“À la Bastille!”

Once again, with apologies to Pierre Ranger[It’s a tradition, we know… – Ed]  Indeed!  Play La Marseillaise!

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  • Talking of things French, if anybody fancies eating delightful food prepared by French chefs resident in Northern Ireland, the Watermill, Fermanagh, is the place to be.


  • Indeed………Marchons! Marchons!!!
    The sooner the blood of despots waters the trenches of our fields, the happier we will all be.
    The most inspiring national anthem is actually inspirational to us all.
    Vive la France……except Thierry Henry obviously.

  • Billy Ghoti

    Will “La Bastille” restaurant on the Lisburn Road be busy today?

  • lamhdearg

    “The sooner the blood of despots waters the trenches of our fields, the happier we will all be.” and then our blood lust will be turned on, well anyone really who cant fight back, vive the republic.

  • Greenflag

    Vive la France apart from it’s seedy financial sector . Amazing how both French and German banksters now sing from the same hymn sheet while in poor old Norn Iron the locals are still throwing stones at each other 🙂

    Allons enfants indeed:)

  • Harry Flashman

    Well if it’s a tradition let’s have the traditional debate.

    Without question the French National Anthem is the most inspiring and rousing national anthem in the world.

    However also without question the revolution it celebrates was one of the greatest disasters in history leading to untold horrors and suffering and begetting most of the dreadfulness inflicted in the world in the subsequent two centuries.

  • Brian


    You really think so? There was going to be all kinds of dreadfulness and suffering regardless.

    BTW, who is your favorite character from the mother of all Revolutions? St Just? Marat? Robespierre? Napoleon? So many to choose from.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Is it not a bit early to be judging the French Revolution?

  • Greenflag

    I would’nt say too early but there are lessons to be learnt from it even now . One of those is that what we like to think of as ‘democracy’ should not be taken for granted and there are forces in this world who are motivated by other than ‘democratic ‘ motives and who are spending billions not to mention looting even more billions in order to reduce the majority of citizens in the west and elsewhere to a society more akin to neo feudalism .

    The rise of China with it’s one party authoritarian capitalism format and it’s top down state led 5 year economic plans is seen as the future . Meanwhile the polarised USA with it’s nutters of the neo con right and it’s keynesians can’t even agree on a national budget for one year never mind edging the world economy onto the precipice of a world depression which would make the last few years look like the booming 60’s .

    The American economy is absolutely reliant on consumer spending over 70%- for it’s GDP . But as any American economist of note will tell you -american wages have not increased but have actually reduced while the savings and retirement funds of americans have lost value and some 30% of USA homes are in negative equity and the housing industry on which 7 of the recoveries from the last 8 recessions was built is now not only not building but in deep depression as millions of homes remain in foreclosure . The number of actual foreclosures has slowed down not because there are fewer but because the ‘banks’ have been slowed down in their predatory practices by being forced to produce the proper paperwork and adhere to legal norms .

    USA taxation rates are now at their lowest since 1950 and still the ‘haves ‘ want more at the expense of the ‘have nots and the have nothings ‘ The official statistics on unemployment and on inflation are a farce and the country continues to spend billions on overseas wars while it contemplates cutting off social security (senior citizen pensions ) while there are still US Republicans who wish to remove social security entirely and allow the ‘private financial sector ‘ to take on the ‘responsibility’ for administering payroll security deductions .

    One would think that anyone with half a brain looking at the outcome of the past few years when the bankers were given free rein to do the right and responsible thing -just look at their achievement ? Penthouse suites and billions for the few and death in foreign wars and reduced incomes for the many 🙁

    Vive La France anyway ! Time for revolution in the USA and in the UK and Ireland and it will probably come on the back of a world wide economic meltdown -effected by the nutters of the neo con right and their madcap laissez faire nonsense ! .

  • earther

    There are (virtually) no Keynesians in the US political system. And very few who would actually turn the clock back to 1930 in spite of the rhetoric.
    Relative “laissez faire” is a consensual policy across the political spectrum in the US as well as in Europe supported by most Demcroats, New Labour and the Socialist Party in France… it’s got nothing to do with the neo cons.
    Worldwide economic crisis happen with regularity regardless of who’s in government.

  • Harry Flashman

    I enjoyed a comment in the Daily Telegraph (where else?) a few years ago referring to the idea that the Chinese have some greater wisdom about the world than we mere Europeans.

    Referring to Chiang Kai Shek’s comment about how it is too early to judge the French Revolution the Daily T pointed out that on the contrary a mere six months after the Revolution started Edmund Burke was able to concisely and accurately predict the course the Revolution was subsequently to follow.

    Strangely enough no one ever talks about the great inscrutable wisdom of Anglo-Irish Tories.

    In answer to your question Brian they all amount to a grisly parade of villains but chief among them must go to the grasping little Corsican clan chieftain who treated all of Europe as his plundering ground to play out his vendettas and install his ghastly family members in various ludicrous pretend thrones.

  • I really shouldn’t bother as I’m fairly sure me and Harry have been round these houses before, but a number of points.

    Firstly, whatever person in the Daily Telegraph who was trying to show off by referencing Burke in that way was simply demonstrating their ignorance. Burke did mount an attack on the French Revolution about 6 months after the Bastille fell, but he did not predict the rise of a military dictator. That was about 15 months after, and was in any case simply applying the example of Cromwell to France as a way of getting at the Dissenters, whom Burke detested. Rather than being a great genius, he had made similar hysterical statements about democracy leading to the ruin of society well before the French Revolution, and not in reference to France but closer to home, as the historian R.R. Palmer pointed out decades ago. Burke was an hysteric (as can be seen in his attacks on the dissenters), but some events during the Revolution caused the British to believe he had accurately predicted what was going to happen, and furthered them in their smug belief that theirs was the best constitution in the world. No reason for us to be so blind.

    I’d also enjoy seeing Harry explain how regimes that explicitly built themselves on the rejection of the principles of the French Revolution (with the exception of France) indulging in imperialism and starting WWI was the fault of the French Revolution. And I’d really like to see him explain how the Nazis – who after all declared the year 1789 hereby expunged from history – who started WWII were the fault of the French Revolution too. Pure nonsense of the first order.

    Or maybe he can explain the influence of the French Revolution on Japanese imperialism and fascism, and the barbarities committed in Asia by the Japanese.

    I could go on to explore the absence of the French Revolution as the cause of grinding poverty etc that has resulted in such problems over the last several centuries and well before, but I think I’ve made my point.

    Simple-minded rubbish gets us nowhere when dealing with as complex a phenomenon as the French Revolution and its subsequent influence.

  • Harry Flashman

    Good heavens Garibaldy, where have you been?

    It’s been a long time since we crossed swords but it’s a pleasure to see you back again even if we are going over the same ground again, but what the hell, even Groundhog Day has its moments.

    Asian barbarism is simply Asian barbarism and whilst without the French Revolution it would still occur (I live in Asia and love the place but I’m not blind to its faults) there can be no doubt that many westerners gave Mao and Pol Pot (and indeed Ho Chi Minh) a free pass when they indulged in mass slaughter because they were able to cloak their genocides in the clothes of the French Revolution.

    The French Revolution has long provided cover for tyrants indulging in a little spot of genocide.

    As regards the Nazis, well a man might reject his parents and rebel against all they stand for but still remain their son. Naziism is pure and simple the absolute crystalisation of French Revolutionary doctrine.

    The elevation of the state above the individual, the absolute abasement of citizens towards their political masters, the ruthless elimination of dissent, the hysterical propaganda against political rivals, extrajudicial murder of dissident thinkers, genocide, the right to wage political war against your neighbours, mass conscription of armies to fight for “the fatherland”, cult like following of a military leader, brutal suppression of contrary thought, mass indoctrination of children instead of liberal education, terror, secret police, genocide (I might have already mentioned that one) etc etc.

    Yup, there’s not much to choose between the Nazis and revolutionary France except to point out that Hitler was a keen student of what happened post 1789. Robespierre and Napoleon would have been proud of their disciple.

    Small point worth noting, when the the “hated” Bastille fell half a dozen prisoners were released none of whom were actually political prisoners. Two years later there were dozens of concentration camps, gulags call them what you will, in revolutionary France with over forty thousand political prisoners.

    That liberty thing didn’t work out so well in France, did it?

  • Long time, no slabber indeed Harry. Glad to see you remain your usual self. This argument is becoming almost as much a tradition as Pete sticking up the scene from that film.

    Pleasantries over ;), I note you left out of your list imperialism and the starting of a World War by the powers that defined themselves directly in opposition to the French Revolution. As for the Revolution being the parent of the Nazis, only in so far as they stood firmly within the counter-revolutionary tradition founded by the likes of Burke and the Abbé Barruell. The linking of conspiracy and cabals to revolutionaries and religious minorities, all that stuff which the Nazis put to such good effect have their origins in those two, plus others. Robespierre was still an opponent of the death penalty at that stage, as well as an opponent of war.

    Not to get picky, but there were no “concentration camps” or “gulags” or anything approaching them in 1791. No political prisoners either, apart from a small number of people put there by French admirers of the British constitutional tradition for being republican democrats. There were more people being gaoled for their political actions by 1793, but I suggest you look into British and Irish history at the same point – or say Russian or Habsburg or Prussian – for a comparison you might find interesting.

    As for your list of evils supposedly inaugurated by the Revolution, you have, I take it, heard of the English Revolution/War of the Three Kingdoms, the wars of religion, Louis XIV, the Seven Years War, the American Revolution etc. You can find the things you list in those too. As for liberal education. At least children in France were getting an education from the state, unlike every other country in Europe.

    BTW, the only westerners I know of giving Pol Pot a free ride were the western powers – like the UK – giving him weapons and training. Orthodox communists certainly did not, nor did the left generally.

    And I’m still laughing at this: “Naziism is pure and simple the absolute crystalisation of French Revolutionary doctrine.”

    If you think this




    or even this much more conservative document


    sounds anything like Mein Kampf, I think you must have been reading the wrong book.

  • Harry, response awaiting moderation.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The rise of China with it’s one party authoritarian capitalism format and it’s top down state led 5 year economic plans is seen as the future .

    I hear a lot of people saying this.

    China isn’t going away (indeed, if you look at the history of the past 3000 years you could argue that it never really went away) but it is going to hit the buffers soon, at which point the limitations of the top-down system will become painfully apparent.

    China is the equivalent of a dot-com startup somewhere around 1999/2000.

  • Harry Flashman

    I judge a man by his actions not his words, that is why I prefer to judge the French Revolutionaries by how they behaved and not the fine, laughable, words they put on paper (you do know of course that the constitution of the Soviet Union was one of the most liberal democratic constitutions ever written?).

    Judge the Nazis by their actions, compare them to the Revolutionaries and given the scales of time and technology you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between them.

    As to Pol Pot, the only westerners supporting him during his genocide phase were liberal leftists, the Khmer Rouge may have been given minor support many years later after they had been removed from power by peripheral organisations who were indulging in small scale, localised aggression against Vietnam.

    It was the Left who wanted Communism to win in Asia, not the Right, it is the Left who can take credit for the Boat People, the re-education camps and Year Zero.

    I don’t see conservatives walking around with pictures of Chairman Mao, the greatest mass murderer in history and devout adherent of the French Revolution, on their T-shirts, do you?

  • Harry Flashman

    The horrors of the bursting Chinese bubble which is imminent and obvious will leave the world reeling in a way that makes Lehman’s and Greece look like a walk in the park.

    Krugerrands and Kalsnikovs might be your best investment options in the next few years.

  • Greenflag

    @ harry flashman ,

    ‘Strangely enough no one ever talks about the great inscrutable wisdom of Anglo-Irish Tories.’

    Reason being it was so inscrutable it permitted a million people to die of famine and famine related diseases and forcing another million and a half to emigrate to survive while the country exported food to the ‘richest ‘country on earth of which they were supposed to be a part . I suppose you could call it ‘inscrutability’ at it’s finest . The eh ‘inscrutability’ of Empire Tories was practiced with even greater wisdom in India where a mere 27 million people starved in order for ‘laissez faire’ to survive .

    It’s Kalashnikov’s Harry . You can buy them on the ‘free market ‘ almost anywhere . That’s the thing about the ‘free market’ you can even sell 60 billion dollars worth of armaments to a degenerate Saudi Arabian Kingdom and still pretend to be a ‘democracy’ 🙁

  • Greenflag

    @ earther

    ‘Worldwide economic crisis happen with regularity regardless of who’s in government.’

    True but then not all economic crises are the same nor do they originate from the same causes . Some are merely bumps in the road others are systemic and structural and can have far reaching consequences not just on economies but on political systems . Without the 1929 Wall St crash it’s unlikely that Hitler’s nazis would have come to power in Germany .In 1928 the Nazi Party got 2.8% of the vote and were seen as a shower of buffoons and on the way out . The 1929 Wall St crash affected the German economic recovery which was on it’s way following the hyper inflation of 1923 when the German ‘middle ‘ classes were financially destroyed and millions became unemployed .
    By 1932 the Nazis were getting 33% of the vote and their ‘opposition’ was the Communists and the ‘failed older conservative forces led by Hindenburg who capitulated to the fascists to save themselves from the reds .

    Today in the western world governments everywhere capitulated to the forces of finance capital and have thrown ‘democracy ‘ aside as they collectively seek to save their own skins on the backs of the societies that elected them to power . They have done this in collusion with sections of the mass media for whom the ‘law’ is just a twig to be brushed aside in the interest of greater profit and power for the few 🙁

    Of the last 8 or so economic recessions in the USA on which the world economy relied as the ‘motor’ for growth -7 recoveries came about due to the revival of the construction industry . The other ‘recovery’ came about due to the increased demand necessitated by World War II.

    Many commentators now expect this particular USA property bubble burst to take a generation to resolve with all that that implies for any possible resumption of economic growth or reducing unemployment from it’s present 26 million (15%) to a more normal 5% . The current US official unemployment rate is a farce as is it’s Consumer Price Index figures . States like Michigan are closer to 20% unemployment .

    The USA mass media is however still fixated on the Dow Jones and the next Presidential election and the current budget standoff as the politicians in Washington of both parties play Russian roulette with the USA economy and chicken with the world economy . 🙁

    Meanwhile Saudi Arabia and Israel will continue to be supplied with enough arms to keep the warmongers profits rolling in.

  • Harry,

    Actions like introducing civil equality, religious freedom, democracy, removing landlords’ courts so there would be one single system of justice, more rights for women, education for children, and various other acts of this sort are what you are judging I take it.

    Care to explain the difference between what happened in Ireland during the 1790s and the Nazis? All those things you accuse the revolutionaries in France of being guilty of – nation before the rights of the individual, extra-legal punishment and terror, gaoling then massacring of opponents, supression of dissident political opinions, the right to wage political war against your neighbours – can be found in the actions of Pitt’s government. Pitt wasn’t a Nazi, but he did similar things to the Nazis. And like the Nazis, he despised the French Revolution and its principles, and waged a vicious and savage war with unprecendented violations of the rules of warfare (in the Vendée and in currency forgery for example). How come he isn’t their parent, but supposedly Robespierre, whom they hated, is?

    This is a fantasy of the Cold War. Speaking of Cold War fantasies, as to your point about only liberal leftists supporting Pol Pot. Interesting way to describe the SAS members who trained his troops.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Actions like introducing civil equality, religious freedom, democracy…”

    Seriously Gari? Are we talking about the same French Rovolution here or was there another one I missed?

    Do the concepts of terror, mass murder, genocide, totalitarianism, brainless radicalism (that calender change was a real doozy wasn’t it?), military dictatorship etc have the same meaning in your history books as they do in mine?

    You did see the names Robespierre and Bonaparte when you read about the French Revolution, didn’t you?

  • My history books do indeed deal with the entire French Revolution. But they also tell me that mass murder, military dictatorship, repression of dissident opinions, genocide, were not inventions of the Revolution as you seem to suggest.

    Equally, terror was emergency government, a mix of repression in the middle of a civil war and direction of the economy for military ends. Hardly unprecedented, although some of the rhetoric certainly was.

    As for genocide, I assume this refers to this Franco-French genocide nonsense. The only people who take this seriously are members of the French ultra-right – the people who would restore the Bourbons, the aristocracy etc. You know, the breeding ground that produced the Drefyus Affair, collaboration with the Nazis etc. They certainly knew what the relationship between the French Revolution and the Nazis was – complete opposition.

    As for Robespierre. I know he opposed the death penalty and the war. He only used violence against the revolution’s enemies when they were using violence against it. Which is a major problem for the historians you’ve been reading, and something they deal with by ignoring. I also know that Bonaparte for all his numerous flaws was someone who improved the rights of many ordinary people through things like the codification of the laws and abolishing feudalism. A lot better for ordinary people than, say, Cornwallis.

    And the Terror was of course a short period in the Revolution, and not its whole.

  • Greenflag

    @harry flashman

    ‘the concepts of terror, mass murder, genocide,’

    If you know your history you should know that not just the concepts but the actual deeds were around centuries before any French Revolution . In France itself the massacre of French protestants and the subsequent emigration of 250,000 Huguenots to Britain, 10,000 to Ireland and others to South Africa took place under Bourbon rule . Germany’s wars of religion in which some 7 million (30% of the population ) are estimated to have died- took place in a milieu of scores of crazy power mad religious aristocratic nutters centuries before the French Revolution -and of course WWI took place against a background of the four remaining anti democratic imperial powers Russia , Germany, Austro Hungary and Britain slugging it out for
    king of the heap 🙁

    Try and not miss the next ‘revolution’-It’s unlikely to be French this time – Contenders are lining up at present and it could be anywhere from North Africa to Iran to Vermont .

  • Greenflag

    omission from above ,

    Must’nt forget the terrors and mass murders of the Spanish Inquisition nor Cromwell’s ‘pacification’ of this island which some would call genocide and then there was King Richard’s expulsion of English jews after hanging several hundred from the walls of York Castle. One could call that particular slaughter Europe’s first debt default by a sovereign. . There are hundreds more instances throughout European history and thousands more in world history which are clear enough evidence that the slaughter of man by his fellow men did not begin with the French Revolution .

  • earther

    Why am I not surprised that someone who talks about “capitulation to the forces of finance” goes on to represent Saudi Arabia and Israel as large military spenders before moving on to actual antisemitic myths?
    Jews did not lend (much) to the English King who could seize their property whenever he wanted. How would Jews have come into possession of the vast amount of money required by Kings anyway? By virtue of being Jews I suppose.
    The people who lent to the English Kings are well known. And so are the defaults which happened before 1290. The best-known default involving an English King around that time was the one to the Bardi who managed the biggest bank of the time. They were of course not Jews who did not have access to the chief source of financial capital of the time: the RC Church which did not have a very large military and concentrated a substantial fraction of its tax revenues at the top of its hierarchy while there were few opportunities for investment around Rome or Avignon.

    You have worse problems that “collusion with section of the mass media” with mysterious forces, namely your prejudices and lack of educational value of what passes for economic discourse in virtually all of the media.
    You’re focusing on details and whatever you can use as scapegoat. And you seem to have found quite a collection of scapegoats! But you’re missing the relatively simple central problems such as what has happened to real wages in the US during the last 30 years.

  • Greenflag

    Here’s the history


    It was Edward not Richard who expelled the Jews , What’s anti semitic ? Richard was predominantly anti English which is why he only ever lived 6 months in the country and refused to learn English and stated he would sell London if he could find a buyer .

    It was the Lombards who filled in the financial lending void when the Jews were expelled . They did not charge ‘interest ‘ and thus avoided being called usurers . Instead they charged a fee which in most instances was the same thing by a different name . They were the Pope’s men and enjoyed good returns on their lending to Bishops and other members of the then establishment who enjoyed the high life while railing against ‘sin’ from the pulpit in public while in private owning the most lucrative brothels in London catering to the Flemings and other traders.

    ‘And you seem to have found quite a collection of scapegoats!’

    So has Max Keiser in his latest report -none other than Eric Cantor -House majority leader for the GOP and destined to make a lot of money as per Keiser when the USA government defaults. Another rerun of the 2008 debacle seems on the cards with Cantor and his ilk peparing to coin it on the backs of millions of americans and people the world over.


    ‘But you’re missing the relatively simple central problems such as what has happened to real wages in the US during the last 30 years.’

    Not in the least . The mass media and the established politicians of all parties in the USA studiously ignore what has happened to real wages in that period while at the same time turning an even blinder eye to the ‘robbers’ in the financial sector . I’m sure you call previous President Bush’s advice to Americans after Sept 11 , 2001 when he enjoined his fellow americans to fight back against ‘terrorism ‘ by going shopping and spending money they did’nt have .

    The ‘financial terrorists’ that have destroyed the world economy must have beamed at that ‘advice’ by arguably the worst President in US history .

    Eric Cantor is ‘laughing ‘at the American people as per Keiser and he’s not alone among the neo cons of the american right 🙁

  • earther

    What’s antisemitic is this popular notion among conspiracy theorists who claim the most ridiculous things about the power of financiers that Jews have some kind of essential financial power even in situations where Jews have very little power. It’s one of the myths the Nazis used to peddle.
    In particular, you tied persecution of the Jews to default when there is on such thing. The people of England didn’t need prodding from the King to persecute Jews and when the King did issue that anti-semitic decree it was to increase his popularity with bigots and to ease the passage of new tax. If the Jews had any special talent with money, the King would have done better to continue to protect and tax them. But Jews didn’t have much money, as should be obvious to anyone with the slightest understanding of the time’s power structures. Lombard houses had been the big players all along.

    That you keep talking about the american right, the neo cons, Bush and the GOP means you have no notion of the difference between the Democratic and the Republican party or of what happened when the Democratic party was in power.

  • Greenflag

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist nor am I anti semitic . I am anti gangster bankers and the greedy and irresponsible politicians who facilitated the current ‘unnecessary ‘ world economic crisis and who still haven’t taken the steps necessary to make the necessary banking and financial sector reforms without which there will be no economic recovery either in the USA or in the EU .

    The difference for all practical purposes between both major American parties is that they are both in the pockets of the financial services sector and the largest corporations . The Democrats pay lip service to the bottom half of American society while accepting large donations from the financial services sector . The Republicans preach freedom for the individual while ensuring that no legislation ever gets passed that changes anything for the ‘owners ‘of capital or the rule of the 1% for the 1% by the 1% as a Nobel prize winning American economist put it .

    The USA needs another revolution and if it comes it will be as a result of the growing gap between the haves and have nots in US society which gap is now on a par with some third world countries 🙁

  • earther

    I’m glad to know you’re not what you sound like.
    I don’t know if you’re familiar with British politics but your extravagant anti-finance rhetoric also makes you sound a bit like “blue Labour” (or is that blueshirt?) Lord Glasman. I hope this similarity is also only one of appreance, not of substance.
    And I wish lefties would stop sounding like neo-facists in general. That sameness is becoming more and more obvious and I don’t like it one bit.

    Thankfully recoveries have never been dependent on financial reforms. ’cause that’s not the cause of the problem to begin with, only a convenient scapegoat.

  • Greenflag

    I’m not anti finance per se . I happen to be aware of the importance of banking in economic development both historically and to the present day . If you are hearing what is’nt being said then it might be more to do with your own assumptions and adding one and one and getting four instead of two.

    If leftists are sounding to your ears neo fascist it’s because the established fascists have already taken control of the financial services sector these past couple of decades and have created an anarchic monetary and fiscal system which might yet implode -giving rise to another generation of totalitarian ‘simpletons’ of the right or left who will rise on the backs of a destroyed middle and working class. If you haven’t noticed the world’s political and financial leaders are not exactly coming to grips with the current mess either in the USA or in the EU and it’s not as if this mess originated only this year . It’s been up there in the headlights since at least 2008 and in less glaring light for a couple of decades before that .

    ‘Thankfully recoveries have never been dependent on financial reforms. ‘

    Recovery from the 1930’s Global Depression was speeded up by World War 2 and the New Deal . Recessions since then in the USA have originated or been induced by a recovery in the construction sector . The problem in 2011 is that there is no recovery on the horizon in the USA construction sector and there are millions more homes awaiting foreclosure and indeed the whole ethos of the so called American dream of owning one’s own home may be lost for a generation . In this situation where is the american recovery to come from ?

    As you appear to be a new commenter why not give ‘sluggerites’ the benefit of your ‘outsiderness’ and give an overview of what you consider to have been the ’cause ‘ or more probably the ’causes’ of the USA led worldwide economic and monetary and fiscal crisis ? If you are an American all the better – if not it doesn’t matter . There are umpteen books out there on shelves which all have their own axe to grind some of them ‘conspiratorial ‘ and some frankly incredible but also many that cover the main causes . So far nobody in the political sphere on either side of the Atlantic has come up with a credible ‘solution’ to either the US budget deficit crisis Eurozone never ending story 🙁

    It seems beyond the political ability and powers of our elected leaders -And if not them then who ?

  • earther

    Calm down. It’s not the end of the world (yet).
    As long as people don’t forget the lessons of the 1930s (and they don’t: just look who’s heading the Federal Reserve) and don’t revert to barter or the use of gold in transactions and contracts, we don’t have a serious financial problem (look outside of Western Europe and the US if you want to know what a serious financial problem or indeed any kind of serious economic problem looks like). We have serious problems but bean counting isn’t one of them.
    Our elected leaders may be useless but the civil servants who report to them aren’t. Don’t believe them if they tell you any of this is very bad or that there’s no alternative to whatever scheme they want to sell you.

    Economic recoveries do not usually come from some particular external driver but from the crisis itself: bankruptices and layoffs lower the costs of production and create opportunities, especially for exporters. In time, the cycle hits bottom. As long as deflation is avoided, no intervention or reform is required.
    In this particular case, US policy seems obvious enough. They’re devaluing the US dollar, the value of US wages and debts and thereby the costs of production.
    Don’t cry for the construction sector. It wastes limited resources which was one of the reasons the Feds had to put a brake on it at some point. The only reason it would not pick up after a while is if real estate prices don’t pick up. And that would be great for most people who’d be happy with vacancies and cheap rents.

    What I consider to be the cause of the business cycle is the business cycle (or the way our economic system is set up if you prefer).
    What I consider to be the cause of speculative bubbles is a lack of investments or an excess of profits.
    What I consider to be the cause of household over-indebtment is a drop in household income without a corresponding adjustment in cultural expectations.
    So a redistribution from wages to profits causes bubbles and over-indebtment. Which in turn gives a dramatic character to normal downturns. Fiscal policy (raising taxes in good times to pay for unemployment benefits and suchlike in bad times) could help with the consequences but wouldn’t solve the problem.

    The US Federal deficit is a non-issue. It’s political grandstanding for TV. An easy and obvious solution (devalution of the US dollar) is being implemented as we speak. Don’t expect US politicians to say it out loud however.
    The Eurozone has no problem that needs fixing aside from the problems it had since its inception: you wanted the Deutsche Frank and you got the Deutsche Frank. It’s not managed in the interest of small peripheral countries. The German and French governments can still borrow cheaply and now they get to meddle in the affairs of their protectorates everytime the financial winds turn. What did you think it was about?

    I’m not a new commenter. Only a very occasional visitor and commenter due to the fact that I can’t and don’t want to speak for the denizens of the wee six. But I occasionally comment on topics of international import such as this one, especially if they have something to do with France.

  • Harry Flashman

    “He [Robespierre] only used violence against the revolution’s enemies when they were using violence against it.”

    Sure he did, all those people he sent to guillotine on hysterical trumped up charges were all dangerous counter revolutionaries, just like the people murdered by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and all the other disciples of the French Revolution.

    You’ve got to keep an eye on those counter-revolutionaries haven’t you? Tricky bastards the lot of ’em, best to just slaughter them wholesale and their families and friends too, just to be on the safe side.

    OK Gari, so explain to me exactly when during the period of the French Revolution, 1789 to 1815, was the period when France was ruled by the fair, decent, humanitarian, egalitarian, benevolent, just, liberal, democratic government that you claim?

    Because I have to tell you I’m having difficulty finding it.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Calm down. It’s not the end of the world (yet).’

    I did’nt say it was the end of the world and the blood pressure is a constant 125/85 and I don’t smoke and drink sparingly 😉

    But the world does end for millions of people every day and it begins for millions more . At certain times in history the world ends for many millions more as in WW1 and WW2 and in the many conflicts both before and since those wars .

    I don’t share your confidence that people haven’t forgotten the lessons of the 1930’s nor do I take the view that the USA’s Federal Deficit is a non issue .

    It would seem that your ‘explanation’ is based upon classical economic theory of the business cycle -boom and bust and all of the assumptions that go with that particular world view . That in itself is fair enough as the much overhyped ‘we have mastered the boom and bust cycle mantra ‘ favoured by Mr Greenspan and his devout followers has been seen to have been quite the opposite . Not only was the cycle not ‘mastered ‘ but the biggest bust since the 1930’s was created in it’s stead.

    To answer some of your points,

    ‘Our elected leaders may be useless but the civil servants who report to them aren’t.’

    They might as well be if the politicians ignore them and go ahead anyway with ludicrous policy such as in Ireland’s case -guaranteeing all deposits in banking institutions which were obviously speculative based .

    ‘bankruptices and layoffs lower the costs of production and create opportunities, especially for exporters.’

    That may be true of some economies but in the case of the USA exports account for less than 10% of GDP whereas in Germany they account for 40% and in Ireland 70% plus . Also in the current globalised world economy it’s not clear that even devaluation of the US dollar will make any major impact given that emerging producers such as China and others have huge competitive advantage which will last for several decades yet .

    ‘What I consider to be the cause of speculative bubbles is a lack of investments or an excess of profits.’

    And cheap money at very low rates of interest which speeded up the property bubbles in the USA , Spain, Ireland,Canada and to a lesser extent in parts of the UK , and now in China where authorities have now taken action to dampen down speculation.

    The excess of profits you refer to has been the result of among other factors -the fact that over a couple of decades real incomes have not risen fore most americans and have actually dropped for millions which is another reason why Americans cannot ‘spend ‘ their way out of this crisis .

    As to ‘lack of investments ‘? I suppose that depends on what you consider to be investment . There was in the financial sector certainly no lack of investment outlets . In fact many new investments were created especially to take care of the equity in ever rising equity values in property . Some of these investments had exotic sounding names such as CDO’s and investors worldwide were attracted to the Triple A plus ratings on offer in the USA . As we know in hindsight many of these ‘investments ‘ were worthless and designed to make money only for those at the top of these ponzi schemes .

    ‘What I consider to be the cause of household over-indebtment is a drop in household income without a corresponding adjustment in cultural expectations.’

    I don’t think that cultural expectations is the right word -economic expectations certainly . USA debt both personal and public quadrupled between the 1970’s and 2008 with most of that quadrupling arising from the personal sector and the reason for such was the real stagnation in wages and salaries post the 1980’s and the near extinction of trades unions in the private sector of the USA economy other than in a few large corporations .

    more anon tbc

  • Greenflag

    ‘that I can’t and don’t want to speak for the denizens of the wee six. ‘

    You mean Northern Ireland . The ‘wee six ‘ is several times larger than Luxembourg with more than three times the population and probably half the GDP but still capable of producing world beating golfers and committed generational stone throwers and drum beaters 🙁 Only a few brave souls deign to speak for them . Some just speak at them or about them as if they are almost disembodied entities which is itself a comment on our own values 🙁

    To return to your first observation that ‘it’s not the end of world (yet)’ had you any precise date in mind ? For if you do you might want to head west in particular to California or the Sothern Bible Belt where there is a long history of end of the world entrepreneurial activity that excels in extracting large dollops of cash from the gullible while failing to deliver the promised ‘end’ in a timely manner ?

  • earther

    It’s your priviledge to hold any views you like of course but are they based on evidence?
    Have you read the work of Fed chief on the 30s for instance? There’s indeed a good chance he’s forgotten more than you’ll ever know on the topic.
    What’s the metric you use to determine that the Federal deficit is somehow a serious problem? Volume of hot air generated per talking head? By my reckogning, looking at unemployment, interest rate spreads and the stock market, the deficit is too small. There’s room for disagreement here but to argue it should be much smaller in this circumstance? That’s grandstanding. Talk is cheap but no one is going to dare to implement anything like a balanced budget by cutting expenses at this juncture. No one in a position of implement such is proposing it. Look at their numbers, not their words!

    It seems you’re confusing incompetence with dishonesty. It’s a dangerous mistake to make.
    People who are richer and more powerful than you are doing something right. If what they say doesn’t make sense, best assume they’re lying, not stupid!
    This “huge competitive advantage” is a transparent fabrication for instance. And a truely laughable one at that! Huge competitve advantages translate into huge changes if people are free to take advantage of them. Changes we’ve not seen. Yet there’s no law keeping people from moving virtually everything to China. How come this didn’t happen years ago?

    “Americans” can and are spending their way out of this crisis. Household indebtedness is irrelevant. As always, the money they’re spending is obviously borrowed from those who have a high net worth, not the ones who are basically bankrupt. An alternative to borrowing would be taxation. That’s a political choice but it works either way.

    You’re contradicting yourself by jumping from one of the talking point you’ve heard from some dissembler to another.
    If there’s a “globalised economy” as you say then devaluation would have an impact. If the role of international trade in an economy is too small for devalutation to have an impact, then that economy is hardly part of a “globalised economy”!

    You seem to be confusing investment and speculation, again on cue: the hucksters have been abusing the word “investment” for long enough. If I say speculation happens when there’s a lack of investment compared to profits, obviously I’m making a distinction between investment and speculation. Look at how investment is defined in national accounts.
    Lack of investment is the reason for the low interest rates you’re talking about. Trying to raise interest rates to curb speculation would only have cut investment even more. That’s not a solution. It’s widely understood that taxes are the best way to prevent harmful speculation (not all speculation is bad: some is healthy and excess is often only a symptom).

  • Number of points here Harry I guess. First is the misrepresentation of my argument. What I stated is that Robespierre did not use violence against the revolution’s enemies until the revolution’s enemies had begun using violence. Are you denying that this is factually correct? As I’ve already noted, Robespierre opposed the retention of the death penalty, and the declaration of war. He opposed the way partly because he knew the reaction the demands of the war would provoke among the enemy. Certainly we can criticise those who started the war for reckless and stupidity but not we can’t blame Robespierre for actions he opposed.

    The French Revolution is generally considered to have ended with Napoleon’s ascension of power, so I would dispute your timeframe of 1789-1815. As for a period of “fair, decent, humanitarian, egalitarian, benevolent, just, liberal, democratic government”: every period and regime of the revolution had aspects of these, even the period of emergency government known as the Terror. Napoleon’s regime even had aspects of them too. Certainly the people of France thought that every period of the Revolution was worth the struggle and better than what had gone before, otherwise there would have been more support for turning the clock back to before 1789. Something that never happened as people did not want the return of feudalism and the rest.

    It was you who introduced the Nazis into this argument. Instead of looking for mythical links between Robespierre and Hitler, perhaps you might look at the similarities between your hatred for the Revolution and what it stood for and theirs.

  • Greenflag

    ‘By my reckogning, looking at unemployment, interest rate spreads and the stock market, the deficit is too small.’

    You might think that and I might even agree with you but those who make policy and the GOP in the USA Senate and House of Representatives don’t -which is why the USA government stands on the edge of default . You can call the present farce in the Congress as ‘grandstanding’ -markets are already taking another view.

    I’m not confusing dishonesty with incompetence . You may be underestimating the extent to which both together have synergised to give the world this particular crisis in the USA and in the EU .

    ‘People who are richer and more powerful than you are doing something right.’

    People richer ans more powerful than me have been doing something ‘right ‘ for the past couple of decades which I suppose explains why the world economy and in particular it’s monetary system is as Bernanke admits full of uncertainty these past three years .

    ‘Huge competitve advantages translate into huge changes if people are free to take advantage of them. Changes we’ve not seen.’

    Open your eyes then .If you haven’t recognised the changes in the world’s emerging economies then you are not paying attention . There is a reason why the USA dollar’s future depends on the holding of US treasury bills by China and other developing nations .

    “Americans” can and are spending their way out of this crisis.’- the money they’re spending is obviously borrowed- ‘

    So back to 2001 and the aftermath of 9/11 and another bubble ?

    ‘If the role of international trade in an economy is too small for devalutation to have an impact, then that economy is hardly part of a “globalised economy”!

    I did’nt say that devaluation can’t have an impact in all cases just that in the case of the USA such an impact will be much less than in the case of say Germany or Ireland . Given that the USA now imports many necessities for daily living from low cost manufacturing countries a US devaluation may have more negative than positive effects on the living standards of most Americans . Imported goods will cost more and overseas holders of American dollars will demand higher interest rates which the US consumer cannot afford to pay at present without risking a double dip recession.

    And of course while the USA GDP is not as dependent on exports as say the German economy the US dollar remains the currency in which oil and natural resources are ‘priced’ which is why nations such as Brazil , Russia , China and many others are reducing their exposure to the dollar which will in time lead to a new world reserve currency and all of the political world order changing that that will bring about .

    ‘You seem to be confusing investment and speculation’

    Not at all – I’m well aware of the distinction. But it came as a big surprise that both the Federal Reserve and the ECB as well as the Finance Ministers of most of the developed world’s economies were up to their hucksters in encouraging their banking institutions to go into the casino business while calling it something else 🙁

    I recommend you find a copy of Kevin Phillip’s ‘Bad Money’ for a better grasp of what happened on the way to the ‘bail out of the banks’ in the USA and read it several times .

    And although Max Keiser can be OTT at times he seems unimpressed with Mr Bernanke’s performance in office . Not that I share all of Keiser’s ‘grandstanding ‘ but he does speak some uncomfortable home truths for those who have ears to hear .

    ‘Lack of investment is the reason for the low interest rates you’re talking about. Trying to raise interest rates to curb speculation would only have cut investment even more. That’s not a solution.’

    It was under Greenspan’s reign that interest rates were kept low which is what allowed the financial sector to both create their new ‘weapons of mass destruction ‘ as per Warren Buffet and export them and their working models worldwide .

    Increasing interest rates would have dampened or much reduced the ‘speculative ‘ property bulge in the USA and other markets but ‘re-election ‘ was a more important consideration for the Bush presidency at that time . I’m aware that some speculation is healthy and that excess is often a symptom of underlying structural deficiencies in an economy or in it’s ineffective financial regulatory regime.

    I’m also aware sadly that the USA authorities are doing very little to correct the imbalances which have developed within the USA economy over the past couple of decades . The effect that this will continue to have on the world’s economy is of course an even wider issue .

    Anyway here’s Max Keiser again on the USA going down the drain and why Moody’s ratings should be ignored and why the increase in shoplifting in the USA could be a boon to the economy in that it is a sign of increased risk taking and comcomitant with a burgeoning private sector prison building program . Mr Bernanke even gets a clip on why gold is not money although his answer took a while to emerge .

    http://rt.com/programs/keiser-report/finance-politics-gold-money/ number 165

  • Brian

    “Do the concepts of terror, mass murder, genocide, totalitarianism, brainless radicalism (that calender change was a real doozy wasn’t it”

    The charge of genocide can hardly be supported. As for brainless radicalism, I think in some of the more trivial and absurd respects (changing calender, 10 days weeks, etc)they can be excused. There had been such a drastic change in the preceding 3-4 years (storming Bastille, new constitution, elimination of the monarchy, renunciantion of all titles, etc) that some of the enthusiasists could hardly be faulted for thinking they really were transforming society to a new level. Unlike Lenin in 1917, they didn’t have hte luxury of looking back at past revolutions and seeing the direction and challenges all of them face.

    I wonder if St Just had been able to give his last speech, where he supposedly was going to call for an end to murderous infighting and also the end to prosecution of assembly members and a loosening of emergency laws, if it would have been possible for the Committee of Public Safety to try to implement the Constitution of 1793. The threats, foreigen and domestic, had largely been defeated in large part to the monumental effort of the Revolution’s leaders and the surprisingly effective model of the first modern dictatorship. If it hadn’t survived that first year, it is unlikely democracy and the idea of the enlightenment would have been tasted by other countries for far longer than they ended up going.

    It is probably unlikely, as the rivals, suspicions, and infighting had become too intense and ingrained at that point.