Wednesday, June 13, 2012
She Warned Us
One of many things left out of the film "The Iron Lady" was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's warnings on the effects a single currency would have on the economies of European nations. Thatcher's premonitions place her among the great political prophets of all time.
On the single currency, Peter Oborne, a columnist for the London Daily Telegraph, writes, "Mrs. Thatcher foresaw with painful clarity the devastation it was bound to cause. Her autobiography records how she warned John Major, her euro-friendly chancellor of the exchequer, that the single currency could not accommodate both industrial powerhouses such as Germany and smaller countries such as Greece." Thatcher predicted the currency would harm poorer countries because it would "devastate their inefficient economies."
The idea of a European Union modeled on the United States was unlikely to succeed from the beginning because, unlike American states, European countries lack a common bond. There are different languages, different histories (Colorado, for example, never invaded Nebraska) and different religions, including for six decades, atheism imposed by communist dictators in Eastern Europe.
How can a European "E Pluribus Unum" be forged out of that?
BBC reporter Laurence Knight stated the obvious when he summed up Spain's financial disaster by noting its citizens during the relatively brief "good times" of the 1990s spent much more on housing and other material goods than they could afford. Sound familiar? Living within one's means was a lesson forgotten by individuals and governments, whose main preoccupation -- in Europe and America -- has been giving people what they want in hopes they'll re-elect the politicians who dispensed the goodies. That formula has contributed to an unemployment rate in Spain approaching 25 percent. Spain last weekend was approved for a bailout of up to $125 billion from the eurozone, the fourth country to ask for a loan since Europe's debt crisis began.
Knight wrote last month, "Unfortunately for Spain, it shares a currency with Germany. That means Spain can no longer simply devalue the peseta -- something that would automatically make its workers cheaper and more competitive in the world. There is no peseta to devalue."
As columnist William Rees-Mogg wrote last Friday in The Times, "So far as British opinion goes, Europe is seen as a cost to be borne rather than a loyalty to be cherished."
After all this, the "conservative" British government, still ignoring Thatcher's warnings, is proposing a referendum that, if approved by voters, would move Britain closer to the European Union. The Daily Telegraph reported, "EU leaders are discussing moves toward more integrated financial, fiscal and even political systems among the 17 countries that use the euro."
Are they mad? Why would Britain want to associate itself with governments and economies (and people) that have behaved so irresponsibly? During the Cold War, Britain did not try to integrate its economy with that of the Soviet Union. In Europe, union has not brought unity, nor can it. Does Britain want to share more of the continent's misery, or should it try instead to point its people and the eurozone states to real change with freer and more empowered individuals, not government, leading the way?
Again, Margaret Thatcher was right when she said, "A democratic Europe of nation states could be a force for liberty, enterprise and open trade. But, if creating a United States of Europe overrides these goals, the new Europe will be one of subsidy and protection."
Most profoundly, Thatcher warned, "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels."
That is precisely the seductive siren call the "conservative" British government now hears. It is a call, that, if answered "yes" by voters will wreck Britain's struggling economy and potentially cause it to go down the drain along with most of the other economies on the continent.
Today's politicians can't pretend they were not warned.
Anger of Christian GP accused of discussing his faith with patient as his accuser is heard in secret
A doctor facing disciplinary action for discussing his faith in Jesus with a patient yesterday blamed 'anti-Christian' bias after his accuser was allowed to give evidence in secret.
Dr Richard Scott has spent two years under threat of an official warning after the 'suicidal' patient's mother complained about the conversation.
Yesterday a General Medical Council disciplinary hearing agreed to go ahead with the case against him, even though the unnamed patient refused to attend.
Instead, the patient will be allowed to give evidence over the telephone with the Press and public barred from being present.
Last night Dr Scott accused the GMC of displaying bias against Christians, while his legal adviser said it was another example of 'over-zealous victimisation of Christians by public bodies'.
'I do not feel like I'm getting a fair trial,' the father-of-three said outside the hearing. 'It feels like it's become almost like a secret court or secret justice which is outrageous.
'Now I can't see my accuser. We can't see his body languages or expressions which is crucial for fair justice.'
Last year Dr Scott said he was 'disgusted' by the GMC's stance when it agreed to continuing pursuing the case against him when the patient first refused to turn up to give evidence. 'The GMC have relentlessly pursued me and are determined to put me on trial,' the 51-year-old former missionary said yesterday. 'First he didn't turn up last year, now this. 'There definitely seems like there is an anti-Christian agenda here.
'This case should be thrown out, but now we have got to this outrageous situation where the whole thing is surrounded by secrecy and anonymity.' He is taking legal advice on applying for judicial review of the GMC decision to accept the patient's evidence by phone.
The case is the latest in a series of incidents in which hospitals and medical authorities have been accused of acting to suppress any expression of Christian beliefs.
Dr Scott spoke to the 24-year-old patient, described as suicidal and vulnerable, at the end of a consultation at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent in August 2010.
The practice declares its Christian orientation and informs prospective patients that they may be offered spiritual guidance as well as medical help.
He is said to have suggested to the patient that they might discuss religion.
The patient is believed to have replied 'go for it' and Dr Scott told him about the 'additional help which he might derive from Jesus' and added that he might feel better if he prayed, as the patient's own religion did not appear to be giving him comfort.
The patient's mother, who had recommended Dr Scott to her son, later complained.
Yesterday an investigation committee of the GMC, sitting in Manchester, agreed to hear the patient's evidence in private over the telephone.
Committee chairman Dr Christopher Hanning said the decision had been made after considering the man's physical and mental condition.
In a statement afterwards, Dr Scott said: 'I, and every GP, should be outraged at this decision by our professional body.' He said thousands of doctors who carried out one-to-one consultations with patients every day ought to have the right to have them cross-examined if they made a complaint.
Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, which has backed Dr Scott's case, added: 'I am appalled by what I'm witnessing today. 'The GMC is convening a secret court so that it can pursue disciplinary proceedings against a Christian doctor with an unblemished professional record, despite the complainant refusing to even turn up.
'This is unheard of and many doctors will be deeply concerned with the way this is being handled by the GMC. 'This is another example of the over-zealous victimisation of Christians by public bodies. Something has to change, and soon.' The committee has the power to give Dr Scott a warning, not to strike him off.
Spoilt West invites its own decline
The writer below, Peter Hartcher, generally leans slightly Left, like the newspaper he writes for -- but he has got a lot of things right below
It is easy and natural to think of the woes of the West's main powers as an economic problem. Because that's the way it is presented to us. And it is economic - at least, superficially. But if you take a step back, what we're really living through is the decline of the West.
It's not just about Spain's debts and Europe's currency, or even just about Europe. It's not just about Washington's deficits and the US recession, or even just about the US.
These are the symptoms and the locations of a common dysfunction, not driven by some remote economic force but by people and politics. That dysfunction is very human, very normal and very simple. The central driver in the decline of the West is indulgence.
This indulgence has worked through three channels. First is government spending. In country after country, political leaders have indulged their electorates and powerful special interests. They gave in to demands and pressures and expectations. They spent money they didn't have. Everyone wants more handouts and bigger subsidies but no one wants to pay more taxes. Political leaders are supposed to manage these conflicting pressures in the national interest. They did not. The deficits began and didn't stop. They piled up.
The main powers of the Western bloc, since World War II at least, have included not just western Europe and the US but also Japan. All three of these huge economies have been guilty of extravagant spending and inadequate taxing.
The pensioners and public servants and governments of Greece have had a lot of bad press in the last year or two for their indulgence. They've been roundly abused for expecting too much in welfare payments and retirement benefits and for not paying enough tax.
And it's true there has been quite a bit of wasteful middle-class welfare and ill-disciplined social welfare paid to the voters of many eurozone countries. But most of the governments of Europe have also wantonly indulged powerful special interests.
Farmers, for example. Almost half the European Union's annual budget - 47 per cent - is spent on subsidies to farmers. The Common Agricultural Policy props up hopelessly uncompetitive farmers who should have gone out of business.
But they are a powerful and organised political force, so they get paid for being uncompetitive. This is a weakness shared by Japan and the US, too, though not as extravagantly.
The most famous American subsidisation of a special interest is its wasteful spending on military programs. In the early 2000s, the US accounted for only 5 per cent of world population but just under half of all global military spending. Another way of putting it is that the US spent almost as much on defence as the other 190 countries of the world put together.
Japan's special fetish has long been construction spending. Not just since the tsunami but for decades before that. In 2003, for instance, it spent 40 per cent of the national budget on construction in what was already one of the world's most overbuilt countries.
One reason was the fact that, for a long time, the construction sector kicked back a share of the money to the politicians who decided the spending. Under the reign of one former top figure in the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Shin Kanemaru, it was a fixed 2 per cent cash kickback on contracts awarded - a huge pay-off.
The second channel through which indulgence was exercised was the central banks. Central banks in Japan, then the US and Europe, made money too cheap for too long. It was an indulgence. But it was a fatal one.
Central banks were granted independence from politicians for an excellent reason - most people love low interest rates and politicians love giving people what they want. But if you keep rates too low for too long, it pushes up prices and creates terrible problems. Until the 1980s, excess money went into the price of consumer goods and you got inflation breakouts.
But from the '80s onwards, something changed. Excess money started flowing into the price of assets instead - shares and real estate, in particular. The Japanese let this happen in the '80s and when the ''bubble economy'' popped, it went into a slump from which it is still recovering.
The US - telling itself it was special and different and better and, in any case, it had the genius Alan Greenspan - made exactly the same mistake. It got the same result.
Why did it do it? Greenspan, as Jim Grant of Grant's Interest Rate Observer sagely said, was a better politician than he was a central banker. He kept the great American party going and became a national hero for doing it, even though it was intoxicated on cheap money, until it came to its inevitable end.
The third channel was the banking sector and the high-rolling investment banks in particular. Politicians and regulators in the US, mainly, but also in Europe, indulged the fantastic profitability and the generous political donations of the investment banks.
Under cover of the ideology of the free market and its supposedly miraculous ability to reach perfect equilibrium, they created new and virulent ways of profiteering from the great gushers of cheap money flowing from the central banks. Subprime mortgage lending was one.
Of course, when it all crashed, the political leaders had to bail out the banks. And that was expensive. The cost was added to the towering public debts that the politicians had already accumulated. And so the cycle feeds itself anew.
By last year, the average public debt of the eurozone nations was 82 per cent of the size of their total gross domestic product, far above the permitted maximum of 60 per cent. In the US, the figure was 103 per cent. In Japan it was 230 per cent.
As these great Western powers grew richer, they grew flabbier and more indulgent to the point of collapse.
It's a very old story in the history of civilisations, told anew in our time.
Australian Prime Minister's rejection of homosexual marriage "hurtful", say activists
SAME-SEX couples would find Prime Minister Julia Gillard's comment that a committed relationship doesn't require a marriage certificate hurtful, a marriage equality group said today.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard drew on her own relationship to defend her opposition to same-sex marriage on ABC TV last night.
Ms Gillard is not married to her long-term partner Tim Mathieson, but says that doesn't mean they aren't in a committed relationship. "I think you can have a relationship of love and commitment and trust and understanding that doesn't need a marriage certificate associated with it," Ms Gillard told Q&A. "That's my life experience - so I'm speaking from that life experience."
Australian Marriage Equality national convener Alex Greenwich said Ms Gillard's comments would be viewed as hurtful by many same-sex couples.
"The Prime Minister is able to choose not to marry, however this choice is denied to many same-sex couples who desperately want to celebrate the traditions of marriage and have the legal protection, security and recognition that comes with marriage," he said.
"The Prime Minister may not want to marry herself, but most Australians value the importance of marriage greatly and as such want their gay and lesbian friends to have equal access and be treated as equal citizens by the marriage act."
Mr Greenwich said Australia is the only developed English-speaking country without a major party leader who supports marriage equality.
The AME and some clergy have also slammed an Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) video campaign that claims same-sex marriage may lead to polygamy, saying it is scaremongering.
Mr Greenwich said international experience proves there is no link between same-sex marriage and polygamy. "This scare campaign proves the ACL has no argument left except fear. Its offensive nature will drive undecided politicians and members of the public towards supporting marriage equality," he said.
Labor MPs will be allowed a conscience vote on gay marriage when legislation is put before the parliament.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.