One way or another, a Rubicon will have to be crossed
Can the European Union save itself? Yesterday, the FT published a chart that sums up the whole existential crisis. It shows all state aid approved by the EU during the Covid pandemic. Remarkably, just one country accounts for half of it: Germany.
Despite its comparatively light exposure to the virus, the strongest economy in the Union is getting the most help.
Most of this is self-funded, but there are obvious consequences for European solidarity. What makes the situation all the more intolerable is that the constraints of Eurozone membership prevent the weaker economies from helping themselves. There are limits on what they can borrow; they can’t make their own decisions on monetary measures like quantitative easing; and they can’t export their way to recovery through currency devaluation. Even the safety valve of sending their unemployed to find jobs elsewhere in Europe is subject to the effects and after-effects of lockdown. ...
Leaving London is becoming an increasingly attractive prospect
Yesterday, the Government launched a “comprehensive plan to reopen, restart and renew the housing market.”
That’s just as well because a lot of us could be moving before long. The Covid-crisis is rewriting our economic geography — and the effects are likely to outlast the pandemic itself.
This week, Twitter told its employees that they could still work from home even after the lockdown:
The “forever” bit sounds like some eternal punishment, but let’s focus on the immediate consequences.
Where people work goes a long way to determining where they live. If enough employers follow Twitter’s example, then that means millions of workers no longer tied to a daily commute. Suddenly, urban centres (plus their suburbs and satellite towns) aren’t the only option. You can escape to the country, but keep your big city job. ...
Covid has pitched the rationalists against the visceralists
Stay alert! Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? A definite hint of derring-do.
Real life, though, is far from adventurous. Forget ‘stay alert’, for most of us it’s still ‘stay at home’.
Lockdown may have loosened, but not in a fun way. More of us can go to work now. We can all take as much outdoor exercise as we like. I haven’t seen the guidance on eating dust, but I dare say it’s off the ration. Seeing friends and family, however, remains heavily restricted.
We think of ourselves as a liberty-loving nation, but seven weeks in and we’re still extraordinarily compliant. The protests we’ve seen in America have not been echoed here. Strangest of all, we’ve had remarkably little dissent from the UK’s small, but normally energetic, band of libertarian wonks. ...
A recent poll seems to suggest so...
Are “authoritarian states better equipped than democracies to tackle the climate crisis?”
Astonishingly, 53% of young Europeans (aged 16-29) seem to think so. This compares to 42% for the 30-49 age group and just 35% for the 50-69 age group.
These figures come from a poll conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation for the Europe’s Stories project at Oxford University. The project’s leader, Timothy Garton Ash, contrasts this against another finding which was that an “astonishing 71% of Europeans are now in favour of introducing a universal basic income”:
Garton Ash wasn’t the only one to be both delighted and dismayed by the poll results. For instance, here’s a reaction from Rutger Bregman, the Left-wing intellectual of the moment: ...
The most important story of the week was buried in pages of Deutsche legalese
The most important story of the week? No, not the extramural activities of Professor Lockdown. Rather, it was a verdict handed down on Tuesday by the German Constitutional Court.
I know, that sounds deathly dull and the actual verdict (110 pages of Deutsche-legalese) was even duller. Who’s going pay attention to any of that when there’s bonking boffins to read about?
Except that this really matters. Wolfgang Munchau calls it “the German version of Brexit.” A slight exaggeration, perhaps — Germany isn’t quitting the EU just yet. But the ruling does appear to rewrite the relationship between the EU’s member states and its federal institutions — in particular, the European Central Bank (ECB). ...
Gideon Rachman makes a series of dubious claims in his latest column
Gideon Rachman is the “chief foreign affairs commentator” of the Financial Times. His words are read around the world by an elite audience in business and government. Which is why his latest column — an absolute shocker — does actually matter.
There is, buried within it, a fair point: which is that without an independent international investigation into the origins of the pandemic “the blame game between the US and China is likely to escalate and become more dangerous.” Unfortunately, Rachman presents that “blame game” as if the rival super-powers were on a remotely similar level — “all these angry emotions on both sides”. The reality is that America — and the wider world — has every reason to be angry with the Chinese government. ...
Government needs to be able to direct spending power to where it's needed most
Arguments for Universal Basic Income (UBI) are pretty much universal these days — but sadly remain quite basic.
Via The Guardian, here’s the latest from John Harris:
So, a familiar idea has once again returned: that of a universal basic income (or UBI), whereby all of us would be entitled to a regular payment from the state, enough to cover such basics as food and heating.
That, however, is what social security is for — supplemented, in this crisis, by emergency measures like the furlough scheme. Yes, there are problems with the speed and responsiveness of the benefits system, but are we going to get help to people any faster by setting up an entirely new payments architecture (which is what UBI entails)? ...
I have to take issue with Daniel Hannan...
Never one not to bang the drum for free trade, Daniel Hannan does so with great vigour in his column for ConservativeHome this week:
Always? Does the experience of this pandemic not raise the slightest doubt in the author’s mind? The Covid crisis is surely proof that major economic disruption can be global not just local — and that international supply chains can’t be guaranteed. Just ask the NHS managers trying to purchase sufficient PPE for their frontline staff.
Governments around the world have put their economies on something approaching (and, in some respects, exceeding) a wartime footing. Whatever their political complexion, they’ve found it necessary to make extraordinary interventions in one domestic industry after another. In every case, they’re doing so with their own national interests as the only consideration. ...