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Keuze voor verleden of voor toekomst?
Jean-Luc Dehaene in De Standaard van zaterdag 09 februari 2013

De Europese lidstaten weigeren de nodige middelen vrij te maken voor een toekomstgericht Europees beleid, zegt Jean-Luc Dehaene . Ze halen zo de Europese doelstellingen onderuit die ze zelf hebben vooropgesteld. Een geval van verregaande politieke schizofrenie?
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Met veel ambitie keurde de Europese Raad in 2010 het plan ‘Europa 2020′ van de Europese Commissie goed om door onderzoek, innovatie en infrastructuurwerken de groei in de EU te stimuleren. Twee jaar later werd het ‘Pact voor Groei en Tewerkstelling’ goedgekeurd. Beide plannen willen door een gezamenlijke Europese aanpak een meerwaarde bieden ten opzichte van 27 nationale plannen.
Diezelfde Europese Raad geeft echter niet thuis als daarvoor middelen moeten worden vrijgemaakt. Gisteren werkte de Raad aan een begroting voor de komende zeven jaar (2014-2020). Het plafond van 960 miljard ligt meer dan 80 miljard lager dan wat de Commissie had voorgesteld en is een terugval op het uitgavenniveau van 2007.
Als argument voor de verlaging van de EU-uitgaven wordt verwezen naar de besparingen die de lidstaten moeten doorvoeren. Dat argument lijkt steek te houden, ware het niet dat de uitgaven van de Unie de laatste jaren al veel minder snel groeiden dan de nationale uitgaven. Ook heeft geen enkele lidstaat zijn uitgavenniveau verlaagd, terwijl het net dat is wat de Europese Raad van de EU vraagt, en dan nog wel voor zeven jaar.
Om alle landen over de brug te krijgen, wordt bovendien weinig of niet geraakt aan de fondsen voor landbouw en hulpbehoevende regio’s, die samen meer dan 70 procent van de Europese uitgaven vertegenwoordigen. Vergeleken met het voorstel van de Commissie wordt vooral gesnoeid in het budget voor research, innovatie en investeringen en het geld bestemd voor de nieuwe bevoegdheden (zoals gemeenschappelijk buitenlands beleid). Er wordt dus gekozen voor een aanpak die eerder op het verleden dan op de toekomst gericht is.

Eigen Europese middelen
De neerwaartse druk op de Europese uitgaven vanuit de lidstaten vindt zijn oorsprong in de financieringswijze van de EU-begroting. Die gebeurt grotendeels vanuit de nationale begrotingen. waar ze geboekt worden als uitgaven. Als de nationale begrotingen onder druk staan, is een lagere bijdrage aan de EU een besparing.
Het is ooit anders geweest. Tot midden de jaren tachtig werd de Unie gefinancierd door eigen middelen, voornamelijk via de douanerechten die rechtstreeks aan de EU toekwamen. Omdat de douanetarieven verlaagden, verminderde de opbrengst snel. Er moest dus uitgekeken worden naar andere inkomsten. In 1988 werd beslist de douanerechten aan te vullen met bijdragen uit de nationale begrotingen. Ondertussen zijn die bijdragen uitgegroeid tot de belangrijkste inkomstenbron van de EU (68 procent), en dit volledig in tegenstelling tot het Europese Verdrag, dat voorschrijft dat de Europese begroting moet worden gefinancierd met eigen inkomsten.

Vooral de grote lidstaten gijzelen de EU met een financiering vanuit de nationale begrotingen. Door de uitgavenplafonds te verlagen, versmachten ze Europa financieel.

Slechts één remedie kan heil brengen: de EU moet opnieuw haar eigen inkomsten hebben, bijvoorbeeld afkomstig uit een financiële transactietaks of milieuheffingen. Met eigen inkomsten wordt ook de eigen financiële verantwoordelijkheid van de EU benadrukt. Het voordeel zit hem niet zozeer in grotere uitgaven, maar wel in een gegarandeerde financiering, los van de nationale begrotingen. Ook de nationale begrotingen zullen er bij winnen omdat ze hun EU-bijdragen grotendeels zullen kunnen schrappen. Het is een win-winsituatie.

Grotere flexibiliteit
Het Europees Parlement heeft in het debat over de meerjarenbegroting altijd een consequente houding aangenomen:
1) Het uitgavenplafond moet voldoende hoog zijn om de doelstellingen van Europa 2020 te kunnen financieren.
2) De betalingen moeten de vastleggingen volgen. Het Verdrag laat geen Europese deficit toe.
3) Het is onzinnig een plafond vast te leggen voor zeven jaar; een dwingende halftijdse herziening moet worden voorzien.
4) Er moet een grotere flexibiliteit worden ingebouwd. Het moet mogelijk worden om verschuivingen door te voeren tussen rubrieken binnen de begroting als er overschotten zijn. Binnen de Raad moet dit bij meerderheid worden beslist.
5) Het Europees Parlement en de Raad moeten zich politiek engageren om binnen een af te spreken tijdsbestek de EU-begroting opnieuw met eigen middelen te financieren.

Beter geen dan een slecht akkoord
De besluiten van de Europese Raad zijn hopelijk maar een basis voor onderhandeling. Er is immers maar een akkoord als ook het Europees Parlement zijn goedkeuring geeft. Zoals de zaken er nu voorstaan, heeft de Raad onvoldoende rekening gehouden met de voorwaarden van het Parlement. Hopelijk heeft de Raad voldoende onderhandelingsmarge overgehouden, zo niet wordt een akkoord moeilijk, om niet te zeggen onmogelijk.
Het Europees Parlement zal niet toelaten dat de EU financieel versmacht wordt. Temeer omdat het huidige Parlement zo het nieuw verkozen Parlement en de nieuw benoemde Commissie in 2014 voor schut zou zetten. Zonder aanpassingen zou voor het Europees Parlement daarom de beste optie kunnen zijn om een paar jaar te werken met jaarlijkse begrotingen, uitgaande van het uitgavenpeil van 2013. Zo krijgen het nieuwe Europees Parlement en de nieuwe Commissie de kans een beter plan op te stellen in een hopelijk betere economische context.

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Wie is Jean-Luc Dehaene? Europarlementslid, ondervoorzitter van de begrotingscommissie

Wat beweert Dehaene hier? De besluiten van de Raad dreigen de EU financieel te versmachten, en dat wil het Europees Parlement niet toestaan.

REACTIES

Op 10 februari 2013, zei Jerry Mager:

1/5 De strekking van Jean-Luc Dehaenes (JLD) betoog – meer geld, dus meer ‘macht’ – voor ‘zijn’ begroting vind ik treffend geïllustreerd aan een alinea als: ‘ … wordt vooral gesnoeid in het budget voor research, innovatie en investeringen en het geld bestemd voor de nieuwe bevoegdheden (zoals gemeenschappelijk buitenlands beleid).’ Ik lees bij JLD vooral: gerichtheid op instrumentele zaken en het belang van de eurocratie (van ‘buitenlands beleid’ kun je zoveel produceren als je wilt). De Economist van 02-08 febr. houdt ons in een Special de Scandinavische landen (Economist: ‘Nordic countries’) ten voorbeeld en vertelt ons dat daar vooral andersoortige investeringen worden gepleegd, nl. in mensen: ‘The Nordics are continuing to introduce structural reforms … And they are doing all this without sacrificing what makes the Nordic model so valuable: the ability to invest in human capital and protect people from disruptions that are part of the capitalist system’.

2/5 Economen die zich verbazen over de recente successen van de Scandinavische landen, niettegenstaande hun omvangrijke overheidsapparaten, dienen van de Economist ook de immateriële aspecten in hun berekeningen betrekken, zoals: ‘the benefits of honesty and efficiency’. De Zweed Lars Tragardh ‘has a useful frase to describe this mentality: “statist individualism” ‘. De Economist toont in de paragraaf ‘The secret of their success’ (pp. 15-16) twee tabellen, per 2012: een index-ranking op 6 dimensies, en een staatje dat de ‘Public trust in institutions’ laat zien. In de eerste tabel staat Nederland op plek 9 (GB op 13 en de BRD op 14), België staat er helaas niet vermeld. Misschien vanwege ‘de!’ controverse ?? Waar het gaat om vertrouwen in instituten komt de EU op zo’n 32% van de bevolking die zegt vertrouwen te hebben (‘tend to trust’) in instituties. Finland staat top, met liefst bijna 60% van zijn populatie.

3/5 Economist: een hoog niveau aan vertrouwen resulteert in lage transactiekosten. ‘Trust means that high-quality people join the civil service. Citizens pay their taxes and play by the rules. Government decisions are widely accepted.’ Toch doe je er goed aan steeds te bedenken dat het the Economist blijft. Hilarisch vind ik de kritiek na de loftuiting aan het adres van Noorwegen ( p. 14) vanwege de politieke lange-termijn-visie die in 1990 zorgt voor het installeren van een ‘sovereign wealth fund … to prepare the country for a post-oil future and to prevent deindustrialization’. Maar dan de kritiek: het fonds is te omvangrijk en het opereert te vrijblijvend, want …. ‘it was slow to exploit te opportunities of the 2007-08 financial crisis’ en ook wordt het fonds volgens de Economist gehinderd door ‘its penchant for blacklisting offending companies’. Zo kennen we the Economist tenminste weer.

4/5 Niet dat ik meneer Dehaene als persoon wil afkammen, want ik vermoed dat hij tenminste deels opereert vanuit een oprechtheid, die voortkomt uit een overtuiging die men automatisch aankweekt wanneer men lang in een zelfde biotoop verkeert, in dit geval de kaasstolpen van allerlei EU-vestigingen met kunstmatig klimaat en licht. (Daarvóór vertoefde JLD in gouvernementele regionen, dus weinig anders) Men spreekt dan immers voortdurend lieden met eensluidende belangen – ze hangen tenslotte allemaal aan dezelfde vette Brusselse tiet – en ideeën, in dezelfde restaurants, grand- cafés etcetera, en dus zal groupthink er eerder regel dan uitzondering zijn, want het zijn ook maar mensen van vlees en bloed – al menen velen van hun ongetwijfeld dat ze als halfgoden of heroën (een enkeling waant zich misschien zelfs een godje, wie weet) ver boven het voetvolk zijn verheven en vanzelfsprekend recht kunnen doen gelden op nectar en ambrozijn terwijl ze ons liefst op water en brood zetten.

5/5 Tot slot Karl Popper, die zich geen illusies meer maakte over de kwaliteit van bestuurders, regeerders en andere CEO’s, maar pleit om tenminste onze instituties zo in te richten dat blunderende bestuurders zo min mogelijk schade kunnen aanrichten: ‘I am inclined to think that rulers have rarely been above the average, either morally or intellectually, and often below it. It appears to me madness to base all our political efforts upon the faint hope that we shall be successful in obtaining excellent, or even competent, rulers. [I]t forces us to replace the question: Who should rule? by the new question: How can we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent rulers can be prevented from doing too much damage? ‘ In: The Open Society and Its Enemies (vol.I). Als de EU net zo labyrintisch systeem-achtig wordt als de banken, dan kunnen we onze lol op met ‘systeemfouten’ en too- big- to-fail-achtige miseries. We krijgen me dunkt nu al wrange voorproefjes genoeg.

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Mitt Romney looks like winning the Republican nomination. The party could do worse
The Economist – Jan 13th 2012 | from the print edition

http://www.economist.com/node/21542767/comments?page=9

 THE Republican primaries are meant to last six months, allowing all 50 states to have their say in the nomination of a candidate to take on Barack Obama in November. Amazingly, they may be all over only days after they started.

On January 10th, a week after his victory in conservative Iowa, Mitt Romney trounced his six opponents in liberal New Hampshire, winning nearly twice the share of his nearest rival (see article). The polls predict a victory for him inSouth Carolina on January 21st, and another inFlorida on the 31st. Even if the race staggers on beyond that, he has raised as much money and built a bigger organisation than the rest of the Republican field combined. Barring an upset, Mr Romney is likely to win the nomination. The polls suggest that, should he do so, he has a real chance of ousting a president who has squandered much of his standing with the political centre.
But he has a lot of work to do. At the moment many Americans find him a bit of an enigma: a flip-flopper on some big issues, wooden in public, and a committed member of one of the world’s odder religions. None of that is entirely unfair, but it is exaggerated and incomplete (see article). At his best, Mr Romney should be able to offerAmerica a competent centre-right alternative to Mr Obama (and drag the latter back towards the ignored middle). But he must do a better job than he so far has of capitalising on his advantages and mitigating his weaknesses.

Paint it grey
Start with the advantages. The most important fact about Mr Romney is that he is a non-ideological man who did something thatAmericaneeds a lot more of. In 2002 he was elected to governMassachusetts, normally a Democratic stronghold. He passed a version of health-care reform that is at once his proudest achievement and his biggest liability. Back then a system based on obliging everyone to buy private health insurance was a conservative idea, and Mr Romney did a good job of working with a hostile legislature to get it passed. (Today, his party viscerally opposes Mr Obama’s health reforms, which are closely modelled on Mr Romney’s; such are the twists of politics.) He also turned roundMassachusetts’s finances, just as he had earlier righted the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Mr Romney needs to make these successes count for more than they have so far. Once the primaries are over, andAmerica’s independents rather than the Republican Party faithful become the electorate to win over, he may be able to.

Second, Mr Romney has something that the president and his Republican rivals sorely lack: business experience. For 25 years he made himself and the management consultancies BCG and Bain a lot of money by making companies more efficient which, yes, sometimes means firing people, but also drives economic growth (see article). So far, Mr Romney has done a poor job of defending himself against attacks which are really aimed at the creative destruction which is the essence of capitalism itself. He says he created a net 100,000 jobs during his time at Bain. That figure is impossible to prove, but he could do more to argue that the benefits outweigh the costs. His task has not been helped by disgraceful attacks from fellow-Republicans on corporate restructuring.

Third, Mr Romney seems sure-footed. It is hard to think of a single misstep in this campaign. He may be wooden, but no scandal has ever attached to him. His family life is impeccably monogamous and progenitive. Those who have worked closely with him tend to admire him. On both the economic and the foreign-policy sides, he has already put together impressive and above all sensibly moderate teams.

The debit side of the ledger
A useful list, to be sure: but can it outweigh the negatives? Mr Romney’s pragmatism has an inconvenient flip side: no one is quite sure where he stands. The Republican base does not think he is reliable on such things as gay rights and abortion. That will not matter so much to independents (who will probably also accept that any Republican has to say a few mad things to win a nomination). But people have to trust a president on the main issues, and, despite publishing a long economic manifesto, Mr Romney remains vague over how a lot of it is to be accomplished.

It is not at all clear how he would reformAmerica’s ruinously expensive health-care and pensions systems. His views on what he wants to do aboutAmerica’s 12m illegal immigrants are also unsettlingly gnomic. And where he has been clear, he has sometimes been wrong: his insistence that, on day one of his presidency, he will brandChinaas a currency manipulator represents dangerous pandering to populists. His pledge to cut federal spending to no more than 20% of GDP, a sop to his party’s fiscal extremists, would also be dangerous if applied as quickly as he implies.
Mr Romney will have other problems in wooing the electorate. He would be the richest candidate ever to win a big-party nomination and he reeks of privilege. His father was a governor as well, and he himself studied law at Harvard. On the other hand, Mr Obama is a millionaire several times over, can give a fair impression of having come from the planet Vulcan, and also studied law at Harvard. Mr Romney’s lack of charisma is a problem; but perhapsAmericawants fewer soaring speeches and more pragmatic restructuring plans.
Mr Romney’s last difficulty is one that should not be a problem at all. He is a Mormon and, despite Mormons’ protestations to the contrary, a third of Americans do not consider them to be Christians. There is not much Mr Romney can do about this. He could explain the Mormons’ extraordinary missionary work, but he can hardly risk saying that it is not really any more incredible that God communicated His plans to man in upstateNew Yorkin 1820 than He did inPalestinein 0AD. We recall, however, thatAmericawas for decades “not ready” for a Catholic president, or for a black one. Eventually, Americans thought better of those attitudes. Prejudice would be a silly reason for the Republicans to reject a man who offers their best chance of beating Mr Obama.

http://www.economist.com/node/21542767/comments?page=9

COMMENTS

Jerry Mager   /  Jan 13th 2012

Hear Hear! Spectacularj1 Jan 12th 2012 17:07 GMT : “Hopefully the comparisons of government to a business will cease. The government is not a business, does not have the same objectives as a business, and is not meant to be run like a business. Running the government as a business makes about as much sense as running a business like a government.”
But I am afraid it falls on deaf ears. So do read this article with tongue in cheek, please. It’s much more fun.
Start with the title: Mr. Romney as America’ s next CEO. And then: the party (i.e. Republican) can do worse. Mind you: the party. How about the rest of the USA? Well, I suppose that part needs a hefty “restructuring”, a lot of downsizing perhaps and if necessary: they all together are to be fired. For the Good of All.
The Economist: “Start with the advantages. The most important fact about Mr. Romney is that he is a non-ideological man ….” which comes in handy nowadays, but …. “ …. but can it outweigh the negatives? Mr. Romney’s pragmatism has an inconvenient flip side: no one is quite sure where he stands.” Which is convenient for a CEO to be: keep them in the dark and feed them shit (excusez le mot), is the motto.

There is a very apposite article by David Runciman in the London Review of Books
of 5th January 2012: “Will we be all right in the end? “ see http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n01/david-runciman/will-we-be-all-right-in-the-end .
Mr. Runciman writes about the depoliticizing of politics in Europe, after the American model and example, I would say. He remarks on the crisis in the eurozone that it is not at all about politics nor about visions, ideas or ideology:
“ One of the most striking things about this crisis is that the basic divide it has revealed is not between fundamentally different political views of the future, but simply between optimists and pessimists. (….)The current argument between the optimists and the pessimists has all the hallmarks of an ideological dispute but without any of the content.“
I dare say that is exactly what is going in the USA now. Politics has been effectively gutted some time ago over there. We only go on referring to it as something to do with politics because that is what we are supposed to do. We simply have no other vocabulary for the hullabaloos.

To my opinion the best recent analysis of what has been going in the USA for some time now is by Sheldon Wolin with: “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”
see: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8606.html : “But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms “inverted totalitarianism”?”
Well, being a successful CEO, mr. Romney should not find the trick of “ turn-around-management” to difficult a thing to pull. Or isn’t that the thing professor Wolin means by ‘to invert’ at all?

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Hatred of bankers is one of the world’s oldest and most dangerous prejudices

The Economist – January 7th 2012 | from the print edition

HURLING brickbats at bankers is a popular pastime. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement and its various offshoots complain that a malign 1%, many of them bankers, are ripping off the virtuous 99%. Hollywood has vilified financiers in “Wall Street”, “Wall Street 2”, “Too Big to Fail” and “Margin Call”. Mountains of books make the same point without using Michael Douglas.
Anger is understandable. The financial crisis of 2007-08 has produced the deepest recession since the 1930s. Most of the financiers at the heart of it have got off scot-free. The biggest banks are bigger than ever. Bonuses are flowing once again. The old saw about bankers—that they believe in capitalism when it comes to pocketing the profits and socialism when it comes to paying for the losses—is too true for comfort.
But is the backlash in danger of going too far? Could fair criticism warp into ugly prejudice? And could ugly prejudice produce prosperity-destroying policies? A glance at history suggests that we should be nervous.
Scorn for moneymen has a long pedigree. Jesus expelled the moneychangers from the Temple. Timothy tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Muhammad banned usury. The Jews referred to interest as neshek—a bite. The Catholic church banned it in 1311. Dante consigned moneylenders to the seventh circle of hell—the one also populated by the inhabitants of Sodom and “other practisers of unnatural vice”.
For centuries the hatred of moneylending—of money begetting more money—went hand in hand with a hatred of rootlessness. Cosmopolitan moneylenders were harder to tax than immobile landowners, governments grumbled. In a diatribe against the Rothschilds, Heinrich Heine, a German poet, fumed that money “is more fluid than water and less steady than air.”
This prejudice has proven dangerous. Without money to grease them, the wheels of commerce turn slowly or not at all. Civilisations that have eased the ban on moneylending have grown rich. Those that have retained it have stagnated. Northern Italy boomed in the 15th century when the Medicis and other banking families found ways to bend the rules. Economic leadership passed to Protestant Europe when Luther and Calvin made moneylending acceptable. As Europe pulled ahead, the usury-banning Islamic world remained mired in poverty. In 1000 western Europe’s share of global GDP was 11.1% compared with the Middle East’s 8.6%. By 1700 western Europe had a 13.5% share compared with the Middle East’s 3.4%.
The rise of banking has often been accompanied by a flowering of civilisation. Artists and academics railing against the “agents of the Apocalypse” might also learn from history. Great financial centres have often been great artistic centres—from Florence in the Renaissance to Amsterdam in the 17th century to London and New York today. Countries that have chased away the moneylenders have been artistic deserts. Where would New York’s SoHo be without Wall Street? Or the great American universities without the flow of gold into their coffers?
Prejudice against financiers can cause non-economic damage, too. Throughout history, moneylenders have been persecuted. Ethnic minorities—most obviously the Jews in Europe and America but also the Chinese in Asia—have clustered in the financial sector first because they were barred from more “respectable” pursuits and later because success begets success. At times, anti-banking prejudice has acquired a strong tinge of ethnic hatred.
In medieval Europe Jews were persecuted not only because they were not Christians but also because killing them was a quick way to expunge debts. Karl Marx, who came from a Jewish family, regarded Jews as the embodiments of capitalism who could only be rescued from their ancestral curse through revolution. The forgers of the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” wanted people to believe that Jewish financiers were engaged in a fiendish global conspiracy. Louis McFadden, the chairman of the United States House Committee on Banking and Currency in the 1930s, claimed that “the Gentiles have the slips of paper while the Jews have the lawful money.” The same canards have been used against Chinese minorities across Asia.
This is not to say that the Occupy protesters are guilty of ethnic prejudice: they belong to a class and a generation that is largely free from such vices. But demonisation can easily mutate into new forms. In the August issue of the Journal of Business Ethics one Clive Boddy argues that the financial sector has been taken over by psychopaths: “people who, perhaps due to physical factors to do with abnormal brain connectivity and chemistry”, lack a “conscience, have few emotions and display an inability to have any feelings of sympathy or empathy for other people”.

Caged emotions
Railing against the 1%—particularly when so many of them work for companies with names like Goldman Sachs and N.M. Rothschild—can unleash emotions that are difficult to cage. A survey in the Boston Review in 2009 found that 25% of non-Jewish Americans blamed Jews for the financial crisis, with a higher percentage among Democrats than Republicans. Ethnic hatreds are even rawer in parts of Asia. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 sparked murderous riots against rich Chinese in places such as Indonesia. Today, the combination of hard times and harsh rhetoric could also produce something nasty.
The crisis of 2008 showed that global finance requires tough medicine. Banks must be forced to hold bigger reserves. “Weapons of mass destruction” must be defused. The culture of short-term incentives needs to be revised. But demonising bankers will not solve these problems—and may well, if unchecked, bring a lot of ancient ugliness back to life.

http://www.economist.com/node/21542389

COMMENTS

Jerry Mager    /  Jan 11th 2012:
 
“I like not fair terms, and a villain’s mind” says Bassanio. What I found increasingly irritating re-reading this “The dangers of demonology” is the way in which the writer relates his/her arguments to jewishness and by implication to antisemitism. It is as if every time when one criticizes the way in which the Israeli government behaves towards the Palestinians or other neighbours one runs the risk of automatically being labeled, denounced, not to say demonized as an antisemite – which is odd considering the fact that Palestinians are semites too. As are all Arabs. Why this linking of unresponsible bankers, conniving politicians, marauding venture capitalists, thieving and defrauding financiers, to Jews and jewishness? Is it to stifle any criticism of this lot, to nip it in the bud, to intimidate into self-censorship?

What also strikes me is the leaving out of one of the most illuminating and illustrative examples of bigotry, prejudice, greed, racism, irresponsible gambling and unwarrant risk taking that could have come to the fore in an article like this. I refer, of course, to The “Merchant of Venice.” Reading and perusing this classic once again against the background of this so called “Financial Crisis” of ours, one comes to wonder who after all should be declared and appointed hero and who denounced as the real and intrinsic villain of this play. Did Antonio learn his lesson, did Shylock, or Bassanio? Not in the least so it seems. After all these centuries none of them seem to have changed a bit. They are still the same types of rascals – maybe even more depraved – up to misanthropical mischief and sour stupidities. But, the amounts of money they are gambling with nowadays are many times bigger and so is the havoc they wreak with their sociopathic tantrums. Even demonizing will not likely be inducive to a change for the better in their acts and attitudes, I fear. Maybe at last a real example should be set: no more bail outs by the tax payer, no more glib and slippery lawyers to their rescue. Have them cut and carved for their pounds of flesh (more or less a pound per person, and including the necessary bloodshed – lets allow anaesthesia though). As it happens three interim managers of Goldman Sachs (Messrs. Draghi, Papademos and Monti), were recently appointed (!) on key governmental positions in the ailing EMU. So far for democracy. The convoluted intertwining of politics and (financial) business seems at least as intimate as it was in the Venice of The Merchant. Maybe even more so nowadays. So what seems to be the problem after all?

www.nelpuntnl.nl (in Dutch)

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