I Don’t Understand Modern Conservatism

The recent biography of Mrs Thatcher by John Campbell (in particular volume one, The Grocer’s Daughter) did a good job of setting out just how much Hayek’s writings shaped Thatcher’s political outlook from her student days in Oxford onwards, in particular by paying close attention to her political speeches around 1950, when she was running for Parliament in Deptford, some of the few occasions in her early political career when she was making speeches without being bound by front bench discipline.

That part of the Right of the Conservative Party which is most keen to claim its legitimate political descent from Mrs Thatcher is most adamantly opposed to the European Union in general and British participation in the single European currency in particular.

I sometimes think that this should puzzle us more than it does…

… For what the Eurosceptics are defending most ardently is exactly what Hayek attacked repeatedly, the idea that it was a healthy state of affairs for national governments to have exclusive control over the currency. One characteristic remark from 1976 is this, that “Practically all governments of history have used their exclusive power to issue money in order to defraud and plunder the people”.

And whereas Hayek famously proposed the denationalisation of money as the solution to this problem, that’s not a subject that British Conservatives have ever been interested in seriously exploring, whether in Government or Opposition. They have preferred to live in the worst of all Hayekian worlds (short of state socialism, I suppose): national governments controlling national currencies (and, of course, no Conservative Chancellor, 1979-1997, sought to entrench Bank of England independence).

It’s true that Hayek was something of a sceptic about European monetary union. He wrote this in 1978, for example, that his private money scheme was

“both preferable and more practicable than the utopian scheme of introducing a new European currency, which would ultimately only have the effect of more deeply entrenching the source and root of all monetary evil, the government monopoly on the issue and control of money”.
But as Otmar Issing makes clear in this interesting essay [pdf], from which I’ve excised the above quotations, Hayek saw the virtues of something like the present arrangements. Here he is again, again in 1978:
“It may still be true that, if there were full agreement as to what monetary policy ought to aim for, an independent authority fully protected against political pressure and free to decide on the means to be employed in order to achieve the ends it has been assigned might be the best arrangement. The old argument in favour of independent central banks still has great merit.”
So what’s curious about Conservative Euroscepticism on this account, then, is that it’s the feature of European Monetary Union which makes the whole shebang most acceptable to people who think along Hayek’s lines — the relative independence of the Central Bank from national governments, and indeed from the central political institutions in Brussels — which they anathematise in the highest degree, with all the rhetoric about sovereignty, and unelected bankers, and not being able to throw out the people on the board of the ECB if they’re messing things up. In short, they take a stand against Hayek alongside Schumpeter’s vision of democracy — a world of ?lite politics in which, from time to time, the people get the chance to throw the rascals out (if the rascals haven’t sufficiently confused them ahead of time about what the best course of action might be).

So, to restate the puzzle: on the whole, the people we call the classical liberals were among those most keen to limit the powers of governments through various remedies: free markets, entrenched legal protections, charters of rights, the gold standard, the separation of powers, and so on. Yet often (perhaps not always) the politicians who claim to be most inspired by this tradition consistently oppose the institutions which actually do restrict the powers of government in order to protect citizen rights, price stability, and so on.

So to pose the question: Why is it that, when push comes to shove, so many Conservative politicians show their colours as Hobbesians and Schumpeterians and sovereignty fetishists and Little Englanders, and so on, rather than engaging more constructively with the classical liberal tradition by which they claim, from time to time, to be inspired?

18 thoughts on “I Don’t Understand Modern Conservatism

  1. Dear Chris,

    I cannot speak for the Tory right since I don’t regard myself as one of them. Nor do I take Hayek as my mentor on macroeconomic analysis or policy. Instead, I regard myself as a reconstructed Keynesian of a kind. From that position, it is very easy to understand scepticism about the monetary union project in Europe. Indeed, I was first alerted to the potential pitfalls of premature monetary union from, initially, a casual reading of the late Rudi Dornbusch’s paper in Foreign Affairs for 1996, and no one to my knowledge ever regarded Rudi Dornbusch as a closet Hayekian.

    Inevitably, I progressed a little thereafter to Marty Feldstein’s paper, also in Foreign Affairs but for 1997, where he persuasively argued that if the conditions were inappropriate for monetary union, the economic tensions created were capable of re-generating European conflicts. I then noticed this on the web in early 1998:

    “More than 150 German economics professors have called for an ‘orderly postponement’ of economic and monetary union because economic conditions in Europe are ‘most unsuitable’ for the project to start. The call to delay Emu ‘for a couple of years’ is made in a declaration signed by 155 university professors and sent to the Financial Times and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in Germany. It signals intensified opposition to the government’s euro policy. . .” – at: http://www.internetional.se/9802brdpr.htm

    Surely there weren’t 155 devout Hayekians among German economics professors? Perhaps they had other reasons, such as whether German employment costs, converted to US Dollars, were significantly out of line with those of its main trading partners in Europe and what consequences might flow from that if the DMark exchange rate was frozen against other monetary union currencies at the launch of what was then already called the Euro.

    Scepticism deepened when I read financial press reports remarking that, strictly, only Luxembourg fully met the Maastricht criteria for joining the Euro. The UK also met the criteria except for the requirement that the Pound needed to be in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, and maintain a stable exchange rate against other ERM currencies, for a least two years prior to the launch of the Euro. The currious thing was that for one reason or another the other ERM currencies didn’t actually meet the Maastricht criteria but were nevertheless embraced by the Euro when it was launched at the start of 1999 – with the exception of the Pound, the Danish Krone and Sweden’s Krona, where the respective governments had all opted to stay out of the Euro, at least for the time being.

    Amongst other reading, I looked at the discussion of the Euro in the thoroughly mainstream, standard text by Rudi Dornbusch, Stanley Fiscber et al: Macroeconomics (McGraw-Hill, 8th ed. 2001), which struck a cautionary note on the adjustment problems if cross-border labour mobility was restricted – for reasons of inertia, language barriers and different social security systems, say – while all monetary union economies were obliged to work to the same interest rate set by the European Central Bank regardless of prevailing conditions in national labour markets or national inflation rates. In a word, what would happen if the monetary union economies hadn’t sufficiently “converged” to participate in monetary union?

    Of course, there were other issues, particularly for Britain, such as the relative sensitivity of Britain’s economy to interest rate changes and the effect on the housing market given Britain’s variable-interest mortgages and the relative scale of mortgage debt in Britain. What of the policy target(s) of the European Central Bank as compared with the remit set by Parliament to the Bank of England to apply monetary policy so as to maintain the RPI-X inflation rate within half a percentage point of 2.5%?

    Of course, since the launch of the Euro, I’ve compared the unemployment and inflation rates in the Eurozone with Britain’s as well as the comparative rates of GDP growth. On the evidence, it seems Britain’s economy is doing well outside the Eurozone. The recent hiatus over the breaches by France and Germany of Eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact of 1997 has only compounded the reasons for due caution on Britain’s part about joining.

    Please remind us about the reasons for Britain joining the Euro and never mind the Hayek stuff. He is to be taken seriously on the microeconomics of the choices between market systems and the other systematic ways of allocating resources but not, I think, on macroeconomics. Much credit is due to Mrs Thatcher’s Conservative government for the initial impetus for the Single European Act of 1986 and that is certainly Hayekian in spirit. Unfortunately, the Single European Market is still far from complete.

  2. Chris, there is a lot of government interference in the market. Rightly or wrongly, the EU assumes that its citizens are incapable of thinking for themselves. ‘Chocolate’ means (meant) one thing in the Uk and another in Belgium. What the Germans call ‘beer’ is different from what most other countries do. I suspect (not being anything like an expert) that Hayek would let the market decide which are the ‘real thing’. As I understand Christopher Booker’s column in the Sunday Torygraph (which I only skim, if I buy at all), it’s the rampant pedanticism and mania for labelling which irritates the Tories.
    In short, you’re very cogent, but wrong. They’re not as barking as you think.

  3. Actually, Bob, there’s a decent chance you could find 150 devout Hayekians among economics profs in Germany these days. But, you are in principle right that there are reasons to oppose the Euro outside of the realm of neoliberal (or neoconservative, or whatever) economics. However, there are also reasons outside of Hayek to support it.

    I’m reading a book now by John Gillingham: European Integration, 1950-2003 : Superstate or New Market Economy?. Gillingham makes his case from a devoutly Hayekian and Thatcherite standpoint that the EU has been the vehicle of economic liberalism both in its early years and since the Single European Act, leaving really only the 70’s when Keynesian doctrines were almost universally accepted in Europe. Gillingham therefore doesn’t blame the EU for its failings in that era, seeing them as a product of the times, and is very optimistic about the future of Europe as the home of a democratic and liberal Hayekian ideology. I’m a little less enthusiastic about Thatcher and Hayek, but he makes his case for why an EU devoted to free trade does need to be the kind of institution that it is, and that the EU has served more to dissolve excessive regulations and government interference in markets than to create them.

    Backward Dave, if British chocolate isn’t chocolate by the Belgian definition, it can’t be freely moved across borders. It is against the law in Britian to mark something as “orange juice” if it was really much cheaper shaddock juice sweetened with sugar and coloured orange. Well, it’s against the law in Belgium to mark something as chocolate and make it with cheap vegetable oil rather than cocoa butter. Either there is no free movement of chocolate between the two countries, or there are informal barriers to market entry, and/or chocolate makers are faced with an economically inefficient double assembly line, making chocolate for the Belgians to one standard and for the British to another standard. You can make a case against free trade, but you can’t make a case for free trade but against common product and labelling standards.

    Freeing trade completely means either the one rule or the other or a compromise. Allowing both kinds of chocolate to circulate under the same label when they don’t have to meet the same standard makes the market uneven by giving chocolate makers a reason to move to the least regulated market and passing off inferior products to the more regulated one. In both cases, this is not letting the market decide, it is denying the consumer relevant information about their choices and forcing countries to effectively adopt the lowest standard among their free trade partners.

  4. Scott – Thanks for the tip about Gillingham’s book. It’s had many review plaudits and it’s already in the growing pile to hand.

    As an occasional campaigner on Europe – like the UK’s 1975 referendum – and an ex-academic and visitor to Brussels, I’ve a long retrospective perspective. One thing I’ve noticed, I think, is a division between those who see European integration mainly in political terms and those who focus on the economic motivation and implications. If Gillingham belongs to the former camp, I come into the latter.

    “the EU has served more to dissolve excessive regulations and government interference in markets than to create them.”

    One early and persuasive rationale for the Rome Treaty (1957) – and for Britain’s accession to it in 1973 – was the benefits that would accrue from unwinding the legacy trading restrictions in Europe going back to the war and before. That promise has not been entirely fulfilled in EU15, especially in respect of cross-border trade in services. The Single Market is incomplete.

    However, I think it has to be conceded that not all the Directives and new regulations issued in the EU are necessary or beneficial and there is a certain obsession over harmonisation, which could be readily left to the market to resolve through the competitive process. One of Mrs Thatcher’s valuable fixations was the need for Compliance-cost Assessments of draft new regulations BEFORE the regulations were enacted and applied, not least because European legislation tends to get set in stone.

    From experience, what does stick in the throats of many Brits is the habit some EU member state governments have of signing up to new EU Pacts and Directives, sometimes with much Communautaire fanfare, and then backing out of implementing what they have recently agreed to. On the Euro currency, Britain made clear in the Maastricht Treaty (1992) that we wanted an opt-out – or derogation, in the jargon. I can understand when Europeans feel that the imperative mood tends to prevail in Brussels a time too often but that is as almost nothing to the ire felt when a government has embarked on the trouble and cost of implementing an agreed Directive in good faith only to find a neighbouring country’s government has not only done nothing about it at all but then pleads the Directive is impossible to implement for unfathomable reasons of its domestic politics – the Directive to liberalise energy markets comes to mind.

    “leaving really only the 70’s when Keynesian doctrines were almost universally accepted in Europe.”

    Keynesian economics is a way of thinking about macroeconomic issues rather than an immutable “doctrine”. The important thing is not to see it as set in stone. Keynes’s basic focus in his seminal General Theory (1936) was to note that: “it is an outstanding characteristic of the economic system in which we live that, whilst it is subject to severe fluctuations in respect of output and employment, it is not violently unstable. Indeed it seems capable of remaining in a chronic condition of sub-normal activity for a considerable period without any marked tendency either towards recovery or towards complete collapse.” [p. 249]

    That might seem to apply to the high persisting unemployment rates in the major Eurozone economies but I’m persuaded of the European Central Bank’s assessment that structural reforms and market liberalisation measures are essential parts of the solution. The crucial issue is to what extent would a general boost to total monetary demand, by a further cut in interest rates, lead to a rise in employment and output and to what extent to an increase in the average inflation rate across the Eurozone.

  5. Bob, I am repeating Gillingham’s claims about Keynesianism. They aren’t my opinions. I don’t particularly have a dog in that fight. He makes quite clear his ideological predispositions, and he fits more of EU history into that mold than I like. And, in a week or so when I do a review here, I will take him to task for exactly that. I am planning on comparing him to Trotskyites who see all of the 20th century as the valiant but losing combat of the proletariate’s vanguard against the established power of capitalism.

    I agree with you entirely that there is in Britain tension between those who see the EU as a trade pact and those who see it as a political project. This shows up clearly in the British press. Gillingham actually does a good job of covering the historical roots of this tension, and comes to the conclusion that de Gaulle was right to say “non” to British membership. He claims that allowing Britain to enter the ECC early would have destroyed any potential for advancing the neoliberal cause in Europe by reducing the ECC to a mere trade pact. I found this to be a very surprising conclusion for a Thatcherite, but I am beginning to think that he has a point. But, for Gillingham the advance of neoliberalism is a clear good, for me it is at best a mixed blessing.

    As for structural reform and excessive harmonisation, I’m not in principle against the first and for the second judgement has to made on a case by case basis. Excessive harmonisation is very much in the eye of the beholder – it is quite possible that the European chocolate industry does not see a common rule set as excessive at all. Does the British public really have a genuine opinion about the legal standard for labelling things as “chocolate”, or is this something the press has blown up? I can’t see anything particularly wrong with Brussels’ more conservative definition of chocolate except that it raises the price slightly. Remember, the chocolates that don’t meet EU chocolate standards can still be sold, even in Belgium. They are not inedible, they just can’t be labelled as chocolates.

    If it was beer, that I could understand. Beer is near and dear to the hearts of many European nations, and EU beer standards are full of derogations and local exceptions. It is perhaps better that it be that way. But regardless, setting these kinds of standards should be the result of political negociation, and my understanding is that whenever a harmonisation issue becomes sensitive, it usually is subject to negociation. My answer to Brussels dirigisme is more democracy, not less EU.

    As for structural reform, I’m opposed to reforms sold on the notion that we can only have growth when labour is insecure. I think there are prospects for labour flexibility which do not have to increase income insecurity and I am not willing to support reforms that remove the security and offer only the hope that future growth in employment will eventually make up for it. But reform in and of itself is little more than recognition that circumstances change and regulatory models have to change with them.

  6. Scott,

    “[De Gaulle’s] claims that allowing Britain to enter the ECC early would have destroyed any potential for advancing the neoliberal cause in Europe by reducing the ECC to a mere trade pact.”

    Not quite. Neither De Gaulle in particular nor political traditions in France were ever much inclined to neoliberalism, which is why Edouard Balladur (Gaullist PM of France 1993-5) would say in a 1993 interview given to the Financial Times: “What is the market? It is the law of the jungle. And what is civilization? It is the struggle against nature.” – from: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.05/culture.html

    Of course, they don’t put it quite that way in the North of England.

    The EEC always was, and needed to be, more than a mere trade pact. For a start, just cutting trade tariffs and quotas would do nothing about trade distortions from state sector purchasing decisions with built-in preferences for domestic over foreign suppliers or from national technical standards intended to protect domestic suppliers against imports. And in the 1950s through the 1980s there was a recognised need for some supra-national policy framework to shrink the large agricultural sectors in much of mainland Europe.

    The likely truth is that De Gaulle regarded Britain’s entry into the EEC as a spoiler for any French strategy to establish hegemony in Europe and latent anti-American sentiments. De Gaulle certainly believed and said that Britain would always give undue preference to Atlantic links over links with Europe. He was probably right about that as Blair has demonstrated so transparently with the Iraq war.

    “Does the British public really have a genuine opinion about the legal standard for labelling things as ‘chocolate’, or is this something the press has blown up?”

    Few issues are more calculated to goad Britain’s tabloid press into paroxysms of fury than proposals from Brussels for relabelling imperatives about familiar consumer products.
    The tabloids are arguably correct in most cases – would that the tabloids were as excitable about the sleaze and corruption in the EU Commission and the refusal of the European Court of Auditors to endorse EU accounts for the last nine years in succession.

    The marketing names for familiar products are not divinely ordained. There is no compelling reason why what you call “chocolate” in Belgium has to be what I call “chocolate” in Britain. Much the same applies to sausages and beer.

  7. This discussion brings to mind the wonderful, final episode of Yes, Minister in which the EEC (as it then was) proposes to relabel the sausages we eat in the UK as “Emulsified High-Fat Offal Tubes”.

    In the end, a compromise is negotiated: although they will not, in future, be permitted to be sold as “sausages”, not having enough lean meat in them, they can instead be called “British Sausages”, and sold under that label.

  8. For those who don’t follow the controversy, what was the outcome of the great chocolate controversy?

    My view is that the chocolate deaabte was the inevitable outcome fo the collision between state-sanctioned truth-in-labelling standards (e.g. “Orange juice” must have 50% orange juice) and EU market integration. If you have a single market, you must have a single labelling-standard. If you don’t, you have no standard at all. (One could debate the need for standards at all, but I doubt the tabloids or Bob advocate the elimination of British labeling laws).

    I do think the best solution (and perhaps this was the one followed) would have been to label the inferior quality chocalate as ‘British Chocolate’ and the high quality stuff as ‘Belgian chocolate’, kind of like an appellation-controle system. This has the unfortuante side-effect of the adjective ‘British’ becoming synonomous with ‘crap quality’, but there you have it.

  9. “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
    “To talk of many things:
    Of sausgaes-and chocolate-and sealing-wax-
    Of cabbages-and kings-
    And why the sea is boiling hot-
    And whether pigs have wings.”

    – with apologies to Lewis Carroll: http://www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/walrus.html

    If I want Belgium chocolates, I go into one of the stores I frequent or pass by and look for a box or packet labelled Belgium chocolates. If I want sausages with a low fat content, as I do, I look carefully at the ingredients labels on the packets of sausages in supermarkets to read the lean meat and fat content, as I do.

    All this is not very difficult to accomplish. Most folks can manage it. Besides, Nanny has gone down with Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP). It seems there is an epidemic of it about: http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/Professor_Sir_Roy_Meadows.htm

  10. Reference:

    Readers uncertain about the finer points of Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy can refer for an authoritative, expert opinion here:

    “A peculiar form of child abuse. In most cases it is the mother inventing symptoms and fabricating signs in relation to her child, and thus causing the child painful and unnecessary physical examinations and treatments.” – from: http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/1084.html

    Sir Roy Meadow, credited with the discovery of Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy, was knighted on the advice of Tony Blair in 1998. He is currently under investigation by the General Medical. Council.

  11. Ikram – a compromise. Up to 5% vegetable oil is allowed – less than what British law used to allow, but Belgian law allowed exactly 0%. The new rules came into effect in August, so it’s too early to tell if it’s the “chocopalypse” the Belgians were threatening, or if it really has affected prices. The cocoa season is still a few months down the road, so there is still no data on the impact on Africa. Frankly, it hasn’t made much difference in part because the companies that use the cheaper production methods tend to be the mass candy makers anyway – the Cadbury’s and the M&M’s – not the Mom & Pop chocolatiers you find on every street corner in Belgium. Whether or not a package of M&M’s has the word “chocolate” on it has far less impact on sales than brand recognition. If it instead it says “cocoa-flavoured candy” in microscopic print on the back, it has little impact on sales.

    That’s why I find this issue – like many “new EU directive” scare stories – too overblown to be worth worrying about. Human consumption standards are mostly identical in Europe, although agricultural regulation isn’t. The exceptions are national specialty dishes where derogations have been negociated, like those disgusting sheep offal dishes that ever country seems to keep around just to gross out tourists. In this case, I happen to be on the Belgian side, but not by enough to make it an issue worth fighting.

  12. I guess part of the answer is that conservatives abhor change. Many conservatives are against globalization for instance; most of them are in fact economical nationalists. Why? I think because globalization, if anything, means change. But if you want to arrest change, or slow down the pace of it, or, if that fails, to push it in a direction more to your liking, you need power. And government, especially when unconstrained by cheques and balances, is then a good place to start.

  13. If anything Conservatives favour beneficial change, but in incremental steps, and tend to oppose agendas for radical change that will greatly transform the prevailing order because it is then difficult to impossible to foresee the likely downstream consequences.

    Not sure where the notion comes from that Conservatives oppose Globalisation. In Britain, the Conservatives nowadays mostly favour trade liberalisation and tax competition and believe that regulation of business can often do more harm than good, all of which is consistent with Globalisation.

    It was a Conservative government which negotiated Britain’s accession to the European Economic Community in 1973 and a later Conservative government was a main driving force in establishing the Single European Act of 1986. The Labour Party’s manifesto for the 1983 election would have committed the incoming government, had Labour won that election, to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from what the manifesto termed the European Common Market. Tony Blair, Britain’s current prime minister, was first elected to Parliament in 1983 and his personal election manifesto in his constituency endorsed that commitment.

    On the evidence, it is impossible to sustain a claim that the Conservatives have been anti-Europe. Their present focus is to resist what they regard as a drift towards a European federal state, involving the transfer of important functions and powers from national governments to Brussels, and they oppose Britain adopting the Euro currency to join the Eurozone. Since Britain has lower rates of both inflation and unemployment than the Eurozone, as well as a better rate of GDP growth, the case for Britain opting to join the Euro is less than transparently obvious, especially with the unresolved hiatus over the so far undisciplined unilateral breaches of the Eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact by France and Germany. Of course, as with most responsible political parties in opposition, the Conservatives have noticed that the European Court of Auditors has recently refused to endorse the EU accounts for the ninth year in succession.

  14. Update:

    “JACQUES DELORS, the former President of the European Commission, fuelled the controversy over the euro yesterday by admitting that Britain was justified in opting out of the single currency because its launch was flawed. . .” – at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-966719,00.html

  15. I’m not English, but I suspect that the anti-Euro conservatives prefer that if monetary policy is to be controlled by a government at all, that it be controlled by a government which might be responsive to the interests of their own country. Sound monetary policy isn’t guaranteed by turning it over to the EU, and fixing mistakes becomes that much harder if the problem has to be solved in Brussels with the cooperation of the rest of the EU.

  16. Anthony,

    It would be a mistake to suppose that only (some or most) Conservatives in Britain are sceptical about the benefits of Britain joining the Euro. The opposition goes much wider and deeper than that.

    A long succession of polls in Britain has reported a steady 60% or so of respondents opposed to joining. Not only that but over last year business organisations turned increasingly against joining. The advisory council of the No Euro campaign includes two previous foreign secretaries, one Conseravtive and one Labour, and two previous Chancellors of the Exchequer (treasury ministers), again one Conservative and one Labour, as well as a long string of industrialists and retired heads of civils service departments and divisions.

    For those who can look at the issues in a dispassionate way, it is quite easy to understand why. The leading Eurozone economies have not been performing at all well since the launch of the Euro. It is very clear that the Eurozone economies have not converged sufficiently to justify monetary union. There is no way in prevailing conditions that one interest, rate set by the European Central Bank, can address the stabilisation problems of both strongly growing economies, such as Ireland and Spain, as well as recessed economies, like Germany and France. The fear in Britain is that joining the Eurozone would destabilise Britain’s economy which has been doing well outside with lower rates of both inflation and unemployment, and Britain has also sustained a higher GDP growth rate than the Eurozone. With all that, the supposed benefits of joining do not look credible.

    Besides that, in the official Eurobarometer poll last summer, British respondents came out as easily the most sceptical of the benefits of EU membership altogether. The reports of the sleaze and corruption in the EU Commission, which came out later, are hardly likely to have increased enthusiasm, not will the report towards the end of the year that the European Court of Auditors has refused to endorse the EU accounts for the ninth year in succession.

    Jacques Delors’ leftist political credentials are impeccable but:

    “In another bold statement, Mr Delors – recognised as one of the main architects of the euro – says that he can understand the UK’s decision to stay out of the single currency.

    “‘Since we have not succeeded in maximising the economic advantages of the euro, one can understand the British … saying: ‘Things are just fine as they are. Staying out of the euro hasn’t stopped us prospering.’ – at: http://www.euobserver.com/index.phtml?sid=9&aid=14129

    Attempts are regularly made to suggest or imply that those sceptical about Britain joining the Euro are somehow right-wing or extremist and that there is no intellectually respectable case for staying out. That’s not so. One of the best short books on the Euro is: Both Sides of the Coin (Profile Books, 1991), by James Forder and Christopher Huhne. Forder, a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, puts the case against while Christopher Huhne, now a Liberal-Democrat Member of the European Parliament and previously an economics editor of The Guardian, makes the case for joining, so readers can get both sides of the debate, which they won’t get from reading one of the many partisan tracts. Indeed, the statement of a coherent case for Britain to join the Euro is welcome since most of the time we only get juvenile political spin and smears.

  17. all i wanted was a table of the pound converted into euros?

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