Italy is no stranger to financial crises. They came in all forms and shapes which included insolvent states, a chain reaction collapse of the banking system and a liquidity crisis of the then international currency, the golden Florentine florin. Without going too much into details, in 1345 the Kingdom of England and the government of Florence went insolvent; to pay for their respective wars against France and Verona they had borrowed enormous sums from the giants of banking of the time, the Bardi and the Peruzzi. Their inability to pay back resulted in a 1.5-million-florin hole and the subsequent bankruptcy of the two banks, which entailed a chain reaction that dragged down all the others.
Almost seven centuries later, Italy, together with Greece and many others, is again on the verge of insolvency, with the international banking system in dire straits, posed for another catastrophe. As if that was not enough, the euro, an overvalued currency for Italy and the weak economies of Spain, Portugal, France but also Finland, the austerity policy enforced by the European Commission acting under the pressure of the main gainer of the common currency, Germany; and the ECB’s completely ineffectual quantitative easing policy,1)QE in Europe is an embarrassment: 18 QE euros generate a growth of 1 euro, Gefira 2016-09-23. coupled with the regulatory system to top it all are unable to boost the real economy in Southern Europe. Conversely, all these elements prevent any kind of recovery and result in a perpetual state of stagnation.
As we watch the so-called migration crisis, we pose to ourselves questions. What’s the sense, what’s the purpose? We are told we need workforce, yet there are millions of unemployed young Europeans; we are told we are paying for the sins of the yesteryear of colonialism, yet drawing people from the Third World, we strip the countries of origin of brains and hands i.e. act as colonialists. We are told these are refugees, yet we must get down to work to integrate them as if refugees by definition were not people who plan on returning to their war-torn countries after the conflict is over. We are told the Third-World immigrants are enriching us, yet we observe street riots, crime rate increase, reinforced police units in our streets and a number of East European countries defending themselves from being blessed with this enrichment.
Vallombrosa is a unique place in Tuscany. Its founder, Saint Giovanni Gualberto, a Benedictine monk, chose this secluded place in the mountains 40 km east of Florence to lead a hermit-like existence, right after the year 1000, and with a restricted group of monks started his own monastic order, the Vallombrosani.
John Milton among many other travellers – found inspiration in Vallombrosa while traveling across Italy in 1638, and a marble inscription reminds tourists that here Milton put into writing his Paradise Lost. Vallombrosa is not a place for crowds; rather a place where to seek meditation and inspiration.
To me Vallombrosa represents memories from my childhood. It could be called a piece of my personal heimat, if you wish. Back in the 60’s, when a car was still a far-flung luxury for many Italian families of the working class, we would take the Sunday morning bus from the train station in Florence with some frugal lunch, and we were back in the city with the same bus in time for dinner. For me, as a child, that was the highlight of the week – or the month – as it was all that we could afford at the time as a holiday.
Bulgaria is torn between three forces. A third of the population is leaning towards the European Union, another third would like to have stronger ties with Russia, and some ten percent of the population are Turks, loyal to Erdoğan. All this is reflected in the results of the latest election that was held in this poorest country of the European Union.
On 26 March 2017 long-postponed elections were held in Bulgaria, and the pro-European GERB Party emerged victorious.1)Крайни резултати от парламентарни избори 2017, offnews.bg 2017-03-27.The Bulgarian Socialist Party, a successor to the former Bulgarian Communist Party, hence pro-Russian, came second. The DOST (Turkish for friend) Party, which is the representation of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, won 8,44% of the vote.
Earlier this year, in January,1)Why the Italian government can’t resolve the problems of Mediterranean smuggling boats? Because it doesn’t want to, gefira.org 2 January 2017.we analysed how NGOs in collaboration with the Italian government had been shipping migrants from the Libyan shores to Italy and how it later evolved into the exploitation of migrants on the Italian farms and in the prostitution business in collusion with organized crime.
The first data available for the beginning of 2017 show that the business is booming even further: a 57% increase compared to the first months of 2016, which goes up to 81% for the whole winter period,2)Migrant rescues in Med hit three-year high, new data shows, telegraph.co.uk 5 March 2017.while the percentage of those transported by the NGOs ships has gone from 5% to 40% of the total in 2016, which becomes more than half in the last months of the year.3)Ong che salvano i migranti: due procure sospettano complicità con gli scafisti, tgcom24.mediaset.it 23 February 2017.NGOs are de facto replacing smugglers in the Mediterranean.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it. (Karl Marx)
The Frankfurt school united Marx and Freud to become the most influential thinkers of the 20th century left. (The Guardian)1)The Frankfurt school, part 1: why did Anders Breivik fear them?The Guardian 2013-03-25.
Marx had a dream. A dream of changing the capitalist society. With this dream he managed to inspire hundreds and thousands of intellectuals. Some of those intellectuals formulated their own proposals of implementing Marxian dream in real life. One of such proposals that turned out to be most attractive at the turn of the century was communism. After WWII, however, it became obvious that Marxism practised in communist countries not only failed to transform societies after the desired Marxist fashion but also suffered an economic defeat, whereas in western countries capitalism seemed to be thriving and the affluence placated the working class. Latter day Marxists came to the realisation that workers no longer made the revolutionary force in modern western societies and began looking for a new proletariat. The dream of creating a brave new world with a new awareness was still waiting to come true.
It was just 2011 when the Finnish government, one of Greece’s many creditors, demanded that Athens put one of its national symbols, the Parthenon, as collateral for the rescue loans package.1)Finland’s demands for collateral could leave Greek bailout in ruins, The Guardian 2011-08-28.
Fast forward to 2015: while the European Union leaders humiliate the Greek democracy by imposing even harsher austerity measures than the ones previously rejected in a referendum, even despite the fact that the IMF admitted having miscalculated the Keynesian multiplier for Greece and thus completely underestimated the catastrophic consequences of austerity,2)Growth Forecast Errors and Fiscal Multipliers, IMF Working Paper 2013.Finland is no longer part of the group of “virtuous countries”: unlike Greece, its public finances are fine, however the sources of its economic strength, tech colossus Nokia is in a deep crisis,3)Finland: The sick man of Europe? BBC 2016-02-29.unable to keep up in innovation with its competitors, Apple and Samsung. The once national pride of the Finns, accounting at its peak for 20% of the Finnish exports,4)As Goes Nokia, So Goes Finland? Bloomberg 2013-09-03.will end up being overtaken by foreigners (Microsoft). To worsen the conditions of the Finish economy, the EU leaders opted for a trade war against one of Finland’s main trade partners, its neighbor Russia, over the Ukraine crisis.
Almost 1000 years ago, Turkish tribes started settling in Anatolia, beginning the formation of the Turkish state. How did it happen? Many jump to quick conclusions and simplify the matter pointing to the Byzantine defeat at Manzikert in 1071. The reality is different: in the aftermath of the battle, Emperor Romanos Diogenes reached a peace agreement under which the Turkish Seljuk sultan was handsomely rewarded with money while the Byzantine Empire did not suffer territorial loss. The Byzantine elite in Constantinople, however, decided to unseat Romanos and not to adhere to the agreement. In the subsequent squabble over the throne, one of the competing factions would hire a relative of the Turkish sultan, Suleiman to increase its chances to seize the throne. As the Byzantine elite rushed to Constantinople, Suleiman was left with his troops to control one of the biggest Byzantine cities of Anatolia, Nicaea. The resulting Sultanate of Rum, the first presence of the Turkish people in Anatolia, was born not by conquest, but by the shortsightedness of the Byzantine ruling class.
The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between Ukraine and the European Union, which came into force on 1 January 2016, was about to help the East European economy to recover; however, the results after the first year fell far short of Ukraine’s expectations. The former Soviet Republic lost €2.2 billion more than it lost in 2015 on trade with the EU. While imports from the EU have surged, exports have merely grown.
As Polish media reports, the European Union has flooded Ukraine with goods,1)Unia Europejska zalała towarami Ukrainę, Rzeczpospolita 2017-02-27.which is contrary to the aim of the free trade agreement: the document assumed the asymmetric openness of the markets in Ukraine’s favour.
A frustrated Harry Truman would often say, “Give me a one-handed economist. All my economists say, on the one hand…on the other.”1)The one-handed economist, The Economist 2003-11-13.
At present, too, the media are clearly in search for a man who holds strong views and they have surely found one in Hans Werner Sinn, professor emeritus, who has published and continues to publish an avalanche of texts, is frequently interviewed by the mass media and remains one of the renowned German economists.
He made himself famous formulating a hypothesis of a bazaar economy by means of which he attempted to clarify why the German national product is shrinking despite the fact that the country has been on top of the list of the exporting countries.2)Hans-Werner Sinn (2005): Die Basar-Ökonomie. Econ Verlag. ISBN 343018536X.His books, too, have made the headlines (e.g. Can Germany Be Saved? The Malaise of the World’s First Welfare State (2007) and The Green Paradox (2011))in which he voices his protest against the energy transition and advocates a policy of strict regulations regarding banks. In numerous interviews Sinn has taken a stance on politics, now giving support to the ruling class, now endorsing the opposition. For that matter he praised Agenda 2010.3)Die Agenda 2010 und die Armutsgefährdung.His statements and comments have since 2015 evoked such uneasiness among the ruling elites that finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble began to call him in private “Professor Nonsense”, while Angela Merkel broke off the relationship with him although he used to be a welcome guest in the chancellery.4)Der verbliebene unabhängige Denker, Internetkanzlei 2012-07-23.
2016 was the year of the revolt. The Dutch referendum, the British referendum, the American elections and the Italian referendum all ended up in humiliating defeats for the political, corporate and financial elites; only Austria decided to keep faith with their projects, but even there the demonstration of malcontents was significant. 2017 requires a change of strategy.
Mainstream political parties are in disarray everywhere, facing either the rise of anti-establishment parties in the political arena or that of anti-establishment candidates within their own ranks. With the forthcoming French elections, the Socialist party collapsing after François Hollande’s disastrous tenure and the primary establishment choices Sarkozy and Juppè eliminated, a change of strategy was needed to stop the wave of the much dreaded democratic participation of the masses (dubbed as populism), unwilling to submit any longer to the interests of the elite: enter Emmanuel Macron.
The European Union is a project of the elites. Members of these elites who either are members of the European Parliament or hold posts in the commissions are also members of their respective political parties, which means that to all intents and purposes the EU is pursuing policies that those parties advocate and endorse. Never mind voters, never mind citizens who show up at referendums and defy the party line, which is by the way why, James Madison, one of the founding fathers of the American Constitution, said that the minority of the opulent must be protected against the majority.1)Federalist No. 10, Wikipedia 30.01.2017.