Posted tagged ‘european union’

Brexit Delusions

May 26, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May resigned (effective June 7) today as a consequence of  her failure to gain Parliament’s approval for her European Union “exit” plan.  To be clear, Brexit is clearly the responsibility of the British people regardless of it outcomes.  To “Brexit” or to not “Brexit” lies within the sovereignty of Britain alone.

Never the less, it is sad to see Britain make a misguided decision to leave the European Union and potentially make both Britain and the EU less viable.  Brexit advocates claim the issue is about sovereignty and the cost are minimum if not a positive for Britain.  Brexit advocates paint glowing pictures of the future and do not speak to why the EU was formed in the first place.

Most all generations seem to display collective amnesia.  What happened in the past stays in the past and over time ceases to inform the present.  In weeks there will be the World War II’s ending 75th anniversary.  In part, the EU represents a brick in the wall of common sense dedicated to not letting the seeds of war reoccur.  

The EU also represents the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The EU nations’ combined economies make it second to the US and has thrived since its inception.  No single EU country has the size or importance to negotiate trade deals as widely or as favorable as the EU can. 

The British economy is aging.  While London is a first class financial center, its value as European headquarters for American firms will shrink markedly once Brexit is complete.  Frankfurt, Paris, or Brussels will become much more favorable.

As in all nationalist campaigns, Brexit will benefit some but for the average Britain the returns will be meager.  British military power will gradually disappear as funding its own defense spending (versus other social obligations) becomes too expensive.  The landed will keep their steady incomes while workers see real wages shrink.  

Lastly, some say the EU is not such a great deal, particularly the free flow of labor which also includes recent economic migrants.  This is not an insignificant problem but attempts to flee to Britain is unlikely to lessen once Britain leaves the EU.  The EU has its own problems with some member countries either tilting right or running fiscally questionable economies.  So maybe the EU will end soon on its own.  But why leave now?

Most nationalist and most populist leaders are more concerned about how they make out in any set of domestic or foreign policies and far less concerned about the impact upon the average citizen.  Nationalist and populist also tend not to learn from history and are doomed to repeat past mistakes.  Brexit may be necessary some day but with the rise of China, the continuing menace of Russia, and the Middle East in turmoil, why now?  

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Slow Boil Over A Surrogate War

July 20, 2014

The downing of Malaysian Air flight 17 was a shock. As time as progressed, the justification of the senseless murders of almost 300 people is no less murky.  Our madness slow boil seems centered upon a surrogate war.

Was this simply an accident of war or was the missile attack part of a premeditated message? The 300 unlucky passengers had nothing to do with either side in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Malaysian Airlines is based in Kuala Lumpur, in an entirely different continent.

What message could be contained in this tragedy?

Reports that insurgents or possibly just local residents were scouring the debris fields picking up valuables including credit cards has added disgust. Instead of treating the death scene with respect, it appears to have turned into an opportunity for quick gain, at least for some.

Is that the message, human condition is abominable?

According to a New York Times report, the air route which the plane was using was open… open that is until the plane would have reached the Russian border. Unbelievably, the Russian airway authorities had closed the airspace beginning with its Ukrainian border eastward.

Flight 17 was downed about 50 miles short of the border. The question of the day is what would have happened had the plane not been short down?

The second question of the day, why would Malaysian Air have flown a route it could not have completed?

There are many conspiracy theories possible. A more straight forward explanation is human error. Sophisticated surface to air missiles in the hands of irregular military types makes no sense on all accounts. Command and control is lacking with irregulars.

Non-combatants should be expected to assume they are not a target, so flying the same route they have always flown ought to be expected. A responsible airline, however, would have been expected to have checked for any alerts.

The Ukraine conflict is a surrogate war. The West (Europe plus the US) versus the Russian Federation. The West is trying to extend its influence east and the Russians are trying to block these efforts. For the West, bluffing and then looking the other way is a preferred strategy. For Russia, bluffs normally do not exist. This contrast of style was for sure a contributing factor.

The top people on both sides know this, yet were willing to play the surrogate game.

The surrogate game is being played in other lands too. Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and to an extent, in Afghanistan to name a few. The mess called central Africa is another place to observe non-combatants dying from outside influence.

The problem with these wars is that the sides are not clear. Who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. The US has a role to play but it is not around the use of US military force.

More likely the US role is to reiterate where our influence will be placed, where we will be neutral, and where we will not exert any influence. Once these positions are made clear, then we must ensure our actions support them. The current world confusion has arisen because the US has gone silent (while still exerting force) and allowed itself to believe it could expand its influence unrestrictedly.

Expanding the European Union was risky, expanding NATO was bordering on foolish and trying to convince the Russians that “star wars” was good for them was a joke.

Most of the world is poverty stricken. Most of those region’s would be leaders are simply people in pursuit of personal wealth. Democratic rule (as we know it) is just not going to happen. Some form of benevolent authoritarian government is the best those populations can hope for.

Telling the American people that open elections, capitalism, and human rights will bring much of the world into the 21st century is a disservice to everyone and for countries such as Russia and China, represents a threat to their established governments. It times for the rhetoric which President Obama and members of Congress select to get real.

Real in the sense of the facts, real in the sense of what is truly possible.  Real in the sense of McDonalds or Subway or Nike or Facebook or Twitter.  These social forces will do more than bullets and bombs.

The Uke Line

February 20, 2014

From 1957-61, the Boston Bruins advertised one its best offensive line as the “Uke Line”.    Bronco Horvath, Johnny Bucyk, and Vic Stasiuk,  all of Ukrainian ancestry, thrilled Boston fans despite the recognition that most New Englanders had never heard of the Ukraine or visited this land.  The Uke line was known for its hard word and by extension, Ukrainians were assumed to be the same.

The last few weeks, especially the last few days, most Americans know exactly where Ukraine lies and what an immense mess part of their country is in.

I visited Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine about 10 years ago.  It is a famous and important old city.   Kiev displays the post WWII Soviet influences along side churches and buildings dating back to the middle ages.  The Soviet era subway is magnificent with marble tiled stations an seemingly never ending elevators which take passengers down or up incredible distances.  Approaching each subway entrance, peasant ladies who travel each day from the country side line up selling cigarettes and vegetables.  There were fewer tourists compared to other European cities (like Prague) but there was plenty of subway traffic.

I visited a WWII War Museum and was surprised to see and read about WWII as never before.  WWII was proudly remembered from the eyes of Ukrainians where Germans were the aggressors (no surprise) and the combination of Russia and Ukraine were the heros.

The official language was Russian although in Kiev, ordinary commerce was conducted in Ukrainian.  Kiev residents looked to the West while their countrymen living to the East spoke Russian and aligned with the former Soviet way of doing things.

Fast forward and Kiev is the focus of a potential civil war.  For the past three days there have been an open street demonstration, government police against protestors.  Rubber bullets, tear gas, and water canon spray against rocks, and Molotov Cocktails.  Why?

The News media reports the protests are the result of the Russia leaning Government spurning stronger ties with the European Union in favor of Russia.  If true, it plays back to the ageless forces attracting Ukrainians to either the East or the West.  One might say the current disturbances are the casualty of geography.

Hmmm. I wonder.

I wonder whether the slippery hand of the CIA is in the background?  I assume the Russian equivalent for sure is active.  I would be shocked if Russia did not see a neutral or at best a friendly Ukraine as in their national interest.  I wonder whether Kiev is just another chess piece on the global table?

There have been charges that the current Ukrainian Government is corrupt.  Hmmm, tell me something I don’t know (or would naturally guess).  And if we are to focus on corruption in the current Government, then tell me why a new Government would be less corrupt?

It is far wiser to begin with the assumption that all governments (including the US) are corrupt.  The more important issue is “how corrupt” and “does the population get a good deal” from a specific corrupt government.  What seems at play in Kiev is a statement that the current Government is taking too much and giving back too little.  This may be factually true or just an impression.  What is true is that Ukrainian President Yanukovich has done an inadequate job satisfying enough Ukrainians to keep the peace.

The Uke Line worked hard, kept their heads down, and tried to win games within the rules.  Wouldn’t that be better than street battles?

 

Immigration and the American Union

April 12, 2013

Is it time, once again, raise the virtues of a European-like union here in North America?

Such a Union would go a long way to reduce the shear stupidity and wastefulness of most of the current boarder sealing efforts.  It would also allow Congress to base immigration quotas on some more rational and enforceable basis.  I wonder whether the “Bushmaster Crowd” would support such an idea?

The European Union is not the most perfect analogy.  What is appealing, however, is the transportability of labor.  Workers from Italy can enter the workforce in Germany without restrictions.  If the same were true in America, then Canadian or Mexican citizens (documented in their own country) could seek employment anywhere in the US.  And the reverse would also be true.

With documents, taxes and benefits could be monitored.  This is an important aspect.  Potentially many who crossed the borders could fall into the category of “economic immigrant” where the person comes to the US for the purpose of obtaining free healthcare and welfare benefits.  While this presents heart saddening situations, it is not the responsibility of the US to extend unlimited resources for the poor of other countries.

Unlimited immigration is not the goal.  Immigrants must still meet some total quota number.  For the US to grow, we need some increase in total population.   Too low a population growth rate can be offset with more immigrants and too fast a population growth can be controlled by adjusting down the maximum number per year.

The overall intention of an American Union would be to make it attractive for people who really want to work to find the US a great place to live.  Why would it not make sense that if someone worked 10 years in the US, had no criminal record, and expressed interest in becoming a citizen, why wouldn’t that be a good outcome?

The American Union has been criticized on the basis of sovereignty.  The Bushmaster crowd, especially, do not want Mexico or Canada to think they can in any way seek to regulate working conditions in say Kansas or North Dakota or Georgia.  This concern’s solution seems straight forward to me.

Another hitch could be this agreement must be reciprocal.  Maybe Mexico and Canada would not like the idea of Americans coming to work in their countries?

And then there are other nations, such as Cuba, other Caribbean Countries, and if we consider Alaska, why not Siberian?  Should they be part of the Union?

Hmmm.

Maybe it is better to just consider the concept of “free flow of labor” and issue documents to all Mexicans.  (The alleged 11 million are mainly Mexican.)  If these people work, they can stay.  If these people do not work or can no longer find work, they must return home.  After 10 years, if they have a good record, they can become citizens with no lines.

Pretty simple.

Whose New Century?

May 28, 2012

Today is Memorial Day.   Many Americans have stopped to recognize those who have fallen in past wars.  Each of them had been asked to serve in order to make America a better place.  Each did serve but none signed up to die.  It was just an occupational hazard.

Because of these fallen heros, the 20th Century has been called America’s century.  During those 10 decades, America rose from an important but second tier country position to the greatest military, economic, and industrial power in the world.  The life we enjoy today, despite what many politicians claim is the result of the hard work and sacrifices of many who came before us.

As Y2K approached, “geopoliticals” argued the 21st century would belong to the Chinese just as the 19th century had belonged to the Europeans.  China was in the midst of an economic, cultural, national (peaceful) revolution.  The Chinese economy was growing at double digit rates and would continue to grow that fast for over 10 years.  Cities like Shanghai and Beijing would suddenly look like the most modern in the world. Of course, the 21st Century would be the Chinese Century.

In a scant 12 years, however, the question is not as settled as originally thought.

China managed its transformation through “State Capitalism” and “low cost labor”.  With a planned economy salted with plenty of opportunity for private wealth accumulation, China has managed to move more than half of its 1.3 billion citizens to living standards above the poverty level.  The engine for this amazing accomplishment has been China’s ability to manufacture what ever the world wants cheaper than any other country.

Now there are signs that this transformation is hitting some rough spots.

The Chinese growth rate of 10+% per year is unsustainable.  There are not enough markets in the world for the Chinese to take over that can sustain that rate of growth.  Within China the remaining peasant labor is too dispersed to continue to easily supply new hands for making things cheaply.  Even more of a problem is the current “low cost” labor pool wants better working conditions and more pay.  These are not fertile conditions to sustain a “low cost” labor work force.

With China easing its currency controls, and the cost of labor rising, the Chinese growth rate must slow.  Slower growth rates given China’s vast size and current economic position does not suggest China will be hard pressed to maintain its current position and not likely overtake the US as an economic power anytime soon.

So whose century will it be if not the Chinese?

Forget about Russia and India.  Each has enormous problems providing basic services to its people today, not to mention the endemic graft and corruption that linger from the past.  How about Europe?

The European Union has been advertised as a threat to America’s economic dominance.  A single currency and about 380 million consumers should be able to rival the US.  But look around.  What’s going on in Europe today?

European countries want their cake and eat it too.  They like a single currency but most countries want to use their own fiscal policies to satisfy strictly national political ends.  There is no sense of being “European” and doing whats best for the “union”.  A number of EU countries (including France) have simply borrowed to maintain a grand way of living.  Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland enjoyed growth and prosperity for years under the Euro, all the while not spending wisely.  Now when it is time to repay these loans there is not enough euros generated in their local economies to pay the bond holders.  And no one wants to sacrifice.

What a surprise.  No one wants to sacrifice because they know the “other person” is not sacrificing or are undeserving of their current government benefit.  This European disease sounds a lot like the one that has gripped the US too.

So back to the US.  Will the 21st century belong to America?

All I can say is that it might, or it might not.  It is simply too early to tell.

The US economy and infrastructure are sufficiently larger than Europe’s or China’s that without sustained decline in the US or super human growth in the others, the US should continue to dominate.  Even more important, there are lessons at our door step which culturally we should be able to absorb.  (No one likes to be told what’s best, but in truth we all need reminders.)

The 21st century winner will be the country/region that returns to steady modest growth (3-4%), pays its way, and learns to live within a budget that provides a safety net while still investing in productive measures.

The winner might be just the country/region that doesn’t lose.