Brexit; Trump’s election; Greece; Syria; several times this blog has gone way off-topic, and each time we’ve discovered interesting points of convergence between us, (unexpectedly, given that we don’t know each other, and are scattered across the globe and the political spectrum.)
Mostly there’s been a link to climate, either directly via the scepticism of Trump and many prominent Brexiteers, or via the more general scepticism of Steve McIntyre in the case or Syria. Sometimes the link has been more tenuous. In this post I drew some parallels between the dysfunctional European Union and insane energy and climate policy:
There are a lot of similarities between the dream of a conflict-free Europe and a carbon-free economy, between an unworkable currency and an unworkable energy policy. Except that – so far – it hasn’t gone horribly wrong for energy policy. Gas prices are due to rise 6% or more per year for ever in France, and diesel even more, thanks to our ecology minister, the most popular politician in France. How long can that last? How long can Merkel square the circle between the pro-business FDP and the Greens and the SDP? When will the Poles’ carbonophilia cause the patience of the Commission to crack? […]
But the really interesting parallel is the account of what happens when the entire system is shown to be based on false premisses, when the European economy is faced with possible collapse due to its inherent absurdity. Does reason prevail? Do politicians and experts admit past errors? Of course not.
They double down. They lie, to themselves, to each other, and to us. And they exercise power – illegitimate power…
We may never get the answers to my questions above, since the EU, or at least the Eurozone, is once more on the verge of a crisis potentially far more serious than the Greek one.
You’ll have known since Friday that the Spanish government is almost certain to fall after a no confidence motion following a spectacular trial leading to 29 members of the ruling party getting a total of more than 300 years in prison for corruption. And you’ll have known since Thursday that the Italian president was going to veto the appointment of a mildly Eurosceptic Minister of the Economy, on orders from Brussels and Berlin, leading to new elections; almost certainly improved scores for the “populist”’ parties; and chaos in the money markets tomorrow.
Well, you’ll have known if you get your news from eccentric blogs like the libertarian share tipster https://www.zerohedge.com/ which gets stuff out about three days faster than the BBC or the Guardian.
I watched the Italian crisis unfold this evening live on Berlusconi’s Mediaset channel. Salvini, leader of the right wing populist Lega said they weren’t going to take orders from Brussels or Paris or Berlin or the ratings agencies; that they were fed up with hearing about the markets, the debt and “lo spread,” and that they were going back to the Italian people. Di Maio of the Five Star Movement, usually so well-behaved and reasonable, threatened to impeach the president (possible under the constitution.) And il professore Conte, almost prime minister for three days, went back to his university job, and expressed the hope that he’d be reimbursed for his taxi fares.
On the rare occasions the British press has bothered to mention the Italian crisis, it’s been in disdainful terms of dangerous populism and fiery Latin temperament upsetting the Euro applecart. I read the Italian press in as much of its bewildering variety as I can find, and I occasionally watch debates on their tacky TV shows. Yes, even on Berlusconi’s channel there’s real debate, between real politicians with real (if malleable) convictions. OK, neither Salvini nor di Maio went to university, and their combined ages wouldn’t equal that of Boris Johnson. OK, the Lega just a few years ago was the neo-fascist Northern League, whose political message was a quasi-racist despising of the other two thirds of Italians. OK, so the Five Star Movement started as a blog by a washed up comedian with a homicide conviction morphing into a grassroots movement under the official slogan “Go F*ck Yourself.” But hey, it’s working.
It’s not a style of politics that would suit everyone. But they have a message for our government. Don’t go begging to Brussels for early release for good behaviour. Break out. It’s a message that, so far, Italians seem to like.
UPDATE Monday 8 AM
The above was written last night around midnight. It’s fascinating to see how, when you view an important event unfold live, (even on a hopelessly biassed media source like Berlusconi’s Mediaset) you can’t help but get a reasonably accurate vision of things. Viewing the same events this morning on the same channel, everything is changed. We see the angry faces of the elected politicians, but their passionate declarations have been replaced with the reasonable interpretation of the news presenter. Normality has been restored, and the fact that the choice of the parties which won the election has been replaced by an ex official of the IMF (the second official putsch in Italy organised by the EU in a decade) seems totally normal. It’s exactly like reading the Guardian in the immediate aftermath of Climategate.