June 1, 2015

It’s time to end the US federal porn subsidy!

Filed under: Economics, Humour, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Real Clear Science, Alex B. Berezow issues a clarion call to stop the US government’s (hidden) subsidy to pornography producers:

You might be asking, What federal porn subsidy? Fair question. Technically, there isn’t a federal porn subsidy. However, if we borrow some of the logic commonly used by politically driven economists, we can redefine the word subsidy to mean whatever we want.

Pornography is enjoyed by many people, but it comes with a very real social cost: it can break up families and perhaps even become an addiction, which are profound losses of productivity. Economists refer to these as negative externalities — i.e., bad side effects that affect people other than the person making the decision. One way to deal with such decisions is to tax them. This should, in theory, reduce the negative side effects, while simultaneously forcing the decisionmaker to bear the “true cost” of his actions. Clearly, if anyone should have to pay for this societal cost, it should be porn watchers, in the form of a porn tax. If they don’t pay such a tax, they are getting an indirect subsidy.

As it turns out, we don’t have a federal porn tax. Thus, we could say that the American government has issued a federal porn subsidy.

Obviously, that reasoning is absurd. Not only does it dubiously redefine the word subsidy, but it unconvincingly claims to be able to accurately place a price tag on every conceivable externality created by watching porn. Accepting that argument would require a nearly complete suspension of disbelief.

Yet, that is essentially the argument that a group of economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just made about fossil fuel subsidies. (See PDF.)


The Guardian, which penned the most influential coverage, began its article with an eye-popping statistic:

    “Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day…”

Wow. $5.3 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies? That sounds insane. But, how do they arrive at that number? The Guardian goes on to explain:

    “The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.”

Ah, okay. The subsidy isn’t a direct financial calculation, but is instead based on a bunch of externalities whose costs are nearly impossible to derive with any sense of believability. To give you an idea of just how much fudging exists in these kinds of calculations, a similar report issued in 2013 (PDF) concluded that the fossil fuel subsidy was $1.9 trillion. A discrepancy of $3.4 trillion should raise red flags in regard to methodology.

August 14, 2013

If there’s a conspiracy, it’s a pretty ineffectual, incompetent one

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:20

Jeff Thomas asks whether the gold market is being manipulated by shadowy conspiracies of governments, big banks, and international bodies:

… we are reminded that, no matter how evil we think a given government may be, no matter how greedy we think a given banker may be, both the world’s governments and the worlds banks have proven time and time again to be guilty of overreach; that is, they assume that their position of power will assure that, if they attempt to control a market, they will succeed.

However, history shows that both governments and banks have a patchwork quilt as a record for effectiveness in this regard. Both exhibit a history of misinterpretation of market drivers, inadequate planning and inadequate execution, to say nothing of a penchant for betraying one another. (The admission by Barclays Bank that they manipulated LIBOR is a good example.)

As such, the concept of a finely-tuned conspiracy of bankers and governments in which all the players (including the egotistical heads of countries) all agree on every facet of a “Grand Plan” is unlikely in the extreme. On the other hand, it is highly likely that an endless series of deals between any two or more parties will crop up along the way. They will succeed or fail to varying degrees. (And we should not overlook the likelihood that, whatever one group should attempt, another group may, inadvertently or not, spoil that attempt through their own plan, which may well be a different one.)

By arguing whether or not gold manipulation exists, we may find that we are wasting our brain cells on the question. A better question, and one that we might choose to monitor on a regular basis, might be, “To what degree is successful manipulation taking place?” We might then use the on-going answer as a guide, to inform our reasoning going forward, as to what impact any perceived manipulation is likely to have with regard to our precious metals investment.

June 6, 2013

IMF forced to admit that the Greek bailout “included notable failures”

Filed under: Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:58

In the Guardian, Larry Elliott, Phillip Inman and Helena Smith round up the IMF’s self-criticisms over the handling of the bailout package imposed on Greece:

In an assessment of the rescue conducted jointly with the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European commission, the IMF said it had been forced to override its normal rules for providing financial assistance in order to put money into Greece.

Fund officials had severe doubts about whether Greece’s debt would be sustainable even after the first bailout was provided in May 2010 and only agreed to the plan because of fears of contagion.

While it succeeded in keeping Greece in the eurozone, the report admitted the bailout included notable failures.

“Market confidence was not restored, the banking system lost 30% of its deposits and the economy encountered a much deeper than expected recession with exceptionally high unemployment.”

In Athens, officials reacted with barely disguised glee to the report, saying it confirmed that the price exacted for the €110bn (£93bn) emergency package was too high for a country beset by massive debts, tax evasion and a large black economy.”

Under the weight of such measures — applied across the board and hitting the poorest hardest — the economy, they said, was always bound to dive into an economic death spiral.

April 21, 2013

EU banking governance as situational comedy

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:14

In the Telegraph, Jeremy Warner pokes a bit of fun at the EU’s self-inflicted media pratfalls over the Cypriot banking “bailout”:

For the last time, I never used the word “template”. Thus said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup, at his IMF press conference on Saturday. This is about whether the troika’s disastrous mishandling of the Cypriot bailout should be used as a model for future banking insolvencies in the eurozone. The row shows no sign of abating. OK, so Mr Dijsselbloem never did use the word “template” in originally welcoming the Cypriot defenestration, but that’s what he meant, forcing him quickly to backtrack when it was pointed out to him that his remarks might prompt a run on banks elsewhere in the eurozone.

But hold on a moment. Wolfgang Schauble, the German finance minister, said on Friday that Cyprus did provide a model in terms of bailing in depositors, so who’s right? Well it is sort of a model, Mr Dijsselbloem said at his IMF press conference, in the sense that common principles would in future be applied to banking resolution, but each case would no doubt be different and have its own defining characteristics. All clear now?

March 29, 2013

Cyprus has become the EU’s “lab rat”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:59

In sp!ked, Bruno Waterfield talks about the EU’s most recent involuntary experimental subject, Cyprus:

Every negative European political trend has deepened in the latest round of the Eurozone crisis, as Cyprus has been treated by the EU with a disdain for self-determination worthy of the high age of imperialism. It is this which is really troubling, not the haircuts for depositors or the bank closures. In effect, an entire island nation has been made a laboratory rat for a new Eurozone experiment in rebalancing economies in the EU single currency — whether the Cypriots like it or not.

Cyprus is the perfect fall guy for the EU and IMF experts who, despite the mess in Greece and elsewhere in southern Europe, still believe they know best how to run a nation’s affairs. That’s because, as well as being too small to count, especially for the markets, Cyprus is easily painted as a bad guy, a swarthy, even Levantine crook which launders dirty Russian money (nearly a third of Cypriot bank deposits) for ‘dodgy’ oligarchs. This whiff of corruption (nothing new to Cyprus, or other European banks for that matter) provides the perfect pretext for treating Cyprus as a case apart. This is meant to soothe the fears of senior northern European debt holders — it is corrupt Cyprus, and not failed private risk in general, that has been targeted.

So, because it is small, and in the eyes of the Eurozone social engineers, easily contained, Cyprus has been selected to be an experiment, potentially a model for Portugal or Spain. And if it all goes horribly wrong… well, Cyprus is small and a dodgy special case, so who cares? The EU doesn’t.

February 4, 2013

Argentina’s real inflation rate is a state secret

Filed under: Americas, Economics, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:19

Argentina has lots of issues, but one of the biggest problems is that their official statistics fall somewhere along the spectrum between “a bout of wishful thinking” and “a tissue of lies”:

Argentina, the only country in the world that threatens private economists with jail terms for disputing the government’s obviously bogus inflation numbers, is now the only country in the world to be censured by the IMF for unacceptably bad economic statistics. In a rare move by the 24 member board of the world’s most prestigious financial institution, Argentina’s government was censured for failing to improve the quality of the numbers it uses to calculate things like GDP and, especially, the inflation rate.

The current president’s husband fired the professional economists in the statistical office in 2007. Ever since, the patent bogosity of Argentina’s statistics has undermined the government’s credibility at home and abroad. Inflation is a deadly sensitive subject in Argentina, where past bouts of hyperinflation have wiped out the savings of whole generations. Currently the government claims inflation is no higher than 11 percent; when the thought police aren’t watching them, private economists whisper that the real rate is more than 25.

This isn’t a new story: The Economist stopped using the official figures in their weekly economic summaries about a year ago. Argentina’s economic policies have become a valuable primer on “what not to do” for other countries. Argentina could be a South American version of Canada, but the political class ensures that will not happen.

June 19, 2012

EU’s Barroso spurns advice from Canadian “nobody”

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:22

The EU is not taking Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s advice gracefully. In fact, they’re not taking it at all:

Maybe it was the 35 C heat here on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Maybe it was the pressure of the crisis he faces back home.

Whatever it was, when I asked European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso here Monday why Canada should risk its financial good name to bail out European banks, Barroso blew a diplomatic gasket.

“We are extremely open and we are engaging our partners but we are certainly not coming here to receive lessons from nobody,” he harrumphed.

That “nobody” is apparently our PM. How dare a mere Canadian politician offer criticism of the European Union, the greatest political achievement of mankind?

In Barroso’s eyes, the fiscal crisis in Europe is not even Europe’s fault. It is the victim in all of this. For that reason, the rest of the world ought bail it out, even though, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has noted, the so-called euro area of 27 countries is the single largest and wealthiest economic unit in the entire world.

Harper has told Barroso just that, saying that if Canada — or anyone else — is going to kick in to a US$430 billion pool administered by the International Monetary Fund, then Europe is going to have to release the chokehold it has had on the IMF.

And of course, no negotiation with the EU is complete without some hard-to-misunderstand threats from the Eurocrats:

But Barroso wasn’t finished. In the middle of his tirade, he trotted out a thinly veiled threat that a Canada-EU free-trade deal was at risk unless Harper comes to his senses and sends Canadian cash to the continent.

“We are trying to conclude an important agreement on trade with Canada. Why? Because all the other parts of the world look at Europe as a source of possible growth for them. And, in fact, they also have an interest. The sooner the situation is stabilized in Europe, the better for them,” he said.

May 2, 2012

Jim Flaherty on why the IMF should not go too far to rescue the Eurozone

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Europe, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:44

As I’ve mentioned before, Jim Flaherty is the federal finance minister and also my local MP. I don’t always agree with him (especially around budget time when he channels his inner spendthrift), but he makes some excellent points in this article at The Telegraph:

At the meeting of the International Monetary Fund recently, Canada decided against contributing more resources to support the eurozone. We also argued that all countries borrowing from the IMF should be treated equally. We took these positions because we believe they are in the best interests of the eurozone, of the IMF, and of the international community.

We have always supported the IMF’s important systemic role in promoting economic stability by providing loans to countries that have exhausted their domestic options, and placing these countries on a path to sustainability through time-limited interventions. But it is not the IMF’s role to substitute for national governments.

[. . .]

Ultimately, the adequacy of the actions taken will be judged by the markets. Repeated expressions of confidence by politicians are futile if the markets continue to cast their vote of non-confidence. The markets’ confidence in political leadership will only be restored when it is clear that politicians are willing to see the full scope of the problem, to focus on the key issues instead of pursuing sideshows such as the financial transactions tax, and to set out and implement a plan for tackling these issues.

[. . .]

We cannot avoid the question of fairness. Eurozone members benefit from increased exports and price stability. Spreading the risks of the eurozone around the world, while its benefits accrue primarily to its members, is not the way to resolve this crisis. We cannot expect non-European countries, whose citizens in many cases have a much lower standard of living, to save the eurozone. Further, the IMF, with roughly $400 billion, already has adequate resources to deal with imminent needs.

H/T to Elizabeth for sending me the link.

January 23, 2012

The EU culture war against Hungary

Filed under: Europe, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:07

Frank Furedi on the confused situation between the European Union bureaucracy and the government of Hungary:

Thirty or 40 years ago, the way that the EU and the IMF are behaving towards Hungary would have been described as a classic example of neo-colonial pressure. Unlike Greece, Hungary is not simply being lectured about the need to sort out its economy — it has also been subjected to a veritable culture war. As far as the EU and the Western media are concerned, the real crime of the Hungarian government is not so much its inept economic strategy as its promotion of cultural and political values that run counter to what is deemed correct in Brussels.

The Brussels bureaucracy has long regarded Hungary as a society in danger of being engulfed by white savages. In 2006, when people in Budapest rioted against their corrupt government, the EU and sections of the Western media described the demonstrators as right-wing mobs posing a threat to democratic values. At the time, Brussels weighed in to support its man in Budapest, Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Socialist prime minister. The fact that Gyurcsany had lied to cover up the scale of Hungary’s massive budget deficit, and that he had admitted his dishonesty to some of his close colleagues, did not stop his mates in the EU from singing his praises. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the Party of European Socialists, was quick to rush to Gyurcsany’s defence, claiming he was the ‘best man to make the reforms that Hungary needs’.

What the Western media overlooked was that the corrupt Gyurcsany government was complicit in creating the conditions for mass demoralisation and cynicism. It was this EU-backed regime that did much to unravel and damage public life in Hungary. Gyurcsany’s humiliating electoral defeat in 2010, and the triumph of Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party, meant that the EU’s placeman was replaced by an autocratic nationalist and populist prime minister.

[. . .]

But then, the EU itself has no inhibitions about imposing its values on to its target audiences. It, too, does not want its constitutional proposals held up to public scrutiny. Sometimes it rules by decree and refuses people’s requests to hold any referenda on EU-related matters, on the basis that the issues are far too complex for ordinary people to understand. Evidently, the EU commissioners have read their Voltaire. To recall — it was Voltaire who praised the Russian absolute monarch Catherine the Great’s invasion of Poland and celebrated her ability ‘to make fifty thousand men march into Poland to establish there toleration and liberty of conscience’. The EU does not have 50,000 men but it does have many other resources for executing its culture war. Voltaire was tragically mistaken in his belief that deploying coercion was a legitimate tool for forcing people to change their beliefs — but at least he actually believed in tolerance and freedom of conscience. In contrast, the EU technocracy has little time for genuine tolerance.

December 13, 2011

Japan’s even-worse-than-Greek debt situation

Filed under: Economics, Japan — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:13

By way of Monty’s daily DOOOOOOM post, here’s some disturbing information on Japan’s eyewatering debt situation:

It seems “debt,” “Greece,” “crepe,” or any other words that might relate to the current Euro crisis prompts a flurry of activity on stocks around the world. But if you thought Greece’s and Italy’s debts were high, there exists a country with an even higher debt-to-GDP ratio. Surprisingly, it also has some of the lowest government bond rates in the world. Let’s take a look at this macro mystery.

Japan’s 2011 gross public debt as a percentage of GDP is estimated by the IMF at 234%. Compare this to down-but-not-yet-out Greece’s at 139% and Italy’s at 119%, and the United States’ at 99%. With those numbers, you may ask how Japan hums along while investors berate Europe for their lack of strict budget controls and U.S. politicians wrestle to cut the deficit.

This is because of one main difference: 95% of Japan’s debt is Japanese-owned. Compare this to Greece, which owns 29% of its debt. The Japanese have been happy to fund their government at incredibly low bond rates, currently around 1.1% for a 10-year bond. Why don’t the Japanese invest elsewhere for higher returns? For one, Japan likes to keep its yen in the country. This is due to a natural bias to favor one’s domestic investments (home bias), the strength of the yen, and domestic institutions’ required participation in bond auctions. Also, it’s difficult to find domestic positive returns. The Nikkei, since Japan’s trouble in the early 1990s, has lost about half its value

September 26, 2011

Mark Steyn: It really is the end of the world as we know it

Filed under: Economics, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:05

Feeling too optimistic? Mark Steyn has a solution for that:

Headline from CNBC: “Global Meltdown: Investors Are Dumping Nearly Everything.” I assumed “Nearly Everything” was the cute name of a bankrupt, worthless, planet-saving green-jobs start-up backed by Obama bundlers and funded with a gazillion dollars of stimulus payback. But apparently it’s “Nearly Everything” in the sense of the entire global economy. Headline from the Daily Telegraph of London: “David Cameron: Euro Debt ‘Threatens World Stability.’” But, if you’re not in the general vicinity of the world, you should be okay. Headline from the Wall Street Journal: “World Bank’s Zoellick: World In ‘Danger Zone.’” But, if you’re not in the general vicinity of . . . no, wait, I did that gag with the last headline.

I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago the IMF’s calculation that China will become the planet’s leading economic power by the year 2016. And I added that, if that proves correct, it means the fellow elected next November will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world’s dominant economy. I thought that line might catch on. After all, we’re always told that every election is the most critical consequential watershed election of all time, but this one actually would be: For the first time since Grover Cleveland’s first term, America would be electing a global also-ran. But there’s not a lot of sense of America’s looming date with destiny in these presidential debates. I don’t mean so much from the candidates as from their media interrogators — which is more revealing of where the meter on our political conversation is likely to be during the general election. On Thursday night, there was a question on gays in the military but none on the accelerating European debt crisis. It is certainly important to establish whether a would-be president is sufficiently non-homophobic to authorize a crack team of lesbian paratroopers to rappel into the Chinese treasury, break the safe, and burn all our IOUs. But the curious complacency about the bigger questions is disturbing.

July 5, 2011

When (not if) Greece defaults

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:30

John Lanchester explains why default is inevitable, and that the only question remaining is how it will happen:

The economic crisis in Greece is the most important thing to have happened in Europe since the Balkan wars. That isn’t because Greece is economically central to the European order: at barely 3 per cent of Eurozone GDP, the Greek economy could vanish without trace and scarcely be missed by anyone else. The dangers posed by the imminent Greek default are all to do with how it happens.

I speak of the Greek default as a sure thing because it is: the markets are pricing Greek government debt as if it has already defaulted. This in itself is a huge deal, because the euro was built on the assumption that no country in it would ever default, and as a result there is no precedent and, more important still, no mechanism for what is about to happen. The prospective default could come in any one of several different flavours. From everybody’s perspective, the best of them would be what is known as a ‘voluntary rollover’. In that scenario, the institutions that are owed money by the Greek government will swallow heavily and, when their loan is due to be repaid, will permit their borrowings to be rolled over into another long loan. There is a gun-to-the-side-of-the-head aspect to this ‘voluntary’ deal, since the relevant institutions are under enormous governmental pressure to comply and are also faced with the fact that if they say no, they will have triggered a proper default, which means their loans will plummet in value and they’ll end up worse off. The deal on offer is: lend us more money, or lose most of the money you’ve already lent.

This is, at the moment, the best-case scenario and the current plan A. It reflects the failure of the original plan A, which involved lending the government of George Papandreou €110 billion in May last year in return for a promise to cut government spending and increase tax revenue, both by unprecedented amounts. The joint European Central Bank-EU-IMF loan was necessary because, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, Greece was exposed as having an economy based on phoney data and cheap credit. The cheap credit had now dried up, and Greece was faced by the simplest and worst economic predicament of any government: it couldn’t pay its debts.

June 29, 2011

The real reason for the Greek bailout

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 15:03

Eric S. Raymond explains why all the politicians and apparatchiks of the world’s bureaucracies are lining up to pump for a Greek bailout:

Lost in the eye-glazing babble about maturity extensions, haircuts, and which acronymic organization is going to funnel the money into place is the real magnitude of the stakes here. It’s not just the Greeks’ opera-bouffé parody of the modern redistributionist state that is circling the structural-insolvency drain; what really terrifies our political class is the prospect that, very soon, the investors simply won’t buy government bonds anymore — and massive borrowing through bond issues is the only thing keeping the redistributionist state afloat.

As I have documented many times on this blog, the entitlement-spending commitments of the U.S. Federal government, most U.S. state governments, most European governments, and indeed most national governments everywhere exceed the capacity of their economies to generate wealth. And demographic trends are making the imbalance worse over time, not better.

This is why raising taxes won’t help. The amount of private wealth available to be taxed is insufficient, even if taxation could be raised to 100% without suppressing all economic activity. In practice, raising taxes leads to increases in spending which more than consume the increased revenue (by a ratio of 1.17:1 in the U.S. since the 1940s).

[. . .]

That is the assumption that is now under threat. Greece must be bailed out in order to preserve the illusion that the borrowing can continue indefinitely, that the bill will somehow never come due. When the political class speaks of “contagion”, what they’re really worried about isn’t the solvency of German banks holding Greek paper, it’s a general flight of investors from the sovereign-debt markets.

June 27, 2011

The Economist calls for Greek debt restructuring

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:23

A Greek default. It’s stopped being a possibility, moved into being a probability, and it’s starting to look inevitable:

There is an alternative, for which this newspaper has long argued: an orderly restructuring of Greece’s debts, halving their value to around 80% of GDP. It would hardly be a shock to the markets, which have long expected a default (an important difference from Lehman). The banks that still hold a big chunk of the bonds are in better shape to absorb losses today than they were last year. Even if Greece’s debts were cut in half, the net loss would still represent an absorbable proportion of most European banks’ capital.

An orderly restructuring would be risky. Doing it now would crystallise losses for banks and taxpayers across Europe. Nor would it, by itself, right Greece. The country’s economy is in deep recession and it is running a primary budget deficit (ie, before interest payments). Even if Greece restructures its debt and embraces the reforms demanded by the EU and IMF, it will need outside support for some years. That is bound to bring more fiscal-policy control from Brussels, turning the euro zone into a more politically integrated club. Even if that need not mean a superstate with its own finance ministry, the EU’s leaders have not started to explain the likely ramifications of all this to voters. But at least Greece and the markets would have a plan with a chance of working.

No matter what fictions they concoct this week, the euro zone’s leaders will sooner or later face a choice between three options: massive transfers to Greece that would infuriate other Europeans; a disorderly default that destabilises markets and threatens the European project; or an orderly debt restructuring. This last option would entail a long period of external support for Greece, greater political union and a debate about the institutions Europe would then need. But it is the best way out for Greece and the euro. That option will not be available for much longer. Europe’s leaders must grab it while they can.

June 21, 2011

The Athens protests as a theatre for projection

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:45

Whatever may really be behind the protests, reporters are having a wonderful time using it as a blank canvas to project their own notions:

Some seriously overblown claims are being made about the anti-government, anti-EU, anti-IMF protests in Athens. ‘Syntagma Square has become the frontline of the battle against European austerity’, said one giddy British reporter, referring to the square where for the past three weeks Greek citizens, calling themselves ‘indignados’, have been protesting against the IMF/EU demand for further austerity measures before Greece can receive more aid. In truth, the most striking thing about the protests is their incoherence, even their childishness. Far from being the frontline of any kind of solid movement, the Syntagma camp-in is a confused, depoliticised, borderline petulant response to the economic crisis.

Some European journalists and activists have become so enamoured by the physicality of the protests that they seem not to have noticed the gaping political hole at the heart of them. BBC reporters, who normally spend most of their time in stuffy, smokeless offices, have written with undisguised glee of their sweaty experiences in Athens, where the ‘teargas hits us without warning’ and ‘we crush together, shoulder to shoulder’. A Guardian reporter describes being ‘jammed up against the railings’ in a ‘raucous’ atmosphere that is like ‘an open-air concert’. Hacks more used to writing about Vince Cable’s latest pronouncement on business law have leapt upon the opportunity to get stuck into a seemingly more thrilling economic story, in the process presenting the Syntagma stand-off as way more profound than it actually is.

Likewise, many amongst the European left are busily projecting their aspirations on to Athens. This is the ‘start of the European workers’ fightback’, they claim, describing the protests as the ‘beginning’ of an uprising against austerity that they knew would come. It is a feeling of profound disarray and disconnection amongst European left groups, their sensitivity to the political stasis that has largely greeted the economic crisis, which leads them to make excitable claims about Greece. Motivated by a determination to avoid having hard debates at home about the crisis, far less try to come up with any strategies for resolving it, they content themselves instead with celebrating the rowdy ‘indignation’ of Greek protesters and imagining that it represents the first stirrings of the return of traditional class politics.

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