Philippe Legrain on Dutch hypocritical TV

Philippe Legrain (1973) is a British economist who worked as an advisor for former communist and later EU commission president José Manuel Durão Barroso in 2011-2014. Legrain has now written a book on a European Spring, something that Manny tried hard to achieve, as readers of this weblog know, as I tried to advise Manny too.

The real news from Brussels is that Manny’s successor Jean-Claude Juncker doesn’t want a Spring but a Hot Summer. A showdown with Putin should unite the peoples of the EU, and also force Greece to choose sides, JCJ thinks.  Philippe Legrain’s book is old hat. I am still waiting for approval by JCJ to spill some of the beans of our luncheons, dinner parties and fire-side chats. The big secret in Europe is that Angela, François, Jean-Claude and me were all born in 1954, and that we share an obligation to make it all work, though I am for peace-with-strength and they are hopelessly confused.

This Sunday, Philippe Legrain allowed Dutch television to interview him on his Spring eulogy. Legrain is unaware that Dutch TV journalists are hypocrites by profession, and that he is sucked dry like in those vampire movies.

The interview is in English with Dutch undertitles, and you can check how interviewer Marcia Luyten (1971) takes Legrain for a walk in the woods, guts him, and leaves his body somewhere in a ditch.

About a key moment in the economic crisis:

“There was a panic across the Eurozone, and people thought that governments could not pay their debts. And actually it was a panic that ultimately the ECB was able to solve. In the case of the Netherlands it wasn’t even a panic. This was just a mistake made by this government, under pressure from Brussels, and Berlin.” (Philippe Legrain, minute 35).

It is absurd to portray Holland as a victim of Brussels. It is the other way around. Europe is a victim of Holland:

  • It were rather speculators who saw an opportunity to make a killing. It wasn’t a panic but a real threat, caused by wrong legal rules.
  • The solution provided by the ECB still is an improvisation, and we still need a new treaty, see my piece on the two Mario’s.
  • It were Dutch hawks who joined with Germany and imposed austerity on the rest of Europe, also using Brussels as a front for the Dutch electorate.

Other major errors in the interview are:

  • Legrain apparently never really studied Holland. For him it is a small country that falls under his radar. For hm, Holland is not a perpetrator but a victim. For him, these are nice people, and not hypocrites. Apparently he regards Holland as a free, tolerant, open-minded country, that just happens to have made some policy errors, without kids delving into the trash as now happens in Greece. He can’t make himself see Marcia Luyten as co-responsible for making kids in Greece do so. But she is a hypocrite and co-responsible. She never properly informed the Dutch viewers.
  • Legrain just answers the questions that Marcia asks. He doesn’t expose Holland as a major perpetrator. He does not expose Marcia as belonging to the hypocrites who helped cause the problems. He joins Marcia in her “frame” that it are politicians who do not want to lose face, while a major part of the story is that it are journalists who have been misreporting and misrepresenting.
  • Legrain doesn’t expose Jeroen Dijsselbloem as a major stumbling block: an agricultural economist who got into politics too quickly and who apparently isn’t able to deal with these issues properly. (Dijsselbloem already failed on the policy w.r.t. the education on mathematics.) (See Dijsselbloem on Dutch exports.)
Marcia Luyten reads the English book title "European Spring", by Philippe Legrain

Marcia Luyten reads the English book title “European Spring”, by Philippe Legrain (minutes 22-40)

Thus, Philippe, the next time that you visit Holland, first consider my books DRGTPE and CSBH, and let us discuss those, before you face Dutch journalism.

Incidently, we appear to agree with a lot. For example, that the surplus on the Dutch or German exports account was invested abroad, and basically was squandered when investments failed, is a key feature in my analysis since 1990. See also Johannes Witteveen, a former executive director of the IMF.  But the hypocrites on Dutch television will not allow viewers to hear this from home grown economists. They will welcome people like you, Philippe, who criticize Germany and France, instead of the local Dutch incrowd hawks and perpetrators, and their messenger prime minister Mark Rutte, who has a degree in history and who does not know much about economics but still is zealot about Margaret Thatcher, and who got the Rathenau prize on freedom while he censors economic science in Holland.

But, you also state that you have a proposal how a currency union would work with decentralised decision making. I wonder how you could achieve that. My suggestion has been that each nation adopts an Economic Supreme Court. I wonder whether your ideas are the same. Apparently those are behind a pay wall. This will not work.  Even a crisis should not force people to buy into books that might be scientifically unwarranted.

PM. This hypocritical Buitenhof TV broadcast also contains a discussion with Nikos Koulousios, six minutes before Philippe Legrain. This is somewhat amusing, but not really so.

  • The suggestion is that when Greece and Germany collaborate on jokes, and the Germans admit that they don’t have a sense of humour, then we see a proper collaboration in Europe: and all is fine, and people should feel satisfied that the notion of a unified Europe might work. I am afraid that this only confirms national stereotypes and isn’t real humour.
  • Koulousios calls it typical that a letter signed by economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Piketty did appear in the Greek paper efsyn.gr but not in other papers, except in the Financial Times in which it appeared originally. He seems to suggest some kind of conspiracy, in which the Greek readership is manipulated and not given the right information. However, it may just be that the FT expects royalties. Check why I don’t blog at the FT. Thus the proper diagnosis is that journalists can be quite hypocritical, not only in Holland but even in Greece.

There is one real conclusion from all this. I will discuss it with JCJ the next time I see him. Rather than joining Putin in a hot Summer war on the Ukraine, the EU should pay Russian journalists more money for accurate reporting about the state of the world.

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