Google

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Life Satisfaction

Friday, July 29, 2005

Bush pointing the way forward for Europe

The Economist: “President Bush managed to push his controversial Central American Free Trade Agreement through the lower house of America's Congress in the early hours of Thursday. This small victory for free trade means the outlook for the much bigger and more important Doha round of world trade talks is less gloomy than it was—but only slightly”

It was a close call for Bush facing opposition both from Republican and Democrat benches. Now Americans have NAFTA and CAFTA, but what has Europe got to do with it? What is to stop Europe from putting a Mediterranean Free Trade Agreement (MEFTA) in place? Manifold potential benefits arising as a consequence of trading include rising standards of living in generally shabby North African countries thus not only helping the poor but also alleviating the pressure of illegal immigration on Europe.
We should also be looking beyond the material benefits. Let us not forget commerce is an inherent part of the spirit of Berbers, Jews and Arabs so MEFTA could become a powerful engine behind efforts to bring peace into this crisis prone region.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rational demands of Islamic terrorists?

I haven’t commented on the Newstalk 106 Breakfast show for some time now. That is mostly because I haven’t had a stomach to listen to that clown Richard Curran. (Bring Eamon Dunphy back!!!!) This morning I did.

Tony Blair said at the news conference that the demands of Islamic extremists are not rational and therefore cannot be heeded in a bid to save us from further carnage. Richey and his cherry picked guests on this morning show begged to differ. Of course the demands of al Qaeda are rational: ‘all they want is to get the Western troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan’. Really? But the last time I checked there were a few more issues on their agenda.

Islamic extremists want to overthrow the regimes in Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. At least that is what their principal ideologist, spiritual leader and the prime source of finances say. While this proposal probably seems reasonable at the first glance because the governments in Saudi and Egypt are run by unelected tyrants, the lefty buffoons forget that dear old Osama is not exactly a fan of democracy. He cares to replace these regimes with an Islamic state from Morocco to Indonesia based on a purist form of Islam as seen under Taliban in Afghanistan. (I am sure al-Andalus, which is almost half of Spain, is there lingering in the back of their minds. And watching The New Al-Qaeda on BBC ONE the last Monday I heard some angry Muslim men claiming Britain too.)

Even though his immediate goal is indeed to drive infidels out the Islamic states, on the long run Bin Laden wants to put in place a tyranny much more ruthless and unyielding than any other ever seen on the planet (with the possible exception of those of Kim Yong Il and Hitler). There is no doubt about it! Just check his agenda: he blames the Saudi ruling family (who run the least secular country on the planet) for not being Islamic enough!!!! It is hard to conceive any other option for those in this state who do not fit into this apocalyptic vision of purist Islam except to comply, die or become dhimmy (slaves). And what fate there is for the state of Israel in the minds of those fanatics, one can only imagine.

So, does all this appear like a rational proposal to you?

I am positive the lefty buffoons are aware of all this in the back of their minds. It is only that their self-loathing and anti-Americanism overwhelms their reasoning. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they would be more than happy in a world run by the Islamic fanatics. There would be no commercials, no profit, no corporations, no gas-guzzling cars, no supermarkets, no businessmen and no need to assume personal responsibility or initiative because the state would have all the answers. Sounds like a lefty paradise to me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


"On the surface, British politicians are doing pretty much what American leaders did after 9/11 — rallying the people without stoking fear and extending the government's power to deal with terrorists without sacrificing the essence of a free society. Yet there are also striking differences that could have big implications for Britain's continued participation in the war on terrorism. "

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The question of grocery retail profits

The Fine Gael spokesman for agriculture Denis Naughten launched an attack on supermarket chains for running high margins on agriculture products, diary and meat products in particular, and thus giving their customers and the farmers an unfair deal.

Mr Naughten’s entrepreneurial spirit deserves praise for identifying a genuine business opportunity. In the following weeks Mr Naughten could reveal his plans to set up a grocery retail business and explore this market opportunity to the benefit of both farmers and consumers.

’The consumer is footing the bill for the margins the retailer is making, and the consumer needs to become more conscious of this so that we can try and address it and ensure everyone gets a fair deal,’ he said.’

Fine Gael’s ongoing efforts to raise consumer awareness are commendable but regretfully there are indications this campaign may be just another election gimmick. Statements like ‘the highest mark-up was on milk, which had an average retail price of 85c a litre from which the producer only got 27c.’ seemingly suggesting that the retailer is making 70% on milk, will certainly win votes but as an argument it has little or no value. In fact its potential to mislead the punters is damaging. Efforts should be made to go beyond this populist modus operandi.

There is a lot to be said about the consumer prices in Ireland. According to The National Competitiveness Council, Ireland and Finland are now the most expensive European countries. A basket of five goods in Tesco in Ireland was 43% dearer on average than in the UK’ said Fine Gail on their website dedicated to rip-off Ireland (http://www.ripoff.ie/).

Faced with such accusations retailers point out to comparatively higher costs of running a business in Ireland. They may be onto something here because they too are facing the same ridiculous insurance bills as the rest of us are. They are also facing the spiralling labour costs. The National Competitiveness Council estimates the average annual compensation stands at €38,140 in Ireland, topping the EU-15 average of €34,630 and the UK average of €35,750. The fact the population has more disposable income to spend is certainly driving the prices of goods and services up more than anything else.

None of this does prove or disprove the retailers are indeed pocketing extraordinary profits. The large groceries provide little information about their business in Ireland. It is hard to tell whether the underlying reason for secrecy can be found in the absence of legal requirement to disclose financial information or is it that they have something to hide.

Superquinn and Dunnes Stores are privately owned and are not obliged to disclose financial results. Their principal competitor Tesco reported an operating margin of 5.9% in the UK for the year 2004 but the profit they made in Ireland was lumped with the ‘Rest of Europe’ where 4.7% was reported. The Irish sales constituted a significant 38% of their total European sales of £3,834m. If their operating margin in Ireland was 10% that would effectively mean that the businesses they did in the rest of Europe (excluding Ireland) would have operated at a meagre 1.25%. That is hard to believe. It is more likely that the figure is a good deal below 10% and closer to the UK result.

The Sunday Tribune was of similar opinion in April this year. They estimated Tesco made €137m profit from its grocery retail in Ireland in 2004 putting the margin at 7% - better than Tesco performed in any other market. But this is merely 1.1% and 2.3% above the UK and the rest of Europe figures, hardly a spectacular result. It certainly does not account for a 43% price difference between baskets of five goods in Tesco in Ireland and the UK.

In 2002 the largest American retailers Wal-Mart and Target had achieved profit margins of 7.6% and 8.4% respectively. We appreciate the differences in size but this is still a good indication of margins which can be achieved on the global level (While Wal-Mart with $430b sales is beyond any comparison the volume of sales of Target is only 6 times of what Tesco sold globally. Target is the second grocery retailer in the USA while Tesco is number two in Europe).

There is further evidence the margins in the Irish grocery retail are nothing out of the ordinary. For example Musgrave, the parent company of Centra, SuperValu and Londis, reported a small operating margin of 2.7% with roughly 60% of its turnover coming from Ireland. It is possible although unlikely that Musgrave’s businesses outside Ireland are being heavily subsidised by the Irish consumers. Furthermore the June 2005 report by the Central Statistics Office reported a 1.2% fall of CPI for food and non-alcoholic beverages, probably a result of the cutthroat competition in the sector.

But even if the case against the ‘greedy’ retailers was more compelling, discussion about the profit margins while ignoring other factors contributing to high prices is beside the point. And what is the benefit of this information going public anyway? It is doubtful the potential customers would engage in checking the profit margin of each retailer before hitting the supermarkets. They would remain to be driven by factors like the price, the quality and the convenience. And if the government needs to know retailers’ profit margins to shape their policies they don’t need to twist the retailers’ arms to get it. They already have this information submitted to them for tax purposes.

Back in February last year the Oireachtas called the retailers to disclose their profits. It must be that the politicians realised the futility of this effort because not much has happened since to resolve this ‘mystery’. It could also be that the politicians found the margins to be relatively reasonable, in which case there is more benefit in keeping them undisclosed.

Focusing on how much other people made while doing business has been a vote-winning business bashing strategy popular since the times Jesus Christ walked the Earth. This particular ‘red herring’ eclipses more important issues which could be addressed ‘to ensure everyone gets a fair deal’.

While minor in the context of Irish grocery retail prices the issue of transparency of data available to investors is an important one. The local and international professional accounting bodies should be asked to investigate the companies in question and amend the standards if necessary to stop them from misleading the investors. For example Tesco could be reported to the ASB’s Financial Reporting Review Panel for failing to disclose proper segmental results. Investors are certainly interested to learn whether Tesco underperforms on the European markets so there is a good chance the FRRP would investigate the case.

It is important for businesses to become less complacent and more active in the public debate. Continuous efforts of politicians and pressure groups to wind the population up will eventually result in an increased regulation. Although it is easy to understand why they are reluctant to provide sensitive commercial information such as operating margins to their competition (not only to the public) unless forced by law or accounting standards, they have to make an intellectual case to defend from these ridiculous attacks and regain the lost moral ground.

Finally, the most important is the issue of ensuring an unimpeded competition takes place. The anti-competition laws, preventing the players from fixing prices and forming cartels, should be rigorously enforced. Fortunately competition is alive and kicking in Ireland so this issue rarely gets attention which is not to suggest it should be completely forgotten.

Competition remains the most powerful tool to compensate for market distortions. The suggestion that Mr Naughten could venture into the grocery retail business was not a cynical joke.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Further to my previous post (Let us procreate!)………..

It was suggested by some of our valuable readers that USA enjoys higher population growth rates because it has a lot more immigration and poverty than Europe. I certainly agree that immigrants do contribute to the population growth. Between 1990 and 1998 5.4 million babies were born to immigrant women what makes roughly 30% percent of the total population growth in the US. But even when these births are excluded the US still have a considerably higher population growth than the EU. To be fair we should also exclude the immigrant births from the EU statistics but that would get us nowhere. It was not our intention to discuss racial or immigration implications of the population growth. There is nothing to stop Europe to get more immigrants and fix the demographics, except perhaps the fact that there are no jobs around and except perhaps the fact that the Continent is labouring under misapprehension that isolation will preserve their jobs (and intensifying laziness).

Let us have a look at the other explanation – the poverty. While I do agree there is a casual relation between the income levels and birth rates I do not agree there is a causative relation between the two. This is because the data which could support a causative relation between the two is not consistent. For example Latino families have higher incomes than African American families ($34k versus $29k – US Census 2000) and yet Latinos have higher total fertility rate than African Americans (2.75 versus 2.10, National Vital Statistics Report, 2003). American Indians have an average income of $30k but have a far lower fertility rate than the other two (1.75).

At best I can agree that people on lower incomes generally tend to have more babies. So what? People on higher incomes express far more interest in art than people on lower incomes. Is that to suggest there is a causative relation between the two? Nonsense! Many galleries are free or relatively cheep (the cost of one beer!!) to visit but people on lower incomes (or welfare) are apparently not interested or have something better to do. People with higher education do have (quite rightfully) higher incomes and one might easily argue that people from deprived backgrounds cannot attain higher education and are therefore caught in the ‘poverty trap’. But how come poor Asian students are not caught in the poverty trap? How come 77% of Asians graduate (above the US average) and only 50% odd percent of African Americans and Latinos do? I am sure Asians were not rich when they migrated to USA so how come they make it and others don’t? It helps that Asians top the IQ charts (even the poor ones, would you believe it). It also helps the Asians have the lowest incidence of teenage pregnancies. But the ultimate answer, my dear readers, lies in the fact that education, hard work and discipline are rooted deeply into the Confucian tradition.

The cultural aspects across the population spectrum are the single biggest factor which determines whether someone will attain higher education and higher income or end up pregnant at the age of 16 receiving welfare till the end of the life. It is the cultural aspects as well as the general outlook that affect the population growth. The culture of Europeans (and everyone else) is more-less an evolving concept. Regretfully the current trends feature an upswing in pessimism, laziness and a general drop in procreation. And if Europe wants to be strong and continue to shape the history as it has been doing for the last six centuries this problem should be discussed and acted upon.

But why was the alleged abundance of poverty in USA offered as an explanation for the comparatively favourable demographics of the States? Well, even though none of our readers has (yet!) explicitly pulled out the argument, we know where it is going to – terrible income inequality in the USA! Yes, the States feature vast cultural differences and differences in abilities and wiliness to work across the population spectrum (the Bell curve appears in almost all statistics) and that is naturally reflected in the income distribution. Of course the good auld Europe is not untouched by the same differences, but lads over here have decided they wanted to flatten the Bell curve up a bit. While very little can be done to flatten the IQ distribution, a lot could be done to flatten the cultural differences (in terms of fixing those lacking in certain aspects) but that is not endorsed because ‘all cultures are equal’ and ‘you should just be yourself’. So the easiest thing to do to bring to life this utopian endeavour is to engineer the murky income distribution statistics in the name of ‘social justice’. And that is why our readers pulled the poverty ace from the sleeve hopeful to deliver coup de grâce in the name of the morally superior egalitarian Continent.

This self-proclaimed moral superiority is highly questionable though. Equality of outcome cannot and should not be guaranteed because it encourages people to do as little as possible to get by. There is no point in excelling because what difference does it make. Those who fiddled with such systems (former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, etc.) had generally failed and along the way they had lost some of the brightest of their kin. This is what the French are experiencing right now with a rising number of entrepreneurs fleeing to Switzerland to escape from the rampaging socialists. As Von Mises once said: “Inequality of wealth and income is an essential feature of the market economy. It is the implement that makes the consumers supreme in giving them the power to force all those engaged in production to comply with their orders. It forces all those engaged in production to the utmost exertion in the service of the consumers. It makes competition work. He who best serves the consumers profits most and accumulates riches.” ..while others do the necessary corrections and try to catch up. This game is the essence of progress.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Let us procreate!

A disturbing thought came into my mind last night when I was watching Hatch with my better half. American movies almost always feature a happy end while European movies, with the exception of the odd comedy, seldom do. American movies make you want to go out and live your life to the full, win, laugh or kick ass. In contrast, the European movies feature people immersed into their routines pondering about their meaningless lives. The European movies make you want to do nothing.

Now, I know this observation is highly subjective and I also know there are many entertaining European movies bursting with life. However, considering how gloomy an average European movie is in comparison with the works coming from across the Atlantic I think I’m quite right to question the European biological will to live. It may be tempting to dismiss such a fundamental objection based on a subjective observation of something relatively unrelated. It is also easy to dismiss American movies as shallow, factually incorrect and intellectually unchallenging but that would be entirely beside the point. To further elaborate on the issue let us have a look at the statistics.

Here you can find a comparison of population growth of developed countries (data for USA 0.92% and Spain 0.15% should be added). It is embarrassing for the Europeans. Things aren’t much better when one considers the total fertility rates either. North America averaged 2.0 babies born to women during their reproductive years; USA had a total of 2.1 (1.9 when baby-booming Latinos and African Americans are excluded) while the EU-15 managed 1.5. It is considered that a total fertility rate of 2.1 is required merely to replace the population. So it is clear that Europe is slowly heading towards a demise should the trend continue. But that is nothing new to you.

There has been a lot of discussion about the troublesome demographic of the ageing continent, but none of them really touched the collective spirit of the continental Europe. The fashionable wisdom says that the consumerism and material wealth are to blame for our lack of procreation. That could be so up to an extent. But how is that the mother of consumerism - the wealthy USA still manage to procreate faster than self-righteously anti-materialistic Europeans? How is that the wealthy Ireland and Luxembourg top the European population growth chart?

The zealots on the left are always quick to blame the money for every conceivable problem. They have created this fashionable wisdom and once more diverted the discussion from the real issue – the rising pessimism in Europe. How to reverse the trend is open for discussion. Once the Europeans start filming happy ends I bet the population statistics will improve. Until then the continent will continue to fade away immersed in its dreams of the past glory and absorbed with delusions about its superiority.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The true culprit of terrorism

It has become normal for the political commentators to spread misconceptions about the driving force of the modern-day terrorism.

Take this statement for example: Tariq Ali in the Guardian: “The real solution lies in immediately ending the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine”. Were the terrorist worried about Palestine? Did Tariq forget the 9/11 atrocities were planned amidst of Bill Clinton’s efforts to bring peace to Palestine? Tariq suggests the terrorists were pissed off because of the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Did he forget the 9/11 happened a couple of years before the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq were overthrown and the two countries occupied? Did the Saudi 9/11 bombers fight for a free Saudi Arabia or a free Afghanistan? Free from what?

Take the following statement then: Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: "Until wealth and democracy is more evenly spread this may stay part of modern climate change, a price to be paid." She is right about democracy because the lack of it could easily lead to violent expression of oppressed political ideas. But I can’t hear Polly praising the allies for facilitating free elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems to me Polly and the likes of her somehow preferred the status quo. And this claim about poverty doesn’t survive the reality check. Polly should be told that the poorest countries on the planet are virtually terrorist-free. Who has ever heard of an Ethiopian or a Bangladeshi terrorist blowing himself up in the name of ‘social justice’ and redistribution of wealth? Poverty has nothing to do terrorism.

The opinions like the ones Tariq and Polly care to share with us somehow go down well with the public mainly because these are in line with both archaic and contemporary religious beliefs and because to claim something else is politically incorrect. It is the just struggle of the poor and the oppressed against the evil brought down upon us by the rich and powerful, they say.

But it is nothing of the sort. Behind the terrorist acts of al Qaeda lies nothing else but profound ideological incompatibility of the attackers with the libertarian set of values. It is the same ideological incompatibility which used to drive the European extreme left of the past like Baader Meinhof or Brigate Rosse. It is the ideological contempt of those who wish to surrender their freedom to someone or something else just to avoid the agony of the free will and the responsibility of the personal choice. They want someone else to take care of their affairs and tell them what to do. They want God, they want the Society or they want the Party to be responsible for their lives. Hence the praise and the understanding the Islamic extremists receive from the European left. They fight for the same cause and against the same enemy.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Circus in Kaliningrad

French arrogance sans frontieres strikes again. According to Liberation, French President Jacques Chirac was cracking jokes about the British food and agriculture during the summit in Kaliningrad. This summit was bizarre enough without the French ‘sense of humour’.

The venue was a former Prussian town, Königsberg, which was taken from the Germans after the Second World War. The summit was mostly about a Putin’s attempt to ensure existence of the Kaliningrad enclave unhindered by the strict EU border rules applied by the freshmen - the neighbouring Poles and Lithuanians. But the two were not invited so one can only assume the Russian tzar is hopeful the French and German EU-emperors will sort them out. Schroeder and Chirac happily accepted the role what speaks volumes about how they perceive the EU. Let us see what else was funny.

"The only thing they (the English) have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow," said Chirac to Putin’s and Schroeder’s amusement. We are all so proud of the French agriculture. After all we are all paying for it. Some 40% of the EU budget goes to the French peasants to keep up the good work. Well done lads! Pity your resources could be put into more cost-effective use elsewhere. And our food could be cheaper too. It got even better: "You can’t trust people (the English) who cook as badly as that".

It has not been said if Gerhard Schroeder got the joke. The German cabbage-sausage cuisine isn’t exactly renowned for its opulence and the Germans did invade France twice. When they did it for the second time the other lot with uninspiring cuisine, the Russians, already had a pact with the aggressor so I am not quite sure who did Chirac really refer to. I just hope the untrustworthy English (and the damn Yanks) will not interfere if these demonstrations of affection take place again so that the French and the Germans can indulge freely in their friendship.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Sustainable Development

This morning Eamon Dunphy summoned two fine gentlemen. There was a university professor whose name I didn’t remember whining about the unsustainable development of the Dublin commuter belt and then there was The Irish Times environmental editor Frank McDonald observed how Cork should be bigger. In fact twice the size. But damn those people, they all want to live in Dublin.

Well, perhaps the Government should start shipping us around the country and tell us where to live and where to work. But would that be the same government which, at least according to these lads, have created this fine mess we are supposedly in? Funny the proponents of social engineering regularly fail to spot this little inconsistency of their own.

Perhaps someone should sit them both down and explain the history of big cities. Some places that used to be grim, god-forsaken dormitories in the past have developed into self-contained towns with shopping malls and business parks. Blanchardstown is one of them. I am sure the same fate is on the cards for the likes of Ratoath. As soon as there is a critical mass of people in an area, companies and reatilers go there creating jobs and providing services.

And what is ‘sustainable development’ after all? This is one of the terms the uttering of which makes oneself feel so good, but are at the same time meaningless from the practical point of view. It is something like ‘corporate social responsibility’. How does one decide that a society is at the point where it has reached ‘sustainable development’? How does one decide a company has become ‘socially responsible’? Perhaps that is the point – leave more room for whining.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Africa: aid, corruption and growth

Helping Africa is a hot topic these days. Pop stars, politicians and other prominent figures in Europe and across the pond compete in calls for debt relief and more aid to help African economies grow. The same people are usually dismissive about those who would prefer to see certain conditions aimed towards achieving better governance and reducing corruption attached to the entire package.
Even Jeffrey Sachs jumped on the bandwagon and said in an NYT interview that the “….. idea that African failure is due to African poor governance is one of the great myths of our time." It must be true, if Jeffrey Sachs says so. Empirical evidence, as Marian L. Tupy of the Cato Institute points out, seems to suggest otherwise.

“… between 1960 and 2005, foreign aid worth more than $450 billion, inflation adjusted, poured into Africa. Result? Between 1975 and 2000, African gross domestic product (GDP) per capita declined at an average annual 0.59 percent rate. Over the same period, African GDP per capita fell from $1,770 in constant 1995 dollars adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) to $1,479.

In contrast, South Asia performed much better. Between 1975 and 2000, South Asian GDP per capita grew at an average annual 2.94 percent. South Asian GDP per capita grew from $1,010 in constant 1995 dollars adjusted for PPP to $2,056. Yet, between 1975 and 2000, the per capita foreign aid South Asians received was 21 percent that received by Africa. The link between foreign aid and economic development seems quite tenuous.“

Professor Sachs also suggested that Africa is improving in combating the endemic corruption. Again, the figures suggest the opposite is true.

“But evidence is not on Professor Sachs' side. African corruption has been getting worse, not better, over the last few years. Each year, Transparency International publishes its Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The CPI defines corruption as "abuse of public office for private gain." It is measured on a scale from 0 to 10. The higher the number, the lower the corruption. In 2000, the average African CPI was 3.24. By 2004, the African CPI fell to 2.87.”

Another issue, the one of agricultural subsidies in US and EU is often mentioned in the context of African poverty. While it is true that the archaic agricultural subsidies in the West should be abolished simply because they distort markets and stand in the way of allocating resources to their more efficient use, the extent they have on keeping Africa poor is arguable. It is true that subsidised food from the West prevent African farmers from exporting more food and making more money. However, it is often forgotten that the subsidised western food is actually benefiting the African urban population (39% of Africans) in the same time. Considering that the agriculture sector employs some 50% of Africans and contributes to far less than 50% of GDP of the continent abolishing agricultural subsidies and food ‘dumping’ no longer seems like a magical cure.

The conclusions are obvious. The issues like ‘agricultural subsidies’ and ‘colonial legacy’ are simply ‘red herrings’ diverting the discussion from the real culprits of African misery: corruption and incompetence. Whether this distraction is deliberate or not is irrelevant.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Greetings from Saudi Arabia

Dear readers, I just wanted to say hello from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I will post an article about this trip and my previous trips to the region on Saturday, 25th June. Inshallah. Until then read the Freedom Institute.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Sir Geldof Sued for Royalties

Sir Bob Geldof is apparently being sued for 20 years of unpaid royalties. I rolled on the floor laughing when I heard the news on the radio this morning. We know the principle of the caring left is: “my property is sacred! Other people’s property should be used for common good”. But it’s not the principle that’s funny. It’s that the timing couldn’t have been better. The composer or whoever is suing him should come out and say: “it will cost Bob f*** all to pay back what he owes”.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Euro Like The Ball and Chain

"The euro is a marriage in the old style, one of those entered into when divorce did not exist." said Joaquin Almunia, the European Commissioner responsible for monetary issues in a response to comments made by Italian Social Affairs Minister Roberto Maroni.

Maroni’s no-more-Euro song was out of tune with his coalition boss Berlusconi who told him to shut up. This was probably because the boss wants to keep this Ace up the sleeve in a bid to save his coalition from a fiasco at the next election. But by the time Berlusconi pulls the Euro card, this particular set of smokes and mirrors will be déjà vu. German SPD is already gearing up for the general elections under the same slogan. They tricked the voters the last time with the Iraq card and they are hopeful to trick them again.

We did point out earlier that the Euro doesn’t work well for the sluggish continental economies. However, the problems in Germany and Italy run much deeper so it’s hard to believe that a percent or two of interest rate cut or devaluation of the national currency (the old Italian trick) would deliver instant salvation. After all, Japan has had 0% interest rate for years and yet continued to drift in and out of recessions.

The proper cure for Germany and Italy would be a set of liberal economic reforms concieved and implemented by a competent government. Germany is more than ready to be relieved of the expensive and rigid social state, which delivered unemployment and stagnation instead of the promised leftist utopia - ‘the social justice’. Well, that’s what socialist systems do, in case you’ve just fallen from Mars and missed the last 50 years of economic history. The Italians are ready to be relieved of the Berlusconi’s government, which is most likely paralyzed with his own vested interest and corruption. Both German and Italian voters should deliver a fatal blow to the incumbents and remove them from the office. Germans are lucky to have an alternative in Angela Merkel, a business friendly iron lady from the East. Regretfully, I don’t see such an alternative in Italy.

To come back to the opening quote, the Italian marriage without a ‘get out of the jail free card’. Isn’t this another fine example of arrogance of EU officials lulled in their EU dream? And it is not a lone example. When a Charles Stanley analyst, Stuart Thomson, interviewed ECB officials they were dismayed at the prospect of anyone leaving the Eurozone. This will never happen. We are building a currency which will replace the Dollar. We will squeeze the Americans out and make them pay for the Euro in the same way we were paying through 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Wow, that’s cool stuff. But the economic success can not be achieved by the force of political directives and party dogmas.

A democratic body such as the EU Commission should respond with a debate not dismissal. After all an elected official has voiced his genuine concern, for right or wrong reasons, about the way the common currency works or rather doesn’t work for his country. After all, for right or wrong reasons, some 64% of Germans seem to think Germany would be better off with the Deutsche Mark. Unless treated properly the bride will escape with or without a divorce.

Non and Nee! What now?

The EU constitution is in trouble. In order for it to come to life it has to be ratified by all of the 25 member states, which is now unlikely after the French and the Dutch referendums. The initial reactions from Brussels were ‘business as usual’ and ‘the process of ratification should go on’. Why? Did Brussels think the referendums in France and Netherlands could be ignored and the whole thing kept alive?

To understand the mindset of Brussels' bureaucrats one must consider the doctrine concieved by one of the EU founding fathers, Jean Monnet. A couple of decades ago Monet was aware that it would be very difficult to integrate European countries burdened with decades of conflicts, by means of political democracy. So he argued that the critical momentum for full-blown political unification should be achieved by pushing through with integration on less controversial levels – agriculture, common market and currency. Apparently, his guidelines have been carefully implemented.

Let us consider the latter, the crown of European integration (at least so far), the almighty Euro for a moment. As a currency the Euro doesn’t really work for anyone. For the sclerotic continent the interest rates are too high and do not foster growth. For thriving economies (not that there are many of those in Europe) like the Irish they are too low, what fuels inflation and may cause the economy to overheat. The economies of European countries are rather diverse and if there was to be a single currency there should’ve been mechanisms in place to manage those diversities as there are in the States (federal tax-based redistribution system). These were not put in place and could not have been put in place because political consensus is required first.

But in this case the house was being built from the roof down along the lines of Monnet’s doctrine. The Euro was put in place in hope some sort of political consensus will follow. But it seems feeding the unity down our throats didn’t quite work for the French and for the Dutch. And if the Eurocrats get it their way and the British get to vote too (this seems unlikely now) we will probably find it didn’t quite work for them either.

To come back to the original question: what is the point of continuing with ratification? It’s because Non and Nee don’t really matter. Voters are seen as just a nuisance. A bit of arm-twisting and a bit of spin and we could still have our EU super state whether the punters like it or not. In theory the Dutch parliament could ratify the Constitution because the referendum was consultative. This seems unlikely but weirder things have happened. The French may get to vote again under a different government because they ‘didn’t quite understand the whole thing’ or because they ‘really voted against Chirac’ and not against the Constitution.

The Brussels officials wouldn’t mind making a complete mock out of democracy as long as the ‘higher cause’ – the sacred EU cow is saved. That explains their initial reaction – denial and defiance. Except for the idea that they can still see the Constitution through; can you think of any other reason why Brussels would want the ratification to go ahead? And that is why Chirac was on a mission convincing others to give it a lash anyway. Even our Taoiseach bought into it. He seems to have recently changed his mind and now wants to postpone the Irish referendum but for the wrong reason - not to reconsider the entire thing but to prevent the Irish and subsequently the others from saying ‘no’ to the Constitution in some sort of a ‘domino effect’.

So what now? Instead of wondering about how to save the Constitution, the EU bureaucrats and the leaders of EU states should carefully reflect upon two crucial issues. Do European countries really want a strong political union beyond the common market and the common currency? If so, how to reconcile the obvious ideological and economic differences? I’m afraid they would find that the common market was ‘as good as it gets’, the Euro was a step too far and the latter is a mission impossible. It is time for the Eurocrats to abandon Mr Monnet's doctrine.

Quo Vadis Europa?

Anti-capitalist rhetoric coming from the continental Europe these days is hardly in short supply.

The head of German SPD, Franz Müntefering called the certain financial investors “swarms of locusts”. To prove Franz’s ranting is a policy rather than merely a slip, the head of "Young Socialists", the SPD's youth organization, called the director of Deutsche Bank AG "a willing servant of unrestrained capital", who "is nothing but a puppet in the shark pool of neoliberal globalization". To top it all, the press came up with a leaked SPD’s memo listing the “locusts”: Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and a string of private-equity firms.

This is all great stuff and Germans are buying it big time. And so are the French and the Spanish. And selfless as they are, they want us to have some of that great stuff too. Anybody remembers the time the EU finance ministers were rubbing McCreevy’s nose for having low corporate taxes and stealing business from their sclerotic economies? Remember talks of ‘harmonisation of taxes’? Now they’re after the UK.

“Last week, only days after Tony Blair was returned to power, the European Parliament, with support from many Labour MEPs, voted to end the UK's opt-out from limits on working hours. The prime minister now faces a fight to block the measure. The stakes are very high - the foundation of Britain's comparative success in the EU.” "We have today started a long march in favour of our social Europe.” said a Spanish Socialist MEP.

I would not see any problem with all this if a heavily regulated economy was a successful alternative to a free-market economy. But it’s not. A majority of ‘socialist’ countries in Europe feature double-digit unemployment figures and sluggish growth rates hovering around 1.5% (2.5% is needed to sustain the growth of population). Even Sweden, which is often used as a socialist showcase is far from trouble free. For example, Sweden slipped from the fourth place it held in 70’s to the twelfth place in OECD countries in terms of GDP per capita.

On the long run a regulated economy fails those whose interests it is supposed to protect. At worst it results in economic failures of catastrophic proportions as it did in the Soviet Union. At best it hampers growth and yields unemployment. And the danger is there will be more and more of the good socialist stuff being forced down our throats once the EU constitution gives Kremlin like powers to Brussels.

To avoid such a scenario Ireland and UK could consider looking beyond their membership of the EU and join the thriving NAFTA as well.

Update (Monday 8.20am): The anti-capitalist rhetoric did not help SPD to retain the majority in Germany’s largest state. Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won the local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia after being out of the office for almost four decades. The legacy of SPD in Germany’s most industrialized state include a litany of economic failures with unemployment running at 1930’s levels (18%) and businesses crumbling on daily basis. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder now plans an early general election.

McDowell hits the nail in the head

Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell spoke on Wednesday about a huge number of bogus asylum applications falling on the desks of Irish immigration service officers. This story was eclipsed by the ‘kebab affair’ and the airport terminal announcements, which is a pity because Michael has a point here.

‘Michael McDowell said the patience of the Irish people would be very tested if they knew the 'cock and bull' stories being given by people looking for asylum’. McDowell also said 'there's a lot of political correctness that goes on here and it is manifestly bogus, far-fetched nonsense and it's about time we said it'.

And to prove Michael’s point this morning Eamon Dunphy branded his comments as ‘racist’ and then went on to say there were many African and Eastern European asylum seekers. What a logical salto mortale??!! Have Eastern Europeans suddenly become a different race? If not, how can McDowell’s comments be racist?

The fact is that McDowell’s comments are aimed at the bogus asylum seekers, wherever they come from. The debate on the issue must not be stopped by filibustering about the language employed as was the case with Myers’s comments about single mothers.

The fact is that bogus asylum seekers exploit the good, the naïve, the emotional and the stupid in this country. They exploit the system and they waste taxpayers’ money. But the worst of all, failure to stop these ordinary conmen at our borders will create huge problems in our society in the future like it did here, here and here.

Galloway - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Is it naïve to believe that integrity of a man who has “no expectation of justice from a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists under the chairmanship of a neocon George Bush” [1] could be brought into question by proving he was on Saddam’s payroll?

It is impossible to prove anything of the sort to Galloway and his supporters because all evidence, however sound, will be ‘fabricated’ by ‘neo-cons’ and ‘warmongers’. Even if they accept the evidence is genuine, the supporters of Galloway will have no problem with anyone receiving money from Saddam. For them dictators, however ruthless and blood-handed they may be, are good as long as they are anti-American.

However, there are a lot of those who are still able to tell The Good from The Bad based not on the irrational hatred of all things American but on the arguments put in front of them. It is in their eyes that Galloway will be hurt by the Senate hearing as Richard Waghorne suggested and it is for them we will continue to grind Galloway and the likes of him. So here we go……

This morning, following last night Senate hearing, we had Galloway on Eamon Dunphy’s Breakfast Show. He argued it was wrong to bring sanctions upon Iraqi people just because ‘we’ fell out with a dictator ‘we’ have put in power in the first place. Wow!

Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t the absence of UN approval one of the principal arguments against the war in Iraq? Well, the sanctions were indeed blessed by the UN. Why are they wrong then? Or is it that the UN suddenly does not matter? The sanctions killed a lot of children? Even if they did, they were not supposed to because the Oil for Food program was put in place so that the evil dictator would suffer more and the people less. But guess what, this program was ineffective (as if anything the UN has ever done was effective) and abused by corrupted UN officials. Even the son of Kofi Annan was involved himself, apparently without daddy’s knowledge. And were Galloway and some French diplomats involved, this remains to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. So far we know Galloway's business associate was involved and Galloway has yet to condemn his act.

What about Saddam? Was he really wholeheartedly embraced by the same people who toppled him or was he merely a lesser evil supported against a greater evil at some stage of the history (twenty years ago!) and under a completely different set of circumstances? And did ‘we’ put him in power or was it that he killed and continued to kill everyone in his way to become one of the most ruthless and oppressive dictators on the planet? Perhaps CIA did provide intelligence in 1963 to help overthrow general Qasim. Perhaps USA did assist Saddam after he attacked Iran. But does that equal to putting someone in power? And did ‘we’ fall out with Saddam or was it the other way around? Was it when USA attacked Iraq or was it after Iraq attacked Kuwait? Why should Galloway bother with such minute details when USA are always The Bad or at least The Ugly.

At the end, whatever the story with Galloway, all efforts should be focused on fixing Iraq and creating a respectable and democratic country, which will not be a threat to its neighbours and its own citizens. And that is what counts at the end of the day.

TCD Continues

I have decided after all to keep The Conservative Dubliner running and post in parallel here and on the Freedom Institute site. It will be easier for me to keep track of what I've written and for the readers to get a flavor of my personal writings. So keep checking both sites............

Friday, May 27, 2005

Cooperation

Throughout the history, cooperation of people has proven to be the most effective mechanism of maximizing output for the purpose of achieving a common goal.

But don’t jump to conclusions. I haven’t lost my mind and turned socialist or, God forbid, communist. It is not any sort of cooperation I am talking about here. Two thousand years of imposed religious unity did not yield much benefit for the state of human affairs. Thousands of years of coerced cooperation through various forms of slavery did not yield much benefit for the state of human affairs either. Modern-day coercive states have either failed already or are finding themselves blessed with social and economical depression. Coercive cohesion fails on the long run.

It is not the cooperation where the interests of individuals are sacrificed for some common goal I am talking about. It is a cooperation of free individuals joining together at their free will that yields true success and prosperity for all. Emergence of free-thinking liberated from the claws of Inquisition gave us unprecedented advances in science. Emergence of free-trading enabled for further flow of people and ideas across the globe to everyone’s benefit. Emergence of capitalism produced unprecedented wealth for virtually everyone. Yes, there are many poor people on the Globe still, but you will find that this is mostly the case in those parts of the world where personal and economical freedoms are in short supply.

Jeremy Clarkson noted that in 20000 years of human existence we came up with only three important things: fire, wheel and the fact that wood floats. And then in two hundred years we invented everything else. And it was not a coercive cohesion that facilitated this unprecedented advance. It was freedom of people to think, act, trade and work together at their own will. It was the freedom of individuals to decide what is in their own best interest rather than having someone telling them what the ‘greater good’ was.

What was all that about? Well, the Freedom Institute honoured me with an invitation to contribute to their blog, which I accepted. I would like to thank my readers, both like-minded and opponents, and invite them to continue reading my posts on the Freedom Institute blog.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Consensus on Global Warming?

Apparently the extent of human contribution to global warming cannot be questioned. Otherwise people may begin to wonder why are we wasting billions on lefty junk-science based wealth distribution projects like Kyoto. Read more here.

"Two of the world's leading scientific journals have come under fire from researchers for refusing to publish papers which challenge fashionable wisdom over global warming.

A British authority on natural catastrophes who disputed whether climatologists really agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, says his work was rejected by the American publication, Science, on the flimsiest of grounds."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

George the Hulk and Evil Builders


Yesterday we heard a heartbreaking story on Newstalk’s The Right Hook. Sinead and a number of others placed €3000 booking deposits to secure apartments but the evil developer decided to pull out, refund the prospective buyers and rent the apartments out. Although this was legal, George found it terribly ‘immoral’ and ‘unfair’. Apparently all of this meant we needed a housing market regulator and Mr. Eamon Gilmore was invited to advertise the Labour’s Party just struggle to introduce one.

Why? What would the regulator have done in this particular case? Forced the developer to do sell the apartments even though the contracts have not been in place? Nonsense. What we really need is the government to stop messing around with the market. Little wonder things seem chaotic when the government keeps changing the rules of the game every year.

And why was this immoral? Was someone deceived? Sinead was advised by her solicitor that the deposit was not binding and that the sale wasn’t a ‘done deal’ until the contracts have been exchanged. I suspect other buyers received the same advice. So is it immoral when someone takes a risk and doesn’t get it their way? It’s hardly unfair either because the buyers could have pulled out too without any consequence whatsoever leaving the poor developer out in the dry.

And how come the developer has ‘suddenly’ changed his mind? It is impossible, said George, they must have known from the start. Not really, in fact it’s a business decision which makes perfect sense because the rents in Dublin are rising again after three years. That is what good companies do - adjust the business strategy to match conditions on the market.

At the end George inadvertently pointed out an advantage of having a market. He ‘named and shamed’ the company in question in hope the market forces will take its toll by scaring the punters away. Which I doubt will happen. People will continue to place deposits to buy off plans because they pay less for the houses and have a greater flexibility to sort out their financial affairs and indeed pull out if they chose to do so.

All of this brings me to an entirely separate issue. At least now I know why the latest ad campaign features George as the Hulk apparently smashing what appears like a construction site. But why the hell is Mr. Hook’s show called ‘The Right Hook’ when dear old George is a bleeding heart liberal? Why not ‘The Left Hook’, George?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Monkeys Against Gender Equalization

Gender is a social construction! The patriarchal society is to blame for differences between male and female inclinations and achievements. These are the phrases we hear so often from various feminist lobbies and equalization freaks from all sides. According to recent studies they are very wrong. Men and women are indeed different.

"It turns out that male and female brains differ quite a bit in architecture and activity. Research into these variations could lead to sex-specific treatments for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. "

To prove male and female inborn inclinations do exist, scientists turned to monkeys and guess what happened:

"..... male monkeys spent more time playing with the "masculine" toys than their female counterparts did, and female monkeys spent more time interacting with the playthings typically preferred by girls. Both sexes spent equal time monkeying with the picture books and other gender-neutral toys."

Findings like these prove that many lefty policies from supporting the concept of homosexual family (as equal to a traditional one) to forced equality through gender based quotas are just plain wrong. But we knew that all along, fellows conservatives! Did we not?

The Importance of Capital

It is often argued that scientists and technical innovators are underpaid given their importance in advancing our civilisation. This is particularly so when compared to those evil investment bankers and stock brokers who ‘produce’ nothing in return for big bucks.

In his book Man, Economy and State, Rothbard argues that inventions are meaningless until capital is invested to put them in use. He claims "there is always an unused shelf of technological projects available and idle." Why idle? ". . . in order for the new invention to be used, more capital must be invested."

Commercialization is not a technically trivial exercise. It makes the crucial difference between a useful and useless invention and rightly so those who facilitate commercialization are rewarded.

"If you are for technological progress, and its wide availability, then you should be an enthusiastic supporter of capital accumulation and its rational investment. That is, you should be for the free market." Read more here....

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Airbus to Lose Money on A380?



An American study suggests Airbus will lose $8 billion over the commercial life of the A380 and will never repay $4 billion of subsidies paid by the EU taxpayers.

This is not the first time someone suggested projected sales of A380 were overly optimistic. Airbus bets that the existing 'hub system', for which the A380 is designed, will prevail, although point-to-point flights (preferred by the punters and the low cost airlines) are on the rise.

If Airbus lose, this will be the second time the EU governments tried to pick a market winner in the airline industry (Concorde was the first attempt) and failed while gambling away the taxpayers' money. Which is fine, except no one has ever asked the taxpayers if they wish to invest in Airbus.

Eurocrats to Stay the Gravy Train

MEPs vote to keep generous allowances
Financial Times, April 13 2005

"Members of the European parliament yesterday rejected reforms designed to clamp down on abuse of pension contributions and travel expenses as well as proposals to end their expensive commute between the parliaments in Brussels and Strasbourg."

"In another disappointment to the reformers, MEPs rejected a proposal from the Liberal group to create a code of professional ethics that would, for example, help clarify the links between MEPs and lobby groups."

Apparently, Brussels is starting to resemble Kremlin. No surprise, however. The continental Europe has a tendency towards totalitarian and non-transparent societies.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Pope and Condoms II

Andrew Bolt presents some arguments in defence of the late Pope.. The countries worst hit by AIDS are the countries with a mere 5% of Catholics, Botswana and Swaziland. Uganda, however, where half of the population is Catholic has slashed the AIDS prevalence from 15% to 5% by doing exactly what the Pope was saying.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Pope and Condoms

Apparently the Catholic Church is to blame for rampaging AIDS in Africa. According to some activists shown in a piece on the Sky News, if only the Catholic priests urged the African men to use condoms they might listen. Of course, it's all late Pope Jon Paul II fault. If only he hadn't be so conservative.

They failed to notice that the Catholic Church is against sex outside of the marriage. So if one follows the teaching of the Church one is unlikely to contract AIDS and one needs no condom .

More on the subject to follow...........

Rover Goes Bust


Let's face it - it was on the cards. It was unlikely Rover's jaded models 25 and 45 could face the competition and survive, let alone win. The CityRover was a disaster. The 75 is a fine car but this alone could not secure profit and investment in new models.

Back in 2000 Jon Moulton offered to buy the ailing company. He had plans to scale down Rover and focus on the MG brand. Some two thirds of the Rover 6000 workers would have had to go and some assets would have been sold under his plan. He was branded a ruthless asset-stripping capitalist and sent off when BMW came under pressure from the Government and the unions. The full article is here.

So, 5000 redundancies will be in the post within the next week or so. Remaining 1000 workers will continue work to complete pending orders. When this is finished, the last man to leave will turn out the lights. Was this necessary? At least the MG brand and a third of the workforce could’ve been saved had only the company been sold to Moulton. The cost of 4000 redundancies would’ve been born by Moulton. Now the redundancy of the entire workforce will fall on the back of the taxpayer.

Well, is this not another fine example of what happens when saving jobs becomes the priority? Was the victory of the Government and the workers over Moulton not pyrrhic?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Expensive Green Policies

How much?It appears now that building wind farms is not a very cost effective way of providing sustainable and environmentally friendly energy. The trouble is that wind sometimes blows and sometimes does not so electricity suppliers need to operate reserve generation and taking that into account wind energy becomes very expensive. Apparently, building energy-efficient houses saves more energy and money.

However, no one seems to care. We will continue to build expensive wind farms and energy inefficient homes. Thank you, Government, for failing to come up with a piece of legislation that would actually make a lot of sense - a legislation specifying energy rated homes.

Makes one wonder if a similar study will appear in a couple of years to show wasting money on complying with Kyoto was daft. Psssst! Some of us already suspect so.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Economic Inequality and Global Terrorism

Poor chap! As advocates of the left often do, Professor Frances Stewart argued some time ago (Letters, Financial Times, 19thMarch 2004) in the Financial Times that economic inequality between the West and the Arab states is the root cause of terrorism. She concluded that the West should be looking for the ways to fight terrorism by eradicating poverty. Is that really so?

While the overall outlook of an average Palestinian is gloomy, the overall outlook of an average Ethiopian or a Bangladeshi is not much better either. It is worse as a matter of fact. However, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Albania and a number of other poor countries have remained virtually free of terrorists. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, the homeland of the majority of 9/11 bombers, can hardly be considered a poor country. Although its economy has suffered decline in the last three decades, the current GDP per capita of Saudi Arabia measures up to those of the countries recently joined the EU.

The masterminds of global terrorism are hardly a bunch of deprived and uneducated lads. On the opposite, Osama bin Laden enjoyed a rather luxurious lifestyle as a member of one of the richest families in the West of Saudi Arabia before he decided to venture into Afghani mountains to fight infidels. People like Yasser Arafat or late Sheikh Yassin raised and spent millions of dollars on bombs, not on the welfare of their oppressed countrymen. Saudi Arabia, home of the financial supporters of terrorists - rich Sheiks (another deprived lot), waited for the West to provide basic relief to the poor Muslims in the Tsunami affected areas and then donated money to build mosques! Were they all troubled by economic deprivation or perhaps suffered from it? I don’t think so.

So, is Professor Stewart right? Should we fight terrorism by fighting poverty? Not really. The root cause of the recent upsurge of terrorism is in the religious intolerance of the Muslim fanatics. How best to fight it? By bringing down totalitarian societies in which extremes of all kinds flourish in the absence of political liberty to express their ideas. If a political force is driven outside of political institutions of the state, it is likely to resort to terrorism to get their message across. Put them into the Parliament and the violence is likely to stop. This was largely the case with the likes of IRA and extreme European left of the 70’s. Rebellious students, former members of Baader Meinhof and Brigate Rosse, today vote for various European Socialist parties. Today the likes of Martin McGuiness, the former highly ranked IRA officer, are political figures.

Yes, I am suggesting here that even religious fanatics should be allowed to participate in the political life. Of course, the prerequisite is dismantling of oppressive regimes and creation of political pluralism – the creation of a parliamentary democracy.

However, since religious fanatics are and will remain intolerant until they reach political maturity as the European extreme left did, to an extent though (although their ideas are still utterly stupid and destructive at least they don’t use bombs any more), there should be strong mechanisms in support of tolerance and pluralism in those baby-democracies. The power-sharing needs to be carefully balanced to prevent the intolerant lot from prevailing. And because the supporters of religious fanatics are numerous, these protection mechanisms should be imposed upon the baby-democracies from the outside.

All of this sounds familiar? Well, this is exactly what is currently being done in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will take decades to transform those basket-case societies, under the supervision of the West, into democracies where religious and other extremes are on the margins of the political life. However painful this process may be, whatever it may cost and however long it will take this is exactly the right thing to do and will yield long-term benefits in spite of current obstacles.

Funny enough, even though the left is against terrorism and for democracy (at least that's where their mouth is), they fiercely oppose such measures without offering a viable alternative. In fact they do not offer an altarnative at all. They seem to like the dictators and the terrorists. To really support the fight against terrorism, the left should be doing exactly the opposite of what they are doing at the moment. They should stop supporting dictators (which are ‘good guys’ as long as they are against the US) and side with the efforts aimed towards achieving political pluralism in the countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let us hope economic liberalisation will follow. Economic liberalisation usually reduces inequality, which is something Professor Stewart should certainly look forward to. That is if Professor Stewart really wants to eradicate poverty and is not just looking for another way to redistribute wealth, impoverish the West and make everyone ‘equal’.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Critique of Pure Reason

It is sad that the public outrage over the choice of language Kevin Myers sported in his column in The Irish Times had brought to a halt any debate about the issues he had raised in relation to the state sponsorship of single parenthood.

Was it appropriate for Myers to use the word ‘bastard’? Probably not. Was Myers right to claim that the “system of benefits to unmarried mothers is creating a long-term time-bomb”? Was he right to claim the “welfare system is creating benefits-addicted, fatherless families who will be raised in a culture of personal and economic apathy - and from such warped timber, true masts are seldom hewn”. Amazingly, that seems irrelevant.

I could go on to describe virtues of the traditional family but that’d only get me branded as just another ranting backwards conservative bastard. I could go on, as Myers did to the same effect, claiming that using public money to encourage people to depart from traditional family is utterly stupid and self-destructive form of social engineering, which will yield nothing but problems in the future. However, I don’t have to do that. Kevin Myers didn’t have to do that. An American sociologist Charles Murray did it a decade and a half ago in response to pro-single-parenthood policies championed in Britain at the time.

“When I was looking at Britain in the 1980s, the offspring of the first big generation of single mothers were small children, now they are teenagers and young adults and the problems are exactly those that I was warning they would be — high crime rates and low participation in the labour force. These people have never been socialised and they simply don’t know how to behave, from sitting still in classrooms to knowing you don’t hit people if you have a problem.”

For his words Murray was vilified sixteen years ago, in the same way Myers was recently torn apart until he and (quite unusually for The Irish Times) the Editor apologized. Murray, however, got satisfaction in words of Tony Blair. Single mothers are “piling up problems for the future” said Tony in a public speech a few weeks ago. The full article is here.

So Murray was right. Myers is right. Does this matter? It does not. Will this ignite a public debate on the issue? It will not. No Irish media has even attempted to bring Murray and Myers in correlation. It appears to me the article in The Times has had virtually no impact at all. Is this important for the future of all of us? Of course it is. This is a cleat proof (like we needed one in the first place) that liberals are wrong when they offer a single-parent family as a perfectly viable alternative to a traditional family. This is true for homosexual families as well, but I am afraid we will have to wait a decade or two to get a living proof as well.

In the meantime, leftist feel-good, use-no-brains, tax-those-creating-wealth and throw-more-money-at-the-problem policies are likely to persist in spite of the pure reason.

Sic transit gloria mundi!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Evil Capitalism

I was appalled the other day listening to George Hook on Newstalk 106. Good auld George said something like 'we used to be afraid of communists, perhaps now we should be afraid of capitalists'. What was the issue? A Turkish based company, GAMA Construction, was paying Turkish workers in Ireland less then the going rate imposed upon the industry by the syndicate and less than the national minimum wage.

Well, first of all, two hundred years of capitalism have produced unprecedented wealth not only for the rich but also for the masses. It seems to me that being afraid of something that made us all rich is a bit irrational. Second of all, we were right to be scared of commies because they were murderous bastards. Comparing them to a company which paid immigrant workers less than 'the going rate' is not only stupid but rather nasty.

Why should the minimum wage apply in this or any similar case at all? The minimum wage does not take the differences in the cost of living into account. Turkish workers are happy to work much below the minimum wage because a three-bed semi in the suburbs of Ankara costs as much as a deposit on a three-bed semi in Dublin. I see absolutely nothing wrong with hiring foreign workers and paying them whatever they are willing to work for. Some may suggest paying below the 'going rate' is exploitation but is there any other point in bringing foreign workers in except to bring down costs of running a business?

To top it all, George complained that the company in question was able to bid lower than the competition. How dare them being cheap in the middle of the rip-off Ireland where Irish brick-layers are paid Euro 2500 to 3000 a week?? I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. What a load of rubbish.

Let us see at the end what will the net result of this frenzy against GAMA Construction be. The Turkish workers will go home and will not make any money any more. GAMA Construction will probably close or scale down its operation in Ireland. In any case it will not be in a position to bid on the cheap side for construction works any more. We will end up paying more for what already is ludicrously expensive. We all lose. Never mind. As long as the bleeding hearts are satisfied.