Monday, March 24, 2008

Gordon Brown Gives New Meaning To Marxist Central Planning in British Eco-Towns

15mph speed limit for eco-towns

BBC News

March 24, 2008

Vehicles driving on roads in planned eco-towns will have to stick to 15mph speed limits, it has emerged.

The restriction is among proposals designed to minimise the environmental impact of the settlements.

Government sources say the new town centres are to be car-free, and the 15mph limit will be enforced on "key roads" leading into them.

Environmental protesters have criticised the scheme for focusing too narrowly on carbon emissions.

'Revolutionary living'

More than 50 bids to create the zero-carbon developments have been entered by companies.
Housing minister Caroline Flint will set out standards expected of them later this week and the announcement of the shortlist of 10 new towns is expected in the coming weeks.

Ms Flint said: "These developments will be exemplars for the rest of the world, not just the rest of the country. It's critical that we get it right - and I make no apology for setting the bar as high as possible.

("The towns are expected to have low and zero-carbon technologies, good public transport and extensive parkland"].

"We have a unique opportunity to deliver a programme which will genuinely revolutionise the way people live."


Ms Flint has said she wants to see towns designed around pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.


Environmental protesters say the plans do not give adequate consideration to other ecological issues, such as the impact building would have on wildlife.

Up to five eco-towns are expected to be built by 2016, and up to 10 by 2020.

They will have populations of around 5,000 to 20,000 and be linked to larger towns and cities.

There have been nationwide protests over the plans from residents who claim the schemes will put too much pressure on local services.

Opposition has been voiced in places such as Grovewood in south Derbyshire and Stoughton in Leicestershire.

Last month around 300 campaigners marched against plans for a 6,000-home development in Long Marston, near Stratford, Warwickshire.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Let The Russians Sort Out Russia - And Encourage The Russian Government To Respect Foreign Investments & Private Property Rights

Let the Russians sort out Russia

By Rodric Braithwaite

Financial Times

March 11 2008

Now that we have endured all the speculation about how Dmitry Medvedev, the new Russian president, will turn out (we will know soon enough, won’t we?), we should look more closely at a much contested question: are the Russians even capable of democracy?

Many people – both here and there – argue that the Russians have no democratic tradition, that they prefer the iron hand of the autocrat, that the place is too big, too heterogeneous and too disorderly to be ruled any other way. Vladimir Putin is more subtle: he believes that the Russians are not yet ready for democracy, that they need to be brought to it by a managed process, lest everything collapse in chaos. He reminds one of the British, who argued that Indian independence must be postponed until the natives were capable of governing themselves.

Given the chance, the Russians – like the Afghans, the Iraqis, the Pakistanis and others – turn out in large numbers to express their views through the ballot box. That is not enough, of course, to establish a working democracy in any country. But the result may well be a genuine expression of the popular view. Most ordinary Russians, thoroughly inoculated against the western model by the chaos, humiliation, poverty and corruption of the Yeltsin years and angered by endless hectoring and ill-conceived advice from the west, are willing to pay a price in democracy for the stability and growing prosperity that have accompanied the Putin years. So in the recent parliamentary and presidential elections they twice voted heavily for a continuation of the “Putin system”. In the circumstances, that was a rational choice.

The Russian government manipulated the electoral process – out­rageously – to get the right result: a curious sign of Putin’s weakness, not his strength, since no one doubted that most people would vote the way the government wanted, for their own good reasons. Nevertheless both elections had a certain legitimacy despite the obvious flaws. The voters were offered a choice on March 2 and many of them took it. One in five voted for Gennady Zyuganov, the veteran Communist – nearly twice as many as predicted. One in 10 voted for Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the rightwing political showman. We may not like these results – it is always disconcerting when people fail to vote the way you think they should. But it is very different from what happened in Kazakhstan in 2006, when President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who had been in power for 17 years, was re-elected for another seven by 95 per cent of the voters.

Democracy is about throwing the rascals out and most Russians are reconciled to their current rascals. It was different in March 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev organised the first contested elections in any Warsaw Pact country, under an electoral system of mind-boggling complexity designed to preserve the Communist party’s monopoly of power. But the voters recognised the rascals all right. They voted tactically and with great sophistication to throw out the bosses of Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, a quarter of the regional party secretaries, a heap of generals and a large number of unpleasant people throughout Russia.

This remarkable democratic experiment then went wrong for a number of reasons: the sense of national humiliation that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ensuing poverty, the inability of the liberal intelligentsia (the self-styled “conscience of the nation”) to agree on any effective course of action, the determination of the hard men in the army and the party to get their own back.

That does not mean the Russians are “genetically” incapable of democracy. Their history and their culture are not propitious: Russia has indeed for most of its history been a closed and imperial autocracy. But here, too, the Indian example is instructive. A country with a far larger population, an even more heterogeneous culture and an un­broken history of autocratic and imperial rule has run a remarkably successful democracy for the past 60 years.

Although Russians today do not enjoy our kind of democracy, they do enjoy an unprecedented, if precarious, degree of personal prosperity, of access to information, of freedom to travel and even – within limits – to express their views. To argue that they cannot go on to construct their own version of democracy is a kind of racism. It may take decades, even generations; the construction of democracy always does. But if the Indians can do it, so can the Russians.

George Kennan, that great Russia-watcher, got it right when he wrote in 1951, at the height of the cold war: “When Soviet power has run its course . . . let us not hover nervously over the people who come after, applying litmus papers daily to their political complexions to find out whether they answer to our concept of ‘democrats’. Give them time; let them be Russians; let them work out their internal problems in their own manner. The ways by which people advance towards dignity and enlightenment in government are things that constitute the deepest and most intimate processes of national life. There is nothing less understand­able to foreigners, nothing in which foreign influence can do less good.”

It is the wisest advice – blissfully ignored by our policymakers who, like latter-day Christian missionaries, believe that we have a duty to spread the gospel of democracy, if necessary by military force (for which they are unwilling to pay). Not only Russians find that proposition distinctly suspect.

Sir Rodric was British Ambassador in Moscow during the fall of the Soviet Union. His latest book is Moscow 1941: A City and its People at War (Profile Books, 2006)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Foreign Investors Should Not Be Persuaded By The 'Pragmatic Left in Latin America: They Don't Truly Respect Private Property Rights

Global Finance Magazine


By Antonio Guerrero

Latin American governments’ attempts to gain more control over their countries’ economic fortunes are having far-reaching effects on international corporations doing business in the region.

A decade after winning the presidency of Venezuela for the first time, Hugo Chávez continues to lead his “Bolivarian Revolution” based on the spread of what he calls the new “21st century socialism.” With his country awash in petrodollars, the president has had little trouble supporting Latin America’s push to the political left. Businesses say the situation has led to the establishment of a new business and regulatory environment throughout the region, but while the challenges are great, the profits so far are even greater.

“There are considerable differences between the populist left of Hugo Chávez and the pragmatic left of [Chilean president] Michelle Bachelet or [Brazilian president] Lula da Silva,” says Terry McCoy, director of the Latin American Business Environment Program at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “Argentina has a foot in both the pragmatic and populist arenas because the rhetoric is populist, but, if you look carefully at the government’s policies, they’re not as reckless as the rhetoric would suggest,” he adds.

While both camps emphasize social welfare programs, McCoy says Latin America’s pragmatic leftists have pursued orthodox economic policies and done nothing to upset the region’s macroeconomics. “The pragmatic left has followed the holy trinity of macroeconomic responsibility, which is a floating exchange rate, fiscal discipline and inflation targeting,” he notes. McCoy feels that while companies can still turn a hefty profit in markets with populist regimes, investors are more likely to make long-term commitments in those with pragmatic policies where, he says, the rules of the game are clearer and more business-friendly.

[THIS FACILE UNDERSTANDING OVERLOOKS THE ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE ON THE GROUND EXPERIENCED BY FOREIGN INVESTORS & LATIN AMERICA'S OWN BUSINESSES. SEE: DENNIS ROSENFIELD, "SENSELESS MARCH", Published at Mídia Sem Máscara on January 29th, 2008, AT: . SEE ALSO: Forced Licensing of Drug Patents Reflects ‘IP Counterfeiting’ Efforts on World Stage; Lula Desrespeita A Propriedade Privada ‘Tomando’ OS DPP De Investidores Estrangeiros (p. 47 at 8)].

McCoy illustrates his point by reviewing FDI data for the region, which grew from $28 billion in 2006 to $77 billion last year. When broken down by country, those with pragmatic regimes, such as Chile and Brazil, posted a rise in FDI from $5 billion in 2006 to $8.5 billion in 2007, and from a $9 billion outflow in 2006 to a $32 billion inflow last year, respectively. On the other hand, populist hardliner Venezuela posted the region’s fastest GDP growth last year but has reported net outflows of FDI in the past two years, while close ally Ecuador has seen FDI dwindle from $1.3 billion in 2001 to last year’s scant $400 million.


“The leaders of Venezuela, Argentina and Bolivia have adopted a populism that has inspired an extremist anti-free-market and anti-private-property stance,” says Lawrence Kogan, president and CEO of the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development in Princeton, New Jersey.

Venezuela, the epicenter of the region’s new left, presents perhaps the most challenging business environment. The government has nationalized companies that previously had been privatized, requires exporters to request separate licenses for each transaction, introduced three new taxes last year and expanded its ban on firing workers to now cover any employee who earns less than three times the minimum wage. In a World Bank survey of nations with the fewest obstacles to doing business in 2006-2007, Venezuela ranked 172 among 175 countries included in the ranking.

In January Venezuela introduced a new forex law that reduces the amount of dollars that Cadivi, the government’s forex agency, makes available to companies at the official rate of 2.15 bolivars per dollar. The measure aims to narrow the gap with the parallel rate, which stands closer to 5 bolivars per dollar, but analysts say it will force more companies to seek dollars on the black market, in turn further fueling inflation. The currency is believed to be as much as 50% overvalued, though an adjustment is not expected any time soon.

Chávez has convinced other allies to adopt measures that are making the business environment more challenging. Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa, for example, recently revoked 587 mining contracts, claiming companies had not paid annual fees. “A resurgence of populism in Latin America is stirring concern among international investors,” writes Michael Patsalos-Fox, chairman of the Americas at consultant McKinsey, in the firm’s quarterly publication. “Yet these developments should hardly be surprising, for the fruits of recent regulatory reforms, trade liberalization and economic growth have failed to reach many of the region’s people. When given the choice, they sometimes vote for politicians who promise populist solutions.”

Patsalos-Fox feels the situation is frustrating for businesses. “In our work in the region, we see that its governments frustrate its business leaders,” he says. “Many of them wonder if their countries will ever grow as fast as China or India. They are tired of the excuses and the lack of progress on important reforms, particularly at the macroeconomic level.” He recommends that companies in the region take advantage of recent economic growth and deepening capital markets to create value “by innovating, moving up the value chain in commodities or consolidating and restructuring fragmented industries.”

Despite the complex environment, companies are making money. While Citi reported net losses of $9.83 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007, its Latin American and Mexican division posted net profits of $3.6 billion. Avon Products, the global cosmetics company, reported a 30% year-on-year drop in net income during the same quarter, though Latin American sales were up 28%, with sales in Brazil and Colombia each soaring by 40%. Appliance-maker Whirlpool’s fourth-quarter earnings soared 72% in the region, with the company forecasting another 8% rise in appliance shipments to Latin America this year. Hernan Rincon, president of Microsoft Latin America, says the region remains one of the software giant’s fastest-growing markets in the world, with 2007 its best year there in at least a decade.

Merrill Lynch remains bullish on Latin American equities and estimates a 26% return in local currency terms this year. The quality of earnings growth, according to the bank’s analysis, will be supported by an improvement in earnings growth dispersion as credit penetration remains strong and domestic demand and investments outpace regional GDP expansion, a high price outlook for Latin American commodities and strong corporate balance sheets.

The region’s economy should grow 4.6% in 2008 and 4.2% in 2009, despite a US economic slowdown, according to Merrill Lynch. The IMF predicts 4.3% growth, while the World Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean forecast 4.5% and 4.9% regional GDP expansion, respectively. Domestic consumption will be the main economic engine this year, with private consumption expected to rise 6.5% in Argentina, 5.3% in Brazil, 6% in Chile and 4.1% in Mexico, according to Merrill Lynch’s analysis.

While many of the region’s governments have increased taxes to fund social programs, the threat of further increases looms large. Furthermore, the OECD’s latest Latin American Economic Outlook says fewer than one in four Latin Americans believe tax revenues are being well spent, for which the organization suggests funds should be better invested to reduce poverty and maintain citizens’ trust in democratic systems.

The IMF agrees. “Increased fiscal transparency in Latin America will strengthen the investment environment and address weaknesses in fiscal management,” says an IMF working paper. The multilateral further recommends that promoting a transparent business environment by simplifying the tax system, reducing discretion in dealing with the private sector and reinforcing oversight to promote investment should be a priority.

“Simplified tax regimes would not only be more transparent but would raise revenue collection while reducing the costs of collection,” says the IMF working paper. “Regulations affecting business operations need to be streamlined with minimal discretion to promote fairness, permit easy entry and exit of firms and reduce uncertainty faced by businesses.”

Washington Pumps in Cash

While US companies continue to thrive under the new environment, Washington hopes money will help convince some Latin Americans to ease their mounting anti-US rhetoric. US president George W. Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2009 includes $2.7 billion in aid to Latin America, a 25% jump from fiscal year 2007. Most of the additional aid, however, is earmarked for military and police activities and not for economic development.

For that, Chávez got some of his closest allies to launch the Banco del Sur (Bank of the South) last December as a multilateral regional development bank to compete with the Washington-based IMF, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. In December 2005 Argentina and Brazil announced plans to prepay $9.8 billion and $15.5 billion, respectively, to the IMF. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa also expelled the World Bank’s representative in Quito last year, declaring him persona non grata.

“Developing nations must create their own finance mechanisms instead of suffering under those of the IMF and the World Bank,” Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said during the Banco del Sur’s launch. US-led multilaterals reacted cautiously. “As far as the World Bank is concerned, this new initiative is not perceived as a competitor,” said Augusto de la Torre, World Bank chief economist for Latin America. Pamela Cox, the World Bank’s vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, chimed in, saying, “a little competition is a good thing.”

Another of Chávez’s initiatives, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), presents another challenge for Washington. The plan is touted by Caracas as an alternative to US-backed free trade agreements, including the now-defunct Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) that was scheduled to create a hemispheric trade bloc by 2006. With membership so far consisting only of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and the island of Dominica, ALBA is not likely to have much of an impact on companies in the region.

“The business environment is still good, even with the move to the left,” says McCoy. “But uncertainties may continue to hold back investments.”

Antonio Guerrero

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Freedom Means Responsibility


Freedom Means Responsibility

By George McGovern

March 7, 2008; Page A15

Nearly 16 years ago in these very pages, I wrote that "'one-size-fits all' rules for business ignore the reality of the market place." Today I'm watching some broad rules evolve on individual decisions that are even worse.

Under the guise of protecting us from ourselves, the right and the left are becoming ever more aggressive in regulating behavior. Much paternalist scrutiny has recently centered on personal economics, including calls to regulate subprime mortgages.

With liberalized credit rules, many people with limited income could access a mortgage and choose, for the first time, if they wanted to own a home. And most of those who chose to do so are hanging on to their mortgages. According to the national delinquency survey released yesterday, the vast majority of subprime, adjustable-rate mortgages are in good condition,their holders neither delinquent nor in default.

There's no question, however, that delinquency and default rates are far too high. But some of this is due to bad investment decisions by real-estate speculators. These losses are not unlike the risks taken every day in the stock market.

The real question for policy makers is how to protect those worthy borrowers who are struggling, without throwing out a system that works fine for the majority of its users (all of whom have freely chosen to use it). If the tub is more baby than bathwater, we should think twice about dumping everything out.

Health-care paternalism creates another problem that's rarely mentioned: Many people can't afford the gold-plated health plans that are the only options available in their states. Buying health insurance on the Internet and across state lines, where less expensive plans may be available, is prohibited by many state insurance commissions. Despite being able to buy car or home insurance with a mouse click, some state governments require their approved plans for purchase or none at all. It's as if states dictated that you had to buy a Mercedes or no car at all.

Economic paternalism takes its newest form with the campaign against short-term small loans, commonly known as "payday lending."

With payday lending, people in need of immediate money can borrow against their future paychecks, allowing emergency purchases or bill payments they could not otherwise make. The service comes at the cost of a significant fee -- usually $15 for every $100 borrowed for two weeks. But the cost seems reasonable when all your other options, such as bounced checks or skipped credit-card payments, are obviously more expensive and play havoc with your credit rating.

Anguished at the fact that payday lending isn't perfect, some people would outlaw the service entirely, or cap fees at such low levels that no lender will provide the service. Anyone who's familiar with the law of unintended consequences should be able to guess what happens next.

Researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York went one step further and laid the data out: Payday lending bans simply push low-income borrowers into less pleasant options, including increased rates of bankruptcy. Net result: After a lending ban, the consumer has the same amount of debt but fewer ways to manage it.

Since leaving office I've written about public policy from a new perspective: outside looking in. I've come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society.

Why do we think we are helping adult consumers by taking away their options? We don't take away cars because we don't like some people speeding. We allow state lotteries despite knowing some people are betting their grocery money. Everyone is exposed to economic risks of some kind. But we don't operate mindlessly in trying to smooth out every theoretical wrinkle in life.

The nature of freedom of choice is that some people will misuse their responsibility and hurt themselves in the process. We should do our best to educate them, but without diminishing choice for everyone else

Mr. McGovern is a former senator from South Dakota and the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate.

Klaus Warns Americans: US Embrace Of Global Warming Alarmism Premised on Europe's Precautionary Principle Will Result In Sacrifice Of Liberty

The Contrarian of Prague


March 8, 2008; Page A9

Wall Street Journal, New York

Being president of the Czech Republic is more like being England's monarch than the president of the United States. While the Czech president has veto power over certain types of legislation, his role is supposed to be mostly ceremonial.

But Vaclav Klaus -- who was re-elected last month after being chosen by the Czech Parliament as head of state in 2003 -- has not been content to confine himself to ribbon cuttings and state dinners.

Mr. Klaus has become a globally prominent voice of skepticism about what he calls global-warming "alarmism." This week, while in New York to address a gathering of fellow "non-alarmists" at a conference in Times Square, he took some time to sit down with members of the Journal's editorial board to offer his dissenting views on Russia, Kosovo, America and of course, climate change.

"I am not a climatologist," Mr. Klaus cheerfully admits. "I am not disputing the measurement of the temperature." Even so, Mr. Klaus believes that his many years of experience in the fields of economics and econometrics give him some insight into the nature of the problems faced by climatologists and policy makers. In climatology as in economics, he says, "there are no controlled experiments. . . . You can't repeat the time series." So, just as you can't run a controlled experiment to determine the effect of, say, deficits on interest rates, we can't directly determine the effect of CO2 on climate. All we have are observations and inferences.

Mr. Klaus is also interested in the politics of global warming. He has written a book, tentatively titled "Blue, Not Green Planet," published in Czech last year and due out in English translation in the U.S. this May. The main question of the book is in its subtitle: "What is in danger: climate or freedom?"

He likens global-warming alarmism to communism, which he experienced first-hand in Cold War Czechoslovakia, then a Soviet satellite. While the communists argued that we must all sacrifice some freedom in pursuit of "equality," the "warmists," as Mr. Klaus calls them, want us to sacrifice liberty -- especially economic liberty -- to prevent a change in climate. In both cases, in Mr. Klaus's view, the costs of achieving the goal, and the impossibility of truly doing so, argue strongly against paying a price of freedom.

Furthermore, the fact that there has been some warming over so many years does not, by itself, prove to him that this trend will continue indefinitely. "Undoubtedly there is some warming," Mr. Klaus allows. "But there has never been no change in climate, no change in global temperatures."

The world, he argues, is full of risks, and the risk of catastrophic climate change is just one of them. Therefore, we need a more measured approach to assessing the risks and the costs of mitigating them.

Cost-benefit analysis and the precautionary principle "are two different methodologies, two different
approaches, two different ways of thinking," he says.
The less desirable precautionary principle "as used by Al Gore and all his fellow travelers" says that "if you are afraid that there are risks to something, you may prohibit everything." He continues: "This is for me
absolutely unacceptable to think about."

Mr. Klaus's contrarian streak is not confined to climate change. He has been one of the few politicians in the European Union to publicly express doubts about the wisdom of recognizing Kosovo's recently declared independence from Serbia.

He fears that Kosovo's independence "will be a very good example for other parts of countries that are not happy with what is going on around them. A domino effect -- let's put it that way. So this is for me a very, very serious issue." He declines to be drawn out on specific examples of regions in Europe that could be emboldened to follow Kosovo's lead -- but it does not take much imagination to guess.

The Czech Republic has a sizable Hungarian minority that has been a periodic source of tension with its neighbor to the south for decades. Czechoslovakia, of course, also had its own unhappy experience with its German minority in the Sudetenland in the 1930s.

Even so, Mr. Klaus, steadfastly keeping to the level of generalities and hypotheticals, says: "I am . . . afraid that there are some countries where it's just the opposite -- a bigger country has a minority somewhere and wants to create a bigger original 'mother country' as it's sometimes called. And that's for me a problem because that could destabilize the situation in Europe."

When it comes to hosting American missile-defense facilities, Mr. Klaus's position is contrary to the dominant view in Europe. Opposition to the radar facilities is, in his view, nothing more than old-fashioned anti-Americanism.

"Some 'Old European' countries," Mr. Klaus says, pointedly borrowing the Rumsfeldian formulation that caused so much angst on the continent earlier in the decade, "take [the installation of the facilities] as our way of saying we are not just locked in Europe. We want to stand on two legs. One of them is the European and the other is trans-Atlantic. And they feel that this is our motivation, not Iran, not North Korea. . . . It's just that simple." For his part, "I want to have close ties with [the U.S.]," which is why he supports the bases.

Perhaps the most surprising and counterintuitive position he took during our meeting concerned Russia. The former Soviet satellites in Central Europe are often thought of as reliable skeptics of Russian intentions. But Mr. Klaus expresses a more sanguine view, even arguing that Western fears about Russia and Vladimir Putin are misplaced.

"I was one who always rejected the high-brow approach, [which says], 'Well, it's not good that they're not doing as well as some other countries in Central Europe.' That's a cheap criticism that I don't accept." So, does he not think that, through its supply of arms to Syria and Iran, and its obstructionism over Iran at the U.N. Security Council, Russia is once again picking a fight with the U.S. -- or at least in danger of doing so?

His response is at turns heated and pleading: "No one is thinking about that in Russia. Why do you think that's the way [they think]? Simply, Russia was totally lost and pushed to the floor and simply wants to be a normal country again. Don't interpret all the attempts to be accepted as a normal country as an aggressive position vis-à-vis the United States. This is not that way. I'm afraid that this is the mantra in the American newspapers but please, please, think about it twice because this is a tragic mistake."

What about the danger that Russia could use its role in supplying oil and gas to the rest of Europe as a weapon against EU economies? Again, the response is passionate: "I don't see it. This is for me . . . cheap, cheap headlining to say that, really. I live in a country where we are totally dependent -- we used to be totally dependent on Russian oil and gas. In my life, and I will be 67 this June, it has never happened for one minute that there has been cutting of deliveries of oil and gas. Please don't -- don't -- exaggerate that point. It's such cheap writing. Don't do it."

It's a strange moment. Here is a man who built his political career on his reputation for leading post-communist Czechoslovakia out of its socialist past, and who by his own account was banished into a kind of internal exile for championing liberalization ahead of the Warsaw Pact invasion of his country in 1968. Now he is urging his listeners to give Moscow the benefit of the doubt.

And yet when pressed, he pleads sudden ignorance of the country whose intentions he has just been defending. "You know, I am not an expert on Russia. You know more about it."

That seemed to end the matter, so we tried to return to global warming. But he interrupts to add a final thought on Russia: "Russia is more free now than in any time in its 2,000 years of history. So to speak about dictatorship is misusing the terminology, devaluing the terms that we use. This is something we should not say."

This is not to say everything is sunshine in Russia. "They are much less free than the Americans and the Czechs would accept. . . . Let's be clear about this. Is that clear?

"For me it is unacceptable to have such a relatively closed political system. Personally unacceptable, and being in Russia I would fight against it. But that's a different story than speaking of a dictatorship or not putting it in a proper historical perspective."

He goes on. "To say 'dictatorship' or to speak about Putin as the 'KGB man,' I would be [embarrassed] to use such a term. That is maybe for some boulevard journalist, but this is definitely much more complicated. Putin is a much more complicated and structured personality than just the 'KGB man.' And I'm sure you know it."

But here his account took an inexplicable turn. Mr. Klaus, by his own description "no expert" on Russia, points to "a growing decentralization in the country. The role of the individual regions and those governors, they create a different style of thinking and I see an evolution in Russia."

These are the same governors that, formerly directly elected, are now appointed by Mr. Putin himself, which hardly seems a recipe either for decentralization or independence from Moscow. Even so, Mr. Klaus argues that "to be blind . . . to the real changes that have been going on there probably would be a mistake."

In Europe, Mr. Klaus has the reputation of a firebrand, if not a loose cannon. This is a president, after all, who calls global warming "alarmism" a "radical political project" based in a form of "Malthusianism" that is itself grounded on a "cynical approach [by] those who themselves are sufficiently well-off."

"It is not about climatology," he insists. "It is about freedom."
Mr. Klaus left his hosts with a clear idea of why he so infuriates his opponents. There's no doubt, either, that he enjoys his self-assigned role as a contrarian.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Liberty vs. Socialism: Can't US Politicians See The European Welfare State Writing On the Wall??

Liberty vs. socialism

March 8, 2008

By Walter E. Williams

The Washington Times

- A fortnight ago, I wrote about Mississippi Legislature House Bill 282 that would have imposed fines or revoked licenses of food establishments that served obese people. Fortunately, the measure died in committee.

State Rep. Ted Mayhall, one of the bill's sponsors, said he wanted to bring attention to the fact that "Obesity makes people more susceptible to diabetes, which puts a further strain on the state's financially-challenged Medicaid program." His sentiments were expressed by quite a few readers who didn't necessarily support such a bill but opined that if a particular behavior or lifestyle imposes costs on others through tax-supported health care, government had a right to intercede.

Similar justification was used for laws requiring helmets for motorcyclists and bicyclists. After all, if one exercises his liberty to ride without a helmet and has an accident and becomes a vegetable, society must bear the expense of taking care of him. The fact that an obese person becomes ill, or a cyclist has an accident, and becomes a burden on taxpayers who must bear the expense of taking care of him, is not a problem of liberty. It's a problem of socialism where one person is forced to take care of another. There is no moral argument that justifies using the coercive powers of government to force one person to bear the expense of taking care of another. If that person is too resolute in his refusal to do so, what is the case for imposing fines, imprisonment or death?

You say, "Death. Aren't you exaggerating, Williams?" Say he tells the agents of Congress he will pay his share of constitutionally mandated government functions but refuses to pay the health costs of a sick obese person or a cyclist who becomes a vegetable, what do you think the likely course will be? First, he would be threatened with fines, imprisonment or property confiscation. Refusal to give in to these sanctions would ultimately lead to his being shot by agents of Congress.

Forcing one person to bear the burden of health care costs for another is not only a moral question but a major threat to personal liberty. Think about all the behaviors and lifestyles that can lead to illness and increase the burden on taxpayers. A daily salt intake exceeding 6 grams can lead to hypertension. A high-fat diet and high alcohol intake can also lead to diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to several costly diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart failure.

There are many other behaviors that lead to a greater health care burden, but my question is how much control over your life you are willing to give government in the name of reducing these costs? Would you want government to regulate how much salt you use? What about government deciding how much fat and alcohol you consume? There are immense beneficial health effects of a daily 30-minute aerobic exercise.

Would you support government-mandated exercise? You might argue that it's none of government's business how much fat, salt or alcohol a person consumes, even if it has adverse health care cost implications. I would ask: Wouldn't the same reasoning apply to helmet laws and proposed obesity laws? Last year, The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act was introduced in Congress. It's a measure to prevent schools from serving "junk foods" such as pizza, burgers and French fries. If the government protects children from "unhealthy" meals at school, would you want government to also protect them from unhealthy meals at home?

[SEE: Brown's 'Get Fit' Towns: Kim Jong-il Would Be Proud - By James Woudhuysen, Professor of forecasting and innovation, De Montfort UniversitySpiked OnlineMonday 5 November 2007 -- Gordon Brown’s UK government will now try to design urban areas that force us to exercise more – and that’s official. To tackle obesity with what he called a ‘large-scale’ approach ‘across the whole community’, Brown’s health secretary Alan Johnson has said that he wants to ‘make physical activity a normal part of everyday life’. (1) So before you go to work, school or your leisure destination, remember that your personal trainer, Alan, has instructed you to walk, run or pedal there.]

[SEE ALSO, In Looney Britain, Citizens Don't Even Have 'Property Rights' in Themselves!! , . British PM Urges No-consent Organ HarvestingBy Patrick HennessyArticle published Jan 14, 2008 January 14, 2008 \LONDON SUNDAY TELEGRAPH LONDON —Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday threw his weight behind a move to allow hospitals to remove organs from dead patients without explicit consent.Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr. Brown said such a move would save thousands of lives and that he hopes such a system can start this year. The proposals would mean consent for organ donation after death would be automatically presumed, unless individuals had opted out of a national register or family members objected. But patients' groups said they are "totally opposed" to Mr. Brown's plan, arguing it would take away patients' rights over their own bodies.]

When I was 14 or 15 years old, smelling myself, I thought I could take over the house. My mother told me that as long as she paid the bills, I would do what she said. That's great for a parent-child relationship, but do we want the same relationship between government and its citizens?

Walter E. Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist and a professor of economics at George Mason University.


Bill Bans Obese Patrons From Mississippi Restaurants

Jackson, Miss. - The lawmakers who sponsored Bill No. 282 say they're not trying to discriminate against the overweight in Mississippi, they're trying to start a dialogue about how to fight the problem of obesity in the Magnolia State.

The proposed law would make it illegal for state-licensed restaurants to serve food to the obese.

Critics say government shouldn't try to be the food police and they say this latest attempt at public health legislation leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

"What kind of crap is that?" asks James Kelley of Clarksdale, Mississippi. "What do I think about it? Leave people alone. Let them eat what they want. Let them be."

Dedra Holley from Robinsonville, agrees. "How can you be serious?" she says. "So if they discriminate against obese people who are they going to discriminate against after that? People with long hair? Short hair? White people? Black people? I mean, that's absurd."

You'd be hardpressed to find any Mississippian who supports the idea. Even the man who sponsored the bill, Representative Ted Mayhall, says it should never pass.

"I do not have any intention of this becoming law," says the Desoto County Republican. "I don't think it has a Chinaman's chance. I'm against intrusive government. I don't think that's what we're here for and what we should be doing."

So why draft such controversial legislation?

"The reason I put the bill in," says Mayhall, "was to call attention to the seriousness of the obesity epidemic in Mississippi."

Mayhall says 30-percent of adults in Mississippi are obese. The state ranks number one in the nation for obesity three years running.

And with Mississippi's Medicaid program $168 million dollars in the red this year, Rep. Mayhall says illnesses related to obesity, including diabetes, are draining the state's budget.

His efforts to raise awareness about the issue have the national media calling with questions and constituents calling him out. By noon Friday, his answering machine was flooded with some not-so-nice messages and his cell phone was ringing constantly.

One caller told him, "Why don't you move to China or Russia instead of the U.S. Last I heard, this was still a free country."

There are plenty of skeptics who say Mayhall's plan to spark a change in the eating habits of Mississippians won't work.

"I don't think it's going to put a dent in the whole problem," says Dedra Holley. "I just can't believe it will."

"You're not going to be able to force someone to do something they're not ready to do," says James Kelley of Southaven. "Is this a Communist state?"

Despite the verbal attacks and all the doubters, Mayhall, a 68 year-old former pharmaceutical rep, says he's determined to stir up the debate.

"I'm a big boy," he says. "I can take anything that comes. I don't care. If it'll save three or four lives, it's well worth it."

Before Mayhall and Representatives John Read and Bobby Shows introduced their legislation, they got the green light from Mississippi's Public Health chairman and from Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

No one expects the bill to pass. They do expect a lively discussion in subcommittee about ways the state can solve its' obesity problems.

Some say obese bill has fat chance

By Natalie Chandler

February 3, 2008

A bill that would force some Mississippians to back away from the buffet, or any restaurant, has begun its trip through the 2008 Legislature.

House Bill 282 would prohibit restaurants from serving food to anyone who is obese, based on criteria from the state Department of Health.

Restaurateurs and an advocacy group say the legislation is a waste of time, and even one of the lawmakers pushing it doesn't expect it to travel very far.

State Rep. Ted Mayhall, R-Southaven, said he's simply hoping to "call attention to the problem."

"No one's doing anything about it," Mayhall said, referring to obesity. "They just keep on going to the buffets and eating."

Obesity makes people more susceptible to diabetes, which puts a further strain on the state's financially-challenged Medicaid program, he said.

A 2007 report put that state's obesity rate at 30.6 percent - the worst in the nation.
Mayhall said the bill has been referred to a House subcommittee. If it advances, it would be discussed in the House Public Health and Human Services Committee.

Dr. Ed Thompson, state health officer, has previously said Mississippi's obesity rate cost Medicaid alone $221 million each year.

On Saturday, Thompson said the Department of Health is monitoring the bill as it does all proposed legislation that could affect public health policies. However, Thompson said the department has "no position on the bill."

"The bill was not discussed with us but we will work with the sponsors to see if we can answer any questions along the way," he said.

The legislation would require the Department of Health to "prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese and to provide those materials to the food establishments."

The department would be responsible for making sure restaurants follow the law, which would go into effect July 1. Permits could be revoked for failing to comply.

"I've seen a lot of crazy laws, but this one takes the cake. Literally," said J. Justin Wilson, a senior research analyst for the Center for Consumer Freedom. "Whether it is menu labeling laws, taxes on fattening foods, or Mississippi's new "you're too fat to eat here" proposal, the food police have gone too far."

Mississippi also ranks "dead last" in the country for physical activity, Wilson said.
"Maybe the state's Legislature should do something to help people burn more calories instead of pretending that eating out is a cardinal sin," he said.

McDonald's restaurant owner Mike Rutzer of Greenville agreed.

"It just staggers the imagination to think what our government will come up with next," he said. "It's discriminatory. Now we're picking and choosing who to serve?"

Jackson restaurateur LeRoy Walker said lawmakers should focus on "health care, education, overall economic reform for our state. People on the Coast are still impacted from Hurricane Katrina."

"I think the individual who may have some challenges with their weight needs to govern themselves accordingly with the choices they put on their plates," he added.

DeShawn Walker, who was eating an early dinner with his mother Saturday evening at Big Mama's Country Cooking Buffet in south Jackson, said the bill equals discrimination.
"It's wrong," he said. "And I think it would make restaurants lose money, too."

Walker's mother, Patricia, shook her head at the bill's premise.

"You can't tell nobody how to eat. People have got to decide for themselves to lose weight," she said. "But, you know, some people are big and happy."

David Simmons of Ridgeland had similar feelings toward the proposed legislation.

"(Obesity) is a problem, I know. But it shouldn't be the government's role to dictate what people are eating, just like government shouldn't dictate smoking or drinking," he said.

Mayhall acknowledges the bill is "bad legislation" and that it "won't go anywhere."
But he said, "The intent was to get it in committee and call attention to the problem."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Klaus Educates the IPCC: Freedom, Not Climate is Endangered

4.3.2008 - ENGLISH PAGES

From Climate Alarmism to Climate Realism

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like first of all to thank the organizers of this important conference for making it possible and also for inviting one politically incorrect politician from Central Europe to come and speak here. This meeting will undoubtedly make a significant contribution to the moving away from the irrational climate alarmism to the much needed climate realism.

I know it is difficult to say anything interesting after two days of speeches and discussions here. If I am not wrong, I am the only speaker from a former communist country and I have to use this as a comparative – paradoxically – advantage. Each one of us has his or her experiences, prejudices and preferences. The ones that I have are – quite inevitably – connected with the fact that I have spent most of my life under the communist regime. A week ago, I gave a speech at an official gathering at the Prague Castle commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1948 communist putsch in the former Czechoslovakia. One of the arguments of my speech there, quoted in all the leading newspapers in the country the next morning, went as follows: “Future dangers will not come from the same source. The ideology will be different. Its essence will, nevertheless, be identical – the attractive, pathetic, at first sight noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice the man and his freedom in order to make this idea reality.” What I had in mind was, of course, environmentalism and its currently strongest version, climate alarmism.

This fear of mine is the driving force behind my active involvement in the Climate Change Debate and behind my being the only head of state who in September 2007 at the UN Climate Change Conference, only a few blocks away from here, openly and explicitly challenged the current global warming hysteria. My central argument was – in a condensed form – formulated in the subtitle of my recently published book devoted to this topic which asks: “What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?” My answer is clear and resolute: “it is our freedom.” I may also add “and our prosperity.”

What frustrates me is the feeling that everything has already been said and published, that all rational arguments have been used, yet it still does not help. Global warming alarmism is marching on. We have to therefore concentrate (here and elsewhere) not only on adding new arguments to the already existing ones, but also on the winning of additional supporters of our views. The insurmountable problem as I see it lies in the political populism of its exponents and in their unwillingness to listen to arguments. They – in spite of their public roles – maximize their own private utility function where utility is not any public good but their own private good – power, prestige, carrier, income, etc. It is difficult to motivate them differently. The only way out is to make the domain of their power over our lives much more limited. But this will be a different discussion.

We have to repeatedly deal with the simple questions that have been many times discussed here and elsewhere:

1) Is there a statistically significant global warming?

2) If so, is it man-made?

3) If we decide to stop it, is there anything a man can do about it?

4) Should an eventual moderate temperature increase bother us?

We have our answers to these questions and are fortunate to have many well-known and respected experts here who have made important contributions in answering them. Yet, I am not sure this is enough. People tend to blindly believe in the IPCC’s conclusions (especially in the easier to understand formulations presented in the “Summaries for Policymakers”) despite the fact that from the very beginning, the IPCC has been a political rather than a scientific undertaking.

Many politicians, media commentators, public intellectuals, bureaucrats in more and more influential international organizations not only accept them but use them without qualifications which exist even in the IPCC documents. There are sometimes unexpected and for me unexplainable believers in these views. Few days ago, I have come across a lecture given by a very respected German economist (H. W. Sinn, “Global Warming: The Neglected Supply Side, in: The EEAG Report, CESifo, Munich, 2008) who is in his other writings very critical of the German interventionist economic policies and etatist institutions. His acceptance of the “conventional IPCC wisdom” (perhaps unwisdom) is striking. His words:

- “the scientific evidence is overwhelming”;

- “the facts are undeniable”;

- “the temperature is extremely sensitive to even small variations in greenhouse gas concentration”;

- “if greenhouse gases were absent from the atmosphere, average temperature of the Earth’s surface would be -6°C. With the greenhouse gases, the present average temperature is +15°C. Therefore, the impact of CO2 is enormous”;

- he was even surprised that “in spite of all the measures taken, emissions have accelerated in recent years. This poses a puzzle for economic theory!” he said.

To make it less of a puzzle, let me make two brief comments.

As an economist, I have to start by stressing the obvious. Carbon dioxide emissions do not fall from heaven. Their volume (ECO2) is a function of GDP per capita (which means of the size of economic activity, SEA), of the number of people (POP) and of the emissions intensity (EI), which is the amount of CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP. This is usually expressed in a simple relationship which is, of course, a tautological identity:


but with some assumption about causality it can be turned into a structural equation. What this relationship tells is simple: If we really want to decrease ECO2 (which most of us assembled here today probably do not consider necessary), we have to either stop the economic growth and thus block further rise in the standard of living, or stop the population growth, or make miracles with the emissions intensity.

I am afraid there are people who want to stop the economic growth, the rise in the standard of living (though not their own) and the ability of man to use the expanding wealth, science and technology for solving the actual pressing problems of mankind, especially of the developing countries. This ambition goes very much against the past human experience which has always been connected with a strong motivation to go ahead and to better human conditions. There is no reason to make the, from above orchestrated, change just now – especially with arguments based on such an incomplete and faulty science as is demonstrated by the IPCC. Human wants are unlimited and should stay so. Asceticism is a respectable individual attitude but should not be forcefully imposed upon the rest of us.

I am also afraid that the same people, imprisoned in the Malthusian tenets and in their own megalomaniac ambitions, want to regulate and constrain the demographic development, which is something only the totalitarian regimes have until now dared to think about or experiment with. Without resisting it we would find ourselves on the slippery “road to serfdom.” The freedom to have children without regulation and control is one of the undisputable human rights and we have to say very loudly that we do respect it and will do so in the future as well.

There are people among the global warming alarmists who would protest against being included in any of these categories, but who do call for a radical decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. It can be achieved only by means of a radical decline in the emissions intensity. This is surprising because we probably believe in technical progress more than our opponents. We know, however, that such revolutions in economic efficiency (and emissions intensity is part of it) have never been realized in the past and will not happen in the future either. To expect anything like that is a non-serious speculation.

I recently looked at the European CO2 emissions data covering the period 1990-2005, which means the Kyoto Protocol era. My conclusion is that in spite of many opposite statements the very robust relationship between CO2 emissions and the rate of economic growth can’t be disputed, at least in a relevant and meaningful time horizon. You don’t need huge computer models to very easily distinguish three different types of countries in Europe:

- the EU less developed countries – Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain – which during this very period tried to catch up with the economic performance of the more developed EU countries. Their rapid economic growth led to the increase of their CO2 emissions in 15 years (in which they signed Kyoto) by 53%;

- the European post-communist countries which after the fall of communism went through a fundamental, voluntarily unorganizable transformation shake-out and an inevitable radical economic restructuring with the heavy industry disappearing (not stagnating or retreating) practically over night. Their GDP drastically declined. These countries decreased their CO2 emissions in the same period by 32%;

- the “normal” EU, slow-growing if not stagnating countries (excluding Germany where it’s difficult to eliminate the impact of the fact that the East German economy almost ceased to exist in that period) increased their CO2 emissions by 4%.

The huge differences in these three figures – +53%, -32% and +4% – are almost fascinating. And yet, there is a dream among European politicians to reduce CO2 emissions for the entire EU by 30 per cent in the next 13 years (compared to the 1990 level). What does it mean? Do they assume that all countries would undergo a similar economic shock as was experienced by the Central and Eastern European countries after the fall of communism? Now in the whole of Europe? Do they assume that European economically weaker countries would stop their catching-up process? Or do they intend to organize a decrease in the number of people living in Europe? Or do they expect a miracle in the development of the emissions/GDP ratio, which would require a technological revolution of unheard-of proportions? With the help of a – from Brussels organized – scientific and technological revolution?

What I see in Europe (and in the U.S. and other countries as well) is a powerful combination of irresponsibility, of wishful thinking, of implicit believing in some form of Malthusianism, of cynical approach of those who themselves are sufficiently well-off, together with the strong belief in the possibility of changing the economic nature of things through a radical political project.

This brings me to politics. As a politician who personally experienced communist central planning of all kinds of human activities, I feel obliged to bring back the already almost forgotten arguments used in the famous plan-versus-market debate in the 1930s in economic theory (between Mises and Hayek on the one side and Lange and Lerner on the other), the arguments we had been using for decades – till the moment of the fall of communism. Then they were quickly forgotten. The innocence with which climate alarmists and their fellow-travelers in politics and media now present and justify their ambitions to mastermind human society belongs to the same “fatal conceit.” To my great despair, this is not sufficiently challenged neither in the field of social sciences, nor in the field of climatology. Especially the social sciences are suspiciously silent.

The climate alarmists believe in their own omnipotency, in knowing better than millions of rationally behaving men and women what is right or wrong, in their own ability to assembly all relevant data into their Central Climate Change Regulatory Office (CCCRO) equipped with huge supercomputers, in the possibility to give adequate instructions to hundreds of millions of individuals and institutions and in the non-existence of an incentive problem (and the resulting compliance or non-compliance of those who are supposed to follow these instructions).

We have to restart the discussion about the very nature of government and about the relationship between the individual and society. Now it concerns the whole mankind, not just the citizens of one particular country. To discuss this means to look at the canonically structured theoretical discussion about socialism (or communism) and to learn the uncompromising lesson from the inevitable collapse of communism 18 years ago. It is not about climatology. It is about freedom. This should be the main message of our conference.

Václav Klaus, Notes for the speech at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, New York, March 4, 2008

Politicians' Calls for 'Solutions' & Change' Will Impair Economic Freedom: Are Consistent With Europe's Global Collectivist and Socialist Agenda

February 27, 2008

The Future with Europe

The Swiss Newspaper Junge Freiheit Interviews Victor David Hanson

Although the focus of the interview was on immigration policy, the following extract demonstrates a rather accurate description of the European global collectivist and socialist agenda, whose principles and programs Senators Clinton and Obama apparently embrace in their calls for ‘Solutions’ and ‘Change’.

...JF: Do you see any appreciable differences between the way the U.S. is dealing with immigration issues, and Europe's response to similar problems?

VDH: We will stop the influx soon and through our powers of assimilation and popular culture absorb those here; you may well not and thus are already seeing a tiny elite on top mouthing utopian leftwing bromides while a radical rightwing movement on bottom will grow, demanding xenophobic solutions.

I am not confident in an easy solution for Europe, given its 20th-century past - whether confronting the specter of a Muslim Eurabia, or the counter-rightwing backlash that could get very ugly. You in Europe have little facility - socially, culturally, and politically - to absorb immigrants into full-fledged Europeans. We do (as Europe's historic critiques of America as a mongrel nation attest) - if the numbers of new arrivals are reasonable, of diverse backgrounds, and of legal status.

Officially Europe sounds more utopian, while in reality Europeans are clannish and reluctant to integrate and embrace; America sounds strident and angry, while Americans in their personal lives integrate, assimilate, and marry Mexican nationals who come here illegally - the tragedy being that if we just cut the numbers of new arrivals of illegals, the existing cohort would soon disappear through assimilation.

JF: What is it that makes the U.S. and Europe so different from each other? From the outside, the two are often perceived as a monolithic unit: the West. Does this unity really exist, or are we talking about two separate worlds? Do you think the alliance between the U.S. and Europe is made to last, or is it no more than an illusion?

VDH: We have a common legacy, as the elections in France and Germany remind us. And we coalesce when faced by a common illiberal enemy - whether against the Soviet empire or radical Islam.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, you diverged onto a secularized, affluent, leisured, socialist, and pacifist path, where in the pride and arrogance of the Enlightenment you were convinced you could make heaven on earth - and would demonize as retrograde anyone who begged to differ.

Now you are living with the results of your arrogance: while you brand the U.S. illiberal, it grows its population, diversifies and assimilates, and offers economic opportunity and jobs; although, for a time you've become wealthy - given your lack of defense spending, commercial unity, and protectionism - but only up to a point: soon the bill comes due as you age, face a demographic crisis, become imprisoned by secular appetites and ever growing entitlements. Once one insists on an equality of result, not one of mere opportunity, then, as Plato warned, there is no logical end to what the government will think up and the people will demand.

JF: Would you say many Europeans' critical attitude towards the U.S. is rooted in legitimate concerns, or does it rather stem from a typically European bias against the U.S.? How would you describe the nature of this bias?

VDH: In part, the animus originates from innate envy, and jealousy over the loss of European imperial preeminence; in part, there is the old befuddlement that a mongrel population of European rejects in America has now created the largest and most powerful nation in history - as a sort of deviant Western answer to European notions of class exclusion and aristocratic pretension. But once you predicate status, as is done in America, in a Western liberal society on the acquisition of money rather than birth, then you see something enormously dynamic, but also crass, and that crassness apparently drives the Euros crazy. Finally, we are enablers: there are no consequences to vocal and cheap anti-Americanism. If we withdrew our troops, and cut the E.U. loose, then it would see that in a world without America at its side, creepy people like Putin, Ahmadinejad, and Dr. Zawahiri are not just bogeymen of a U.S. President.

JF: Is there a corresponding bias against Europeans in American society? How come nobody has ever thought to diagnose such a sentiment? Is it truly non-existent, or is it just that Americans are too wise, and Europeans too cowardly to mention it?

VDH: There has always been skepticism of Europe as a class-bound, hopelessly aristocratic static society, warped by Old World factionalism, and prone to dangerously wide springs between totalitarian fascism and totalitarian Marxism. Few note such suspicions of ours, since we are self-obsessed within our borders, and don't translate these musings into some driving ideology. Nor do we feel that Europe per se affects our lives to any great degree, despite our ubiquitous Western heritage that we owe to Europe and the billions of U.S. dollars that are held by European governments.

The irony is that while Europeans periodically chest-pound and loudly vie with each other in hating the United States for various alleged sins (fill in the blanks from global warming to Iraq), slowly, insidiously we in the U.S. are drifting away from Europe, whether defined by commitments to its security (I doubt we would intervene again in the Balkans) to sort of a popular weariness. One article in Le Monde or a quip by a Chirac or Schroeder might pass over the heads of those in Iowa or Nebraska, but not a few hundred of these per day. So the Europeans have done the almost impossible: alienated a Western powerful ally, that kept it safe and free for the majority of the 20th century.

JF: Europeans like to take the U.S. to task for their geopolitical immorality. Are Europeans really morally superior? Or would you rather say, Americans are not immoral but Europeans are unrealistic? Where does this lack of realism originate? And where will it lead Europe in years to come?

VDH: Well, Europeans are no more or no less moral than the U.S. - though the collective West itself is quite a bit more moral than a Russia, China, or India, whether we look at China's environmental travesties, Japan's whale hunting, or Russia assassinations abroad. Europe allowed a quarter of a million to be butchered in the Balkans for a near decade. Its agricultural subsidies are the most illiberal in the world, and it has no compunction about trading or even extending trade credits to the most oppressive regimes in the world, whether that be Cuba, Iran, or Syria.

No, I don't think Europeans are "unrealistic." They are instead canny in fabricating a utopian veneer and a sophisticated humanistic rhetoric to mask everything from cut-throat trade policies to a complete abrogation of international military responsibilities.

Americans, in contrast, are the naive ones. They spend billions trying to jump start democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, while being blamed as "imperialists." They keep the peace on the high seas, whether in the Persian Gulf, the Aegean, or the Korea Sea, and run up enormous deficit in the international free commerce that ensues. And they open their markets to almost anyone, and run on enormous massive debts that encourage a China or India to enter the international system of commerce and trade.

JF: Europeans like to cast the European Union less as a kind of United States of Europe but rather as a precursor to a "one world" utopia. What is your view on this? Do Americans feel any sympathy for this idea? Will it get Europe anywhere?

VDH: Europe is to be commended for creating a structure that avoided a third world war. But its present notion of utopia - minimal defense, socialism, atheism and agnosticism, continental governance - is a prescription for disaster. When the individual believes in nothing transcendent, has no allegiance to a notion of nationhood, and believes nothing is worth sacrificing for, stasis sets in, lethargy follows, and an effete citizenry becomes as vocal in condemnation as it is impotent in matching deed with word.

JF: What would serve American interests better - a "one world" European Union, which would always be fundamentally "other than" the U.S. in structure as well as in nature but would never challenge the U.S.'s position as a super power? Or a United States of Europe, which would function according to similar principles as the U.S. but might well prove a threat to U.S. hegemony?

VDH: We would welcome the challenge and tension of the latter, since with it there lies hope; the former, however, means the fountainhead of Western culture will slowly decline and whimper as it melts into a pool of irrelevance. Who wants to see that? Americans love Sarkozy for his muscular rhetoric and the glimpse of a proud France of years past.

JF: What would Europe need to do differently in order to become a serious international contender?

VDH: Open its economy to free trade; reduce the size of government; curb entitlements; rearm; forge a closer alliance with the U.S/, the U.K., Australia, Japan, and other Westernized countries; and redefine the E.U. as a sort of commonwealth rather than an omnipotent Big Brother.

JF: European powers have ruled the world for century without ever being challenged by any powers outside of Europe. Has this situation changed and if so, how come Europeans are not aware of the change? What risks do Europeans run by ignoring it?

VDH: Being powerful and rich, but weak militarily means all your eggs are in the U.N. basket, and such multilateral associations are as corrupt as they are weak - rusty chains that reflect the vulnerability of their autocratic weak links. So you offer low-hanging, enticing overripe fruit to anyone who chooses to pick it - whether radical Islam, Iran, Putin's Russia, or China.

And you demonize the United States for our skepticism of such questionable multilateral institutions; but we suspect that your critiques are not based on principle, but the necessity of collective defense and decision-making in lieu of a credible military. How sad that you hate the liberal nation that defends you, and appease the illiberal forces who would intimidate or destroy you.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

If Brazil's Government Shows NO Respect for Brazilians' Private Property, How Safe Are Foreign-Owned Investments & Property??

Senselessness March

by Denis Lerrer Rosenfield *

* Denis Lerrer Rosenfield, professor of Philosophy with Ph.D. from Paris University and author of 'Hegel' (Jorge Zahar Editor, Coleção Passo a Passo) among other books.

Original source: Diário do Comércio on 01/28/2008

Published at Mídia Sem Máscara on January 29th, 2008

Translated by INSTITUTO LIBERDADE, Porto Alegre, Brasil

This country never ceases to surprise us. When we think we have seen just about everything, there comes a new fact, one which defies any parameter of common sense.

The Brazilian Minister of Social Security, Luiz Marinho, has just issued a federal act granting social security coverage to invaders of land owned by the state or private individuals.

In other words, invaders would now have social security coverage as a reward for their violations of property rights. They would be treated exactly like any tax-paying worker. Furthermore, when making his decision, the minister considered property as something petty and irrelevant, something that ought not to be taken into account.

There is no rule of law in this government. Legally, invaded property should not be the object of expropriation. And still the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform, a government agency, validates such acts. Invaders should have their names removed from settlement lists. However no measures are taken to identify and punish these people caught from the commission of crime and breaking the law. The government just turns a blind eye on it. And the make-believe becomes this “new” reality, even more vexing as it attempts against the very pillars of a free society: private property and the rule of law.

As if this was not enough, the government also funds the so-called social movements with taxpayers’ money, transferred to NGOs that act as “middle men”. The rationales vary greatly: some highlight “solidarity education” and “alternative cultivation” or other such shenanigans. Revolutionary imagination takes its course, “freely”. But one thing which is never spoken clearly is that these resources are in fact funding invasions as well as the formation of their consciences. This is how dogmas are passed on.

And this education takes place with the help of textbooks that rewrite history under the perspective of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They come in all shapes and colors. More recently, this new “humanitarian” called Hugo Chávez, who is so fond of kidnappers and narcoterrorists, has moved up to being the new mankind beacon. Under such perspective, the terrorist FARCs are “humanitarian”!

However, the "news" is far from over. All over the country, university courses have been popping up in areas such as Law, Pedagogy and Veterinary, all tailored to the needs of “social movements”. Like a “special reserve” just for them. This political organization nominates those who will take part in such courses, and elaborates curriculum programs catered to their needs and agendas. This method of education, so-called “participative”, is done according to an ideological prism, meant to serve as a guideline to the rupture “movement” of the representative democracy. Thereby, a “university” is created within the university, funded by the Ministry of Education, with total disrespect for equality, since merit and aptitude should be rightfully the main entry criteria to an institution for higher education. In reality, taxpayers are the ones paying for the advance of “socialism”, namely “totalitarian democracy”.

And taxpayers keep footing the bill with no limits. There is a complete lack of sense. Invaders are also financed with public funds through programs such as the family-grant (which distributes money on a per-child basis), food staples and special schooling. Imported products (from Uruguay), such as rice, follow these violent groups. But their hard liquor is made-in-Brazil. Invasions are carried out using the money taken from each one of us, through taxes and contributions, to maintain and conserve these so-called "social movements". Workers must pay taxes, while invaders are the beneficiaries of these transfers of assets and properties. Do not forget: in each invasion, you get to see your own resources being used!

Now, in a brand new act of “generosity” with other people’s resources, the government plans to grant invaders social security coverage. Indirectly, landowners are paying for the violation of their own property. The MST (Landless Workers’ Movement) and similar organizations are able to offer one more “service” to their “affiliates”. That is, a revolutionary organization, trying to destroy the foundations of a free society, ensures social security coverage to their militants and members, as long as they follow all orders and instructions whenever they are told to do so.

If this senselessness march goes on, the next step could be to consider the relationship between invaders and invaded (or kidnappers and kidnapped, in cases of violated property, an increasingly usual practice) as an “employment relationship”, in which bandits have rights and can even claim workers´ compensation. It is not excluded the possibility that certain judges might even issue judgment in favor of the plaintiffs! In senselessness, there is no such thing as something impossible.

Just picture the situation. MST invades a property and its members establish themselves for over a year on the land. This is common in the state of Paraná, for example, where governor Requião disobeys court orders for possession reintegration. Invaders would pretend to work, harvesting some produce. Under the prism of senselessness, an “employment relationship” would then be in effect. The landowner, having lost possession of his or her property and suffered all resulting losses could then be held “responsible” by invaders who could well turn to courts seeking “justice”. However surreal this might seem, the reality is that we are moving towards such disregard to the primary rules of democratic society and to the rule of law.

Today, landowners are often forced, by court order, to pay for the transportation of the landless people to their places of “origin”. Besides their losses, farmers must bear the invasion costs. And who is paying for the bus tickets, paying for very logistics of invasions? You are!


[Brazil Charged with Leading a World Gang of Intellectual Property Predators, Brazzil Magazine: ]

[Lula Desrespeita A Propriedade Privada ‘Tomando’ OS DPP De Investidores Estrangeiros (P.47) ]

[Lula Disrespects Private Property, ‘Taking’ Foreign Investors’ DPP,TakingForeignInvestors_DPP.pdf ]

[Forced Licensing of Drug Patents Reflects ‘IP Counterfeiting’ Efforts on World Stage ]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

When Will European Politicians Speak the Truth About Economic Freedom and Their Desire to Retain Control Over the Masses?


The Economist print edition

Winners and losers

Europe is a big winner from globalisation. If only politicians would say so

“LET us be frank about it: most of our people have never had it so good,” a British prime minister, Harold Macmillan, once said. The phrase entered the political lexicon, and “Supermac” went on to win re-election in 1959. The lesson seems clear enough: for a politician, delivering good news is a winner.

If only it were that simple. Half a century on, a growing body of research makes the case that, contrary to widespread belief, globalisation has made life better for most European citizens. What is more, Europe is unusually good at it. Yet political leaders seem wary of delivering the good news. With few exceptions, the political rhetoric when it comes to globalisation ranges from grim resolve (this challenge can be managed) to plain grim (we must tame this menace).

Defending globalisation is left to a cottage industry of think-tanks, academics and business lobbies (although some of the most thoughtful studies are quietly financed by pro-market governments, from Finland to the Netherlands, or by the European Union).

What is going on? Politics, mostly. Today's Europeans fear that globalisation may not be good for most people. Or, to be more precise, even if they notice the diffuse benefits (cheap jeans and high-tech gadgets), they fret about the visible losers, starting with workers whose jobs are shipped overseas. Worse, with globalisation disrupting business models at an ever finer level of detail many citizens feel they cannot be sure if they will be next.

A new book* by a pair of academics from America's Johns Hopkins University finds lots of facts to cheer Europeans up. European consumers (ie, all Europeans when they are shopping) are big winners from globalisation, which has delivered cheap imports, held down inflation and kept interest rates low. Despite the fuss about China and India, the EU's share of world exports rose slightly between 2000 and 2006. What is more, two-thirds of Chinese exports involve foreign brands, a good chunk of which are European. Nor does a “made in China” tag mean big revenues for Chinese firms. In a recent speech defending globalisation, the EU trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, cited a University of California study into who gains when an iPod is sold in America for $299. Only $4 stays in China with the firms that assemble the devices, Mr Mandelson explained. $160 goes to American companies that design, transport and retail iPods. A similar pattern holds for many European products.

Europeans worry a lot about wage competition. The researchers note that globalisation is not just about wages, but more broadly about finding efficiencies anywhere along complex supply chains. After all, most non-EU employees of European firms live in America, not China (EU and Swiss firms employ some 3.5m workers in America). Yes, European jobs have been lost by offshoring, but unevenly. In France only 3.4% of jobs lost in 2005 could be blamed on offshoring, though there has been a wave of factory closures more recently (see article). Portugal has suffered more: a quarter of its job losses between 2003 and 2006 involved jobs heading overseas, mostly to new EU members.

Stick to the data, and globalisation Angst in Europe can look like the tail wagging the dog. Italian producers have demanded anti-dumping duties of tens of millions of euros on Chinese air compressors, to preserve just 500 jobs. Yet in a political world, data get you only so far. A politician seen as heartless towards 500 workers risks punishment by millions of watching voters. EU economies may have created 18m more jobs than they shed in the past decade. But the jobs are different: like America, Europe has shed manufacturing and farming jobs, and created new ones in services. Many Europeans suspect these of being precarious and low-paid. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is not alone in fuelling such suspicions, visiting factories to vow that France will remain an industrial power—with state help if need be—and deriding those who say that services are the future.

Services français

Such populism wilfully ignores European strengths. France has a particular genius for exporting services (if you are after striking symbols, a French firm, Sodexo, feeds both the American Marines and the British garrison on the Falklands). Furthermore, wages and conditions in services vary widely; and not all factory jobs were fun. Yet Mr Sarkozy and his kind may be expressing something else: a sense that a shift towards globally traded services involves a loss of control. Many Europeans have grown up in corporatist systems, dominated by trade unions, employers' groups and politicians. Globalisation is bad for such a model. That can be liberating, if annoying to French Gaullists. But it can be bruising as well.

Globalisation is one reason why European wage demands have been so restrained in recent years. It is easier for bosses to say no when workers fear that their jobs might be shipped to Shenzhen. That has been good for EU competitiveness. But it is not nice to hear your boss making the threat. Arguably, the European model has more niceness built into it than the American version, thanks to social safety nets of various sorts. Some, like Denmark's pricey “flexicurity”, look tailor-made for a globalised world thanks to their focus on supporting and retraining individual workers, not protecting jobs.

Politicians should not skate over risks (to be fair, in his 1957 speech, even Mr Macmillan confessed to worrying: “is it too good to last?”). But they should not conceal good news from voters, either, just because it runs counter to popular gut instinct. Although many Europeans do not seem to realise it, globalisation has been good for them—and the protection some crave would do far more harm than good. Will today's politicians ever be frank enough to tell them?

* “Globalisation and Europe: Prospering in the New Whirled Order”. By Daniel S. Hamilton and Joseph P. Quinlan, Centre for Transatlantic Relations.