The musings of Mr Monkeysized

Mapping why Europe still matters by monkeysized
March 10, 2011, 15:18
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I have a day job, working for a particular think tank that covers European foreign policy. That’s why I have this as an outlet – so that I can express views that are my own, rather more freely. But sometimes I do something there that I want to share here. For instance this blog post.

The idea started with this ace map from the Economist:

Which led me to this:

And the slightly more complex this:

The silent (not snoring) ten percent by nicholaswalton
January 24, 2011, 10:19
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A quick one this, to get things moving again.

I was just listening to Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ programme from the cusp of the new year. Each guest came up with an emblematic number from 2010.

Michael Blastland’s number was 30%. After considering David Cameron’s calls for measuring happiness rather than simply economic output, he pointed out that 30% of British people suffer from insomnia. 10% suffer from it to the extent that it has a real impact on their waking lives.

Last night I sat in bed next to Mrs Monkeysized and read. The light went off and my brain lit up like a light bulb. My legs filled with mild pins and needles. I felt too hot, then too cold. I left my bed and sat on the sofa reading about the unravelling of the Roman Empire.

Then, after Valens lost at Adrianople, I went back to bed. Several hours later I was still awake.

I’m now sat in work and trying to kick start my brain. Life for this blighted 10% is about more than economics and GDP figures.

Roll up for Economic punditry by monkeysized

To chance my arm at economic punditry, I have a monkeysizer’s comment about the deal reached by EU finance ministers last night.

The problem they have is that they do not have the vision to tackle the fundamental underlying problems that they face. The FTSE and other financial indices are up at the news that the various nuts and bolts to tackle the debt funding problems faced by European economies has been nailed in place. In fact it’s value is higher than I’d imagined was possible, given the inability of most governments (in particular those in trouble and those hypnotised by a political imperative rather than rational and evolving interests) to think beyond their nostril hair.

But what has been agreed, as suggested by the magnificent Stephanie Flanders, tackles the symptoms and not the causes of the crisis. Where is the real fix to European economies going to come from? From absurd faith in ludicrous schemes like the Lisbon Agenda and 20:20? Hell no. From budgetary discipline now that we’re deep into an exercise in moral hazard? Hmmm.

The failure to see the big picture is unedifying among these leaders. They are the proverbial frogs in water on the stove. The water is heating up and they refuse to clamber onto the stone. They have no idea that they need to understand monkeysizing.

Personal responsibility and Van Morrison by monkeysized

Unfortunately, despite the title of this blog, Van Morrison plays a tiny role in this blog post. It’s the first since returning from a well deserved holiday, and I’m glad to say that the therapeutic power of Mr Monkeysized’s blog worked wonders. No sooner had I listed two or so week’s worth of my internal morning jukebox in my last post, from the Soviet National Anthem to Black Heart Procession, than the jukebox switched itself off. Except this morning, when I awoke (a large quantity of work-bought red wine still sloshing through my system) to Van Morrison’s ‘Wonderful Remark’.

So that’s the music out of the way. Now – and I want to keep it short – onto the politics. It’s election season in Britain, and there is much to say and debate about. However, I want to focus on one simple thing. In a modern system there is very little difference between parties, except personalities, current record in office, and that eternal need to keep some kind of churn between parties to keep the democratic process healthy. This is no time to start mimicking Japan or Mexico in the Twentieth Century.

That said, it is sometimes possible to find a kernel of an idiological platform out there. Reject anybody who talks too much about right and left – that barely exists any more (calling the deeply socially liberal but anti-immigration party of Pim Fortyn in the Netherlands right-wing was always a bugbear of mine). Instead, in a world where the state is responsible for an enormous amount of spending in a modern western economy, the focus instead should be on whether the party deep-down trusts the state or the individual.

Being Mr Monkeysized, I have deep doubts about the capability of the individual. After all, it’s not many moons since we first wandered away from the plains of Africa, our ape past still evident in our lifestyle. However, I also have real doubts about the capacity of the state, that kleptocratic, bureaucratic edifice. After all, it’s hardly much more competent than the ape-like individual.

I suppose that what it comes down to – and here I win no prizes for originality – is that there are some things the state can do that society can’t: defence, foreign policy, dealing with macro-economic policy. And there are things that it really ought not to, for fear of giving those apelike humans in society an excuse for not taking responsibility for their own lives. I’m naturally inclined towards telling people to seize their own destiny, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never starve if they fail, but that wallowing about for a lifetime of clotted aspirations thanks to the intrusion of a state that overreaches itself is not an option for me.

The state isn’t going to disappear, so on that account I’d rather vote for more us, and less state.