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2008-10-15 19:59

Structural Shmuctural

So Krugman got the Riksbank/Nobel prize, which is very nice. Also nice is his plot of the recent bubblicious history of US house prices.

But one(1) thing gave us pause for thought: in that graph there's no sense of an underlying upward trend. On this plot of UK data, there is.

The UK housing wonks apparently calculate for an annual gain of 2.8% in real terms. Which is to say, above inflation. Which is also to say, above the rate we would expect wages to rise.

Most of them also implicitly expect that trend to resume when the current bubble bursts and the horrorshow fades away, and so indeed does UK Conventional Wisdom. (Everyone we met who bought during the bubble seemed to be able to marshall anecdotal evidence that the long term trend was in any case upwards in real terms.)

What our Varied Reader is no doubt wondering, is what could be the deep structural explanation for such a persistent trend?

We checked, and we couldn't find one. We have a suspicion that, to put it in the esoteric jargon of the specialist, there is basically no reason at all why this should continue. (Which is not to say that this bubble will be the event that breaks the trend - economics is the most socially-constructed of all the social sciences, after all.)

As an example, we do not offer the Japanese property bubble (about which we know little) but a case study in good old Umsterdum:

The house sugar merchant Cornelis Sasbout built in 1617 at number 150 on Amsterdam's Herengracht canal tells a cautionary tale about investing in property - prices fluctuate wildly, but are ultimately flat.

Piet Eichholtz - for it is he! - has got a three-hundred year longditudinal study and he's not afraid to use it.

The BBC's Business Editor, Robert Peston, (for it is he also!) is doing coverage of the UK's whole Banky/Housey Bubble Asplode which we're currently finding indispensible. Dont:

Soon we'll have the full set of Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley and HBOS - which will be seen by many as confirmation that the near-catastrophic failure of macro-economic management by Bank of England and Treasury over the past few years was to allow house prices to rise and rise and rise and rise and rise.

He's also (and he's hardly alone) talking about the end of Thatcherisme-Reagonisme, the Washington consensus (the doctrine that poor countries would be improved, at least in some profound moral sense, from being screwed over by the free-marketeers) and the whole neo-liberal kit and kaboodle.

And while we'd certainly very much like to say good riddance to that, that after all rather depends on what comes next. (Those of you who were up to now enjoying the thought of Thatcher's current state of incontinent dementia may now wish to ponder if you wouldn't really rather she were sentient to see her nasty and foolish life's work collapse around her ears.)

2008-10-12 12:05

On the disputed suburbs of Brussels

It is the BBC in Belgium, with a beeboid having apparently been dispatched to feecha-up on the BHV crisis, as those of us who follow Belgium call it, without even using the term. It is a good article!

Local councillor Luk Van Biesen, who is also a Belgian MP, says this is the result of a long-term plan by French-speaking politicians to take over the suburbs of Brussels.

But he insists that Flemish land is sacrosanct: "If nobody speaks Dutch in a Flemish town - that will not change our opinion: it still belongs to Flanders."

No way dude! It belongs to the Celts, or possibly the Beaker People and they're going to be wanting it back!

We personally demand that everyone in Belgium should speak proto-Indo-European, especially in town halls and school playgrounds. So there.

2008-10-04 20:58

So long and thanks for all the fish

We speak of course of Ijsland:

The best way of seeing Iceland is as a country that turned itself into a giant hedge fund.

2008-10-03 21:59

All by myse-e-elf

(Being a smrgspost on the occasion of the Countess's absence for the weekend.)

1 Yoorp and the magic house bubble

How doomed are you, Varied Reader? Out here in Groningen things are not as crazy as the Dutch average by a long chalk, which is fine by us. (Friends in Utrecht were saying that they'd need to plonk down EUR 700k to move to a larger house in the city, and the size of which they spoke lacked enormity.) We, for one, applaud Chermany for sitting this one out, and we look forward to the Economiste being baffled when they sit also out the worst of the impending meltdown.

2. Sonic cathedrals of sound, slightly aged

It is My Bloody Valentine, back on tour after all these years. To our admittedly more-than-somewhat ravaged ears they sound just like they always did, and there's nothing wrong with that. (Nobody else ever sounded quite like that and let's face it, a whole generation of pallid indie kids tried.)

3. A French bloke

There are times - and these are among them - when a French socialiste having a go at noliberalisme is just what the doctor ordered. (We and the Countess are of course both doctors of letters, so we know these things.)

Without further ado we therefore give you Henri Weber, MEP:

Le Parti socialiste s'est prononc pour une conomie sociale et cologique de march, c'est--dire une conomie de libre entreprise rgule par la puissance publique et les partenaires sociaux. Le nouveau contexte idologique sera de plus en plus favorable ce projet. A nous d'en dfinir prcisment le contenu et les moyens.

The Socialiste Parti has declared itself for a social and ecological market economy, that is to say a free market economy regulated by public power and social partners. The new idological climate will be more and more favourable to this project. It's up to us to define the contents and the means.

So apart from the "what" and the "how" you're pretty much ready to roll then, Henri? That is certainly a relief!

(Actually, if you think vague is bad you should see him being specific, as he is in the middle of that article.)

4. Honkbal and the butterfly's wings

So the hated New York Yankees don't make the play-offs for the first time since we were knee-high to a short-stop and suddenly Wall Street has a fit.

We're not saying it isn't worth it, mind.

5. Baby blogging!

They say, quite rightly, that other persons' childrens and especially tales thereof are boring. But that of course is only true of other persons - and if we were them we would be someone else, which we're clearly not. QED.

Zo. Boris van 't Blad has now reached the objectively-interesting point where his attempts to stand (while holding on to things) have progressed to attempts to walk (while holding on to things).

No muttering at the back, please, or we'll start hosting videos.

2008-09-29 14:20

Nationalise us harder!

We have the considerable misfortune to bank with the Vogon Dutch bank ABN Amro, which in a stroke of not-atypical uselessness recently sold its retail branch to Fortis, a Belgium bank that has spent the last few months unsuccessfully trying to convince anyone who would listen that it wasn't about to go tits-up, before - as is the inevitable way of such things - promptly going tits-up.

Thus we had the intriguing spectacle of the provisional Belgium cabinet - this is after all the Belgium that has been unable to actually form an actual government for the last God-knows-how-many months - having an emergency session to sort it out.

They still did better than the Merkins - in exchange for double-figures worth of the Benelux tax payers' billions, the Beneluxers get to also own the bank. (The FDRUSA's cunning plan is to chuck a trillion Bernanke Pesos at the problem in the forlorn hope that it will go away. Expert thinking from anyone not in the pay of Big Banking - which rules out both of the FDRUSA's political parties - suggests, rather unsurprisingly, that it won't.)

So apparently, we as a taxpayer get the privilege of bailing out the useless bank that our also useless bank sold itself to, until our bank can be, as the agreement requires, sold of to person or persons unknown but hopefully distinct from and not including us.

So, as the brand new co-owners of Fortis and ABN Amro it is our strong preference that everyone who helped it come to this should be tarred and feathered and run out of town, preferably on live TV.

We feel marginally more sorry for Bradford and Bingley for two(2) important reasons:

  1. They used to have a nifty logo with bowler hats; and
  2. They didn't have any of our hard-earned cold hard

Also, we are imposing with immediate effect a moratorium on "Has the (Yoorpean) Left lost its way?" articles. It probably has, but that still strikes us as preferable to being marched off a cliff by the neo-liberal right (in which we very much include Britain's governing New Labour party), however much it swears that it knows where it's going.

2008-09-27 14:27

Plurilingualise us harder! (Or not.)

It is the Yoorpean Dag of Langwidges todag!

At the initiative of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, the European Day of Languages is celebrated since 2001 on 26 September.

(We dislaim, as ever, that the Council of Yoorp is not and never has been an EU body.)

We are currently reading a book (by noted medievaliste Jacques Le Goff) in Frenchy-French, so we could presumably claim to be participating.

But instead, here's a grumpy report on the University of Amsterdam's recently announced changes on their language degree programmes. In brief, they're slashing the amount of actual langwidge instruction in favour of a majority of time being spent in Generic Studies (which we assume will largely amount to Business and Management Studies With Business Finance, Management Finance, And Financial Business Accountancy And Business Finance Management, since that is after all where the kids are at).

The vehicular langwidge of Yoorp is after all Engleesh, and the Dutch kids already speak that to a vehicular level before university, so much of what is going to be lost is the ability to produce persons who can't earn a living doing literary translations, since apparently the pay is such that nobody can.

Which is all quite possibly a Great Shame, and we're not saying it isn't, but we don't find it a circumstance likely to be reversed by nostalgia or wishful thinking, which are the only opposing forces we have encountered in the field.

We assume that many Yoorpean Internationalistes have, like us, done the bulk of their langwidge learning outside of formal degree programmes - we're certainly entirely in favour of more and better resources for adult education in the Prevailing Local Langwidge(s).

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