Links 6/11/11

Scientists ‘Find EHEC Bacteria at Sprout Farm’ Der Spiegel (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

The tobacco industry’s past role in weight control related to smoking The European Journal of Public Health Advance Access (hat tip Slashdot). Cigarettes doped to increase weight loss effects.

Zhou’s cryptic caution lost in translation Financial Times (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Thai Elections 2011: The Surprising Rise of the Massage Tycoon MsExPat, Corrente

Murdoch sends in crack US lawyers to clean up News International Independent (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Wage growth slows to a crawl Economic Policy Institute (hat tip reader Carol B)

Divide, buy and conquer The Deal. On AT&T writing checks to groups backing its merger with T-Mobile.

Sarah Palin snub by Margaret Thatcher aides infuriates US rightwing Guardian (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Let Goldman Sachs Help You Get Your Shake Shack Order In Under 3 Hours Today Dealbreaker (hat tip Lambert Strether and Marshall Auerback)

AFL-CIO Threatens To Primary Tim Johnson Over CEO Pay Huffington Post

US equity outflows largest in 10 months Financial Times

Companies Spend on Equipment, Not Workers New York Times (hat tip reader Scott)

Goldman banker loses court bid Financial Times

How Hedge Funds ride herd in America Bruce Krasting (hat tip Michael Thomas)

Making the US Economy ‘Scream’ Robert Parry (hat tip reader May S)

Defending Arianna Huffington from the shareholder value police Moe Tkacik, Reuters

The Decline of Pimco Macro Paul Krugman (hat tip Ed Harrison)

Readers no doubt have competing entries, but I nominate this quote for “Stupidest Line Written By Someone Who Opines on Policy for a Living”:

“Allying with the banks is not how you get ahead in American politics,” Ezra Klein

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Foppe

    And for the “Stupidest Line Written By Someone Who Opines on Economics for a Living” Krugman:

    Anyway, El-Erian’s latest sort of shocked me; it sounds as if he’s making up his own version of macroeconomics. And that’s not something you should do unless the existing models have failed — which they haven’t.
    I don’t really care whether El-Erian is right or wrong in this case, but it seems to me that the generality of this statement is a bit hard to defend.

    1. attempter

      That’s our Krugman. “The models haven’t failed.” Let’s hear all his pathetic sycophants defend that one.

      Maybe he’s planning a defense for the New Nuremburg, when he’s called to account for his globalization crimes. I recommend Hayek: “When aggressive exploitation and wealth concentration leads to disaster, that doesn’t mean the model failed. It simply means you didn’t apply it severely enough.”

      1. Birch

        That’s a beaut of a rhetorical concept, eh? As long as at least two people remain alive in the world, we’ll try it again, even more ‘severe’ this time. It’s gotta work one of these times… or not.

  2. Foppe

    And for the “Stupidest Line Written By Someone Who Opines on the quality of economic theory for a Living” we have Krugman:

    Anyway, El-Erian’s latest sort of shocked me; it sounds as if he’s making up his own version of macroeconomics. And that’s not something you should do unless the existing models have failed — which they haven’t.

    I don’t really care whether El-Erian is right or wrong in this case, but it seems to me that the generality of this statement is a bit hard to defend.

      1. ambrit

        Mr Mendez;
        It all depends on what she’s really after. I’ve read that she’s a canny businesswoman. She is certainly making a small fortune with all of her books, speaking fees, commentator fees, etc..(Murdoch will buy anything as long as it’s bent.) So, she might look nuts, but she’s, as the saying goes, “Crazy like a fox.” And laughing all the way to the bank, no doubt.

        1. Francois T

          “She is certainly making a small fortune with all of her books, speaking fees, commentator fees”

          But only in the US extreme right wing universe can she do that. She’s the most useful idiot (polyezniy idioty as Lenin and Stalin were found to say) the Reichwingtards could dream of. The media (another cluster of polyezniy idioty extraordinaire) chronicle every non-important bullshit she does or does not, distracting the personal from much more relevant matters that the elites do not want us to talk about.

          So, given the amount of looting and stealing the fuckers at the top are engaged in, what they pay Glacier Babe to distract the unwashed masses and the slothful assholes in the media is peanuts.

    1. Richard Kline

      Palin; are we still talking about that woman? Why??

      Sarah Palin had no known aspirations for high national office before a particular idjit whose last name rhyes with ‘insane’ decided to fill his potential warm buck of shyte with a certain febrile, tundral shrew on the principle that she looked good before the camera (so long s the mike was muted). And I do not doubt for a second that Ms. Palin grasps that any national candidacy she might pursue has a lower ceiling of possibility than the brows of her core 3% audience. But as the man says, crazy like a fox, for the Palinator does understands that the media pays those who draw eyeballs. She’s manifestly willing to let ultra-right media fill her wallet until it overfloweth. If I cared, I’d say her real ambition after a futile candidacy for some-anything would be to cast herself for a neanderthal vote Oprah on someone else’s dime (without a sliver of the financial savvy and entrepreneurial moxie and workaholism which made Oprah the best media mind of her time).

      We can all stop talking about the Palinator. Rest assured, she’ll fill the sound vacuum with her own squawks without our help. And by they way, is there anyone in Europe who doesn’t think Americans, all of us, are crazy? If so, the lone EUer believer is misinformed.

          1. psychohistorian

            When I was in college I lived in a 800 sq/ft cabin on an estate owned by a doctor and his wife. He was amazing and had a sign over his shop door: “While your resting”.

            We all have different levels of energy and drive that ebbs and flows through our lives. We are blessed that Yves is using one of her monster productive periods to chronicle the downfall of America for us and future generations.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thanks for the vote of confidence. I am reminded of the old saying, “Everyone in the world’s crazy but me and thee, but sometimes I think thee’s a little bit ‘tetched.”

    2. ScottW

      The following comment was provided by FrankLittle following the article: “I just read on the net that Palin’s so angry with the Thatcher comment that she has sworn she will never visit Switzerland again.” Priceless.

  3. ambrit

    Rant Alert!
    Is it just me, or are those berks over at the Financial Times out of touch. (I know, I know, the thought had occured to me too.) I’m a lowly skilled tradesman who reads too much. So, being parsimonious, I tried to sign up for the ‘Golden Opportunity’ of ten, count em, ten ‘free’ articles a month. Under the profiling questions, nothing even remotely near my humble status was put forward for use. Is this the hidden face of the social divide being nurtured by the “Forces of Evil?” If you can’t divide them by economic status, well, try good old class divisions. My Dad and Mum moved away from England way back to try and get away from this sort of thing. For them, America really was the “Land of Opportunity.” So, I guess it serves me right to try and interact with an ‘Old World’ institution and expect ‘New World’ paradigms.
    As for Stupidest etc..; I know it’s not quite Kosher, but how about an oldy but goody: “The business of America is business.”

    1. AllanW

      ambrit; I do sympathise with your point but why on earth do you think that the data they wish to collect on you needs to be factual? It’s only to get access to free content so unless you genuinely DO wish to give them accurate information then supply whatever takes your fancy.

      I think the issue has less to do with the vile monarchism or elitism you feel the FT projects as an #Old World’ institution and more to do with your own chips. No criticism implied, we all have them my friend :)

      1. ambrit

        Dear Alan;
        This is why participating in something like the bloggers commons, (I still say Mz Smith is operating a public utility,) is so necessary to personal mental health. You’re right. I do get unbalanced by all those chips on my shoulder. Our ‘political’ orientation determines which way our body leans? (Like Marty Feldmans hump in ‘Young Frankenstien.) Thanks for the reality check Alan, and you all.

        1. vraie démocratie maintenant

          nothing even remotely near my humble status was put forward for use. Is this the hidden face of the social divide


          Because I have kind heart, I am going to spell it out for the bikers who don’t have the time to crunch their own numbers. It is the duty of joggers to spell it out for bikers who spend all time at watching traffic and watching for other bikers wearing colours inside wrong turf at the risk of disaster. Commenter-s were merely being sarcastic. They are not for real. Don’t take them seriously. Read and enjoy.

          Look, Financial Times sells fantasy. You get to buy a paper from street vendor then sit on the curb and imagine that you are sitting at bistro on Ζάκυνθος, Zante, or other exotic island. You imagine that you are planning your financial transactions as you wait for Christina, The Gorgeous Young Blond from Finland to take you on a rented motorcycle to the beach. When they ask you to sign up for the free editions, they understand that you want to fantasize. They let you select which fantasy.

          Tell me something! If you were CFO would you be scouting around for free samples?

          Think about it

    2. craazyman

      I hear ya dude.

      Some pop up appeared on this site. A survey of reader demographics. So I thought OK, and it asked about my financial net worth. And I dimly recall the options were something like “Under $1 million” “$1 million to $2 million” “$2 million to $5 million” and “Over $5 million.”

      I thought, “Oh Jesus . . . I mean really.”

      Then I clicked the Close box.

      Yes ambrit, I need a 5-bagger just to ascend and leave this world. If I had $2 million, I’d hit the beach and never read another news article about global finance or economics. Well, on the other hand, after a month or two of Margaritas and surfing I might decide to try to turn it into $10 million, just to be safe, and then I might take a peek at the news from time to time. I need to be honest about that. LOL.

    3. Paul Tioxon

      The stupidest thing I ever saw printed, much less opining on matters economic, was by a former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist. I think this stooge thought it was his personal mission in life to channel the American Enterprise Institute whenever his fingers touched a keyboard. Here goes:”The purpose of wealth is not to be distributed but created”. Presumable, as we create wealth, it disappears into the Platonic realm of Ideals, where it does not have to muss up its hair in the windy halls of consumption, but will just be perpetually contemplated as accumulated capital, never to dipped into.

  4. ambrit

    Oh good God!
    Why does the picture of the water buffalo remind me of the last scenes of Apocalypse Now? And why do I feel a strong empathy for the poor beastie? “The Horror! The Horror!”

    1. psychohistorian

      I looked at the beast and that lip ring and that attitude streaming out those eyes which said to me:

      I am the American public and I am getting ANGRY! This lip ring ain’t shit when I come unglued!!!!!

        1. Birch

          General Strike. Just don’t strike at the red cloth, rather at the idiotic stooge prancing next to it.

  5. ambrit

    What’s wrong here? No insomniacs to get the threads going? This is a target rich Links section tonight. One more comment and I’ll shut up. (I heard that!)
    Maggie Thatcher won’t meet Sarah Palin, won’t she? Concentrating on Ronnie Reagan is she? Maybe she can use some Voodoo Economics to raise the spirit of the dead Prez. He was reliably observed to have been already brain damaged well before he ran for the second term. His legacy looks to be similarly handicapped. (Apologies to all you real Handicapped.) Well, relatives back home in England say that Iron Maggie did more harm to the Nation than any ten wars and recessions combined. So, it’s appropriate that she commune with the shade of Reagan. He did similar bad things to America. Sarah’s better off not meeting Maggie. She’d be tangling with a Cave Bear, not your garden variety Grizzly.
    By the way, what’s Sarah doing in the picture of her appended to the Guardian article, wearing the Seal of Solomon? Has she become a Gangster Disciple or something?
    Time for beddy byes. Nighty night.

  6. Richard Kline

    And we see again that every story is but half told, for somehow the all important follow-up sentence of Ezra Klein seems not to have been widely reported in the complicit media. To wit: “Lying with the banks IS how you get ahead in American politics.”

  7. financial matters

    Krugman and El-Erian are both very talented and it’s interesting to see them at loggerheads. El-Erian is basically saying that QE is leading to inflation in commodities and emerging markets. Krugman sees it more as a demand problem but hedges by saying ‘it’s not our problem’. His focus is on US jobs. But it would seem a pretty naive view to claim that disrupting markets such as China and Brazil aren’t going to cause us any problems or that if we are responsible for increased global food insecurity that isn’t going to cause us any problems. But from a more hard headed viewpoint Krugman has some valid points that China and Brazil can solve their own problems by capital controls or currency adjustments. And if opaque over the counter derivative speculation is part of the commodity problem that can be dealt with by better regulation. The old models that free flowing hot money helps lubricate the global economy or that derivatives don’t need to be regulated seem like the broken models.

  8. Graveltongue

    Why can’t economists accept that technological unemployment is real?
    This from the WaPo article: ‘Of course the shift to more automated production predates the Great Recession. And in the long run, better technology lowers prices, raises living standards and helps workers move into higher-paying jobs. This was the case with the mechanization of farming, which a century ago employed 41% of the American work force.’
    So, once you mechanize agriculture, people move into manufacturing. Then you mechanize manufacturing and they move into the service sector. Then you automate the service sector and people move into…. long term unemployment. Why oh why oh why do economists still peddle this BS? Does this elephant in the room have to piss on some ones canapés before Nelly gets a look in?
    If you follow that model through to its natural conclusion no menial, mundane or repetitive tasks will be performed by humans ‘in the long run'(!?) and every citizen will be a highly skilled and highly paid individual. WTF! The wage-for-labour model is doomed to fail. If mainstream economists acknowledge that this is indeed the case then this threatens the very foundations of their institution. Is that it? Fear of the obvious?

    1. hermanas

      Heme aqui, in the “third world” watching five guys with sharp sticks planting corn, thinking what I could do with a tractor and corn planter. Then realizing;”putting four guys on a porch like West “by God” Virginia”.
      Next week the tractor does come out across the road and tills the ground. The “five guys” corn is already up to my knee.

    2. Francois T

      Most economists are subservient to the establishment. Hence, economics as a morality play is pervasive.

      Wage for work is the ultimate morality play; that is how the masses have been controlled and production regulated for a very long time.

      I’m not saying this was a bad thing per se far from it. But in light of automation rendering so many jobs obsolete, a radically new socio-economic model (short of a grand scale euthanasia) is sorely needed.

      Alas, economists and economics are not known for their forward thinking capacity, since the hidden agenda of this profession is to preserve the establishment privileges and provide the moral justifications for it.

      1. Graveltongue

        What I marvel at is the bloody mindedness of the profession. Every time an economist opens his or her mouth and spews forth this claptrap why they are not shouted down and ridiculed by the unencumbered and informed members of our communities is painfully frustrating to say the least. I’m reminded of a travelling physician from days of yore selling his wares from the back of his gypsy caravan, crying ‘who will buy my life preserving elixir?’ It’s long past the time these quacks were stripped of their mystique and marched out of town.

  9. Cahal


    There is one of those really irritating adverts that comes up from the bottom every time you log on. I’m not 100% sure of how the advertising thing works but as I understand you might not be aware of this. Just to let you know if you don’t (and report that the advert is very irritating if you do!)

    1. ambrit

      Mr Cahal;
      I’ve noticed the same thing. Whilst grumbling about it in the kitchen my wife suggested that it’s a sign that Mz Smith and NC have passed a critical threshold and are now viewed by the advertising community as a ‘viable commodity.’ That said, we’re just going to get used to it as one of those annoying ‘facts of life,’ which guarantee that La Belle Dame and her enablers kee p on fighting the good fight.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No, this is just a new way to advertise, Not specific to NC, my ad service is getting this kind of ad. At least it’s not the annoying type of ads they have at Bloomberg and big newspapers where the ad at the top expands and pushes the copy down so you can’t read or click on links till the ad is done doing its moving graphic thingie. I don’t find the ads at the bottom objectionable, personally.

    2. ad buster

      *use adblock
      *use noscript
      *optionally, filter ads with a proxying filter like privoxy

      Everyone should be using these tools. Sorry, Yves if you derive revenue from the ads.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes I do, so that sort of advice means I make no money and won’t be able to continue publishing this blog. If you want my copy, you need to see the ads. How do you think publishing works, exactly? Do you think the computer types this stuff on its own? There are humans who have expenses associated with publishing, or did you manage to forget that part?

        Honestly, you are a real ingrate. Don’t you think I have bills to pay? I’m not independently wealthy. You ought to be ashamed. I put in killer hours to keep this blog going, I can’t afford to pay for any support save the webhosting (that why you see so many typos) and you have the nerve to tell readers to block ads and deprive me of the meager income I get from this site?

        1. F. Beard

          Good points and I suggest we all hit the “Donate” button this instant to show our support to Yves.

          1. old.frt

            Your comment Yves was good for a 20.
            The links, the antidote of the day, and your general selection of news items are a pleasure.
            I don’t like the popups but for you, I’ll hit on a few to keep the count going.
            Thanks for your efforts.
            I hope others get around to donating to your site.
            It’s a small amount to pay for the information.

        2. ambrit

          I wonder if adblocker is an Evil Troll? Otherwise known as an agent provocateur. Since his ploy is pure D “starve the beauty” he must be associated with the “Forces of Evil.” Would a complaint to the RNC do any good?

        3. dictateursanguinaire

          Word up. System may be rotten but it’s better than starving. don’t have the $ to donate but i’ll do my part in hitting a few ads.

  10. dearieme

    “One German organic farm has killed twice as many people as the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Gulf Oil spill combined”. [Blog commenter “Richfisher”]

    1. psychohistorian

      Voltaire said something like “History is a lie commonly agreed upon.”

      Some years ago I added sanity to that sort of lie.

    2. Birch

      Radiation, oil, and dispersant contamination will continue to compromise health and even cause deaths long after the current e-coli strain has gone its own way. The imperceptibly slight increase in global cancers, the unrecognized associated complications from chemical contamination, the hazard of reduced food security many years from now when the fish stocks haven’t properly recovered… Most of the eventual deaths from these bigger disasters will never be associated with their causes. They can’t be counted like an e-coli outbreak, so it’s a rather misleading and irrelevant statement to make.

      Fishers in the Kenia still get paid a small fraction for their fish that fishers elsewhere get because of the Exxon Valdez. The Fukushima workers who got dosed heavy won’t know what that really means for years.

      And that’s only an icredibly arrogant look at human deaths; humans being the most worthless species on the planet from a biospere health perspective, to put it politely.

  11. alpwalker

    Re “Making the US Economy Scream”, lots to agree with except the writer’s assumption that Obama’s base is upset because he hasn’t done enough. On the contrary, they are upset because he has done too much – too much of the GOP/Bankster agenda.

    In fact, the base understands the GOP game and is fed up with Democratic duplicity and stupidity. The GOP CIA-type disruption strategy depends on Dem cooperation – which they seem only too willing to provide.

  12. Hugh

    “Wage growth slows to a crawl” is deceptive for 2 reasons. First, wage growth has been slow for most of the last 35 years. Fed policy, tax policy favoring investment income over wages, and union busting will do that sort of thing. The slowdown the EPI notes is more of a crawl slowing down to whatever is below a crawl. Second, the EPI is talking about nominal wages. Figure in inflation and wages earners have probably been losing ground.

    The Bruce Krasting piece is interesting because 1) I think hedge funds don’t get the attention they deserve in the depredations we observe, 2) it shows that the shadow banking system is alive, well, and as dangerous as ever, and the safe harbor initiative is a nice example of looting and corruption.

  13. Ignim Brites

    I always thought that Zhou Enlai’s comment about the French Revolution expressed a cryptic skepticism about Marxism. Turns out that Straussian reading is too clever. Oh well.

  14. Huh?

    Krugman says the existing macro-econ models have not failed?! What planet is he living on? Even if he doesn’t agree with Pimco ‘s actions it’s completely absurd to defend the functioning of current macro-econ models. Plus, Krugman proves again and again that he understands inflation as a purely conceptual phenomenon… which it is not.

    1. hermanas

      IMHO, no one who is still getting a check understands or is willimg to admit what’s happening.

  15. dearieme

    “general recommendation to refrain from consuming cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce in northern Germany”: how many people followed that advice and had a beansprout salad instead?

    1. attempter

      1. All such bacteria, no matter where it occurs, was engineered by the industrial “food” system. Most of it arises at factory farms, though there’s quite a chemical arms race on corporate grain and vegetable farms as well.

      2. All such large-scale, widely distributed outbreaks are possible only on account of corporate distribution systems.

      Food markets are naturally overwhelmingly local/regional. Corporate-welfare distribution systems (i.e., almost all distribution beyond the regional) are 100% the artificial creation of governments. So in a true free market for food, such outbreaks would not exist. They’d be impossible.

      Once again, we see the crimes against humanity of the corporate-government nexus.

  16. Doug Terpstra

    Robert Parry’s “Making the US Economy ‘Scream’” describes Naomi Kline’s “Shock Doctrine” — “creative destruction” via disaster capitalism. It’s the Chiquita plantation formula of banana republics now returns to the homeland to roost. Death squads may be next.

    But the article recalls Lily Tomlin’s lament: “no matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up.”

    And Robert Parry is certainly not keeping up — or is in on the framing game. This is NOT a partisan phenomenon, and his defense of a complicit Dem Party is nauseating. Both parties are in on the scheme, and apparent Dem resistance is only theatrical pretense. Parry is playing a compliant role on the “professional left”.

    As Helen Keller put it in 1911, “Our democracy is but a name … We choose between Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee”

    The GOP candidates, cartoonish air-heads and villains, are just too obvious — strange caricatures from the kleptocracy to give‘briar-patch’ cover for Br’er Obama’s smooth re-election. Wall Street oligarchs just love their well-spoken, clean-cut plantation waterboy, and they want no real competition.

    The fix is in, and our only hope is that the economy collapses too quickly for either party-of-mammon to retain control. Our response to the duopoly must be “none of the above”, and collaborator-apologists like Parry are part of the problem.

  17. Foppe

    In this week’s economist you can find an attack on the ineptness of Silvio Berlusconi. But the economist, of course, does not disapprove of Silvio because prime ministers should not be hiring underage prostitutes; of course, they only judge people on their “economic chops:

    Two of them are well known. The first is the lurid saga of his “Bunga Bunga” sex parties, one of which has led to the unedifying spectacle of a prime minister being put on trial in Milan on charges of paying for sex with a minor. The Rubygate trial has besmirched not just Mr Berlusconi, but also his country.
    However shameful the sexual scandal has been, its impact on Mr Berlusconi’s performance as a politician has been limited, so this newspaper has largely ignored it.

    They do care about the following, however:

    We have, however, long protested about his second failing: his financial shenanigans. Over the years, he has been tried more than a dozen times for fraud, false accounting or bribery. His defenders claim that he has never been convicted, but this is untrue. Several cases have seen convictions, only for them to be set aside because the convoluted proceedings led to trials being timed out by a statute of limitations—at least twice because Mr Berlusconi himself changed the law. That was why this newspaper argued in April 2001 that he was unfit to lead Italy.

    Touching, isn’t it? You’d almost think they cared.
    However, by the next sentence harsh words such as ‘fraud’, ‘criminal’ have been forgotten again, when the real failing is discussed:

    But it is now clear that neither the dodgy sex nor the dubious business history should be the main reason for Italians looking back on Mr Berlusconi as a disastrous, even malign, failure. Worst by far has been a third defect: his total disregard for the economic condition of his country.


    When Europe’s economies shrink, Italy’s shrinks more; when they grow, it grows less. As our special report in this week’s issue points out, only Zimbabwe and Haiti had lower GDP growth than Italy in the decade to 2010. In fact GDP per head in Italy actually fell. Lack of growth means that, despite Mr Tremonti, the public debt is still 120% of GDP, the rich world’s third-biggest.

    Now, they either decry the fact that this debt has not been paid back, or the fact that GDP inflation isn’t covering up the absolute size of Italy’s borrowing.

    Draghi pinpointed stagnant productivity and attacked government policies that “fail to encourage, and often hamper, [Italy’s] development”, such as … lack of competition in public and private services, a two-tier labour market with protected insiders and exposed outsiders, and too few big firms.

    Now, while I am quite sure that Berlusconi is a very bad PM, it seems to me relevant to emphasize these splendid views held by the guy who will be succeeding Trichet at the ECB. He wants: fewer worker protections, more privatizations, and more “market concentration”, or a more oligopolistic market. Sounds like a nice guy, non?
    Anyway, the economist continues with a non sequitur:

    All these things are beginning to affect Italy’s justly acclaimed quality of life. Infrastructure is getting shabbier. Public services are stretched. The environment is suffering. Real incomes are at best stagnant. Ambitious young Italians are quitting their country in droves, leaving power in the hands of an elderly and out-of-touch elite. Few Europeans despise their pampered politicians as much as Italians do.

    Notice, especially, “the environment is suffering”. Heart-warming to see they care.
    And then, to cap it all off, a complaint that mr. Berlusconi doesn’t care enough about the profit margins of other capitalists, and an expressed hope that the guy who succeeds him will “liberalize” the economy with more vigour:

    Yet the notion that change is impossible is not just defeatist but also wrong. In the mid-1990s successive Italian governments, desperate not to be left out of the euro, pushed through some impressive reforms. Even Mr Berlusconi has occasionally managed to pass some liberalising measures in between battling the courts: back in 2003 the Biagi labour-market law cut red tape at the bottom, boosting employment, and many economists have praised Italy’s pension reforms. He might have done much more had he used his vast power and popularity to do something other than protect his own interests. Entrepreneurial Italy will pay dearly for his pleasures.

    Now, I realize that it is hardly news that the economist is pushing the neoliberal party line, as always praising the different SPIG governments for ignoring protestors, but it still irks me to see how openly they can call for this crap.

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