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Friday lay day

Its Friday lay day, where I don’t really write a blog anymore. Whatever! Over the last few weeks, I have written a few blogs that have examined the state of affairs in France – for example, Germany contracts as the French suggest defiance and French government in tatters and the financial markets want growth. I recall that earlier this year (January 28, 2014), the French President Francois Hollande told the press that unemployment in France had “finally peaked” (Source). Every month since he made that prediction, unemployment has risen.

I am currently reading Haruki Murakami’s latest book – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – which is outstanding. He is best known for the classic Norwegian Wood, but he has many other books translated into English. All are challenging in one way or another.

In the latest book, one of the ‘vehicles’ that motivates the inherent retrospection and binds various characters together is the piano piece by Franz Litz – Le mal du Pays.

In my younger years I shared a large house in Melbourne with a stack of musicians which we called the ‘Pink House”. It was quite a place. There were all sorts of impromptu bands forming very early in the morning as the occupants came home from their various gigs and whatever. Blues players, Jazz players, Rockabilly, Vaudeville and Classical musicians. We were young and didn’t need sleep.

One of the occupants of that mad house at the time was Leslie Howard, who is now a world famous concert pianist and is “the only pianist to have recorded the complete solo piano works of Franz Liszt, a project which included more than 300 premiere recordings”. It was a very eccentric mix of music styles that lived under that roof.

He used to play Litz late in the night on his piano and one of my favourite pieces was Le mal du Pays. It is 6 minutes of beautiful Litz, if you like him. It is part of a three suites for piano – Années de pèlerinage – written around 1838.

So just as in Murakami’s novel, the piece invokes a certain restrospective relevance for me personally.

Here it is played by Hungarian pianist – Jenö Jandó – who is another world expert on Litz.

Anyway, in French, le mal du pays means homesickness. If you separate the phrase (that is, not use it in context) then ‘mal’ means anything from bad, troubled, to evil and ‘pays’ means anything from country to home.

That sounds like France over the last week.

All this week, the national French statistical agency – INSEE (Instit national de la statistique et des études économiques) – has been publishing dire economic updates.

1. En août 2014, le climat des affaires dans l’industrie manufacturière se dégrade – Manufacturing sector business environment deteriorated in August.

2. En août 2014, le climat conjoncturel reste dégradé dans le bâtiment – The economic climate in the building industry deteriated in August.

3. En août 2014, le climat des affaires se dégrade, dans le commerce de détail et dans le commerce et la réparation automobiles – The business climate plummettes in retail trade, and in motor vehicle sales and repair.

4. En août 2014, le climat des affaires en France se dégrade – The French business climate generally deteriorated in August.

5. En août 2014, le climat des affaires dans l’industrie manufacturière se dégrade – The business climate for manufacturing deteriorated in August 2014.

Then the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi, de la Formation Professionelle et du Dialogue Social (the French Labour Ministry), published the latest data on registered unemployment (registered at employment centres) – Demandeurs d’emploi inscrits et offres collectées par Pôle emploi en juillet 2014 – and you realised how bad things have become under the manic austerity that Hollande is inflicting on the nation.

France categorises the unemployed into so-called classes (“catégories”). Class A are those who are actively seeking work. Classes B and C have less search requirements, and Class D have no search requirements either because they are not available (Class D) or already have a job (Class E).

The data says that:

1. There are now 3,424 million workers unemployed registered at job employment centres in France and the extra 26,000 that joined the queue represented the 9th consecutive month of rising unemployment.

2. The rise in July 2014 alone was 0.8 per cent – an acceleration in the deterioration.

3. There were also an additional 1.659 million unemployed registered as (Class B and C) at employment centres across France.

4. Overall in Classes A to C (the immediately available and willing workforce) there are 5,083 million workers registered as unemployment at employment centres and that number rose by 0.8 per cent or 40,600 in July.

5. Over the last year, the total Class A to C number has risen by 5 per cent.

The following graph is taken from the detailed publication provided by the Ministry.

Mr Hollande could not have been more wrong. He might be able to convince himself that austerity will foster growth but the reality is different – there can be no growth without increased spending.

You can scorch the economy as much as you like but someone has to be spending.

And to make matters worse, the new government formed after some of the key ministers (including the Economic Minister) resigned in protest about the ridiculous austerity measures that Francoise Hollande is imposing on the economy, is already reeling.

The newly sworn in Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, who was formerly an investment banker – yes, why put someone like in charge of anything, has now claimed he is open to ripping up the 35-hour working week rule, which is a maximum allowable under current law.

Businesses are lobbying to force workers to work longer hours and reduced pay. The new right-wing shift in the ‘Socialist’ government (its a farce, no!) is now getting behind the push by business, claiming that unemployment will rise further if business is now allowed to be more flexible.

Do the sums – longer hours at less pay means less working hours available for others and less overall income.

So now we have been marginally pacified into melancholy by Litz here is some wake up music to increase the anger again.

This song is from Linton Kwesi Johnson – Fite Dem Back – was Track 5 on the 1979 album – Forces of Victory. It was written about organised police attacks on young Caribbeans in Britain.

But the words might equally apply to policy makers who think that by slashing spending under so-called austerity plans growth and jobs will magically spring up. The words might also apply to the Australian polity who lock innocent children up on remote, mosquito-infested islands in the Pacific and drive them into mental illness, just because their parents tried to seek refugee status in Australia.

Get the video started and sing it out loud – along with Linton.

We gonna smash their brains in
‘Cause they ain’t got nofink in ’em
We gonna smash their brains in
‘Cause they ain’t got nofink in ’em

Some a dem say dem a niggah haytah
An’ some a dem say dem a black beatah
Some a dem say dem a black stabbah
An’ some a dem say dem a paki bashah

Fashist an di attack
Noh baddah worry ’bout dat
Fashist an di attack
Wi wi’ fite dem back

Fashist an di attack
Den wi countah-attack
Fashist an di attack
Den wi drive dem back

We gonna smash their brains in
‘Cause they ain’t got nofink in ’em
We gonna smash their brains in
‘Cause they ain’t got nofink in ’em

Saturday Quiz

The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2014 Bill Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 7 Comments
    1. Dear Bill,

      5. En 2014, selon les chefs d’entreprise, l’investissement dans l’industrie manufacturière progresserait légèrement par rapport à 2013 – Business managers predict investment in manufacturing will decline in 2014.

      This actually means business managers predict investment in manufacturing will pick-up slightly in 2014. The article your link points to mentions a 1% increase compared to 2013, but it doesn’t quite change the whole narrative since according to the same article 2013 was 5% worse than 2012!

    2. Dear Tristan Lanfrey (at 2014/08/29 at 19:51)

      Yes, thanks very much for picking that up. I made a mistake. It is obvious what the entry I included meant. I must have got my wires crossed because I actually meant to put the other August news in (which I have now fixed) and was in a rush.

      best wishes

    3. Dear Bill

      The reason why a minister can think that it is a good idea to make the workweek longer without a proportional increase in wages is that he operates with the assumption that labor is a commodity like any other, that is, demand for labor increases if its price is lowered. If the workweek in France were to be increased from 35 to 40 hours without a pay increase for workers, then hourly labor costs would fall by 12.5%. Businesses would then have more incentives to hire workers because labor is now cheaper. That is the argument. It never seems to occur to them that here there is a fallacy of composition. If workers don’t earn more when they produce more, who is going to buy the additional production?

      Capitalists want their workers to be paid little but at the same time they want customers who have lots of money to spend. That’s of course contradictory. If real wages don’t rise in tandem with productivity, then part of the additional production will have to be sold to foreigners. That’s essentially what Germany has done, use foreign demand from exports to replace the loss of domestic demand resulting from excessive wage restraint. It is of course a beggar-thy-neighbor economic strategy which can only be practiced by some countries To recommend such a strategy to the whole Eurozone is the height of folly.

      Have a good weekend. James

    4. Bill,

      I’ve noticed that a lot of commentators who come out with the more sensible comments on blogs such as the one I’ve referenced above describe themselves, like myself, as engineers of one sort or another.

      Now, generally speaking, engineers are fairly conservative creatures. But, to be a successful engineer you do have to be able to figure out how things work. Anyone who’s looked at a complicated circuit diagram, or understands the calculations which ensure that aeroplanes fly and don’t usually fall apart in mid-air knows that isn’t always easy. That there is a definite trend by engineers towards your way of analysing and understanding the economy is very heartening.

    5. petermartin2001 –
      Engineers have to define real world domain constraints and then follow up with a ‘desired’ subset of soft constraints. The thinking/tools Bill uses are very similar to this. And a major part of that seems to be just understanding how the real ‘fiat’ money system works.

      The economics minister:

      enough said!

    6. I cannot agree.

      Roger Garrison the Austrian Economist is from an an Engineering background.

      In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Engineers entering the economics field is the problem not the cure.

      The first wave of neo-classical economics comes from mechanical engineering, the second wave from Electrical engineering, and from the 1940’s economics has aped Quantum Mechanics.

      The big problem isn’t so much the answers being given it’s that the questions are being changed better fit the tools at the engineers disposal.

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