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Archive for October 5th, 2009

There’s no sugar-coating the election results. Irish voters, hit hard by the global recession and plunging property values, inexplicably decided that these factors somehow justified voting for the Lisbon Treaty (a.k.a., the EU Constitution) and giving more power to the statist bureaucracy in Brussels. The Wall Street Journal Europe is appropriately skeptical about whether this was the right decision:

The people of Ireland approved the treaty 67.1% to 32.9%, with a 59% turnout—higher participation and wider margins than the “No” camp had been able to muster when the Irish rejected the same charter last year. …Brussels now tells us the vote was a resounding Yes for further centralization of power in the EU’s 27 member states, and represented satisfaction that Ireland had secured guarantees for its neutrality and abortion laws. A more convincing explanation is the global recession, which has hit the Celtic Tiger particularly hard. Irish unemployment now runs to 12.6%. Standard & Poor’s has yanked the country’s triple-A credit rating, which in turn has ratcheted up borrowing costs. All this made voters more susceptible to the argument that another “No” could have jeopardized Ireland’s membership in the euro club and its access to the EU’s single market—a baseless scenario that nonetheless was bound to have an effect on an electorate with pocketbook worries. …one wonders how much economic authority the Irish are really prepared to hand over to Brussels, especially if that means giving it an effective veto (in the name of eradicating “unfair tax competition”) over Dublin’s pro-growth tax policies. It was those policies—and not membership in the EU, which dates to the early 1970s—that were chiefly responsible for transforming Ireland from one of the poorest countries in Europe in the early 1990s to one of the richest. All the more remarkable is that Ireland did this in the teeth of resistance from the same Brussels bureaucracy in which it now puts its trust.

This means President Klaus of the Czech Republic is the only meaningful barrier standing in the way of further centralization of the European Union. This is the man who has resisted the fanatics on global warming hysteria, so he has backbone. On behalf of the 26 nations that were denied a vote, let’s hope he holds firm.

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A column in the Wall Street Journal mocks President Sarkozy for suggesting that gross domestic product, which is how economic growth is measured, be changed to include subjective variables such as happiness. This is a transparent attempt to paper over France’s sluggish economic performance. Happiness is important, of course, but it comes about by allowing people to make voluntary choices in a free society, not by creating involuntary leisure with stifling tax rates and welfare dependency:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently said he wanted the nations of the world to stop using GDP, or gross domestic product, as the main measure of their economic performance. He wants them instead to work up another metric that takes into account not only economic production but such things as environmental quality and even time not spent in traffic—a sort of gross national satisfaction index. France has excellent reason to suppress GDP statistics. Since 1982, among developed nations, France has been a clear laggard in GDP growth. In the quarter century following 1982, France’s GDP growth rate was a mere 2.1% per year in comparison to the U.S.’s 3.3%. Thus the U.S. grew at more than a 50% premium to France per year during that span. When the quarter century elapsed, Americans were one-third richer than the French. …countries of “old Europe” such as France and Italy that were content to stand pat with an overregulated private sector and tax rates well above 50% were left in the dust. In 2003, as the Iraq war got going, France complained that the U.S. was the world’s “hyperpower.” Yet France itself was partly responsible for this fate. …If Mr. Sarkozy’s statisticians ever come up with their new economic index, they should be sure it includes leisure time—because that is one thing the French economy excels at producing. In 2004, the year he won the Nobel Prize, economist Edward Prescott asked, in the title of a journal article, “Why Do Americans Work So Much More Than Europeans?” The answer, he found, was tax rates. Tax rates had fallen so much in the U.S. by that year that the American workforce couldn’t wait to get on the job—or start a business—because you got to keep so much of what you earned. In contrast, high and progressive French taxes left over from the 1970s lured people away from work, especially as they started doing well. So people came to take seven-hour days and six-week vacations, as well as not show any particular interest in striking out on their own in a work-intensive small business. The oldest and most pathetic trick in the book when you lose a contest is to try to move the goal posts. GDP statistics of the past quarter century have shamed France but flattered the U.S., Britain and East Asia. Mr. Sarkozy’s gambit to paper over this real difference will be lucky to find any takers.

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I’m in mourning because my Bulldogs lost a heartbreaker to LSU (aided by a terrible call, but also because the team is unable to return kickoffs or defend kickoffs).

In more positive news, I played in the Winter Nationals softball tourney in Virginia Beach and was named to the All-Tournament Team after going 6-9 with two home runs and two doubles.

All things considered, though, I would have prefered the Bulldogs winning and me striking out every at-bat.

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