Some recent items of interest

October 25, 2015

David Ferreira has written an article entitled “4 Things You Need to Know About Portugal’s Political Crisis”

What escalated the situation from an embittered right complaining about its popular defeat to a genuine political crisis was an intervention by the Portuguese president, Cavaco Silva.

With all normality, Silva invited the leader of conservatives, Passos Coelho, to form a government. However, he then dedicated the rest of his speech to attacking the left and expressing his objections to the Communist Party and Left Bloc being included in any governing solution, given their opposition to NATO and Europe’s austerity regime. The 1m people who voted for these left-wing parties could be simply disregarded. It was a speech worthy of both the cold war and Europe’s age of authoritarian neoliberalism.

The speech polarized the country, and it raised the possibility of a constitutional crisis in which the left has a workable majority in parliament but the president resists giving it a mandate in an anti-left crusade which threatens the functioning of Portuguese democracy.

Cavaco Silva’s term is nearly up and the country will have the first round of presidential elections in January. If the standoff lasts until then, the contest for the presidency could be turned into a proxy referendum on whether the left should govern the country.


 

Yanis Varoufakis has an article on the Project Syndicate website entitled ‘Schäuble’s Gathering Storm’

ATHENS – Europe’s crisis is poised to enter its most dangerous phase. After forcing Greece to accept another “extend-and-pretend” bailout agreement, fresh battle lines are being drawn. And, with the refugee influx exposing the damage caused by divergent economic prospects and sky-high youth unemployment in Europe’s periphery, the ramifications are ominous, as recent statements by three European politicians – Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble – have made clear.

I saw Yanis Varoufakis speak at Westminster Hall on Friday night and although at times he was witty and incisive a lot of the time I felt that he was just repeating a series of clever sound bites most of which I had heard before. The weakest part of the evening was the discussion about what the left should do about Europe. Spoiler alert: nobody has a clue.

In contrast to the well worn material on display at the London event in this interview with Aaron Bastani (who asked some very interesting questions) Varoufakis has some new and interesting things to say. The topics range from why he sees himself as much as a libertarian as a Marxist to what’s its like to work in coalition with an anti-Semitic nationalist party. Entertaining stuff.

 


 

The Wolf Street on the collapse of China’s container trade as an index of the trade collapse.

Growth of exports from China has been dropping relentlessly, for years. Now this “growth” has actually turned negative. In September, exports were down 3.7% from a year earlier, the “inevitable fallout from China’s unsustainable and poorly executed credit splurge,” as Thomson Reuters’ Alpha Now puts it. Most of these exports are manufactured goods that are shipped by container to the rest of the world.


 

The economist Paul Krugman has an article entitled Keynes Comes to Canada in the The New York Times

“Canada has a reputation for dullness. Back in the 1980s The New Republic famously declared “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative” the world’s most boring headline. Yet when it comes to economic policy the reputation is undeserved: Canada has surprisingly often been the place where the future happens first.

And it’s happening again. On Monday, Canadian voters swept the ruling Conservatives out of power, delivering a stunning victory to the center-left Liberals. And while there are many interesting things about the Liberal platform, what strikes me most is its clear rejection of the deficit-obsessed austerity orthodoxy that has dominated political discourse across the Western world. The Liberals ran on a frankly, openly Keynesian vision, and won big.”

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