Bloggers for Bronislaw

It is simply intolerable that a EU member state’s government should try to dismiss an MEP elected by the people. I think everyone can agree on that, right? It’s for the public to decide who should represent them. It’s for the member states as a whole to decide on the overall organisation of the EU. It’s for the European Parliament to decide on its own rules of procedure.

Not if you’re Poland’s comedy prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczyinski, who wants everybody to sign a statement that they are not, have never been, and never will be a Communist. Never mind that Poland already did this in 1998. Never mind that this includes everyone who had a position of responsibility up to 1989. Never mind that the Polish president until a couple of years ago was a former commie, and the hens didn’t stop laying.

As Major Major in Catch 22 says, the thing is to catch them before they know what allegiance is and keep’em pledging. Bronislaw Geremek and Tadeusz Mazowiecki, veterans of Solidarity’s intellectual side and the first post-communist government both, have refused to sign the pledge on principle, and now the Kaczyinskis are trying to end their mandates.

I wasn’t aware that an MEP was responsible to his or her home government – in fact I’m pretty sure they aren’t, and I’m meant to be an EU specialist. Even Maggie Thatcher was unable to browbeat the British commissioner, or for that matter the MEPs. This is profoundly anti-democratic, and worse, anti-constitutional – it’s an exercise in rule by whim, and if the EU is anything, it’s a community committed to constitutionalism.

Depressingly, looking up Tim Garton-Ash’s 1990s essays, I find reams of stuff on “lustration”, aka sacking people you don’t like, which all seems to come to the conclusion that it was risky, but fortunately it’s all over and Poland is a normal country. News: it’s not anywhere near as normal as we hoped. Sadly, the opinion-current behind the current government is the same that was calling the ex-communists and most of the dissidents by the same horrible name in 1991 – “zydokommuna” or “Jewishcommunists”. Nice friends you got there.

I’d like to see a blog storm about this.

Of Population Pyramids and Value Chains

It is by now well known that the main hope for developed societies subject to rapid population ageing who wish to maintain their relative standard of living lies in increasing their collective productivity more rapidly than they increase their dependency ratio via-a-vis the older age groups. Now in the comments thread on the recent ‘Reform is a Dirty Word‘ post I ventured to say that I found it obvious that at some stage we would reach a point where the rate of population ageing was going to outstrip the rate of productivity increase (in which case relative income per capita would inevitaby start to fall). David, unsurprisingly, asked me why I thought this to be the case. I was not happy with the response I offered (which was essentially some ‘rigmarole’ about the biology of ageing which is coming in a separate post), and since that time I have been scratching my head trying to find a simple way to get this point across. Perhaps I now have one.

All you need to get to grips with what follows is a basic understanding of geometry and a vague interest in football.
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Wolfgang Lutz and the Low Fertility Trap

Back in July I published a post about Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz’s hypothesis that those countries which sustain total fertility rates below 1.5 for any length of time may have fallen into a self-reinforcing low-fertility trap. Old Rottenhat (Ray to his friends) argued in comments that I had explained the reasons for the existence of low fertility but that I had not justified the idea that this was a ‘trap’. Old Rottenhat was right, and taking advantage of the fact that Lutz himself has now given a fuller outline of the hypothesis at the recent Postponement of Childbearing in Europe Conference (see presentation) I will now try and remedy this lacuna.

So here finally Ray, is your reply: I hope it is something which indeed goes beyond the obvious.
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Unified Growth Theory

According to Oded Galor it has become evident that in the absence of a unified growth theory that is consistent with the entire process of development, the understanding of the contemporary growth process would be limited and distorted. He quote Copernicus to the effect that:

?It is as though an artist were to gather the hands, feet, head and other members for his images from diverse models, each part perfectly drawn, but not related to a single body, and since they in no way match each other, the result would be monster rather than man.?
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A Question of Identity

“I can’t really say that I’m myself,” he thinks. “I don’t know who I am. . . . I am the late Mattia Pascal.” So speaks the anti-hero of one of Italian writer Luigi Pirandello’s better known novels “Il fu Mattia Pascal” (The Late Mattia Pascal).

Mattia Pascal endures a life of drudgery in a provincial town. Then, providentially, he discovers that he has been declared dead. Realizing he has a chance to start over, to do it right this time, he moves to a new city, adopts a new name, and a new course of life?only to find that this new existence is as insufferable as the old one. But when he returns to the world he left behind, it’s too late: his job is gone, his wife has remarried. Mattia Pascal’s fate is to live on as the ghost of the man he was.

Having long been an admirer of this story, you can imagine my surprise when yesterday I found myself watching a real life version of it on local TV. The man behind the case: Enric Marco, 84 year old head of Amical de Mauthausen. Amical de Mauthausen is a Spanish association dedicated to commemorating the victims of the notorious death campwith that name. What is really incredible about Marco’s case is that he passed himself off for over thirty years as a concentration camp victim, whilst the real life ‘Enric Marco’ never set foot inside any such camp till he entered as a victims representative sometime during the later years of the twentieth century.
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Free movement of labor, redux

On the previously mentioned subject of Europe’s “free” movement of labor (and the possibility of a massive influx of cheap labor from the east come EU accession time) here’s an article I wrote on the topic in November for Czech and Slovak Construction Journal (for some reason the article’s not posted online).

If you’re too lazy to read the whole thing… It talks about the onset of “EU fatigue” in the east, plus it cites a bunch of studies that discredit the fear of a massive influx of eastern workers wrecking havoc on Western European job markets. And this is really about Polish construction workers already living illegally in Berlin, not Czech IT geeks in London (nor British chefs in Prague). Enjoy.
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Welcome to the EU, suckers

NOTE: The first version of this post contained a factual error. I’ve corrected it. The Hungarians and Poles did, in fact, successfully negotiate a transition period for their VAT laws.

One of the big items in the Czech papers yesterday was the fact that most restaurants and bars will raise the price of food on May 1, the day of Czech EU accession, as food gets slotted into the higher 22% value-added-tax category as per Brussels’ demand. On Tuesday, the EU rejected a French proposal to keep food in the 5% category.

I am not among those that think harmonized tax regimes are part of an evil socialist plot to radically redistribute wealth. But Jeez, people, could you not have come up with some other way to phase this in?
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