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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

I like poking fun at French politicians for being hopeless statists, and I always assumed that French voters shared their collectivist sympathies. But according to new polling data reported by the Financial Times, there may be a Tea Party revolt brewing in France. Among major European nations, the French are most in favor of smaller government. Sacre Bleu!

European governments have solid public support, at least for now, for the spending cuts they are making in an effort to boost economic recovery, according to the latest Financial Times/Harris opinion poll.

…The poll’s results point to a fiscal conservatism among the European public that contrasts with the eagerness with which most governments ran up high deficits to protect jobs and living standards as the crisis unfolded.

…Asked if public spending cuts were necessary to help long-term economic recovery, 84 per cent of French people, 71 per cent of Spaniards, 69 per cent of Britons, 67 per cent of Germans and 61 per cent of Italians answered Yes.

…Asked if they preferred public spending cuts or tax rises as a way to reduce budget deficits and national debts, strong majorities in the five EU countries as well as the US were in favour of spending cuts.

Similarly conservative views on public expenditure emerged when people were asked if EU governments were right to engage in large-scale deficit-spending after the 2008 crisis. In all five EU countries, a majority – ranging from 68 per cent in France and Italy to 54 per cent in the UK – said the governments were wrong to have done so.

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Eline van den Broek probably is not happy today since she was in South Africa watching her team lose a high-scoring battle with Spain, but she should be very proud of the new video she narrated that urges the repeal of Obamacare – and also points out some of the other reforms that are needed to restore markets to the US healthcare system.

Her comments on how the American healthcare system was a mess even before Obamacare are particularly important.

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Forget the Magna Carta and the Constitution. Finland is now on the cutting edge of protecting, promoting, and guaranteeing fundamental rights. As the BBC story excerpted below reports, Finland has announced that broadband access is now a legal right! Yes, you’re reading it here first. But not just the right to broadband. Apparently one megabit per second is a human right today and 100 megabits per second is a human right by 2015. I gather this is the Finnish version of a “living, breathing” right. My only question, though, is whether older Finns can sue the government for failing to provide this right back in the awful, deprived days before Al Gore invented the Internet?

From 1 July every Finn will have the right to access to a 1Mbps (megabit per second) broadband connection. Finland has vowed to connect everyone to a 100Mbps connection by 2015. In the UK the government has promised a minimum connection of at least 2Mbps to all homes by 2012 but has stopped short of enshrining this as a right in law. The Finnish deal means that from 1 July all telecommunications companies will be obliged to provide all residents with broadband lines that can run at a minimum 1Mbps speed.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/10461048.stm

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Many people assume that Europe is the land of high-tax welfare states and America is an outpost of laissez-faire capitalism. We should be so lucky. The burden of government in America is still lower than it is in the average European nation, but the United States is a lot closer to France than it is to Hong Kong – and the trend is not comforting.

We recently endured the embarrassing spectacle of President Obama arguing with Europeans that they should increase the burden of government spending. Now we have a new report from the European Commission indicating that the average corporate tax rate in member nations of the European Union has plummeted to just 23.5 percent while the corporate tax rate in the U.S. has stagnated at 35 percent. In the past dozen years alone, as the chart illustrates, the average corporate tax rate in the European Union has dropped by nearly 12 percentage points. To make matters worse, the corporate tax rate in America actually is closer to 40 percent if state tax burdens are added to the mix.

This is not to say that European politicians are reading Hayek and Friedman (or watching Dan Mitchell videos on corporate taxation). Almost all of the positive reforms are because of tax competition. Thanks to globalization, it is increasingly easy for labor and (especially) capital to cross national borders to escape bad policy. As such, nations now have to compete for jobs and investment, and this liberalizing process is particularly powerful among nations that are neighbors.

Not surprisingly, European politicians despise tax competition and instead would prefer to impose a one-size-fits-all policy of tax harmonization. These efforts to create a tax cartel have a long history, beginning even before Reagan and Thatcher lowered tax rates and triggered the modern era of tax competition. The European Commission originally wanted to require a minimum corporate tax rate of 45 percent. And as recently as 1992, there were an effort to require a minimum corporate tax rate of 30 percent.

Fortunately, the politicians did not succeed in any of these efforts. As such, tax competition remains alive and corporate tax rates continue to fall. What remains to be seen, however, is whether America will join the race to lower corporate tax rates – and more jobs and investment.

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To preserve domestic tranquility, men should always shout “NO” when their wives ask “Does this make me look fat?” Well, Frenchmen now also have a legal reason to give that answer. In a nation where everything seemingly requires a role for government, there is a new law with penalties of “…up to three years in prison and a €75,000 fine” for men who insult their spouses. The law does apply both ways, so men who are called “lazy fat slobs” for watching TV instead of taking out the garbage also can run to the government for psychological protection. Allow me to stipulate that there is such a thing as “psychological violence” and there doubtlessly are cases of genuine non-physical abuse, but those presumably are ground for divorce, not a matter for law enforcement. In any event, here’s a blurb from the UK-based Telegraph: 

Couples who insult each other over their physical appearance or make false accusations about infidelity face jail, under a new French law making “psychological violence” a criminal offence. …French magistrates have slammed the new legislation as “inapplicable”, as they argue the definition of what constitutes an insult is too vague and verbal abuse too hard to prove. …men now also have the right to report their wives verbal abuse in a domestic row. It will apply to both married couples and cohabiting partners. …Miss Morano said witnesses could be called on to testify in such cases and doctors’ certificates charting a patient’s descent into nervous depression as a result of such insults could be used as evidence. …The courts also stood to be “clogged” by couples using the law to get the upper hand in acrimonious divorces, she added. Women who complain that their husband insulted them can now have a judge ban him from approaching his wife or their children on a simple declaration, she warned.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/7863702/Husbands-can-be-jailed-for-insulting-wives-under-new-French-law.html

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Europe’s economy is stagnant, the euro currency is in danger of collapse, and many nations are on the verge of bankruptcy. But one thing you can count on in this time of crisis is for prompt, thoughtful, and intelligent action by the super-bureaucrats of the European Commission. Right? Well, maybe not. You can be confident, however, that they will generate idiotic regulations that increase costs and trample national sovereignty. The latest example is some new red tape that will prohibit grocers from selling items based on numerical quantity. I’m not joking. Here’s a blurb from the UK-based Telegraph:

Under the draft legislation, to come into force as early as next year, the sale of groceries using the simple measurement of numbers will be replaced by an EU-wide system based on weight.

It would mean an end to packaging descriptions such as eggs by the dozen, four-packs of apples, six bread rolls or boxes of 12 fish fingers.

…The changes would cost the food and retail industries millions of pounds as items would have to be individually weighed to ensure the accuracy of the label.

Trade magazine, The Grocer, said food industry sources had described the move as “bonkers” and “absolute madness”. Its editor, Adam Leyland, said the EU had “created a multi-headed monster”.

Caroline Spelman said: “This goes against common sense. Shopkeeping is a long standing British tradition and we know what customers want. They want to buy eggs by the dozen and they should be allowed to – a point I shall be making clear to our partners in Europe.”

…Andrew Opie, food director of the British Retail Consortium, which represents 90 per cent of UK shops, said: “This is a bad proposal – we need to help consumers, not confuse them.”

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American taxpayers are not the only ones getting ripped off by lavish pay and perks for bureaucrats. The Daily Mail reports on a new study about public sector pay in the United Kingdom:

Public sector employees work nine years less than their private sector counterparts but are paid 30 per cent more, a bombshell report reveals today.

Extraordinary research tells a tale of two Britains – a state sector awash with taxpayers’ cash while the rest of the economy struggles to stay afloat.

Public sector workers enjoy better pay than those in the private sector, as well as better pensions, shorter hours, and earlier retirement.

Over their lifetimes, those in the private sector work 23 per cent longer – equivalent to an extra nine years and ten weeks – than public sector employees. This is thanks to a combination of shorter hours, more time off and earlier retirement.

The findings explode once and for all the old idea that public sector workers have better job security and gold-plated pensions because they have lower salaries. .

..The report, by centre-Right think tank Policy Exchange, also found that the chance of being made compulsorily redundant in the civil service is an astonishing 0.00007 per cent.

Generous pension schemes in the state sector are now worth up to 15 per cent on top of salary, the report says, while public sector pay costs have soared by more than a third in real terms over the last seven years – three times faster than in the private sector.

…[B]etween 1997 and 2007 public sector productivity fell, while productivity in the private sector increased by nearly 28 per cent – leaving the former only two-thirds as productive as the latter.

Between 2002 and 2009, the number working in the public sector increased nearly five times more quickly than numbers in the private sector.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1287497/Public-sector-staff-spend-9-fewer-years-work-earn-30-private-employees.html

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