fredag 15 december 2017

Non-fake news about the EEC and EU

  • Food mountains, wine lakes etc were not fake news.
  • VAT (you could not think of a worse tax) was not fake news.
  • The sudden disappearance of cheap food from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina and Eastern Europe in 1973 was not fake news.
  • The grubbing up of hedgerows in the late 1970s to make the most of CAP was not fake news.
  • Farmers being paid to leave fields full of weeds under the 2nd version of CAP was not fake news.
  • The grants to country landowners under the 3rd and current incarnation of CAP are not fake news
  • The Single Market tariff barrier is not fake news. 
Now for non-fake concealed-news: as the Single Market rules kick in after Brexit, there will be as many losers in the E27 as in the UK.

Job creation programme from heaven

The unusually early heavy snowfalls have created plenty of work in the past few weeks for people who must get up in the middle of the night to clear it by hand and with snowploughs.

All this extra activity is reflected in the GDP figure and looks like economic growth.  You could think of it as a job creation programme from heaven.

torsdag 14 december 2017

Lord's Prayer changed

“The problem is that the Orthodox Churches will continue with what has been given and the un-Churched will continue with what has always been but the cavalier attitude of the Pope to the explicit teaching of Jesus Christ will wound the Catholic Church for generations and set precedents for further rejection and sidelining of Christ.”

So writes Fr Blake in his latest blog. But surely it is not a problem, rather a useful pointer?

The Journey East #8

I have so far said little about the joy of Orthodoxy. There are small things about the Orthodox I have noticed for a long time, for example, that those visiting a church stop at the threshold and make the sign of the cross before entering the building.

Our local Franciscans have a library with a well-stocked section with books by Anthony Bloom, Meyendorff, Kontzevich and many others, which I have been reading my way through. One of the most inspiring was “The Unknown Homeland”, an autobiography by a priest from St Petersburg who had been arrested and imprisoned for a year before being sent to a remote village in Siberia, where, his health broken, he died after a few months. Reading these books has been a rewarding exploration in itself.

There is a beautiful church, a re-modelling of a unpromising grey concrete protestant church put up in the 1970s. Obviously, there has been the Divine Liturgy. One can only concur with the emissaries sent by Prince Vladimir of Kiev over 1,000 years ago, who found no beauty in the churches of the Germans, when they came to Constantinople and attended the Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia, reported that, “We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth, nor such beauty, and we know not how to tell of it.”

One of the reassuring things about the Liturgy is that it is almost the same every week. One knows pretty much what it will be like. There will be no nasty musical shocks, an important advantage when there is no off-switch in the pews. Then there is the parish priest, Fr. Dragan, who normally celebrates the Divine Liturgy with his son; if there is time, before Liturgy, Fr. Dragan embraces everyone he sees and gives a Holy Kiss.

After Liturgy, there is coffee and a chance to meet. This was difficult at first in the local Serbian/Russian parish because of the language barrier. However, if one is seen a couple of times and recognised, people go out of their way to make one welcome. After a while it turned out that there were quite a few English speakers.

Orthodoxy stands on two legs. There is the beautiful public liturgy. But it is also demanding, since there is a strong emphasis on private actions including fasting and prayer at home.

The spiritual benefits from all of this are quickly perceptible.

måndag 11 december 2017

Bit coin futures trading

The BitCoin mania reminds me of tulip mania. I might be mistaken, since a currency has a value as a medium of exchange as long as enough people have confidence in it. The energy now being consumed in computing to “mine” bit coins is immense. A friend one described his computers as fan heaters which did computing as a side-line. There is a data processing centre in Helsinki which uses the waste for heating an office block. Perhaps BitCoin mining could develop in a similar way.

What, though, is one to make of trading in BitCoin futures? Is it the equivalent of trading tulip bulb futures? Luke 12:13-21 comes to mind. What could possibly go wrong?

lördag 9 december 2017

Balance of payments surplus - good or bad?

A balance of payments deficit indicates that the value of the wealth coming into a country is higher than the value of the wealth going out, which is exactly as it should be. Goods are always worth more to the buyer than to the seller, and worth more in the country to which they are imported than they are in the country where they are exported form. That is why international trade takes place. A balance of payments surplus means that wealth is leaving the country in exchange for claims on wealth flowing back in return ie foreign exchange balances. A country with a balance of payments surplus is experiencing a loss of wealth.

Sterling balances held abroad are the driving force behind UK exports since they create demand for UK goods and services, and generate foreign investment in the UK. Thus a country must import in order to export. That is why the the EU Single Market is so damaging, since it sets up an obstacle against imports from the rest of the world.

This is pretty much the opposite of what is generally believed these days about international trade. The prevailing view is a revival of the mercantilist idea which dominated until it was refuted by the classical economists, starting with the Physiocrats, and then developed by Smith, Ricardo, J S Mill and Henry George. The last named wrote the most accessible work on the subject, “Protection or Free Trade”, published in 1884 and still in print.

The threat to the financial services “industry”

Financial services have concentrated in London not as a result of a conscious decision but for particular reasons which make it the optimal location. By preventing EU businesses from making use of London-based services, it is forcing them to employ consultants operating sub-optimally, which will incur not only the cost of the initial disruption but also ongoing additional costs; such is the foolishness of the EU's trade policies. How things develop remains to be seen. Some of the business may eventually return to London for the very reason it has concentrated there in the first place.

The present over-concentration of financial services in London is unhealthy and leads to a raft of problems. The departure of those businesses leaves premises in London vacant. The owners of the buildings they occupied will want to find tenants and so new opportunities will open up for other commercial users; they could be involved in design or technology-related activities. The important thing is that the owners do not sit on their real estate and leave it vacant for years on end.

From the mid-nineteenth century until the advent of the Nazis, European banking was concentrated in Berlin, Vienna and Paris. That, too, happened for specific reasons which we are not likely to see re-created. You can read the story in "The Hare with the “Amber Eyes” by Edmund de Waal.

Non-fake news about the EEC and EU

Food mountains, wine lakes etc were not fake news. VAT (you could not think of a worse tax) was not fake news. The sudden disappearance o...