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Everything posted by Starcrossed

  1. It's much bigger than that - the confluence of politics, finance, economics and international affairs is potentially toxic. I hope I'm wrong.
  2. It is possible for one part of a currency union to be richer than another. But in order for the inequality to be sustainable in the long run, the political and legal structures must be strong enough to withstand the pressures from within, alongside provision of some redistribution of wealth. The mission statement of a nation state in fact. I don't want the European project to fail, being sympathetic towards the post-war rhetoric about avoiding another war. But the inexorable logic of the single currency is proving more likely to drive people apart than to bring them together.
  3. Let's remember that the Reformation started in what is now Germany. The Lutheran emphasis on individual responsibility and the corresponding emphasis on sin and personal salvation go deep in not only the German soul but also countries with a similar faith history such as Finland and Sweden. A further observation about the Reformation is that it originally loosely followed the boundary of the Roman Empire. Which, perhaps not coincidentally, also foreshadowed the economic and political split in the Euro area. France is an interesting case because while Gaul was resolutely part of the Roman Empire, the French Revolution brought rationalist philosophy into this Catholic country giving the French a dualistic mindset which may help explain why France flits between the 'North' and 'South' and can't quite decide it's own identity in the economic debates. This may seem like a crude yardstick to apply to the way nations behave but ideas have deep roots and make people and history what they are.
  4. Watching all this play out I wonder whether the inability to hate and blame the USA post-Bush has played a part in Europe turning on itself instead. European countries are increasingly seeing 'enemies within' from whichever side of the fence they sit on debt. Dangerous trends and times that will take a generation to play out.
  5. Really excellent article. It has changed my opinion on this whole mess.
  6. The Syriza bluff has been called. Really I think it is as simple as that. If they were playing supreme game-playing strategy they wouldn't be in such confusion about what to do after the referendum. They are out of their depth, having assumed that by blackmailing the creditors with the threat of contagion they would win the game. Utter fail on their part. And now they claim they are being blackmailed by Merkel...well it takes one to know one.
  7. The key words here being 'pure science' and 'belief'. Both loaded terms at the best of times and difficult to handle in an environment when every word is micro-analysed and judged. Being human almost everything we say is somewhere between the two extremes but we aren't good at forgiving other people for having the same traits as us.. And that's particularly true in academic disciples where ego and competitiveness appears to rule.
  8. Well possibly, but the choice is that either the libertarian rhetoric is a total sham or it is real and has paradoxically given us an even more dependent society than we had before.
  9. A curious paradox about the philosophical shift towards 'personal responsibility' since the 80s: The State gives freedom to individuals to make their own decisions. To enable this the State promises ever greater safety net provision. This confers ever-greater moral hazard. The end result being that the State is needed more than ever before - for instance, bank bailouts, increased deposit guarantees, QE, guaranteed universal state pension etc etc.
  10. Sanctions, an energy war and the threat of Putin's expansionism may perversely be a good thing for long-term strategic thinking in Western Europe (esp. UK) Energy independence, a more balanced economy and structural improvements would all be sensible priorities in the current environment. Oh, b*gger, just remembered, that isn't going to happen.
  11. Fair enough, I've read enough Chomsky to have a theoretical sympathy with your opinion. But in practice I also grew up with an instinctive hatred of the jackboot. And that's where I'm coming from here.
  12. Going by his own principles, then, as shown in The Crimea, is Putin going to withdraw from his Moscow palace and go and live somewhere he is 'wanted' like the Siberian steppe? No, of course not. He operates by the logic of power which is get what you want however you can get it, whether it is by controlling the media, suppressing dissent, using military force and everything in between. Of course 'stability' and appealing to national pride gets him some votes but it is not a free country. Nowhere near.
  13. Good work sir, bringing back to house prices. I salute you
  14. I agree that we should not (and anyway don't have the capacity to) intervene militarily. But I don't agree with the moral equivalence being shown by some here and elsewhere. Russia is invading another country and if I was Poland or Finland with their histories and Russian speaking minorities I would be very worried indeed.
  15. It is a complex situation whichever way you cut it, I'm not pretending otherwise. But Russia is still invading another country. Fact. If the Crimean people (and by that read 'Russian-speaking sllight majority of the country) want to join Russia they can vote for it. But to invade another country and then organise a 'vote' at short notice under that foreign military rule and pressure is no choice at all. The principle of might is right is fundamentally fascistic and a bad sign for the times to come.
  16. We have to be careful too about supporting an armed invasion of a sovereign European state. And don't forget that this 'elected' government shot dead protesters and then chose to run to Russia rather than face their own Parliament which itself voted overwhelmingly to replace them by democratic Parliamentary vote.
  17. 'Real' markets are not as efficient as you think hence the boom and bust cycle. 'Voluntary' spending cuts are usually forced following periods of irrational exuberance. In the last five years my own (public) service has cut costs by 40% in real terms. This has not been 'voluntary' either but we have or will achieve it by up to and including real service cuts. I don't believe the public sector is perfect but equally I don't think the private sector has the monopoly on virtue.
  18. Well we will soon know if you are right, Count of Nowhere, you're describing the world we are moving to. See you here in 10 years...I'm happy to accept if this world proves better than the one we are leaving. But I get tired of the cynicism that says that all our problems are variously (depending on the debate) all down to bankers/public sector workers/politicians/corporations/EU/unions (delete as applicable). Not picking on you in particular here, but if I want that sort of contradictory bitterness I'll read the Daily Mail.
  19. Time to declare my vested interest as a public sector worker. Sure, the average middle-aged middle-class property-owning public sector worker may be able to survive with an aggregated pay-rise of 2% over the last five years combined. But for the majority of public sector workers I wouldn't say they have it in clover, anything but. Things are tough and I don't see them getting any better with this or any other 'recovery'. Personally speaking I am ready to leave the public sector and try my hand on the outside. Then it'll be clearer who has it easier! But let's not have any more of this divide and conquer bull. The majority of public sector staff provide valuable services and anyway, the artificial divide is coming down with the growth of commissioned services.
  20. I am a librarian and the library service I work for is extending free Internet access to two hours a day in many libraries in recognition of the need to provide not just computers but advice and support in using them for job applications and welfare forms as they become digital by default. The shift online is about more than just computers, it is about the sharing the skills and building confidence in using them. Libraries can do that.
  21. As a librarian I don't give physical libraries 10-15 years, the pace of change is too great. There will be a need for some of the functions of a library for a long time to come but within 5 years they won't add up to what people have traditionally thought of as a 'library'. The library brand is curiously resilient though, people do trust it. So I could be wrong...
  22. The theory is that libraries exist to make literature and information available to all free at the point of use. My personal feeling is that even If the medium of that exchange is digital there is inherently little difference between eBooks and book books. As to the role of the state in all this...well, that's a more fundamental question!
  23. Most but not all library services offer this through their webpage - if you are a member you can log in using your card and PIN and borrow digital files for the set period. At the end of that period the file deletes itself from your PC/mobile device so no overdue fines. The main problem being that in most cases the service isn't compatible with Kindle due to their uber-proprietary approach to, well, everything.
  24. Interesting point (I'm a male librarian by the way) If that is happening it shouldn't. I think if this is happening it is likely to be a feedback loop. More women borrow from libraries leading to purchasing that reflects the fact more women borrow from libraries etc
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