republic of the World) by direct universal suffrage?

The language of most separatist leaders draws on the airy — and usually not defined in detail — concept of independence, being in charge of their own destiny, Maîtres Chez Nous, out from under those foreign rulers in [London|Madrid|Rome], etc. Yet the very next most important issue always seems to be jumping right back into a different form of foreign rulership. Almost as if the whole “independence” thing was merely a vehicle to getting better parking spots in Brussels.

December 29, 2017

Autopsy of the “Remain” campaign – but the rules only apply to the little people!

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

It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of this:

The Remain campaign flouted Electoral Commission rules so it could overspend by up to £7.5 million during the referendum, a Guido investigation can reveal. Over the next few days Guido will be looking at how the various Remain groups coordinated their messaging, campaign plans, data, materials and donations, causing them to overspend by more than double the legal limit. Sorry Electoral Commission HQ, you’re going to have to come back early from your Christmas holidays…

The Electoral Commission rules are clear: if one campaign “coordinates [its] activity with another campaigner”, then they are “highly likely to be working together”. This definition of “working together” is important, because the Electoral Commission also says: “the lead campaign group must count all of the spending of all the campaigners it works together with towards its own limit”. Guess what… they didn’t.

Two books provide detailed accounts of a number of Remain campaigns coordinating plans and working together in the weeks leading up to the referendum. Tim Shipman’s All Out War reveals “[Craig] Oliver led an early-morning conference call for the media teams at 6.15am. At 7.30am there was a second conference call, in which Stronger In would tell Labour In, Conservatives IN and the Liberal Democrats about their plans for the day”. This clearly counts as “coordinating” and “working together” under the Electoral Commission’s definition.

December 24, 2017

Post-Brexit Britain as “a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate”

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Theodore Dalrymple on the possible downsides of a hard Brexit:

Important (for good or evil) as Brexit may be to the future of Britain, it is not without its importance for the European Union. Indeed, it was always essential for the Union that Britain’s departure should be an economic disaster for Britain: for if it were not, why have a union at all?

It was therefore entirely predictable that the Union should drive a hard bargain with Britain, even a bargain economically harmful to itself, provided only that it was worse for Britain: for the self-preservation of the European political class is at stake. In the European Union politics always trumps economics.

In Britain too, political considerations were uppermost in the minds of those who voted for Brexit. They saw in the European Union a Yugoslavia in the making, led by a megalomaniac class without effective checks or balances. But now they are increasingly apprehensive of the economic costs of Brexit.

And the economic auguries for Britain are indeed poor, though not only, or even principally, because of the European Union’s hostility. The fact is that Britain is unlikely to be able to take any advantage of life outside the European straitjacket because its own political class is itself in favour of straitjackets that are no better, and quite possibly worse than, the European ones. The present Prime Minister, Theresa May, is very much a statist, indistinguishable from European social democrats, and the leader of the opposition, Mr Corbyn, who might well be the next Prime Minister, is an unapologetic admirer of Hugo Chavez. It is hardly to be expected that foreign investors will place much trust or confidence in an isolated country whose next government might very well weaken property rights, impose capital controls and increase corporate taxation in favour of supposed social justice. It would not take very long to turn Britain into a northern Venezuela: a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate.

Moreover, Britain already has many weaknesses and few strengths. It has a huge and persistent trade imbalance, because it does not produce enough of what the world wants and cannot easily be made to do so; it has a large national debt, about the same size as that of France, but without a highly functioning infrastructure such as France’s to show for it; its household debt is among the highest in the world. For many years, its economic policy might as well have been presided over by Mr Madoff; its social policy has been to smash up all forms of social solidarity or support for the vulnerable that do not pass through the state. The destruction of the little platoons has been very thorough: most large ‘charities’ in Britain are now dependent on government rather than on private funding, and hence are in effect departments of state.

November 1, 2017

Spain versus Catalonia

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

Tim Black on the situation in Catalonia after the abortive declaration of independence:

L’Estelada Blava, the “blue-starred flag” of the Catalonian independence movement
(Via Wikimedia)

An excessive focus on history can obscure the real dynamic informing the Catalonia autonomous community’s push for independence from Spain. It makes it look as if what we’re seeing now is a revival of a longstanding strain of Catalan nationalism, drawing on its 12th-century legacy as a principality, fired up by the divided union of Aragon and Catalonia during the early modern era, and burnished with the left-wing romance of Catalonia’s stand-alone, red-and-black resistance to General Franco during the 1930s. It makes it look, ultimately, as if Catalonia is not only an entity distinct from the rest of Spain, it is also a victim of, if not Spain, than certainly the Spanish state.

Not that matters have been helped by the Spanish government’s brutal, anti-democratic response to Catalonia’s independence referendum, as unconstitutional and therefore illegal as it was. It merely reinforced the impression that this is a conflict between an oppressive state and an oppressed people. After all, such is the defensiveness and weakness of the Spanish political class, we saw armed units of Guardia Civil assaulting Catalan voters, forcibly shutting polling stations and confiscating ballot boxes, and now we see charges of rebellion and sedition being laid at the doors of the leading pro-independence Catalan politicians, which has even prompted the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to flee to Brussels. This really does look like a conflict rooted in some longstanding desire of the Spanish state to bend the Catalans to its will.

But to think that misses the real catalyst for the Spanish crisis, which lies less in Madrid or Barcelona, than in the European Union’s HQ in Brussels. That’s because, in the EU’s flight, manned by Western Europe’s political classes, from the democratic accountability of national peoples, in its demonisation of the very idea of national sovereignty as a species of 1930s-style nationalism, indeed in its essential anti-national elitism, it has created a transnational, technocratic set of institutions that necessarily weakens national state structures, depriving nations of numerous lawmaking powers, border controls and economic independence. Admittedly, the Spanish nation state has never been particularly strong. In common with the rest of Europe, its party-political system is in disarray, with its two traditional behemoths, the Socialist and Popular parties, hollowed out, and populist rivals exploding on to the scene. And, specific to Spain, the state has failed properly to cohere itself as a state, with suppressed regional antagonisms re-emerging in the post-Franco era. But the EU has not only exacerbated the internal weaknesses of the Spanish state; it has also fundamentally undermined even the possibility of a functioning nation state.

[…]

Yes, the cultural distinction between Catalonia and the rest of Spain has come to the fore in recent decades, with the red-yellow-and-blue Estelada a familiar sight hanging from buildings, and Catalan a familiar sound on the streets. But it’s clear that the driving force is less cultural difference, no matter how divisive, than the experience of EU-driven austerity as an unnecessary drain on an economically rich region. This is why support for Catalan independence has only risen dramatically since the economic crisis. As the Financial Times puts it: ‘After decades during which Catalan support for independence hovered between 15 and 20 per cent, secessionist sentiment started climbing rapidly in 2009. By 2011, according to the closely followed survey by the Catalan Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO), support for independence was above 30 per cent. Two years later, it reached an all-time high of 48.5 per cent.’

This is not a uniquely Spanish phenomenon, either. In other EU member states, the same dynamic is at work, with richer regions or areas with a sufficiently distinct cultural identity seeking to unfasten themselves from the rest of their respective nations. You can see it in the desire for greater economic autonomy of the rich Lombardy and Veneto regions in northern Italy. And you can see it again in Belgium, with the wealthy northern region of Flanders continually seeking to decouple itself from the de-industrialised, relatively impoverished southern region of Wallonia.

October 14, 2017

Brexit hangover – a proposed deal for the “Remoaners”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In Spiked, Brendan O’Neill offers an olive branch to the Remoaners:

I propose a deal with Remoaners: Leavers will stop calling you enemies of democracy when you stop behaving like enemies of democracy. Sound good?

By Remoaners, I don’t mean the 16.1million who voted Remain, the vast majority of whom are not part of any elite, and a huge chunk of whom now accept Brexit must happen. I don’t even mean those sad people who traipse through the streets shouting ‘Brex-shit!’ and who agitate, or at least tweet, for Britain to stay in the EU: the rights to protest and speak are essential to democracy and these people must be free to fulminate for as long as they like against the democratic will. No, I mean those sections of the elite who have sworn their financial, political and institutional clout to the cause of preventing or diluting Brexit. You guys: we’ll stop calling you destroyers of democracy when you stop trying to destroy democracy, cool?

The war on Brexit – which is a war on the largest democratic mandate in British history, on the very right of the masses to decide the fate of their nation – is getting serious. For too long Leavers have had a tendency to chortle at the myriad spittle-producing haters of Brexit in business, politics, the law. But it’s not funny anymore, because they’re in the ascendancy. Not courtesy of democracy; the people have rejected their preference for oligarchy over democracy, for technocracy over debate, for expertise over the public’s opinions and beliefs. No, their rise, their influence, is built on their economic supremacy and behind-closed-doors influence, on the fact that they are wealthier, better connected and – let’s be frank – more ruthless than us, the demos.

The seriousness of this bloodless coup d’etat against Brexit has been perfectly and brutally summed up this week in the elitists’ suggestion that we revoke Article 50. Not content with seeking to wound Brexit – by, for example, suggesting we stay under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, or institute a second referendum even before Brexit has become a reality – now they’re openly calling for the whole thing to be reversed. The Observer revealed on Sunday that, contrary to what some ministers have intimated, Article 50 is revocable. This is all the proof we needed, said a QC in the Guardian, that it is ‘not too late to step back from the Brexit brink’. Translation: the plebs, the unwashed throng, took us to a political cliff edge with their strange, prejudiced passions, and now it falls to the clever, the legally minded, the rational, to put Britain back on course.

September 14, 2017

The EU doesn’t want Britain to leave amicably – they want to punish Britain pour encourager les autres

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Individual national politicians within the EU may clearly see there is no real benefit to be had in forcing a “hard Brexit”, but the permanent bureaucracy and the EUrocratic leadership seem determined to use the process to inflict as much harm as they can, for fear that other countries may decide to get out, too:

Last week’s headlines in the United Kingdom focused once again on the words of two men: the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit secretary for the UK government, David Davies.

In the ongoing negotiation between Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union, three main issues remain unresolved, notably the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, EU citizens’ rights who reside in the United Kingdom, and the infamous ‘Brexit divorce bill’. The latter has caused considerable outrage in the British public, as the French negotiator demands a full £90 million ($117 million) in payments in order to pay for the expenses caused by the British exit.

I believe the demanded payments are actually billions of pounds rather than millions. Mere millions would be a rounding error in the budget for the UK.

The measure is so unpopular that even a majority of British people who voted to remain in the European Union now oppose it.

A week ago, the UK government refused to cover this large sum and has since issued thorough explanations why it holds that position. This apparently left EU leaders flabbergasted, whose clear intent is to make an example out of the United Kingdom. With Brexit being the first time an EU-member state has chosen to get out of the union, the team around Michel Barnier and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has every interest in making the Brexit situation a deterrent for large eurosceptic movements in other European countries. In fact, Barnier has been crystal clear on this. As the BBC reports:

    Speaking at a conference in Italy on Saturday, Mr Barnier said he did not want to punish the UK for leaving but said: “I have a state of mind – not aggressive… but I’m not naïve.”

    “We intend to teach people… what leaving the single market means,” he told the Ambrosetti forum.

Asked by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag if other member states would follow Britain’s example of quitting the union, Commission chief Juncker said: “No. Britain’s example will make everyone realize that it’s not worth leaving.”

How exactly is the EU expecting to bring other members off their eurosceptic tendencies remains unclear. With a considerable trade imbalance in favor of the Brits, which are still one of the most important economic players on the globe, it is hard to imagine that Angela Merkel will want angry Volkswagen producers before her decisive parliamentary elections and that Emmanuel Macron will want to deal with enraged Bordeaux wineries before the upcoming senate elections.

At the same time the Brexit negotiations rumble on, the EU is now making it ever more clear what their plans are for the future:

Jean-Claude Juncker has confirmed the EU will pursue a policy of ever-continuing expansion, create its own army, and force constituent countries to open their borders and join the beleaguered Euro in an speech which will only serve to confirm the decision of every Brexit voter. In his ‘State of the Union’ address to the European Parliament this morning, Juncker restated the EU’s commitment to an expansionist set of policies to further erode the sovereignty of member states; a platform which Remainers will find difficult to explain away.

He explicitly re-stated his ambition to see the European Union continue to expand:

    “We must maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans… the European Union will be greater than 27 in number.”

On immigration and free movement, Juncker said the Schengen passport-less area would be extended “immediately” to Bulgaria and Romania:

    “If we want to strengthen the protection of our external borders, then we need to open the Schengen area of free movement to Bulgaria and Romania immediately. We should also allow Croatia to become a full Schengen member once it meets all the criteria.”

He confirmed that the EU will create a ‘European Defence Union’ by 2025 – that is, an EU army:

    “And I want us to dedicate further efforts to defence matters. A new European Defence Fund is in the offing. As is a Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defence. By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.”

September 6, 2017

When in doubt, cry “Fascist!” or “Racist!”

Filed under: Britain, Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Brendan O’Neill on Facebook recently:

The left’s greatest mistake so far this century has been to accept at face value the establishment’s explanation for why people gave it a bloody nose. Stunned by Brexit, dizzied by Hillary’s loss, the establishment has gone into serious moral and political meltdown. It can only understand the various populist revolts against it as mass acts of racism, maybe even fascism, as the handiwork of demagogues who “got at” the people and twisted our minds. I mean, why else would anyone reject such wonderful institutions as the EU and the Democratic elite…? And, for shame, most of the left has embraced this propaganda, this made-up horror story. They have nodded along to this perverse politics of fear born of a wounded establishment’s fury with the “deplorable” demos. All those Antifa and commentators out there screaming “OMG, fascists everywhere!” think they’re being radical when in truth they are the unwitting spindoctors of the old establishment, bit-part players in a top-down narrative of hysteria that has no relation to reality.

August 20, 2017

Getting out of EUrope

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait encourages the Brexiteers, as staying in the EU is clearly not a viable option:

The EU is very complicated and confusing, which is a big reason for Brexit. But also very complicated and confusing, say the Remainers, is the process of Britain getting out of the EU. For that reason, they say, best to stay in. But I say that the more complicated and confusing it is to get Britain out, the more reason there is for Britain to get out. The more complicated getting out is, that means the more complicated the damn thing itself must be. The question becomes: Which is better? Complication for a year or three, while we extricate ourselves from this ghastly morass? Or: Complication for ever as we sink ever deeper into it? I say we should, you know, go with the result of the Referendum, and get out. Happily, that is now happening.

[…]

Another Remainer argument which has a similar logical structure is that the EU, in addition to being diabolically complicated and confusing to get out of, on account of itself being diabolically complicated and confusing, is also determined to stop us Brits getting out easily. The only exit terms we will ever be able to extract from it will be crushingly punitive. Ergo, we should stay.

Britain’s exit deal may indeed prove costly to us. If EUrope lets us out easy, other rebellious bits of EUrope may also then try to leave.

The EU’s negotiating team is likely to operate under detailed instructions for maximum punishment of the British traitors. They need to make Brexit as painful as possible, to deter les autre, but not so painful that Britain just walks away from the table. That will be quite a challenge, which is why the British media are clamouring for the British government to lay out their negotiating strategy in great detail … to ensure that the EU has as much leverage as possible.

July 27, 2017

The EU is so abstruse that career UK civil servants are “not up to the task of understanding the complexities of EU processes and regulations”

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Samizdata‘s Natalie Solent linked to this article at Geopolitical Futures, saying that it suggests the kind of artificial, obfuscated complexity that kept ancient Egyptian priests in their secure and powerful positions for centuries:

In recent weeks, EU negotiators have claimed that the British negotiators of Brexit are not sufficiently sophisticated to understand the complex issues being dealt with, and that, in essence, it is frustrating for EU negotiators to deal with unskilled negotiators. I have found that dealing with unskilled negotiators has frequently created opportunities for me, but apparently the EU wants to have a better team to play against.

A great deal of this is, of course, political maneuvering. The EU desperately wants to avoid a British withdrawal from the bloc. By making this charge, it hopes to discredit the British negotiating team and sow distrust between the British public and the negotiators. Implicit in what is being said is that the British team is going to fail to get a good deal for Britain, and that therefore the risks of Brexit for Britain are pyramided. Why the EU wouldn’t keep this fact secret, and negotiate a superb deal for itself, is a mystery, but the posture is almost that the EU wants to save the British from their own stupidity.

It’s not a bad maneuver, but it unravels at a certain point. The British team consists of well-educated and experienced civil servants. In claiming that this team is not up to the task of understanding the complexities of EU processes and regulations, the EU has made the strongest case possible against itself. If these people can’t readily grasp the principles binding Britain to the EU, then how can mere citizens understand them? And if the principles are beyond the grasp of the public, how can the public trust the institutions? We are not dealing here with the complex rules that allow France to violate rules on deficits but on the fundamental principles of the European Union and the rights and obligations – political, economic and moral – of citizens. If the EU operating system is too complex to be grasped by British negotiators, then who can grasp it?

The EU’s answer to this is that the Maastricht treaty, a long and complex document, can best be grasped by experts, particularly by those experts who make their living by being Maastricht treaty experts. These experts and the complex political entities that manage them don’t think they have done a bad job managing the European Union. In spite of the nearly decade long economic catastrophe in Southern Europe, they are content with their work. In their minds, the fault generally lies with Southern Europe, not the EU; the upheaval in Europe triggered by EU-imposed immigration rules had to do with racist citizens, not the EU’s ineptness; and Brexit had to do with the inability of the British public to understand the benefits of the EU, not the fact that the benefits were unclear and the rules incomprehensible. The institutionalized self-satisfaction of the EU apparatus creates a mindset in which the member publics must live up to the EU’s expectations rather than the other way around.

July 8, 2017

Context the Media lacks: Austrian Troops to Italian Border

Filed under: Europe, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 6 Jul 2017

This is a short commentary on a current situation/news that is related to Austrian Military History. On the 4th of July 2017, the Austrian government announced that it will ready troops to be sent to the Austro-Italian border in order to secure it, due to the large amount of migrants crossing into Austria. The Italian government wasn’t particularly pleased about this action. Additionally, at least the German media seems to be a bit upset as well.

Military History Visualized provides a series of short narrative and visual presentations like documentaries based on academic literature or sometimes primary sources. Videos are intended as introduction to military history, but also contain a lot of details for history buffs. Since the aim is to keep the episodes short and comprehensive some details are often cut.

For more information, here is a Daily Mail article discussing the situation.

Both Italy and Austria are members of the European Union’s Schengen open-border zone, but free movement has been jeopardised by the reimposition of controls at many crossings across the bloc since the surge in migrants seen in 2015 and 2016.

There was no immediate comment from Italy or EU officials, but Doskozil’s spokesman said there was no concrete timetable for the new controls.

The spokesman added: ‘We’ll see how the situation in Italy is becoming more acute and we have to be prepared to avoid a situation comparable to summer 2015.’

Italy has taken in more than 80,000 refugees and migrants so far this year, most of whom arrived by boat from Africa, making Italy the main point of entry to Europe.

Back in April, Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil visited the production plants of the armoured vehicles – Pandur crew transport tanks – that were sent to the border.

The tanks, with a production cost of €105million, were built at General Dynamics Land Systems-Steyr GmbH in Vienna-Simmering for the Austrian Armed Forces.

June 29, 2017

Hidden fears about Germany’s national character

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Some interesting thoughts about Germany and the current German chancellor, Angela Merkel. First from Theodore Dalrymple a few weeks back in City Journal:

When the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, decided to take in 1 million migrants and refugees (the precise numbers have yet to be established and probably never will be), it is difficult to believe that thoughts of Hitler and Nazism were far from her mind. Hitler believed that the German national interest was the touchstone of morality; anything that served it, in his opinion, was justified. So catastrophic was this monstrous ethic that for a long time, it seemed virtually impossible for anyone other than a neo-Nazi to speak of the German national interest. When Germany won the soccer World Cup in 2014, the nation exploded in joy and celebration. Newspapers suggested that Germany had finally overcome its postwar feelings of guilt, so that it was possible for Germans to express an unapologetic pride in their country. This, however, seems false: everyone understands that, in this context, sport is unimportant, a distraction. A rally to celebrate the German trade surplus as a vindication of the German people compared with its neighbors would be another thing entirely — and it is inconceivable that it would take place.

One can imagine no policy more distant from Hitler’s than Merkel’s acceptance of the million migrants. Her gesture says: we Germans are as far from Hitler as it is possible to be. We need not think whether the policy is wise or just; it is sufficient that it should distinguish us from what we were before.

It is not only in Germany, however, that the national interest may not be mentioned for fear of appealing to Nazi-like sentiments; indeed, any such appeal routinely winds up labeled as “far right,” a metonym for Hitler or Nazism. The identification is a means of cutting off whole areas of inquiry, nowhere more so than in the question of immigration.

One of the justifications for the European Union that I have often heard is that it brings peace to the continent. This, usually unbeknown to its proponents, is an argument ad Hitlerum, for the likeliest source of war on the continent is Germany: Portugal would never attack Denmark, for example, or Sweden Malta. No: what is being said here is that the Germans, being Germans, are inherently militaristic and racist nationalists, and the logical consequence or final analysis of these traits is Nazism; and that unless Germany is bound tightly into a supranational organism, it will return to violent conquest. I personally do not believe this.

And this, from Nikolaas de Jong in American Thinker earlier this week:

… it is important to point out that the popular image both of Angela Merkel and of modern Germany is deeply flawed. Because far from representing a negation — or a misguided attempt at negation — of past German policies and attitudes, the modern German mentality is in many ways a mutation or an update of the same mentality that has guided Germany since the eighteenth century, and especially since the unification of the country in 1870.

Let us begin with the more obvious parallel: German support for further European integration. Despite all the German talk about subordinating narrow national interests to the European project, careful observers must have noticed the coincidence that the Germans always see themselves as the leaders of this disinterested project, and that the measures deemed to be necessary for further European cooperation always seem to be German-made.

Are the Germans really such idealistic supporters of the European project? It is more probable that in reality they see the European Union as an ideal instrument to control the rest of Europe. Indeed, in 1997 the British author John Laughland wrote a book about this subject, The Tainted Source: the Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea, which is still worth reading for anyone who wants understand what kind of organization the EU actually is. According to Laughland, the Germans are such big supporters of the European ideal because they know that all important decisions in a confederation of states can ultimately only be taken by or with the approval of the most important state — in this case, Germany.

Thus, on closer scrutiny, there is a strong continuity between the foreign policy of Wilhelm II, Hitler, and Merkel. And this continuity can easily be explained by looking at Germany’s position within Europe. On the one hand, Germany is the strongest and largest country in Europe, but on the other hand it is not strong or large enough to dominate the rest of Europe automatically. In consequence, ever since German unification in 1870, the country has been presented with the choice either to subordinate its wishes to those of the rest of Europe — which has always appeared rather humiliating — or to attempt the conquest of Europe, in order to ensure that Germany’s wishes would always prevail. Unsurprisingly, the Germans have consistently chosen the second course, and both World Wars were attempts to permanently bring the rest of Europe under German control.

Realpolitik or reductio ad Hitlerum?

June 22, 2017

The EU regulators want to get rid of a Belgian food tradition

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Health — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Carol Off reports for CBC Radio’s As It Happens:

Belgian Fries, traditionally served with mayonnaise
(photo by vokimberly at Flickr)

Belgium’s government says a new proposal by the European Union could spell disaster for the country’s world-famous fries.

“We adore our fries the way we make them, so just let us do so for the next 100 years, because the last hundred years it wasn’t a problem, so why should it be a problem now?” Flemish Tourism Minister Ben Weyts told Carol Off, host of CBC Radio’s As It Happens.

Traditionally, Belgian fries, are twice fried in fat. First, they go in raw to generate a soft, fluffy interior. Then they are refried at a higher temperature to create a crispy, golden exterior.

This process sets Belgian fries apart from soft and chunky British chips, or the sleek and thin fries preferred by the French.

But the European Commission is proposing that all potatoes be blanched — briefly cooked in boiling water — before they hit the fat.

It’s part of an EU effort to curb exposure to acrylamide, a chemical that can form in foods cooked at high temperatures, and has been linked to cancer in animal tests.

[…]

On the heels of the Belgian backlash, the European Commission has insisted the proposal is a suggestion, not a ban.

“The commission has no intention whatsoever to ban Belgian frites — or any other frites, for that matter,” spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said on Tuesday.

“Instead, the commission is preparing a new regulatory measure to oblige food business operators to apply a code of practice to reduce acrylamide in food, as it is carcinogenic.

“We are all very attached to the rich culinary heritage we find in our member states.”

For more information on Belgian Fries, see The One and Only Original Belgian Fries Website (which hadn’t been updated with this latest existential threat when I checked it).

H/T to Chris Myrick for the link.

May 28, 2017

Britain’s general election – “Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Sean Gabb is holding his nose and voting Tory this time around, but he’s not happy about it:

For the avoidance of doubt, I still intend to vote Conservative in this dreadful election. And, if Labour seems to be catching up in the opinion polls, so, I suspect, will enough people to give the Conservatives a decent majority. The general election is a rerun of last year’s Referendum. There is no other consideration that ought to sway anyone who is looking beyond our present circumstances. We vote Conservative. We leave the European Union. We hope and work for a realignment in British politics. Except for this, however, I would be dithering between another vote for UKIP and a spoiled ballot. Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have made their responses to the Manchester Bombings. According to the BBC,

    Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet.”

What she has in mind is outlined in the Conservative Manifesto:

    [W]e will establish a regulatory framework in law to underpin our digital charter and to ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by these principles. We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law. We will also create a power in law for government to introduce an industry-wide levy from social media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms, just as is already the case with the gambling industry.

If this hardly needs translating into Plain English, I will make the effort. The Conservatives are proposing to censor the Internet. Anyone who, in this country, publishes opinions or alleged facts the authorities dislike will be prosecuted. If these are published abroad, access to the relevant websites will be blocked. Internet companies will be taxed to pay for a Ministry of Propaganda to go beyond anything now provided by the BBC.

We are supposed to think the main targets of censorship will be the radical Moslems. I have no doubt some effort will be made to shut them up. The main targets, however, will be on the nationalist right. These are the ones who will be harried and prosecuted and generally threatened into silence. The only person so far to have lost a job on account of the bombings is the LBC presenter Katie Hopkins. She made a sharp comment on air about the Moslems, and was out. Other than that, we have had a continual spray of propaganda about the Religion of Peace, and how its core texts have nothing to do with suicide bombings or mass-rape or disorder.

In Britain, in Europe, in America, there are powerful interests that are itching to censor the Internet. It is the Internet that has made us cynical. It is the Internet that is giving us the probable truth. It is because of the Internet that the authorities are being held to account. Never let a good atrocity go to waste. Get the people ready for censorship while the bodies are still being reassembled.

May 17, 2017

QotD: Britain’s post-Brexit access to the single market

Filed under: Britain, Business, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

You see, they think they are granting us a privilege by allowing us to sell them things. This is ludicrous of course, it is imports which make us richer, not exports. But let us humour their delusion for a little. The standard EU position is that if the companies and people of a country are to gain access to the Single Market then they must pay for that privilege. This cannot be about the imports that those people gain from the Single Market of course because that is always under their own domestic control. No, the EU’s insistence really is that if Switzerland gets to sell cuckoo clocks into the EU, Norway can ship fermented sharks heads and the like, then this is a privilege. And that access to the Single Market means that Switzerland and Norway must pay the EU for that privilege. And they do.

[…]

If you get to sell things in Europe then you’ve got to pay the tithe to the EU itself. Reminds me rather of Fat Tony and friends running a nice little protection racket but then much of the EU reminds me of that.

OK. But who should be paying that tithe?

Well, actually, the first question is whether that tithe is worth paying. As up above, it’s imports that make us all generally richer and that’s all under our control anyway. Exports do make some people richer – the people who profit from making exports of course. And that’s not us in general, that’s not Britain, nor the British, and it’s most certainly not the taxpayers who are made richer by exports. So, obviously, it should not be the taxpayers paying the tithe in order to gain access to that market for those exports which don’t profit them.

The people who should be paying the tithe are the people who profit from the tithe having been paid. Those very exporters. Which gives us the solution to who should be paying the tithe. And an interesting side effect of this will be that we will find out whether it’s worth paying at all.

The people who should be paying the tithe are the people who profit from the tithe having been paid. Those very exporters. Which gives us the solution to who should be paying the tithe. And an interesting side effect of this will be that we will find out whether it’s worth paying at all.

Actually, we could in fact argue that a payment into the EU budget in return for Single Market access is illegal state aid. And thus not allowed under the usual rules of trade with the EU. Because it is state aid. Exporters will face tariffs if the payment is not made. The payment thus benefits exporters. But the payment is made by taxpayers, this is thus aid from taxpayers to exporters. It’s a subsidy for exports – something that isn’t allowed.

[…]

The crucial point is that the benefits, as far as the UK is concerned, of Single Market access lie with those making the exports. Thus those making the exports should be those paying the cost of Single Market access. If those who benefit think it not worth the cost then no one should be paying such bribes illegal state aid access fees. And simply by applying the costs, correctly, to those who benefit we find out which is the truth.

It’s very difficult indeed, nay impossible, to see the down side of this suggestion. If exporters want Single Market access then exporters can pay for it, not taxpayers. If they won’t pay it then it’s not worth it, is it?

Tim Worstall, “Absurd But It Works – Ensure EU Single Market Access Post-Brexit With Export Taxes”, Forbes, 2016-06-27.

May 14, 2017

Euthanised For The EU – that’ll reverse the Brexit vote for sure…

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

On Facebook, Brendan O’Neill responds to an article in the Independent, calling for elderly pro-Brexit voters to just die already:

Ian McEwan says the death of ageing voters, “angry old men”, will help swing Britain back to being pro-EU. Maybe we should hurry them along? Start a “Die for Britain” scheme, where old anti-Brussels bastards could sign up to have themselves put down? Make them feel so guilty for having plunged Britain and their grandchildren’s futures into uncertainty that they will lose the will to live, or certainly to vote? Initiate a cleansing of the demos, giving over-65s the option to croak it for the sake of their grandkids’ right to study in France for six weeks? Create a Euthanised For The EU scheme? We could call it EU-thanasia, perhaps get funding for it from Brussels.

I think we sometimes fail to grasp how nasty elite Remainers are. How misanthropic, anti-old, anti-working-class and of course anti-democratic they can be. Openly fantasising about old people dying is the first step towards helping old people die. It tells old people they are scum and Britain would be better off without them. Just imagine how that makes them feel. The elitist anti-Brexit outlook is the ugliest strain in British politics right now, and the ugliest I can remember in my lifetime.

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