The European mess

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The European set-up of today, that is, the one represented by the Brussels-based bureaucratic mammoth, the unelected representatives of 500 million citizens, the nineteen sterile and increasingly pathetic anti-crisis summits and the sloppy political invention of the euro, that European organization is in deep trouble, shaken on top of its three unstable pillars: France, the …

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Bad banks and worse banks (II)

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In the early nineties, Finland, Norway and Sweden suffered a real estate bubble. When it burst, as all bubbles do, an acute banking crisis overwhelmed them and their financial systems nearly collapsed. In spite of this, just two years later the crisis was history and their economies were growing healthily, with a total net cost …

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Bad banks and worse banks (I)

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The best Spanish banker of the last half century was a most extraordinary character. He led a bank brilliantly from 1966 to 1990, raising it to achieve the title of most profitable in the world (in terms of ROE), keeping an extremely robust balance sheet along the way. He never confused size with strength, as …

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Austerity and reality

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Austerity is the latest buzzword. In the good old days it used to be regarded as a virtue; today it only seems to mean bitter difficulty, severity and harshness. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that austerity has brought so much criticism with it: easy tasks attract far more volunteers than difficult ones. However, …

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To simplify

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Through the years, central, regional and local politicians have created, out of the blue, hundreds of thousands of laws, rules and regulations with which we all are obliged to comply. As far as I know, the Official State Gazette publishes 250.000 pages a year; the regional ones, 800.000 a year. You read it right: no …

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What about that transparency?

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In Spain we talk a lot about democracy and very little about freedom. The latter, however, is the weightier of the two concepts. Democracy is not an end in itself but the best means of approaching the ideal of freedom. Richard Maybury defines with masterful simplicity the two basic rules a political system should abide …

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What if the peseta comes back?

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The situation in Europe is worrying and we need to be realistic about it. It is not a matter of arguing about what it should be or what we would like it to be, but of understanding what it really is. To put matters into perspective we need to remember that the construction of Europe …

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A worn-out system

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A few years ago, one of the founding fathers of Spain’s 1978 Constitution told me that its text had been achieved through an on-going process of total improvisation. Back then I found this hard to accept because I had been swayed by the huge myth-building which surrounded the whole process. That’s no longer the case. …

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The emperor has no clothes

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The Welfare State as we know it is unworkable and verging on bankruptcy. It set out to protect everyone and has ended up abandoning precisely those persons who need it most. We must have a workable system of social protection and, in order for it to be just that, workable, we must face the facts …

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