Monday, August 3, 2015

TPPA in "Disarray", Groser "Emotional", Plunket "On to It"

Should We Be Dismayed or Relieved?

Today, Brian Fallow, economics editor of the Herald, asks "Should we be dismayed or relieved at the disarray the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are in?" -I first wrote about this nearly five years ago and essentially nothing has changed since then.

Ninety-nine per cent of us should be relieved, though many won't be. Those that mistakenly believe this is primarily about freeing up trade will be looking at the parlous state of New Zealand's until-recently booming dairy industry and hoping beyond hope that the deal will give some relief by freeing up protected overseas markets in the U.S, Canada and Japan.  Even if these nations were to give up protecting their markets -which they won't- Fonterra have already killed (or rather given away) the "golden goose" by investing heavily in joint ventures overseas that compete with New Zealand farmers directly and exascerbate price depression by removing demand from the global dairy market.

 I absolutely believe that the "real trade" aspects of this treaty are little more than a cover-story for the small-print on the package. "Free trade" in tangible goods has,over the years, come to be seen as a "self-evident virtue", like Christmas and the Easter-bunny, although I have, for a long time, realised that this is a fiction, because although goods, services and capital may well be allowed to flow freely all around the world to the benefit of those who own them, there is no such "free trade"in labour. not only are the vast majority of workers constrained geographically, but the "right to work" itself is at the discretion of the employer, not the worker. But I digress....

The real intent this treaty is the prospect of extending the scope, reach and duration of "Intellectual Property" rights (this is the bit that nails Pharmac) and the establishment of"investor-state dispute settlement tribunals".

The characterictics of Investor-State Dispute Settlement:
  • In the event of a government taking action that is likely to reduce business profitability (alcohol licensing laws or restrictions on tobacco or sugar for example) a domestic company cannot sue the government in a domestic court since Parliament has prerogative powers. Neither does that company have the right to use the ISDS process. However, an overseas company can use the ISDS process.
  • ISDS allows corporations to to sue governments for decisions they may take that affect their interests but governments have no reciprocal right to take action against corporations.
  • A  government cannot "win" a claim against a sueing corporation, the best it can do is to "not lose".
  • The (usually three) "arbitrators" on the Tribunal are not Judges appointed by any government. They are selected from the corps of lawyers engaged in public international law, and are thus also a part of the so called "transnational elite" They operate in a "revolving door" environment where they may be a judge in one case and be representing a client in another. Clearly there is conflict of interest between these two roles.
 All of these have the effect of transferring sovereignty from the elected government to the ISDS Tribunal and giving overseas companies greater legal rights than domestic ones.

TPPA is a grand scheme to facilitate the ambitions of the "transnational elite" -a bona-fide modern phenomenon recognised by academia (Sklair 2001, Rothkopf 2008)- of which Groser (who has had a lifelong career in trade negotiation and diplomacy) and Key (international currency trader) are both members. It is quite understandable how, from their elevated viewpoint, they view national sovereignty as a quaint anachronism and an impediment to the world they inhabit, whereas for us lesser mortals who are required by law to inhabit a world defined by our national borders, sovereignty is our firewall and security no less than the walls and roof of our own home.

 Too much sovereignty has been given away already -customs tariffs and excise duty are legitimate tools for any nation to use to create the society it wants as well as to raise revenue. Arguably "protectionism" is more virtuous than "free-trade" anyway, since business-owners and workers share in that protection equally, and parliament is at liberty to and has always from time-to-time altered tariffs and duty to reflect the political, economic and strategic demands of the country. Treaties binds future governments to commitments, not only beyond the life of the goverment that makes them, but beyond the life of any person living at the time it is made.

Thomas Paine (1791): "There never did exist a Parliament in any country, possessed of the right of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it; and therefore all such declarations by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have neither the right nor the power to do are in themselves null and void."

Tim Grosers Emotions Trump New Zealands Best Interests.

Tim Grosers attachment to the signing of the deal- "not emotionally in the space of wanting to leave the party" (can't find the video sorry -I think it's been pulled) while understandable is quite deplorable. He has spent his entire career in trade and diplomacy and has been revolving in "trade-negotiation" circles for more than 35 years. Not only is this the biggest deal of his life, but at 65 years old, it will be his last. It is only natural that he wants to leave the party bathed in glory rather than as the "party pooper." Arguably it was precisely the goodwill resulting from long association with the global negotiations community that made him one of the "parachute squad" (Groser, Finlayson, Joyce) of "Johnny-come-lately" list MP's that have been inserted into high ministerial office . Not as talented as playing to the audience as "smiling assassin" Key -his strident comments about "bleating and moaning" and "breathless children" smack of arrogance and desperation.

John Key Bored and Irritated at Post-TPPA Press Conference

This clearly isn't the press conference john Key wanted to be having: PM: "We don't get rich selling things to ourselves". Reading deadpan from the paper to minimise the gravity of the situation, and with such haste, clearly wishing the pain and embarassment to be over -no sign of "gracious in defeat" stoicism to be seen here -however Key is too politically clever to indulge in the outright invective that Groser has resorted to.

It's probably just a coincidence that the sub-editor chose this phrase to title the video-clip, however the claim is worth a look since it is such a popular misconception. John Key looks so shamefaced as he trots out this "hoary old chestnut" it is clear that he knows it to be false and that he is liable to be called-out for spouting this "crock". Let's digress again for a moment:

The simplistic concept assumes that once money is spent it is "used up". Although this appears true if looking from a solitary viewpoint (hence its credibility with the layman), as soon as one looks from a community viewpoint the opposite is true. Money circulates continuously, and everytime it does so it adds value for those engaged in circulating it, as they are making, buying and selling things of tangible value or services that add to their quality of life using that same circulating money. Therefore "Selling things to ourselves" is very much the way to "get rich". The Jewish merchants, Indian merchants and the "Exclusive Brethren" have done very well as communities by precisely this mechanism -buy from one of your own community in preference to buying outside the community (in effect a self-imposed "trade tariff"), then sell to all-comers. this has the effect of concentrating wealth within ones own community. This model works equally well for a nation -all that is required is the collective will to adopt it!

The very best way to "get poor" is to suck money out of circulation by exporting profits to overseas owners and committing disproportionate amounts to loan repayments for overpriced real-estate. This is the present path. Meanwhile in the short term we sell our capital (land, houses etc.) for short term gain giving us the impression we are rich. In the longer term we become assetless and powerless tenants and minimum-wage-earners.

Pragmatically, "no TPPA deal" is just as valid an outcome as "deal"  and if signed every "nation" will be a loser -only transnational corporations will be winners.
SEAN PLUNKET: Is the pendulum swinging against free trade?


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy on Auckland Property Crisis

Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy throws in her ten cents worth concerning overseas investors forcing up the price of Auckland property. No doubt conscious of past criticism where she has been perceived to be less than willing to enter the arena she now chooses to blunder into the fray Ill-informed and with no better strategy than to regurgitate the drivel spouted by vested interests such as Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church.

Devoy claims that "complex economic problems" are being blamed on "ethnic communities". The problem is certainly not complex -it is a simple matter of overseas demand vastly exceeding supply creating an affordability crisis -neither is it being blamed on any ethnic community. The blame rests fairly and squarely on a government obsessed with neo-liberal ideology -everything is for sale to anyone and the devil take the hindmost. It is the government and real-estate interests that have cynically turned this into a race issue in an attempt to discredit their critics.

"Economists have voiced real concerns with the legitimacy of the half baked data that’s been released this weekend" says Devoy. Which economists I ask? I have seen no such authoritative commentary. However, given the failure of the government to collect proper data is it not reasonable for concerned parties to estimate the number of overseas purchasers by any means possible? The use of Chinese names to estimate that part of the demographic is merely a tool -one that does not exist for many other parts of the demographic, e.g. British and American overseas buyers whose names are already common within the NZ populace. It is perfectly reasonable to estimate that the overseas Chinese part of the overall buyer demographic is around 39.5% minus 9% i.e. more-or-less 30%. Of course the overseas buyers of other ethnicity exascerbate this even further and are no less a problem.

Sadly, Devoy fails to understand the true nature of the issue she attempts to address -this is the problem with appointing a sports personality to do a diplomats job. It is likely that this was a deliberate ploy when choosing her for the post as politicians rarely choose to place those of high intellectual rigour into positions where they might find themselves criticised by that person.  She specifically blames Labour's Phil Twyford in her press release and accuses him of singling out certain New Zealanders "because they have a Chinese sounding surname". This is not only false it is an abuse of her Office. She should apologise or resign.

It is no good asking people to stop talking about it and "be nice". If Devoy seriously wants to defuse any potential conflict between resident Chinese and other New Zealanders, she should call for an outright ban on sale of property to all non-resident buyers.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Auckland House Prices and Playing the "Racism" Card

First, lets take a look at this press release written by Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church entitled "Property Institute slams Labour Chinese investment claims" It is such drivel it pains me to even bring it to the attention of the reader, but needs must...
Following the opening gambit of an ad-hominem attack on Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford for alleged "racism". Mr Church then describes the data used by Mr Twyford as ‘shonky’ and says ‘it has so many holes in it that it would be marked with an ‘f’ if it was submitted as a High School Economics project’. Amazingly, Church then goes on to elucidate the following:
“Mr Twyford uses ‘asian sounding’ surnames as his means to identify which buyers are ‘Asian Investors’ - without any way of knowing whether the buyer is a New Zealand immigrant who lives here, or an investor based in China”.“On that basis Mr Twyford should be blowing the whistle on Scottish foreign investment in this country - because a large number of kiwi homes are owned by people who have names starting with ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’”.
 This has to be about the most specious, infantile attempt at constructing an argument one could possibly imagine -there are so many non-sequetors to it. Firstly he is comparing apples with oranges -existing owners with new purchasers. Then he is claiming all individuals with Scottish names are Scottish investors - clearly not true since these individuals are descendants of migrants going back as far as 1848. they are therefore New Zealand investors, Just as are the descendants of previous generations of asian extraction.
Clearly it is Mr Church, not Mr Twyford who should be standing in the corner wearing the Dunces Cap!

Fair play to Scoop for publishing this Press Release without comment, which is about all the attention it deserves. Not so the Herald on Sunday. As Senior Journalist, Russell Blackstock has to carry the can for this particular piece of drivel.
 
No-one should place a shred of credence in the weasel words of "local commentator" Ron Hoy-Fong. Of course as a property investor he has an interest in price escalation and knows very well that the mechanism is simply one of increased demand acting upon a limited supply determining a rising price. It is amazing how easy it is for his kind to feign ignorance of this most fundamental tenet of their otherwise beloved “neo-classical” economics and suggest that somehow the problem is one of greed on the part of Kiwi homeowners who wish to sell their property – it is mere fogging of the real problem of speculation and in fact it is racist of Hoy-Fong to make the claim he does. 

Despite describing himself as a third generation New Zealander it is clear that Hoy-Fong places himself in a different category to the "regular Kiwis" he is so keen to blame. How a person who has thirty houses can call his neighbours greedy is beyond belief!

 As for the authors of this so-called “report”, Russell Blackstock & Simon Plumb –they are obviously either extremely politically and economically naïve, or have a vested interest in brown-nosing to the speculator or wealthy migrant cohort, or they are mouthpieces for the ideologues who wish to keep New Zealand in a permanent neo-colonial state rather than see a maturing democracy.

No Property Sales to Non-Residents!

Progressive Capital Gains Tax on second and subsequent property ownership!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Saxon Villages of Transylvania: A Mediaeval Model for the Future Eco-Village?




I was prompted by an article in the most recent Ecologist magazine to find out more about these remnant mediaeval villages as a potential model for future farming as I see it.  All the links from the article had the inevitable "coffee-table magazine' look about them- pretty flowers, wild animals you know the sort of thing- triumph of style over substance.
Eventually I came across this report commissioned by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and published way back in 2001
Part one:
http://web.archive.org/web/20110717123238/http://www.kimwilkie.com/image...
Part two:
http://web.archive.org/web/20110717123238/http://www.kimwilkie.com/image...
It still has lovely pictures but more importantly it has diagrams, aerial views and descriptive text. The producers of the report have included the inevitable nod to "sensitive tourism" and  "appropriate integration of agricultural technology",  but then this was ten years ago before peak oil awareness and agricultural commodities were at very low prices. The need for "cash earners" was predicated upon the notion that cash is needed to provide the "mod-cons" that must be provided to discourage all the young people from deserting their communities.  I believe that ten years later with agricultural prices rising, peak oil a historical fact a billion hungry people in the world and apparently a change of heart in the E.U. that has until recently sought to destroy the remnants of "peasant farming", this mode of living could suddenly become very attractive to those who formerly might have wished (and been encouraged by politicians) to abandon it for a "better life" in the cities.
I am particularly impressed by the combination of family autonomy in the gardens and arable lands and community co-operation in the use of the common pastures and woodlands. As you will see from the village layout the houses, yards and barns are all very similiar in size indicating a self-imposed egalitarianism in these communities (remember these people were free peasants- not vassals of some feudal lord). I am sure that hundreds of years fighting off Mongol and Saracen hordes built a great sense of community solidarity.

I have been a long time looking for a model of what I see as a realistic and practical solution to post peak secure and sustainable living. Here I find inspiration- but sadly I have little confidence in our ability to act in a suitably urgent fashion. Perhaps I need to take a crash-course in Romanian language!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Well-Measured Critique

A well measured critique by Strypey of Michael Cropp's supremely un-critical regurgitation of what appears to be a press-release by Rau Hoskins. Mr Hoskins appears to be more interested in raising his personal profile than contributing anything tangible to current concerns about housing arrangements, quality and affordability. He is quite right to argue that "the...approach to housing... is not even working for Pākehā people, because we see marooned elderly people in their own homes, or living away from their children or living in rest homes", but using the term "euro-centric" is disingenuous to say the least, as is his claim that "the desire to live in close proximity to each other is a uniquely Māori dimension". It is mere posturing and hard to believe that a person who is an academic as well as a practicing professional actually believes his own myopic spiel.
Arguably, the Marae in its current form bears more resemblance to a mediaeval european village than to pre-colonial Maori dwelling arrangements such as the Pa, which in turn bears a resemblance to more ancient forms of European settlement such as the hill-fort. This is not to suggest they are in any way derivative -it is simply a matter of form following function. Since Maori were largely a rural and self-sufficient population until after WW2, it is hardly surprising that the urban Marae still retains a cultural inheritance from its rural counterpart. Europeans, and specifically the British, have four centuries of agricultural enclosures and industrialisation alienating them from the functional root of such communal living.
The current position is brought about by historical development rather than innate cultural difference. It's disfunctionality is largely predicated by the contradictions of the modern world.
  • The demand for a more mobile workforce in industial society than was previously required in the agrarian world.
  • Affordable transport options.
  • The tendency towards property ownership rather than renting or tied-housing. This has brought about the distortion of values (both moral and financial) by the economic function of property as investment for individuals and collateral for interest-bearing debt for the banking system.
  • Social and inter-generational disintegration, arguably a result of the replacement of common culture by "fashion" i.e. the desire of individuals and cohorts to express difference rather than "sameness".
  • The list is probably almost endless.
    New Zealand is in a particularly odd situation since the entire built geography of the country was created by colonial edict rather than by natural progression. Thus roads connect ports to farms in a dendritic pattern to facilitate penetration of capital and extraction of value, rather than a network to facilitate communication within and between communities. This has has a profound effect on attitudes towards property and created a virtue out of isolation, probably simply because it has become a cultural norm. Most NZers aspire to detatched living on a large section and this is institutionalised in planning law by rules of "one title one dwelling".
    I agree wholeheartedly with Strypey's reservations about the role of Maori Incorporations. If they see an advantage as purchasers of social housing they are doing so from a purely commercial perspective rather than altruism. It is a mistake to view these institutions of Maoridom as in any way benign or socialistic in intent. This is a colourwash applied by some activists and those Maori with a vested interest. One of those vested interests would be Mr Hoskins himself as the Incorporations would be potential future clients. I would go as far as to say that his interview or press release was designed to position himself thus.
    I think it is a flawed argument for Floydian Nectar to suggest that the government forced the Maori Incorporations to be set up in order that the government could deal with Maori on terms dictated by colonial culture. Whatever pre-colonial Maori culture was in terms of their view of property, their world was hierarchical and authoritarian. This is the reason that the Maori Party and the Incorporations are such a natural fit with the National Party. Ordinary Maori have, by and large, moved on from that view, which is why they have rejected the Maori party so vehemently, though I think that they, along with many ordinary Pakeha who might be expected to vote for Labour, have yet to find a vehicle for political expression.
    It was always in the power of the Maori incorporations to use their wealth to set up new types of social and economic structures that would empower ordinary Maori yet most choose not to. A few did use a large amount of their funds to facilitate direct benefits to their people but these cannot be sustained without structural change.
    I see the Marae and the Permaculture inspired co-housing / eco-village project as manifestations of essentially the same intention. The hurdles are to defeat the resistance of conservative ideology that has a vested interest in retaining the neo-colonial economic model and to make the concept as attractive to the general populace as it is to (some) Maori.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Just Say No To Corporate Greed: The Case Of Iceland

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30662.htm




Just Say No To Corporate Greed: The Case Of Iceland

By Ellen Russell

February 28, 2012 "
Rabble" - - Capitalism is looking pretty mean these days. No amount of profit is enough, and no level of collateral damage to get that profit is unreasonable. And when capitalism on steroids runs amok, any extremes of public pain are justified to save the butts of those who made the mess in the first place. Corporations understand that they have a green light to punish people ruthlessly for even a modest improvement to their bottom line (ask Caterpillar workers if you want details). Whole nations may be bled dry to shield financial institutions from the consequences of their own bad behaviour. The Greek government is deliberately creating a national great depression to appease international financial interests.
Happily there are some instances of people saying no to this madness. Iceland is a great example of people who stood up and fought for civility.
Iceland used to have a sound but not too adventurous government-owned-and-operated banking system. It more or less did what it was supposed to do to serve local needs. An orgy of neo-liberalism in the 1990s culminated in the privatization of the banks in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The mavericks who took control of the newly privatized banks took corporate greed to extreme levels. They caught the worldwide disease of speculative euphoria, and made immense profits as the country's banks started doing some pretty crazy stuff.
Financial journalist and former investment banker Michael Lewis offered one financier's apt depiction of the hocus pocus that was going on in Icelandic banks: "'you have a dog, and I have a cat. We agree that they are each worth a billion dollars. You sell me the dog for a billion, and I sell you the cat for a billion. Now we are no longer pet owners, but Icelandic banks, with a billion dollars in new assets.'"
This lunacy was largely fuelled by borrowed money. Iceland's top three banks went on such a pathological borrowing spree that their assets were 10 times Iceland's GDP. It doesn't take a genius to realize that this loony behaviour will end badly. When the speculative bubble burst, all three of the country's major banks suddenly collapsed.
Since Icelandic banks had borrowed so heavily, there were a lot of angry creditors looking to get money back from the government of Iceland. Intense pressure was exerted to force Iceland to compensate anyone that lost money when Iceland's banks hit the wall -- regardless of whether those out-of-pocket were local depositors or international financial high-flyers who should have done their due diligence before getting involved with dodgy hijinks. Governments around the world were issuing blank cheques to pay for the sins of their bankers, and Iceland should be made to pay too.
But the people said no. Weekly assemblies outside parliament made it clear to politicians that the people were not going to be forced to pay for the craziness of the bankers. Politicians responsible for the crisis were given the boot. Out went the prestigious David Oddson, who as Prime Minister (and later as chair of the central bank) had championed the neo-liberal agenda. Geir Haarde, Prime Minster at the time of the crash, has been brought up on charges concerning his handling of the crisis. A left-green alliance elected Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is herself a trailblazer as an openly lesbian head of state.
Iceland's government faced intense pressure to compensate those financial interests hurt by the wreckage of Iceland's bank failures. The shoot-out at the OK Corral came over the misadventures of one defunct Icelandic bank that had expanded willy-nilly in Europe. When it collapsed, Britain and the Netherlands rushed to bail out its creditors in an attempt to buttress confidence in their own financial sector firms.
Now the British and Dutch governments demanded that Iceland reimburse them. Naturally Britain and the Netherlands figured they bore no responsibility for their lax oversight in allowing dodgy upstart Icelandic bankers to jeopardize British and Dutch financial stability.
The total bill was US$5.8 billion, but the sale of the failed bank's assets covers a big chunk of that bill. The estimated final cost to the people of Iceland to compensate these foreign governments would have been over $2 billion. That is a lot of money for a country with a population comparable to that of Windsor, Ontario. A deal was proposed that Iceland pay back this debt -- with interest -- until 2046.
OK, dear reader, are you sitting down? Because this just might knock your socks off: Iceland figured that this matter should be democratically decided. Those radical Icelanders actually demanded that they vote on the decision to compensate foreign governments.
The people decided not to pay up. In fact, they held two referendums and it was voted down both times. In the words of a spokesperson for the anti-bailout coalition, "It is totally insane that taxpayers foot the bill for failed private companies. It was odious. We had to say no."
Very ominous threats were made that Iceland would become an international pariah. The U.K. even used anti-terrorism legislation to freeze the Icelandic bank's assets in Britain. Litigation is still ongoing as Britain and the Netherlands seek ways to force Iceland to pay.
Of course, Iceland went through some tough times in the aftermath of the financial meltdown. Ordinary Icelanders suffered plenty because of the economic fallout from the recklessness of their banks. But Iceland is emerging from this mess in much better shape than it would have been forced into the equivalent of a country-wide debtor's prison. Even the IMF is holding up Iceland as an example of how to overcome deep economic dislocation without undoing the social fabric.
All of us owe a debt of gratitude to the people of Iceland. They took a stand and held their ground when all of the forces of international capital were allied against them. Whether it is at Caterpillar or in the streets of Athens, we all benefit when people say no to paying the price for corporate greed. Every time we just say no, we have a better shot at demanding sanity in the face of barbarism.
Economist Ellen Russell is a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her column comes out every two months in rabble.ca.

Friday, December 9, 2011

EU now belongs to Goldman Sachs

 This is from uk.yahoo news. I always like this stuff from mainstream sources as I feel that, for doubters and waverers, it carries more weight than stuff from the more "alternative" sources.

See the original article by Ian Dunt at Yahoo! Newsblog

Italy is no longer a democracy. It is a frontier outpost in the gradual takeover of governments by the financial markets. When technocrat Mario Monti was installed and filled the government with unelected administrators, it was not just a defeat for democracy, it was a victory for the banks.

Monti is Goldman Sachs' man. He was lifted out of academia by Berlusconi in 1995 to work at the Europe Commission, first in internal markets and then on competition. The bank spotted him and made him international adviser.

Something similar happened in Ireland, where Peter Sutherland, attorney general in the 1980s and former EU competition commissioner, became non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a non-executive director of Royal Bank of Scotland, until, you know, it collapsed, and we had to share the pain — but not, it goes without saying, his salary.

Mario Draghi, who recently became president of the European Central Bank, is a former Goldman Sachs man, as is Antonio Borges, who recently stood down from the IMF for personal reasons.

The banking lobby could not win its war in Greece, where creditors — the big banks of Europe - were forced to lose 50% on bonds. This was an unprecedented defeat, although not one which will save the Greek people from brutal and self-defeating austerity for a generation.

The banks made sure they won their other battles. The big fear, that they could lose out from the situation in Spain and Italy, will not be realised. The most important aspect of Merkozy's eurozone deal this week is that it rules out creditors ever having to shoulder a portion of future bailouts in insolvent eurozone countries.

Even the use of current IMF practise - that experts should decide on a case-by-case basis whether bondholder losses are necessary - is being negotiated, with a push for it to be moved from the text of the treaty to its preamble, where it would have no legal weight.

The idea that creditors should not suffer a loss when their investment goes wrong is the reason we are inflicting unparalleled economic and social misery on Europe. The austerity measures, the rescue funds, even the European Financial Stability Facility, derive from this principle, the principle that whatever happens, we must not penalise the banks. Every national bailout is in fact a bailout of the banks. Add it to the bill.

By cementing the complete subservience of European political life to the market, the Markozy deal does an extraordinary disservice to our continent and our society. But it doesn't stop there. The deal also suggests automatic sanctions on countries that allow a budget deficit of over three per cent of GDP and inserts a rule into eurozone countries requiring a balanced budget. Unlike creditor amnesty, this is at least a commendable economic and political principle - but it directly overrides the principle of national sovereignty.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been offered joint press conferences with Angela Merkel, complete with a torrent of barely-conscionable photographs of them kissing. But these presentations are merely theatre. Everyone knows France is an afterthought. We are seeing the takeover of European national sovereignty by Germany, which will effectively wield a veto against individual states' budgets. The national angle is easy to overstate, however. Germany is merely the handmaiden of the financial markets, which got us into this place and now sit like vampires turning their own catastrophe to their advantage.

The markets reacted with sluggish enthusiasm to news of democracy's acquiesce. Spain's ten-year bonds were down 5.2% while Italy's fell to 6.3%. With commendably comic timing, however, Standards and Poor intervened to put major European economies on watch. Only the best will do for the markets, you see. They won't be pacified until they have total immunity set in stone.

It won't fix the problem in the short-term, because it will kill demand and force European economies into a death-spiral. It won't fix the problem in the long term, because fiscal fetishism, while bafflingly politically popular, does little against what is, at heart, a balance of payments crisis made particularly acute by currency union. Actually, fiscal austerity makes us particularly vulnerable to cyclical downturns.

And what has David Cameron's response been to this dramatic turn of events? He has shown even more contempt for democracy than his counterparts on the continent. The left — a political designation Cameron spoke of as if it was contemptible during last week's PMQs - wants the public to be protected from the tyranny of the markets. The right wants some recognition of national sovereignty in Europe, some guarantee that their worst dreams of an ever-expanded, monstrous technocratic super-state are not being realised.

Both left and right are correct. There is plenty of scope for cooperation in preventing this disaster from unfolding. The idea that investors should be protected from the ramifications of their gamble is not a capitalist one — quite the opposite. The idea that the public should swallow losses and be denied profits is not capitalist either. Similarly, there is nothing right-wing about believing countries are entitled to make their own laws and their own budgets, without the arrogant intervention of other, more powerful, states.

Cameron has shown himself deaf to both concerns. He has ignored eurosceptic pleas to extract Britain from the situation and his only demand in exchange is that the City of London be protected from further regulation.

Paris and Berlin's desire for a financial transaction tax is self-interested, but that does not make it wrong. It is at least one small commendable action against the tyranny of the financial markets.

Opposing it is not, as Cameron says, in the national interest. The national interest would see Britain take action against a financial sector which has ruined its economy and now demands public austerity for its own mistakes.

The modest proposals for a financial transaction tax constitute one small ray of hope in utter darkness. It is one the British prime minister is intent on defeating. Not only will he support the dismantling of European democracy, he will do so on the basis that he can promote the market's dominance even further than the puppets of Europe would tolerate.