European Union

So says Geoffrey Wheatcroft, an English journalist,  in an August 5 article in The New Republic. This, even though the new British Prime Minister David Cameron, on a recent visit to Turkey, said that Turkey should join the E.U. as soon as possible. Wheatcroft bases his argument largely on the economic and demographic disparities between Turkey and the rest of the Union. Turkey, with 70 million people and a growing population, would soon become the largest member state by population, though its per capita GDP is less than a third of Germany’s. Wheatcroft also brings up the resurgence of Islamist sentiment in a country that for the past 90 years has been characterized by a rigorous secularism. The EU, he says, is a place in which drinking wine and beer is part of the culture in a way that Turkey is not. Though Turks produce and consume excellent beer and wines, the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of what The Economist and the Brookings Institute always refer to as “the mildly Islamic Justice and Development Party” did ban alcohol when he was mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998, though with limited success. I visited Istanbul twice during that period and never even noticed the ban.

Wheatcroft’s points are valid as far as they go, but the real story is more complex and more interesting. [click to continue…]

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Attentive and loyal readers of this blog will recall that I wrote, almost exactly a year ago, about China’s proposal to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency with the special drawing right (SDR), a unit of account used by the IMF, which is based on a weighted basket of currencies that includes the dollar, the euro, the yen, and the pound. I wrote then that this proposal had virtually no chance of being adopted, one reason being that the Europeans would be loath to abandon their new currency, which already accounted for a growing share of world reserves, in favor of a faceless accounting unit. [click to continue…]

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In my most recent post – What Governments Do Well – I suggested that governments can usually be expected to make a hash of anything they attempt, and the bigger the ambitions the more spectacular the failure. As a rule of thumb, I think this is true, but occasionally governments – even multiple governments acting in concert – can achieve something miraculous and worthwhile.  This happened yesterday in Geneva, when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – a 27 km underground particle accelerator – combined two opposing beams of sub-atomic particles travelling at near light-speed in an attempt to simulate events that occurred in the nanoseconds following the Big Bang in which the universe was created. The particles collided at seven trillion electron volts (TeV), or half the collider’s design capacity of 14 TeV, and not only did the collision generate masses of useful data, it failed to produce a world-destroying black hole, as some observers had feared. [click to continue…]

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