14 July 2015

Tsipras called the referendum 
to lose!
In a post here a week ago about the weird referendum in Greece, I argued that "no sound government takes the initiative to call a referendum to vote ‘no’".
     Now, former minister of finance, Yanis Varoufakis, explains that, actually, Prime minister Alex Tsipras wanted the 'yes' to win, in order to "have to" accept the deal with the EU that he had already seen as inevitable
     This clarifies the apparent ridiculousness of Tsipras' challenge, which would have been only a gesture for the gallery after he had reached a deal with the EU. 
     It also explains Varoufakis' sudden resignation immediately after the victory of 'no', which would have backed his tough negotiating stance only if had it been supported by his Prime minister.
     In fact, Tsipras too-smart maneuver backfired and now he, according to his previous plans, has accepted the EU deal, but in spite and against the referendum result. A double political defeat.

Varoufakis declarations to ABC radio in Australia:
About his resignation: "I jumped more than I was pushed."
How he realized that Tsipras had wanted and expected the 'yes' would win:
The night of the referendum "I entered the prime minister’s office elated. I was travelling on a beautiful cloud pushed by beautiful winds of the public’s enthusiasm for the victory of Greek democracy in the referendum. The moment I entered the prime ministerial office, I sensed immediately a certain sense of resignation—a negatively charged atmosphere. I was confronted with an air of defeat, which was completely at odds with what was happening outside.
At that point I had to put it to the prime minister: 'If you want to use the buzz of democracy outside the gates of this building, you can count on me. But if on the other hand you feel like you cannot manage, handle this majestic ‘no’ to an irrational proposition from our European partners, I am going to simply steal into the night’... I saw that he [Tsipras] didn’t have what it took emotionally at that moment to carry that novelty to Europe, to use it as a weapon… I decided to give him the leeway that he needed in order to go back to Brussels and strike" the deal.

Listen to Varoufakis' words: CLICK (until minute 3)


Varoufakis confesses Greek government's incompetence:
“If we manage to handle properly a Grexit … it would be possible to have an alternative. But I’m not sure we would manage it, because managing the collapse of a monetary union takes a great deal of expertise, and I’m not sure we have it here in Greece without the help of outsiders.”
In interview with New Stateman CLICK
     In other words: the Greek government didn't have a plan B. And nobody can win a negotiation without a plan B. 


Achim Kemmerling said...
Looking at a survey fielded just a day before the referendum shows what Greeks associated with voting ‘no’. It is clear that Greek naysayers did not really want to leave the Eurozone, but that they want to send a signal to politicians. Effectively a ‘no’ is more like a ‘yes, but’, saying yes to debt renegotiation, but with better conditions for the Greeks... CLICK
Central European University, Budapest

Xavier Vidal-Folch said...
No m’ho puc creure!!!!
D’altra banda, la lleialtat d’aquest senyor és perfectamnent millorable…
Salut sempre,

Xavier VF
El Pais

Salvador Giner said...
Evidentment. La regla elemental de tota política bizantina és voler el contrari del que dius que vols. Grècia no s'enten pensant que són hereus de Sòcrates sino d'Alcibíades. O be: no són fills d'Atenes, sino de Bizanci. Com diu Confuci: embolica, que fa fort.
Universitat de Barcelona

13 July 2015

Greece, our cousin

If Greece cannot be the brother of another 18 full members of the European Union, at least it could be a close cousin. The choice for Greece is to remain a full member of the European Union committed to abide by all the rules derived from the monetary, fiscal and banking union or to move to a second tier of association that, with several variants, already encompasses one third of its members.
     In the past, different countries have shown different degrees of willingness to join the transatlantic alliance of defense, the euro, or the agreements on border control, justice and police. Nowadays, some EU members are not NATO members, others are in the euro but not in Schengen, others are not in the euro but in Schengen, others neither in euro nor in Schengen, and some non-EU members are in either NATO or in euro or in Schengen or in several of these unions. Rather than uniform European integration, there are nowadays different degrees of union across issues and countries.
     In the future, different countries may keep accepting further integration on new issues along different paths and at different speeds. A large group of core countries will remain in the Euro-zone, under the jurisdiction of the European Central Bank and the Fiscal Compact, as well in loyalty to the Schengen agreement. Other countries may keep taking benefit from the European single market, but they may also continue to be out of some of the other commitments.
     The possible Brexit or Grexit have been compared to a separation or a divorce. In the same vein, the variety of allegiances of different countries to the common policies of the European Union can evoke complex family relationships, which are composed of the nuclear family and several connections with first-, second- and third-degree relatives. The actual interactions are partly determined by blood, but affinities, exchanges, and animadversions can also derive from voluntary choices. Likewise, some countries can shift between closer and looser relationships with the EU, choose opt-ins and opt-outs, and enter or leave the Union with different prenups and settlement packages.
     The United States of Europe, in the sense of a compact, homogeneous federation, is not in the horizon. The European Union can endure and succeed, in contrast, as an inwards, non-colonialist “empire” because empires typically hold uneven levels of formal integration of countries and varied degrees of people’s allegiance. The current asymmetries in countries’ degrees of integration are likely to endure. 

09 July 2015

                Politics in Art
                An Anthology     

1. War
2. Kings and Presidents
3. Revolution
4. Voting and elections
                 Video 15 minutes

03 July 2015

The Greek weird game: 
When ‘Yes’ means ‘No’
Some people wonder whether the Greek government of Syriza headed by Alex Tsipras is a group of maverick politicians and skilful game theorists or a bunch of amateurs who improvise every move and don’t know where to go next. A clue to bend on the latter interpretation is how they have called this Sunday’s referendum. It’s not only that it has been called only one week in advance, that the question is undecipherable, and that they may not get on time to cover all the towns and islands of the country. It’s that the question is upside down!
        An elementary rule for callers of a referendum is to call ‘yes’ to what the callers want. This is due, first of all, to a basic democratic element of accountability. A referendum is to ratify (or reject) some proposal or decision previously made by the government, the parliament or whoever organizes the query. If the government’s proposal is rejected, which rarely happens, then the government must resign and its proposal will not be implemented. See how this was the case in Ireland a few weeks ago, where the government called for ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage and won. In last year’s referendum for independence of Scotland, the Scottish government also called for a yes, and as it lost, it resigned. Even in the a-legal query in Catalonia about a similar issue a few months ago, the Catalan government asked for a ‘yes-yes’ (which won but was not validated due to low turnout).
       The only occasions on which the government can call ‘no’ is when the referendum is promoted by a group of citizens to challenge some existing legislation, which may happen in a few places like Alaska or Utah, for instance. In fact, most popular initiatives against government-backed legislation loss. And no sound government takes the initiative to call a referendum to vote ‘no’.
        The other ‘strategic’ reason to call for ‘yes’ is psychological. In general, people prefer ‘yes’: it’s positive, optimistic, it may be based on trust, it comes first to your mind, it’s easy to deliver. ‘No’, in contrast, may require more information on the intricate matter and an attitude of distrust and angriness. Campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote is certainly easier and more cheerful than a ‘no’. Aware of this, the Britons are discussing the question for the announced referendum about Brexit from the EU (which is not going to be called one week before, like the Greek one, but about two years in advance). The independent British Electoral Commission suggested that in addition to the obvious question: “Should the UK remain a member of the EU? Yes or No”, the government should consider a less biased question with the “neutral wording”: “Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? Remain or Leave”. Still, the status-quo (remain) would be favored. But surely the British government will feel emboldened to have its own way.
       The Greek callers are trying the silly trick of putting ‘No’ above ‘Yes’ in the unreadable and bilingual ballot, as can be seen in the image (Oxi=No, Nay=Yes). This may mislead some voters to vote for the first available option, but it can also surprise others that can react against a too obvious suggestion.
       This Sunday in Greece, if ‘no’ wins, the EU loses. But the Tsipras government would not win anything. Syriza called ‘no’ precisely because they have no-thing to offer. If the ‘yes’ wins, the governments loses and the EU wins. Then it’s the EU that should manage the victory and rule in Greece.

Marjorie Henriquez said...
Very informative! 
from IMF

Pedro Gete said...
muy bueno!
from Georgetown University

Hector Schamis said...
Buena nota sobre el referendum. 
Comparto esta de hoy.
'Argentina y Grecia' CLICK

Argentina had a trade union with Brazil, but no monetary union; Brazil devalued and Argentina had to break parity with the dollar to devalue as well.
Does this mean that Greece should leave the euro to devalue?
Why not take the example of Puerto Rico? It will go into default right now, but without leaving the dollar and without creating a major crisis in all the USA for it.
As you say, over-indebtedness inevitably  leads to "austerity" one way or another. Tsipras & co believe that, with the victory of ‘no’, tomorrow they will sit again at the table with the EU with stronger negotiation power. But the EU can tell them to follow their path.
Like Puerto Rico, California, Illinois, Detroit ...
Argentina, Russia ...
Read more »

14 June 2015

Presidential pre-candidates

With Hillary Clinton’s launch of her candidacy yesterday in New York, the very long session of the US presidential primary elections has formally started. The primary elections in the US presidential regime are the substitute for the formation of post-electoral multiparty coalitions in parliamentary regimes. These are two of the mechanisms that can be used to address the basic problem of a democratic political process: how to aggregate the varied and often contradictory preferences and interests of the citizens into forming, at the end, a single government producing a set of enforceable public policies. 
     In typical European democracies, multiple parties obtain seats in parliament and once there, after the election, they enter into negotiations and agreements to form a majority in support of a prime minister. In the United States, multiple candidates fight to get sufficiently broad support before the election to select only two political candidates running for president. In the European model, the mess is after the election. Some under-informed Americans like to mock those systems that permit the emergence of fringe parties and need several months, sometimes, to settle on a viable candidate for prime minister. In the US system, the mess is before the election. The mock is increasingly addressed to the primary season, where fringe candidates run and need more than a year to settle on a couple of viable candidates.

Claire’s syndrome

With so open opportunities for anybody to present their bets, one can wonder about the motivations of certain people to run for public office. Hillary Clinton is becoming suspect of suffering from the Claire’s syndrome. In the disappointing Netflix series House of Cards, Claire, the First Lady, who gave up her life and work to her husband’s ambition and suffered more indignity than was strictly necessary to help him to get into the White House, in spite of having performed several important foreign missions suddenly feels unfulfilled and decides to start a career on her own. Perhaps she will also run for President in the next season, which may be broadcasted at the same time as the real presidential election.
30'' video

No meat

Hillary’s main challenger within the Democratic primary may be former governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, who has just been introduced by The Washington Post as a former follower and disciple of Gary Hart, an unfortunate pre-candidate of more than thirty years ago. Hart became famous from a TV debate in which one of his insubstantial tirades on the need to have "new ideas" was retorted by former vice-president and candidate Walter Mondale: "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: ‘Where is the beef?’.” 
The ad in question was from a chain of hamburger restaurants which criticized another one. 
You can see the ad here:      And Hart and Mondale’s dialog here:
          CLICK - 30''                               CLICK - 20''

Let's hope some beef will be found.

Two dynasties

On the Republican camp –because actually it is more a camp than a party—the primary season promises to be as weird as it was four years ago. About 15 candidates have announced their intention to throw their hat into the ring. The number one so far, Jeb Bush, may raise the same wonder as Hillary Clinton does regarding his real motivation for seeking office. In this case he may suffer of un-fulfillment regarding not his partner’s but his father’s and his brother’s careers. But should any voter care about family frustrations regarding more fulfilled partners and relatives?

Some people sometimes mock the French system of recruitment of candidates for President and Prime Minister, which is largely based on the École nationale d'administration, the famous ENA. But at least that’s something more or less meritocratic since enrolling in the ENA requires passing a highly selective process of admission. In contrast, creating two dynasties, the Clintons and the Bushes, would be like going back to the pre-modern aristocratic era, when only a few big families fought for top power.


Trying to reduce the foreseeable mess, some TV channels have announced that they will limit the maximum number of participants in public debates to ten, perhaps creating two groups of pre-candidates. Here is as it’s seen by cartoonist Horsey:

Anyone for President

A traditional saying holds that the United States is a great democracy where anybody can be President. Actually this is not well proven. But what it’s clear is that anybody –literally anybody—can be pre-candidate.


Pedro Gete said...
me ha gustado mucho la intro.
?ha estudiado alguien si es mejor la mess antes o despues de la eleccion?
Georgetown U.

Rein Taagepera said...
Me too.
Eiher can be more or less of a mess, depending on details of setup and culture. 

U. California, Irvine

Salvador Giner said...
molt ben vist, per això les primàries a Europa, quan n'hi ha, són una altra cosa. 
Teu, Salvador
U. Barcelona

24 May 2015

John Nash program is alive!

John F. Nash (1028-2015) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994. Most probably he was the Nobel winner with the fewest pages published in his life!. In three articles, he basically introduced two concepts. The so-called Nash equilibrium is the outcome of a game in which no player can improve his results by unilaterally changing his strategy.
     Nash also introduced a normative concept, the “Nash solution,” for bargaining problems in which two or more actors try to reach an agreement on how to divide a good. The classical utilitarian criterion holds that the best social solution is the one that maximizes the sum of the actors’ utilities. This criterion inspires, for instance, the evaluation of the welfare of a country by its average per capita income or by the general level of citizens’ political satisfaction. In contrast, the Nash solution is the one that maximizes the product of the actors’ utilities.

All Going for the Blonde is a Nash equilibrium but not a Nash solution
An example of the Nash solution is given in the Oscar-winning movie A Beautiful Mind (based on the book of the same title by Sylvia Nasar) about the life of John Nash. A group of four students, including Nash, are spending some time in a bar in Princeton when five girls, including a stunning blonde, enter the room. Nash says, “If we all go for the blonde, we block each other and not a single one of us is gonna get her.” He suggests that “no one goes for the blonde,” and that the four boys instead pair up with the other girls –to the bemusement of his fellow students.
  A reasonable interpretation is the following. If only one person obtains the maximum prize, say with value 10, and the other three get nothing, the sum of the four actors’ utilities can be relatively high in comparison with an alternative outcome in which each of the four actors gets a lower value, say of only 2 (since 10 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 10 > 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8). But the product of utilities in the first outcome is very bad (actually it is zero, since three actors get nothing and can be extremely frustrated), while the product of the latter is higher (2 * 2 * 2 * 2 = 16).
  Generally, in comparison with the classical utilitarian “Bentham sum” solution, the “Nash product” solution favors more egalitarian distributions. For example, under the sum criterion, a distribution of values among three actors such as 3, 2, 1, is as good as the distribution 2, 2, 2 (since both imply a sum of 6 units of social utility). But under the product criterion, the former distribution (whose product is 3 * 2 * 1 = 6) is worse than the latter one (whose product is 2 * 2 * 2 = 8).

(Excerpt from my book: Colomer, The Science of Politics. An Introduction. Oxford UP CLICK)

Also CLICK for 3' video


Rein Taagepera said...
Yes, this is a major example of the broader adding-multiplying dilemma. 
Physicists multiply, today's social scientists tend to add, even when it doesn't add up. 

Oh, that's a great point!
I always thought of Bentham-sum and Nash-product as normative values, but not on how they also imply the analytical difference that you usually emphasize.
So thanks for pointing out what it was in front of my nose.

10 May 2015

The Most Important Day 
of the Twentieth Century

Everything came from there...
Video: 2 minutes
(from Paris brûle-t-il?, Dir.: René Clément)

23 April 2015

as published in Financial Times

Defaulting states and cities 
are still part of the US
Martin Wolf is very much on target when he claims that Greece’s default may not entail Grexit (“Mythology that blocks progress in Greece”, April 22). This is what the example of the US shows.
      In the early years of the Union, the US Treasury mutualised huge debts contracted by the states during the wars for independence. But once the American Union was more consolidated, the federal government stopped giving financial aid to states or cities in bankruptcy; none of them has been rescued since 1840. Actually, thousands of local governments have defaulted, especially after the Civil War, during the Great Depression, and most recently in California, Illinois or Detroit, for example. But none of these states and cities has left the dollar area or the United States!
      So let Greece default because it’s clear, as Mr Wolf says, that the money would not be repaid and that it has always been the case that “stupid lenders lose money”. And let’s keep Greece with the euro and in the European Union.
Josep M Colomer
Professor of Political Economy,
Georgetown University,
Washington, DC, US


Dear Dr Colomer
Thank you for sharing your interesting post.
Allow me to raise a question: how do you envisage letting Greece default and the other countries not? If Greece was the only case, then your position would make sense. Like this, I am really puzzled to comprehend the bigger picture within the Eurozone.
Emil Kirjas
Liberal International

Javier Corrales
Amherst University

Guillem Lopez Casasnovas
Pompeu Fabra University

brilliant, as usual
Angel Gil-Ordóñez

I read your letter to the FT on US states defaults and thought that you might be interested in my new OUP book, an analytical history of European debt. It was given a very supportive review by Andy Moravcsik (Harvard) in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. The book is titled: 'States, Dent and Power: 'Saints' and 'Sinners' in European History and Integration''
My best wishes,
Kenneth Dyson
School of Law and Politics
Cardiff University, UK

Also from 
The Grumpy Economist-John Cochrane's blog
The litGdefault needs not Grexit - CLICK

22 April 2015

International(?) Book Day:
   Who Translates Whom
The International Day of the Book (or World Book Day) is a yearly event on 23 April, sponsored by the UNESCO, to honor Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, all of whom died on this date in 1616 (400 next year).
     But how international are the books?
     More than 1.6 million books are published annually in approximately 200 languages in the world. English is the strongly dominant language, as more than one-third of total books in the world are published in this language.
     About 83,000 books are translated. Near two-thirds of translations are made from English. This is also almost the only language with a high surplus in language exchanges, as the number of translations from English into other languages is almost ten times higher than the number of translations from other languages into English.
     So if your first language is English, you are just lucky. Otherwise, if you want to publish in English, better write and publish first in English; the odds to be translated from any other language into English are very slim (I learned this forever from personal experience more than twenty years ago: see my books here). Then, after publishing in English you may have a sizable likelihood to be translated into other languages, as many books are translated from English into French, German, Spanish, as well as into Chinese and Russian.
     You can see the balances between language exports and imports, that is, between translations from and into each language, in Ashley Beale’s table below.

                        PUBLISHED    Original  Target     Balance    Exp+Imp/Books

English             557,927            62,295       7,090     55,205         12.44
Chinese            178,284                 644     10,090     - 9,446           6.02
Spanish            131,965              2,736     10,111     - 7,375           9.74
Russian            123,336              2,021     11,267     - 9,246         10.77
German            113,477              9,316     10,733     - 1,417         17.67
French                88,558              9,057     14,980     - 5,923         27.14
Japanese             78,555              2,919       6,771     - 3,852         12.33
Italian                 59,743              3,434       1,694       1,740           8.58
Turkish               34,863                169             33          136           0.58
Swedish              34,320              1,608       2,783     - 1,175         12.79
Dutch                 34,067                 864       6,695     - 5,831          22.19
Polish                 31,500                 552       5,264     - 4,712          18.46
Portuguese          29,895                 576         815        - 239            4.65
Arabic                24,870                 525          770        - 245            5.21
Romanian           14,984                 161       1,406     - 1,245         10.46
Finnish               13,656                 473       2,439     - 1,966          21.32
Danish                12,352              1,229       3,065     - 1,836         34.76
Czech                 10,244                 696       4,505     - 3,809         50.77
Hungarian             9,193                 239      3,614     - 3,375         41.91
Catalan                 7,758                 603          903        - 300          19.41
Hebrew                6,866                 398          660        - 262          15.41
Greek                   6,826                 380       2,677     - 2,297          44.78
Total              1,606,495                                    

Ashley Beale, “From State Media to Worldwide Networks”,
in Communication: From Its Origins to Internet, 2012: CLICK.
The Table is the author’s elaboration with data from UNESCO (CLICK)
for more than 90 percent of all books published in a single year.



高懿行,Anthony  said...

Thanks for sharing! Very interesting article.

From Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Beijing, China

Salvador Giner said...

només 10 cops més?/only ten times more?


16 April 2015

A Faustian Bargain in the EU
The tragicomedy of threats and negotiations between Greece and Brussels shows the big paradox of the European Union. On the one hand, the EU is blamed for not doing much for the victims of the crisis. On the other hand, it is derided for enacting excessive bans, restrictions and regulations. Actually the two blames are two sides of the same coin. Europe is overregulated precisely because the EU suffers from insufficient own resources (the EU’s annual budget amounts to about 1% of the Gross European Product, while the average member state spends about 48 % of its GDP). In the absence of a solid Europe-wide fiscal system, the EU substitutes overregulation of states’ fiscal policy for its own financial resources. The states retain the bulk of the money, but it is largely used to implement legislation directly or indirectly originated in Brussels.
       If the states wanted the EU to do more for the European citizens, they should accept transferring significant fiscal resources to the Union. With stronger finances, Brussels would be able to develop Europe-wide policies and it would need less interference over the policy areas reserved to the states. The EU’s fiscal strength would be the price for the states to reduce EU’s overregulation and to regain some of their lost autonomy. The states could develop their own policies on the issues on which they would choose to be different, up to the point to be responsible for their own finances: they should have the liberty to default and not expect to be rescued by the EU at the expense of the tax-payers of other member-states. In other words, let’s render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to the states the things that are theirs. If, conversely, the European states want to keep the bulk of public spending, they shouldn’t blame the EU for interferences and regulations, as, in absence of Brussels fiscal strength, these are the only ways by which the Union can try to provide European public goods and to do something for the European citizens.

Longer version in Spanish in the daily El Pais  CLICK


Rein Taagepera said...
You have nailed down a most important connection.
Yes – let’s render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to the states the things that are theirs.
And hope we can distinguish which is which.
How did the present (im)balance come about?
There is a vague analogy with theFaustian bargain in labor negotiations: 
Employers refuse wage increase, which would hit them  immediately; but offer higher pension as a substitute, which is more distant.
University of California, Irvine

Salvador Giner said...
Josep Mª, Molt bé la Faustian Bargain, 'L'estira i arronça fàustic'!
University of Barcelona

Jorge Dezcallar said...
Magnífico, te he leído hoy en El País
Ojalá Europa pudiera hacerlo!

Ambassador of Spain