Saturday, January 22, 2005

Wimps past and present #1

Who said this?
“This [Lisbon] overloaded agenda has suffered from conflicting priorities, inadequate political will at the member-state level, poor co-ordination and inadequate delivery. Each spring the European Council, with a marked improvement in content this year, has produced excessive and flatulent conclusions by way of annual review that said so much as to amount to saying virtually nothing of substance”
Bet you could not guess, even though, we on this blog could have put that paragraph together (apart from the peculiar reference to the “marked improvement in content this year”). It was Pat Cox, past president of the European Parliament, writing in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal Europe.

He then went on:
“Meanwhile, in spite of twin budget and trade deficits, the American eagle continues to soar. The Chinese dragon behaves as if performance enhanced. India is finding its economic feet and Japan is turning the corner. But Europe’s stars are failing to shine, marking a relative economic decline. It would be tempting to ascribe Europe’s economic problems solely to forces beyond its control – a global slowdown, the weak dollar, higher oil prices or even the unique challenge posed by the low-wage, high tech countries in Asia. Tempting but wrong, that. Europe should not blind itself to the fact that its economic problems are very much of its own making.”
Mr Cox’s article calls for greater freedom in economic and social terms: less regulation, greater tax cuts. He points to his own country, Ireland, as the great example of a successful low-tax economy but, as we have said before on numerous occasions, a country that has such a high inflow of subsidy cannot be used as a text book case of the Laffer curve.

Still, one cannot argue too much with the following conclusion:
“I believe that the root cause of Europe’s lack of dynamism lies not in its procedures, although these can and should be greatly reformed, but rather in its core beliefs. More specifically, it lies in our unwillingness to acknowledge the contemporary failure of the postwar experiment in high-tax, regulation-intensive, dependency-inducing welfarism and the success of free-market liberal reforms in the US in the 1980s and elsewhere in the 1990s.”
You go man! One thing puzzles me about all this outspokenness. I may be suffering from a memory failure but I do not remember similar pronouncements from Mr Cox in his days of glory, that is his presidency of the European Parliament.

In those days he seemed to support the “postwar experiment” and derided all attempts to free up economic and social activity. In fact, he presided over a Parliament that did its best to tighten even further the various detailed and inappropriate regulations, proposed by the Commission and negotiated by the Council of Ministers.

In those days, Mr Cox could have been described in the succinct way of the noted Polish economist Jan Winiecki, as a wimp. Still, as far as Mr Cox is concerned, the light has been seen, the truth sighted and salvation glimpsed. Much in his future pronouncements, one assumes, will depend on what he will do now that he is no longer presiding over that toy parliament in Strasbourg.

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