Sunday, June 26, 2016

This is Europe’s golden age

Fit for a European?
What is the real importance of Britain’s vote to quit the European Union?

That a border in Europe was changed and no army marched.

The discontents of the British are laughable: They complain that Brussels regulates the curvature of bananas. (Not really true) Or, on the pro-EU side, that they will have a hard time traveling to Italy. (Not really true)

The Leavers have short memories. England was famous for red tape (the phrase originated in Westminster) before ever a bureaucrat stamped an order in Brussels. (The historian Arthur Herman contends that the rise of England began when the Royal Navy was reorganized as a bureaucracy of 7 departments — in the reign of Henry VII. And it was an English historian of the Admiralty who enunciated Parkinson’s Law.)

The question of immigration is nothing new. The fear and distrust of strangers in Europe is nothing new — and, considering Europe’s past, nothing surprising. It applies to travelers as well as migrants, Hemingway noticed it while ski-trekking in Tyrol in 1921, for example. And Brecht used it memorably in the opening of “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”:

A traveler comes to a house in the mountains and asks shelter and food for the night. He blows on his hands to warm them and on his soup to cool it, so the people recognize him as a wizard and kill him.

The joke (if that is what we can call it) was not original with Brecht. It was an old one.

The problems of the EU are the problems of overwhelming success: On the day I was born, there were 12,000,000 homeless, destitute people in Europe, the factories were ruined, the cities in ruins, the farms in ruins. Europe could not feed itself.  Well into the ‘50s, English people could not readily buy a chicken’s egg (although seagull eggs were readily available even during the war, if you liked the fishy tang).

Today, the complaint is that EU subsidies lead the farmers to produce too much food of too high a quality.

Today, American rightwingers complain that Europe’s armies are too small and weak. American rightwingers, too, have short memories.

Europe’ s malaise, if that’s what the vote represents, is merely an example of a wider phenomenon: that people want to bitch even if they have nothing really to bitch about. And if they have no real problems, then they are free to bitch in ridiculous, even self-harmful ways.

Consider America. Our great grandparents had real problems to deal with: votes for women, fair treatment of blacks (and Irish, Italians, Jews etc.), free coinage of silver, regulation of monopolies, tainted food and impure drugs, epidemics, hunger, limited education for most children.

The list of problems they solved is impressive.
What issue in the 2016 election is as great as any of those? The Trans Pacific Partnership?

The nasty, selfish, often fascist feelings revealed in the success of the Leave voters, the Tea Party, the Trump Republicans are real and dangerous and need to be opposed. But get a grip.

The fall  of stock prices and the jump in gold (though still to only two-thirds its level of five years ago) makes no sense. Markets are often that way. They multiply nervousness until it turns into panic.

For myself, I follow about 20 American stocks closely. (They are not representative of anything in particular.) Of those, two that fell the most on Friday were Berkshire Hathaway and Praxair.

So I bought both, on the theory that the world is not going t want less acetylene, Geico car insurance, Burlington Northern freight cars or Coca-Cola because Britain voted to leave the EU.

I expect the prices of both to be back at Thursday levels by Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest.

Easy money.


I misunderestimated the extent of the silly panic and bought the dip too soon. The deeper panic took a longer time to recover, too, till Thursday when I cashed out.

So I made 2% on my investment of 4 mouse clicks. The market is so dumb.


  1. Harry wrote: "The discontents of the British are laughable: They complain that Brussels regulates the curvature of bananas."

    Well, the following is written by a British citizen: "But the single worst mistake is exactly the same as Thatcher’s – the EU has successfully convinced millions of its own citizens that it doesn’t give a damn about them."

    A government that convinces its citizens that it doesn't give a damn about them is a government that is going to rule over great unrest. Your point seems to be that the citizens have no objective reason for thinking the government would just as soon screw them as look at them. And that may well be true. But it doesn't much matter because politics is a subjective, not an objective sport, and the western governments are clearly incompetent at delivering subjective understanding to its citizens.

  2. Not applicable in Scotland, apparently. Or Gibraltar.

    I do not agree that politics is subjective, although it is true that many people pay little attention. Those who do pay attention are able to discern differences among programs, policies and politicians.

  3. Harry, this is a fail high-water mark for you.

    Except for the paras that are irrelevant, every one is bespoke ignorance.

    Let's start here: "They complain that Brussels regulates the curvature of bananas. (Not really true)"

    Did you read the regulation? Regardless of whether it particularly regulates curvature, why the heck does the thing exist in the first place?

    And while you are en route to an answer, consider exactly which part of the EU made that regulation.

    Then, having reached that goal, you might, just might, understand why Leave wanted out. (Among other reasons).

    You are in good company though: the rest of the self-annointed elite.

  4. It's a grading system of the sort used around the world for diamonds, oil and just about everything else in order to make commerce easier and more efficient.

    It was racism according to the Armstrong exit poll (tipped to me by M. Ali Choudhury)

  5. Where else is there grading system for bananas? Presuming one exists, why does the EU need to implement its own?

    It was racism according to the Armstrong exit poll ...

    And the link to that poll would be where, exactly?

    (Bold prediction -- you are once again guilty of word abuse in the first degree.)

  6. Hawaii.

  7. Interesting; I didn't know such a thing existed. Makes sense, though, come to think of it.

    However ... there are two things to keep in mind. The Hawaiian gov't adopted its standard, and it is incumbent only upon Hawaiian banana growers. Hawaii doesn't get to impose it upon, say, Florida (if they grow bananas).

    That is not true with the EU. Find out how EU regulations are imposed: by an unelected, unanswerable, opaque body (Council of Ministers, IIRC). Much of Brexit's anger derives from that, just as Florida might well be miffed if Hawaii got to decide how FL had to grade bananas.

    If that was the only case, then big deal. But it isn't. Petty EU regulations are rampant.

  8. BTW, where is that Armstrong exit poll?

  9. It's a voluntary association. have you ever heard of the ASTM?

    Apparently not

  10. What is a voluntary association?

    And what does that have to do with the EU council of ministers?

  11. You clearly don't get it, do you?

  12. And may I conclude that the Armstrong poll does not exist?