Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Group led by Thomas Piketty presents plan for ‘a fairer Europe’ (theguardian.com)
96 points by rapnie 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 124 comments

Europe is already very heavily taxed. Another tax on gasoline has just set France on fire.

Democracy? If it were democratic there'd be much stricter implementation of immigration rules and by the way, I think a healthy dose of helping refugees, and specifically helping the places from whence they camp.

Also in 'Democracy' - the EU itself is among the least democratic of institutions in the West, with an unelected executive forming all the laws, while elected MEPs with no ability to propose legislation. Moreover - nobody even knows who their MEP is. I understand why this was done, but still ...

Instead of 'more taxes' maybe they might want to consider a) thinking about efficiencies both in private and public sector and b) at least listening to populist concerns on migration.

Look at youth unemployment rates in Europe: https://www.statista.com/statistics/266228/youth-unemploymen...

>20% youth unemployment in France, Italy, Portugal, Spain. I don’t see how a country could recover from that.

Well, they could reduce the value of their currency to make them more competitive ... whoops can't do that!

Watched a show on France24 channel about what's happening in France right now, 7 out of 8 guests labelled Macron as completely out of touch.

It appears that 50% of the country makes 1.2k/month or less. You cannot survive with that kind of salary in France, so it's not just one tax or two. There is a series of decisions made by Macron's government that are heavily controversial.

On a side-note, demonstrations sparked in Belgium and the Netherlands, to a lower extend.

"The plan [...] includes huge levies on multinationals, millionaires and carbon emissions to generate funds to tackle the most urgent issues of the day, including poverty, migration, climate change and the EU’s so-called democratic deficit."

So the plan seems to be to grab money from a list of subjects the people love to hate, to use it to solve the problems newspapers love to talk endlessly about. And how? Not clear. Just solve them, I suppose. With the money.

Taxing the hell out of CO2 emissions is likely its own self-fulfilling solution. To a first order, it doesn't matter what you spend the windfall on. Subsidize a revival of mime, if you like.

Probably the smartest idea would be to blunt the political backlash by spending the tax revenue on welfare for coal miners, oil workers, truck drivers, etc.

"Taxing the hell out of CO2 emissions", which I take to mean taxing it so much it forces producers and consumers to significantly curtail C02 activities, would not necessarily be a self-fulfilling solution.

Tax obviously works, but it can only work to a point. At a certain point we need technological solutions such as solar to make up the rest.

Extremely high taxes would lead to a lot more outsourcing of C02 activities to countries with less controls. If a widget produced X tons of C02 released into the atmosphere in the UK, it may well produce 3X tons of C02 in Asia or Africa. Then it also costs C02 in transporting the widgets to the UK. In this instance the UK does not get tax revenue, and C02 emissions have tripled. A lose lose situation.

Consumers may also revert to unhealthy and C02 producing activities such as burning coal at home for heat.

So then you would also need to tax imports for perceived C02, and also tax precursors for C02 (coal) rather than just emissions.

Meanwhile the poor are rioting in the streets (see Paris this past week).

It's a global problem, you need a global solution backed up by treaty commitments, and presumably an inspection regime (similar to the IAEA).

Like I said elsewhere in this thread, I'm pretty fatalistic that anything will actually be done, but pretending for the sake of argument that we cared about the world our children will inherit, what would you propose?

I am also fatalistic about global treaties of any major consequence.

So failing that I would start with low hanging fruit. Convince countries with low populations but high per capita C02 emissions to switch to sustainable power. Especially countries that are increasing. Trinidad and Tobago have a small population (1.3 million) but have the second highest per capita and its increasing. I assume they are burning far to much diesel and have some issues getting natural gas supplies, or maybe corruption is causing buyers to buy diesel and not natural gas. Maybe the global community can come up with a solution.

Saudi Arabia (for all their other problems) is high on that list but sees the writing on the wall and is investing in solar. If it makes sense for them financially and in terms of stability, it probably also makes sense for Qatar and Kuwait to burn less oil and build solar.

Next I would look at countries that do not have a high per capita, but are increasing.


I guess that's a good starting place, but we have ~11 years to cut global emissions by 50% -- I don't know if you can do that off the back of Trinidad and Tobago.

It's so bad people focus only on CO2. Focusing only on one gas will likely boost solutions that promote generation of other not great for environment gases like NO2. That has already happened with diesels. Diesel emits much more NO2 (~4x) and PM (up to 20x) than standard engine.

They don't. There's been plenty of information, study and discussion of the other greenhouse gasses, especially methane.

As CO2 is the main contributor it's reasonable it gets most of the focus.

What would you focus on?

Regarding focus for each technology, evaluate its environmental impact in full - total toxicity on all stages - obtaining raw resources, initial production, deployment, use, maintenance over 10-20 years, lastly decomissioning/deactivating. There's been too many wrongdoings by good intentions. Focus on diesels that at least used to emit much more NO2 and PM than gasoline cars [1]. Or biofuels that were proven to be energy-negative overall and contributed much to the increase of food prices, also boosting burning forests to grow corn in South America.

[1] http://theconversation.com/fact-check-are-diesel-cars-really...

I'd love to read data that diesels didn't pollute more than gasoline cars. It's been a huge thing in EU some time ago when governments had to switch their incentives due to those findings. Are you saying it was all a hoax?

Seems like he's talking about climate change, whereas you are talking about polution more generally. NO2 isn't really relevant to global warming, but isn't healthy.

In the case of diesel cars, as I recall, the manufacturers built sports diesel engines that were much more polluting than normal older diesel engines. They then lied that they were still okay due to 'technology' which turned out to be detecting by GPS that the car was at a government test center and making it run like an old engine. Total fraud.

When the fraud was found out, all those diesel sports cars were treated as super polluters because they were.

But NO2 and small particles are a big short term problem rather than an apocalypse, so we should look at them differently.

You are quite right in suggesting that, especially with a lot of lobbying going on, we should look critically at all proposals. The popularity of biofuels maybe being linked to the farming lobby.

Not only the industry or workers, but CO2 taxes, when implemented as petrol or electricity taxes, end up increasing the cost to users who don't control their own usage: petrol is required to commute to work, electricity is required for home necessity, etc.

And the other side of the imbalance: the only way to mitigate these taxes is a large depreciating capital investment in an electric car or home battery. Those who can't afford the investment suffer the worst of the tax.

Maybe, but I just don't understand how a politician can come up with a plan like this:

"Hey, you know what, why don't we make everything more expensive, so that we can do more than everybody else in solving a problem that is global, is caused mostly by other people, and doesn't really affect us that much yet?"

I mean, there are things you do because you have to do them, because they're the right thing: and yet maybe they're not what excites you most. Especially when you're trying to sell the idea to a continent that has much more serious, immediate, specific problems: increasing divide between rich and poor regions, excessive regulation, corruption, falling economic competitiveness, negligible political weight on a global scale, etc. To me, the fact that a problem so vast and abstract is put in front of others, so obvious and compelling, is already the sign of a serious departure from reality.

The reasoning you're outlining is pretty much why I don't think climate change will be addressed in any meaningful way.

The recent UN report says we have 11 years to cut global emissions by 50%. It's extremely unlikely that will happen: https://www.vox.com/2016/10/4/13118594/2-degrees-no-more-fos...

As you say, everyone will continue focusing on "immediate, specific" problems, and then it will be too late (if it's not too late already). Our children and grandchildren will suffer droughts, wars and famines for our short-sightedness.

Number one reason for our grandchildren to suffer will be that there are so many of them. As long as the population grows without limit you will have wars and famines eventually.

Developed countries where women control their own fertility don't have an overpopulation problem. Maybe we could help other nations reach those milestones?

But again, realistically, not enough time.

A lot of that "overpopulation" scaremongering is purely simplistic Malthusian nonsense. Consumption doesn't scale like that with population. Per capita, large families are more efficient. Besides, the population is predicted to hit a maximum of 9 billion, and the EU is aging rapidly which is a major problem. Instead of peddling unimaginative and lazy claims about overpopulation, people should focus on real issues like the glut of consumerism and the grotesque waste of very large quantities of food.

   why don't we make everything more expensive
What is wrong with making things expensive? There are too many things being produced. If we are staying with a market solution then the only way to reduce consumption and its consequences is to price appropriately to achieve the desired behavior.

   a problem that is global, is caused mostly by other people
Europe is a leading contributor to GHG emissions. It absolutely needs to reduce its own emissions. This will have a major impact on the developing economies.

  a continent that has much more serious, immediate, specific problems
A decade to avoid the destruction of the comfortable, profitable and cosy climate we have known for millenia seems pretty damn pressing to me. You won't have to worry about any of the other trivial issues you list if it isn't sorted out.

I honestly do not know why there is not mass panic right now.

> Taxing the hell out of CO2 emissions

That’ll last about 5 minutes until the French realise that it boils down to a petrol tax and start rioting again.

I m sure Piketty has the best of intentions, and his arguing about a wealth tax on the face of growing inequality has merit. The problem is how these funds are going to be spent. EU is already subsidizing a number of sectors, with less than spectacular results. EU funds are great for governments because they offer jobs and make them look good. But look at how agriculture is doing in the countries that received most of the subsidies. EU already spends a lot in research, yet research materializes into products on the other side of the atlantic. Maybe if there was a more tight dependence on returns of investments these funding schemes would make sense. I think piketty himself knows that the proposal is naive, but i guess he agreed to be co-opted by the populist left.

Government is excellent - BEYOND excellent - at policing others. In most every 1st world country, when the government goes after an industry, things change. See the recent Australian Royal Commission for an example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Commission_into_Miscondu...

The problem is when Government is a player as well. Government struggles to play both referee and player - as anyone would. Just imagine Michael Jordan refereeing his own games. Every drive would be a foul.

The problem with government is there is no creative destruction. When a company turns bad, it dies. When government turns bad, we elect a new one and all the same shitty institutions remain. And the good ones to be fair, but certainly all the shitty ones.

Government should stick to what it does well, hold other entities accountable, and not get too involved in things that can fail that they can't then kill off.

I read Capital in the 21st Century. I can't speak to this group in particular, but I think what Picketty argues for is wealth redistribution. Picketty proves that the poor are much worse at investing money than the wealthy -- which is actually the biggest factor behind increasing inequality.

Sane people can argue that taking money from good investors and giving it to bad investors is a bad investment strategy.

But it's quite clear that if we don't do /something/ about inequality, it's only going to get worse and at quickening rate. Wealth redistribution is pretty much the only option.

The only way that seems sustainable to me is: you take the average rate of return and subtract that from each individuals rate of return. If that's a positive value, you're taxed at some percentage of the difference.

I.E. if the average rate of return is 4%, and yours is 90%, you're taxed at 86%*X -- where X is some value or a function of 86%.

If you tax wealth at some arbitrarily progressive rate, that could easily disensentivise people from creating wealth or from working as hard to create it.

> the poor are much worse at investing money than the wealthy

i disagree. wealthy people have better investment options by virtue of the fact that they have more money. any banker can confirm that. Taxation is not the only solution. full employment is another way , but yeah there are no magical solutions.


Also when someone is barely getting by, assuming they are not dealing with addiction or violence and generally just subsisting, you can bet they know exactly what to do with that last $20. E.g. groceries with the highest calories per dollar, how many bus passes to get at a time, etc.

If budgeting is what is meant by investment (since obviously we're not talking about saving if there's nothing to be saved), from what I have seen poor people are incredibly good at it.

Contrast that with money managers who are generally just bad and can't outperform the market, not for lack of trying. Is "investment" really the right idea, and who says it's the number one importance compared to basic human needs?

Why does everything have to be about abstract efficiency and cost? It's not like there's a shortage of business opportunities for techno-luxuries that are fun to produce and trade, that we absolutely must go after basic rights via austerity. Lousy rentier mindset, we should have to be creative to profit. Once monopolies emerge they should be broken up, and once technologies become necessary for daily life, access to them should become a right. Tax incentives to invest in R&D instead of hoarding wealth could be expanded. So many things can be done to mitigate issues within "social democracy" without going full public ownership or eliminating private property. Question is, once these things are implemented, how can their repeal be prevented? Time to open up and revise constitutions.

It is funny how one of the top stories on HN right now is an article that shows total goverment incompetance - the story about NY metro not showing the time it will arrive, then there is this story about giving that governmemt more money.

Can you fathom a world where governments can actually do some things well and some things poorly, for quite complicated reasons?

> the manifest unfairness of huge multinationals such as Apple, Google and Amazon

Those are American companies. Why aren't there EU companies at this level? Probably because of their destructive tax policies. Massive tax increases will just make the situation worse, and investment capital will desert the EU for American.

The problem with every large scale plan is how to bring the "russians" on board (by russians I mean the people, but maybe also Russia).

show the population your plan is working by broadly improving the population's standard of living

this is currently working in both russia and china to the point where many are content with quasi-dictatorships because they've seen such a vast improvement in their quality of life through improved economies

at the end of the day more food on your table and more money in your bank account speaks volumes louder than having an infinitesimal say in who represents your interests in an increasingly dysfunctional local and federal government

No, I think you mean Russia the government, not "russians" the people. The latter have little say over the policymaking of the former.

The last sentence of this article resonates with me: Where are the leaders? I see a deep visionary impasse in all of the west.

There is no coherent response to a long list of hard problems. We know China or Russia are threatening us. Extremist leaders are appearing in a lot of our western countries, including US, Australia, a lot of Europe, ... Big multinationals abuse and damage the core social contracts that provide the stability of our nations. A huge climate crisis is coming at us.

Meanwhile, our politicians are bickering amongst themselves. The problems of the 70's are fought with solutions of the 70's. I hate to see how people support right extremism, choose leaders that only damage them, but I do understand their frustration very well. It is clear something is not working.

Every time I hear politicians say how they know what needs to be done, but they will get voted out if they try. I don't believe this is true. A few times, I saw a few rare politicians make a sane proposal where they told voters there would be hurt in the short run, and most of them actually get chosen. I believe the average voter is ready for change. Only there is no politician decent enough to get their vote.

So where are you, leaders? We really need someone who has the daring to acknowledge the problem, the vision to dream big , the common sense to keep it possible, and to actually be capable of executing this vision. Not a small list, but not impossible either.

I'm not saying this proposal is the one final idea to rule them all, but at least it is some step in the right direction.

I feel as though our notion of government is outdated. How can this honeypot of corruption ever work in our best interests? I like what Martin Luther King Jr said - his people should work to run their local economies. Rather than begging an elite to help us, we work for collective wealth and take care of each other. MLK also advocated for government programs that would help his people, but this was seen as only part of the fight in addition to direct acquisition of power within his followers’ communities. Today I hear people begging and pleading for some politician to solve our problems, but I believe we must solve them ourselves directly, not indirectly through government. Unfortunately most of my fellow leftists can only see how to solve problems using some theoretical “caring” government. I don’t expect to encounter such a government in my life time.

> Rather than begging an elite to help us, we work for collective wealth and take care of each other.

Good idea. Perhaps we should vote for a group of people to coordinate this action.

Are you mocking me? Why?

I don't want to mock this idea, but I do think the question of how people should coordinate their efforts to directly help each other, and how to use their resources is an important one. How should the people attempt to ensure that their efforts to help each other are comprehensive, efficient, fair, etc? How should we attempt to make sure our help is targeted at the needs that are most important? For people raised in a society where government plays a large role, it's hard to imagine a solution which we wouldn't perceive as government.

All long history, there have been many leaders who were not elected but became leaders through their initiatives, deeds, efficiency, strength. So assuming that leaders are always voted is, in my opinion, wrong.

Just to clarify, I do not have a bone to pick with democracy, but it obviously is not the only source of leadership, nor the only source of positive leadership.

To be clear, my question about Taylor Alexander's suggestion is not about alternatives to democracy (of which I'm sure we're all aware of examples), but alternatives to "government".

> I believe we must solve them ourselves directly, not indirectly through government.

And perhaps to refine the question for a HN audience, I'll note that game theory, social choice theory etc, offer opportunities for technical insights to potentially play a part in answering this. But only a part.

1. Yes, angostura is mocking you.

2. Because your idea is unworkable for running a nation of 300 million people. It's not even workable for running a medium-sized town. You need coordination. That thing that coordinates winds up being a government.

Now, you are right that the answer isn't going to come from government. We need something more. But we still need government.

Division of labor, specialization.

People don't cry for help, they want efficiency. Healthcare, infrastructure (transportation), education and social services (nursery, kindergarten, school), research, disaster relief, environmental protection, consumer safety standards (from food to communications and financial services), etc. are all best done on a larger level.

And all of it needs coordination.

And of course there are hundreds of millions of people that don't accept this. Are they stupid? Maybe. Are they ignorant? Maybe. Do they have serious counter-arguments? Maybe. Are they constructive? Well, not really, it seems.

We seem to be facing a rather serious regression toward tribal "standards" (old conservative values like purity, respect for authority, might makes right as only the strong survives, and we're in very hard times, we need to follow the strong, etc) via populism. Why? Because the social psyche is very susceptible to this, because there are real problems (growing inequality, serious changes due to globalization, automation clearing the middle-jobs, global warming).

Collective wealth cannot happen without a government. After all, you're going to need some entity that writes down the rules and enforces them, which is what a government is.

I think it's a mistake to look for leaders in our elected officials. In general, politicians poll their constituents and their platform changes to mirror what their constituents want in order to continue being re-elected. Sometimes whenever a politician "flip flops" it's because they're changing their position to better align with their constituents.

But this also means that public policy lags public opinion. If you want new (govenrment) solutions, you have to change public opinion first.

Change the public opinion and the politicians will follow but I wouldn't expect them to take the lead.

" politicians poll their constituents and their platform changes to mirror what their constituents want in order to continue being re-elected"

Except that the EU has nothing to do with elections, and they are utterly tone-deaf to the will of the public. EU leadership are sometimes openly contemptuous to the will of the people.

Even this is from the Telegraph ... they are still actual Junker quotes: [1]

So European leaders already think they get to 'do as Europe needs without interference from pesky voters' and yet this is where we are.

I don't think the answer is in our political leadership either - they only have so much knowledge, ability.

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/1096716...

> In general, politicians poll their constituents and their platform changes to mirror what their constituents want in order to continue being re-elected

I find that in the UK the right-wing media tell everybody what they want, the BBC then takes that as rote and amplifies it. The officials then mirror that.

Take the immigration issue as a case in point to demonstrate (I am not going to argue the rights and wrongs of immigration itself so don't bother commenting, this is a meta-comment). The current PM talked about reducing immigration constantly as Home Secretary (mirroring the Daily Mail). As PM she has done the same. Recently a story came out that she tried to suppress reports that immigration was a benefit to the economy on multiple occasions. A recent report said that immigrants on average were more of a benefit to the economy than native Brits.

This seems to me nothing like mirroring public opinion, and instead they are trying to bend facts to fit the newspapers narrative, so they will get coverage.

I think we do need leadership from elected officials, otherwise 'public opinion' is lead by the press barons.

> ... they are trying to bend facts to fit the newspapers narrative, so they will get coverage.

I think we can all agree that that is politics, but not leadership. Politicians are active players in the game of politics, no argument.

So I suppose the null hypothesis is that the current PM has a large contingency of voters who don't like immigration (who are also pandered to by the Daily Mail), and is trying to represent them. I really like that one - a politician who attempts to show leadership _will_ be controversial and resisted. Democracies settle uncontroversial issues extremely quickly, then settle into an awkward status-quo with competing interest groups, where any change advantages some and disadvantages others. Someone who tries to lead anywhere new will face fierce opposition.

Are you fundamentally saying that that null hypothesis is wrong? What are you proposing replaces it?

The apathy hypothesis?

This is a very common argument and I find it weird.

I guess if you are a democrat, and at the same time have your own political ideas, the fact that many people disagree with you causes some cognitive dissonance. A nice solution is to think that the populace has been misled by the Yellow Press.

This story might have worked in the 1990s when it was the Sun Wot Won It (the 1997 election, for non-Brits). Since then, the media market has exploded and anyone can now reach thousands of alternative news sources. Simultaneously, public opinion has got much more anti-immigration. How does this data fit the theory of manipulation by press barons?

People are/were more susceptible to easy lies that made them the victim. The equilibrium shifted, and a feedback loop started.

It's not the number of media outlets, it's the number of narratives and which one is winning people's hearts and minds. And the truth be damned.

Maybe this is correct: Maybe, politicians are and should be followers instead of leaders. Doing the books, checking the stuff they propose is sane, and let other people do the great vision and inspiring. But that's not how they profile themselves today.

As I write this, a ycombinatorish analogy pops up: It seems we have Tim Cook in our governement but want Steve Jobs.

political systems are way too inefficient. It's known for long:

- snake oil campaigning

- a good chunk of the mandate is devoted to try to be reelected

- candidates are often vaguely different shades of gray

- voters cannot make a good decision, too much bipartisan reflex, not enough time to understand the complexity .. basically blind trust and group-dynamics

> Every time I hear politicians say how they know what needs to be done, but they will get voted out if they try. I don't believe this is true.

Imagine people rioting in the streets because you put a carbon tax on gas.

you missed, the other side of the equation, the yellow jackets are also fed up because they perceive the gas taxes (along with tax after tax after tax under macron) to miss the upper classes and hit the lower classes disproportionately which are already struggling on a median $30k/yr income

the carbon taxes should be levied on large corporations and their shareholders rather than than low income individuals and employees

No, I didn't miss it. The problem is that no one actually seems to accept any reduction in quality of life for the commons. Saying that someone else should bear the load is just deflecting responsibility (and incidently what everyone does as soon as a measure hits them specifically).

We all know that no one will do anything.

what do you mean, no one will do anything

the yellow jackets are out rioting, killing, and dying to protest what they see as unfair

the prime minister has already agreed to suspend the gas tax for 6 months, and will need to make further concessions or else risk being ousted/replaced

>what do you mean, no one will do anything?

>>Every time I hear politicians say how they know what needs to be done, but they will get voted out if they try. I don't believe this is true.

I meant we all know that no one will do anything about climate change, because whenever anyone proposes something with an actual effect people come out "rioting, killing, and dying to protest what they see as unfair".

Maybe what's proposed isn't fair. Come up with something fair and people won't riot.

Small part of the 'Gilets Jaunes' is happening outside my Belgian door, so I yes I noticed that.

But, this is more of an example of the problem: the state is propping up crumbling social infrastructure with extra taxes, and trying to greenwash them. You can see it in the things Macron promises to do now: Raise the minimal wage of the protesters. In the same way, the main complaint from the protester is that they are average salary workers, and they can't make ends meet anymore. It doesn't matter much that the straw that broke the camel's back was a green tax.

What we need is coordinated action to take the fossil fuel industry and all other gross industrial polluters down, make them feel the full burden of their responsibility, and it needs to be decisive and without compromise.

They have been allowed to poison the world for far too long.

As an ordinary person, what you need to do is shift your priority to vote almost exclusively based on environmental policies of the candidate, get involved in politics and not give in to people who claim it's "no big deal".

I think this is a commendable initiative from Piketty et. al., which actually has a chance of being supported by a large number of people. Personally I don't think it's nearly hard-hitting enough, but it's a good start.

I'll wager that in order to write this message you used a device which had a certain number of plastic components, and I suppose that the probability of said device to reach your home or office entirely by muscle or wind powered vehicles are pretty near 0.

In other words, while I am sure that "fossil fuel industry" was never motivated by purely altruistic ideas, we have also to take in account that the standard of living we take for granted is in large part due to "fossil fuel industry and all other gross industrial polluters".

Yeah sure, on that scale everyone is a hypocrite. But unless you want everyone who champions for climate-friendly living to live as a literal hermit in a cave, there is a trade-off. After all, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. We can try to minimize our impact, but the burden is not on the individual, it is on industry.

I do try to keep a low personal climate profile, but there is only so much each individual can do, while still being able to sustain a living under the current system.

Industry has been given a free pass for far too long, their pollution has been grandfathered in and even considered a necessary evil in the name of Holy Profit. But we are no longer so ignorant to their deleterious effect on our climate and (to put a point on it) the continued existence of humanity on this planet.

Corporations could have shaped up and improved their environmental profiles decades and decades ago, when climate scientists first started pointing out the problems. But their didn't, because it was more profitable to continue poisoning the environment and clear cutting the rainforests.

I wasn't trying to paint you as an hypocrite, I have my own "ideals" and I am painfully aware that I have also constantly to make pragmatic choices about these (specifically: I am an ethical vegetarian) - it was just that the original message sounded too much like a rant: especially invoking a pogrom against fuel manufacturers didn't seem to offer any real improvement to the situation of, well, anybody.

How exactly do you think that would work? Do you think that if you put a giant tax on the fossil fuel industry everyone working in it would throw up their collective hands and take a pay cut? With the executives taking the lion's share because it's only fair?

Personally I think they would just pass the price along. We'd then be back to protests in the streets of France because none of those people are idiots. Plus the idea that raising the price of energy won't have knock on effects on the rest of the economy seems doubtful.

By pricing in the true environmental and societal impact into fossil fuel products, consumption would move to greener alternatives.

In the long run, the solution is to completely rattle the very foundations of capitalism, but the world is not quite ready yet.

Thousands of people went to the street in Paris because of a fossil fuel tax hike.

Even if the timing was very stupid (mixing it with a tax cut for very high income individuals to entice them to relocate to Paris from London post-Brexit, even if in the end that tax cut pays for itself), the French gov. tried to do the "right" thing, and it completely failed to communicate this. (As far as I know.)

The fuel tax was only a very small part of why the protests started.

The biggest reason was the tax cuts (which will not pay for themselves, that's nonsense like all trickle-down theory) and the complete slashing of public transit and transportation alternatives for people outside of Paris, Marseille etc.

Thanks to tax cuts and reforms, the people living in small towns and rural areas have literally no alternative, they have to use a car. So by trying to greenwash corrupt policies with a at-the-pump fuel tax, the French government would in effect be forcing a highly regressive tax on ordinary people, who are already struggling to make ends meet, while completely neglecting to deal with the highly polluting fossil fuel and transportation businesses.

> that's nonsense like all trickle-down theory

It's not trickle down theory. Paris overtook London as the city with most high-net-worth individuals. Thus a lot of people are not paying taxes in Paris as opposed to London.

Though, of course, it depends how much money they end up actually paying compared to the lost revenue. But this is the one point that I can accept. The others are unacceptable, we are in agreement about them.

I think part of the problem with politicians is how we choose them. A government career politicians says nothing about their individual abilities, except for the fact that they are adept at public speaking.

On this point, Varoufakis, one of the founders of the DiEM25 movement that this article is implicitly referencing, recently said on a leftist podcast that part of the problem is the people you would want in government positions are those who don't want to stay there very long. That is, he views actual roles in power being viewed as something akin to jury duty a much healthier model than one where people want to become government ministers.

OK but he proved himself that you can do a lot of damage in just a few months.

That seems like an orthogonal point. I say that making no judgement either way about the quality of his governance.

if you are making no judgement, then you are simply ignoring the evidence. I can make a judgement because his work affected me directly. It was an extremely negative outcome for 5 months of work. So the point that you mention is wrong. How can this be orthogonal?

I think a fair reading of my previous comment will reveal that I was trying to avoid engaging on the possible harm of his policies. That is not the same as absolving him. Instead, it is saying that you can evaluate his point independently of that question.

He was at Valve for at least a year.

he was a minister of finance for 5 months or so. i dont think he did anything substantial while in valve

Haven't read the article yet but what you say articulates my unconscious feelings about the EU and Western countries in general.

There is a lack of clarity of thinking, vision, a clear path forward. It makes me think of, although this is a weird analogy, the difference between how AlphaZero plays chess compared to traditional chess engines. AlphaZero plays with a strong sense of purpose and energy. Traditional engines seem to just... make some moves, trying to avoid mistakes without any high-level plan.

Another analogy is Elon Musk's companies (even though I don't like the guy personally). He's able to present coherent, clear vision and make people excited about following the progress of his companies.

The solution isn't obvious to me. There isn't a magic wand to wave in order to make people richer. But people seem to be looking for that magic wand.

In France, the government has spent beyond its means. But people want lower taxes, higher spending, more pensions.

France has spent beyond its means on the Neo-liberal "invade the world invite the world" policies of supporting US wars and taking in vast quantities of economic migrants as "refugees".

The solution is crystal clear to anyone who isnt in the corporate media bubble. End the aforementioned policies.

France opposed the Iraq war quite forcefully. Meanwhile, the bulk of France's non-European immigrants are from France's own former colonies: North Africa and French Subsaharan Africa. So, a legacy of France's empire.

Ahh the old "legacy of empire" justification for mass immigration. The great French WWII leader Charles DuGaul gave up colonial posession of Algeria specifically to prevent migration to France. The cheap labor addicts in the European establishment dont care. Also, not Iraq, but France's bombing of Libya at the direction of the US is what started the migrant crisis. So yes, this is very much "invade the world invite the world" here.

I'm not sure that was de Gaulle's reason, unless you can cite some source.

This has stats on immigrants to France. As you can see, most are from Algeria, Europe, and Morroco. Further, it you investigate the sub saharan africa segment I'm quite sure you'll find it's almost exclusively from former French colonies.

The collapse of the Gaddafi regime certainly led to more migrant boats crossing, but the absolute numbers entering France are not high, and certainly not compared to other sources.

Oh, and the Algerians mostly came after the Algerian war. One of the biggest early groups were Algerians who had fought with the French army.

You appear to be very certain, but you don't seem to have any evidence to back up your views.

The fact that those countries were colonies is not why the elites in France and the West more broadly are pushing for immigration.

I googled "degaul algeria immigration". https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/quotes/charles-de-gaull...

>Do you think the French body politic can absorb ten million Muslims, who tomorrow will be twenty million, after tomorrow forty? If we integrated, if all the Arabs and Berbers of Algeria were considered French, would you prevent them to settle in France, where the standard of living is so much higher?

-Charles de Gaulle

Obviously deGaulle didnt agree with you that being a citizen of a colony gave someone the right to immigrate to France. Algerians being admitted to France for serving in the military is exactly what "invade the world invite the world" means. After the Iraq war Iraqis who collaborated with the occupiers got green cards.

> France's bombing of Libya at the direction of the US is what started the migrant crisis

True. Also, France played a big role in the (attempted but unsuccessful) destruction of Syria.

My main point in citing the stats is that almost none of France's immigrants come from migrant crisis countries.

Would Marie Le Pen have done any of the things Macron did to damage the livelihoods of the French people? No. Because Macron is a Neo-Liberal puppet and Le Pen is not.

The leaders you seek are glaring you in the face, but you reject them because you buy into the lies about "right extremism" from the corporate media that got us here in the first place.

This seems like a similar argument people made for Trump and look how that turned out for them.

Surely there are no other similarities between the two though [1].

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39478066

When the elites in your country are so hell bent on the repression of the people they rule over, that popular political candidates are cut off from the banking system and have to borrow money from banks in other countries, that should make you think twice when those same elites tell you populism is just a rouse perpetrated by people in the few countries willing to lend their support.

It looks like you've been using HN primarily for political and ideological battle. We ban accounts that do that, regardless of their politics, so please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't do that.

How tone-deaf can they be? Raising taxes can bring tax revenue down. Europe already has quite high corporate taxes and high income taxes for top brackets.

Also, raising taxes to spend the money on immigrants? Are they purposely fueling the raise of right wing nationalists? Do they have any self-awareness?

I am going to need some sort of citation for the idea that Europe has high corporate taxes. According to KPMG the EU average is lower than the current US corporate tax rate. Furthermore, setting it at 37% is 3% lower than the US tax rate was last year. I don't really see any downside to doing this. It's not like companies are not going to do business in Europe, it's waaay to attractive a market.

Also, "spending money on immigrants" sounds like it's just being given to immigrants, the money is specifically to countries cope with the cost that is there already. It might fuel right wing nationalists, but that seems to happen anyway, while they are busy doing their thing, it would be nice if the sensible people tried to tackle the issues at hand.

" EU average is lower than the current US corporate tax rate."

Eeastern European countries generally have very low tax rates which brings the average down.

Otherwise they are 'ballpark similar' [1]

But that's only one source of taxation. As for the rest, they are very, very high in Europe.

I think the issues are probably in efficiencies across the board, more than redistribution at this point.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_rates

Germany 29% and 47.5%

France 15% and 45%

Italy 27.9% and 43%

UK 19% and 47%

Spain 25% and 45%

Sure, California and some other special states can get almost as high. But the majority are well below.

Add ~20% VAT to this. Add the fuel tax. Then add corruption and incopetence when spending government money.

All those taxes does not let lower middle class to move up. I see this all around me. There are exceptions of course, but the end result is that by simply working your whole life you are going to be forever in the lower middle class. Because of taxes.

And yet we have the Nordics with the highest tax pressure in the world (has been for a while) which do better than most. Like Hans Rowling said, if you want the American dream (with max class mobility), you should go to Denmark.

But hey! Why not throw around some more claims without some proper sources/references.


> you will have civil war and a far right dictatorship within the next two decades.

Why? I mean why do you think it'll be far right, not far left? Why do you assume there will be anyone left standing at all?

> It’s that simple

Really? What about the aging and dwindling population that's Europe's most serious issue?

> run by neutered half-men

Umm, maybe you are thinking about women? (Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Germany, UK have a lot of women in politics.)

> we are decaying

Are we really decaying or you simply don't find your place, nor your viewpoint of the world?

Why is it that when the right wants to reduce taxes, which is a popular move, they are called "populists", but when the left wants to increase social spending, which is also a popular move, they are not?

Wikipedia definition:

> Populism is a range of political approaches that deliberately appeal to "the people," often juxtaposing this group against a so-called "elite."

Kind of fits the definition, this article itself says it wants to go after the elite: big tech companies and rich people.


Downvoters: hit a nerve, eh?

But wasn't the "increase social spending" move called populist by everyone during the 08 crisis? Most of the time, those porting the neo-keynesian theories to the national TV where called populist in my country. And during the presidential election, the populist werent those wanting to cut half the jobs in hospitals but those who wanted either increased social minimum income or the "universal income". The third kind of the so-called populists where those against euro or/and against immigration.

Did you really check your affirmation, or is this just something that you think is an universal truth because you feel it's true in you country/social circle?

Yes, I remember Bernie Sanders never being called populist, and also currently not being called populist. Nothing more populist than tax cuts for the wealthy, that's what I always hear. /s

Right-wing populism virtually never refers to tax cuts; just to curbs on immigration and the expulsion of minorities - a bottom up approach to help the poor members of the majority group by eliminating the people fighting them for crumbs through the use of vermin metaphors. If anything, comsumption-tax cuts are left-wing populism because consumption taxes are regressive.

Populism is merely a word to discredit something that a lot of people like, that those in power do not.

That is not to say that I agree with everything labeled 'populist'. I don't even think it's a left vs right thing, even if that's how it plays out now. I guarantee you if there was a broadly popular left-wing movement that actually threatened those in power, the media would label it populist as well.

Populism is a precise way of appealing to basic emotions of a population by creating an "us vs them" narrative. You find an enemy, tell the people that the enemy is causing all their troubles and that you're the only cure because you're the only one on the people's side. Then when your supposed cure doesn't work, you find a new enemy to blame for your failure. It's stupid and incredibly dangerous.

But when those in power are the enemy of the people, then your definition is indistinguishable from your parent post's definition.

> Populism is a precise way of appealing to basic emotions of a population by creating an "us vs them" narrative

Doesn't calling right-wingers "populists" do the very same?

When I see (right-wing) "populists" being condemned, the "us vs them" narrative is that "them" is a small number of political figures who are using populism as a strategy for gaining power. Hence why, in the statement you quote, populism is a means of "appealing to ... a population", and is not a political identity in the same way as "liberalism" or "conservatism".

There is a big qualitative (not just quantitative) difference between condemning a few manipulative politicians, and condemning, say, an entire ethnic group or rival political party.

Not sure I agree... e.g. Donald Trump (a "populist") was mocking mainstream politicians etc ("drain the swamp") a lot of the time, whereas Hillary Clinton (a "liberal") had something to say about "deplorables"... These are just example, I'm sure there are plenty examples the other way, but I'm just saying that your claim isn't very correct.

Those are useful counter-examples, so thank you for pointing them out.

It's true that Trump has mocked mainstream politicians, and this is probably equivalent to non-populists condemning populist politicians. I suppose one could argue that a critic of populist politicians is hypocritical if they also condemn Trump for mocking mainstream politicians, but I don't know of any examples of such criticism. (It might also be worth noting that this particular phrase was used by, among others, Nancy Pelosi in 2006).

As for the "deplorables" quote, I don't want to defend it; however, to substantiate my point about qualitative and quantitative differences, I have to mention that in the infamous sound bite she said that "half" of Trump's supporters could be placed in that basket, and then later regretted specifying "half". (In previous speeches she apparently made it clearer that these supporters were only a small fraction).

Politicians of any affiliation are prone to highlighting the extremists among their opponent's followers (likely due to the psychological biases of Group Attribution Error and Ultimate Attribution Error, or, more cynically, due to a desire to exploit those biases) as a way to tarnish people's opinion of that opponent. That is a problem no matter which politician is doing it, but I still think that the bigger problem is a politician targeting groups of people based on immutable characteristics like ethnicity (or institutions like the media).

Populism is a precise way of appealing to basic emotions of a population by creating an "us vs them" narrative. You find an enemy, tell the people that the enemy is causing all their troubles and that you're the only cure because you're the only one on the people's side.

With a bit of perspective it's easy to see that this broadly describes socialism - which is the parents point. Socialism and social democracy is not commonly derided as 'populist'.

They did - Bernie Sanders.

Absolutely, for example Italy's "Five Stars" party, which is currently the majority party in the most populist government Italy has ever had, won the elections with a strong "anti-elites" platform and a (completely unrealistic) plan for redistributing money to a large part of the population.

But the Five Star was called a populist party by most of the european media (and italian ones: see Il Tempo, L’Unione Sarda and Il Fatto Quotidiano after the election night), so you are undermining the point with your example.

Ha, "Il Fatto Quotidiano" is pretty much the Five Stars party's official newspaper. So I don't know why they would call them populist (unless they decided that it's easier to redefine the value of the term rather than fight against it).

Anyway, Five Stars's proposals are rather extreme, and they're outsiders who don't fit the left/ right division; as such it's easier to recognize and label them as populist than it is with the usual left-wing parties (when their proposals actually are populist, which is not a given).

The first step is stick with a confederal view of Europe. Federal visions of Europe are stupid, dangerous, and impossible. Europe is not like the United States nor could it be, and such comparisons are foolish and ignorant. Once we've agreed to hold to a confederal Europe, operate like a confederal Europe, and acknowledge the subsequent confederal nature and expectations of the EU, you should expect a drop in a good chunk of the so-called populism. The main reasons why a confederal Europe is a better solution is because first, there is considerable difference of interests and geopolitical difference across the EU that are incompatible. Inevitably, a federal EU will become a cudgel used to force weaker states into submission. Second, Europeans don't see themselves as "European" because it is not a meaningful or even substantive notion here and the last few crises should have made that clear to any remaining obstinate holdouts. Even being "American" has more substance, which is saying something. Third, the values and culture across Europe are quite different and ultimately, the EU will behave increasingly tyrannically toward member states that step out of line with the values of the European elites which will circle us back to populism and possible war of a very disastrous kind.

It should be clear that I am not advocating the dissolution of the EU, though there is a very real possibility it will disintegrate all on its own with no need to appeal to external scapegoats. I believe that if any EU is possible, it is one of limited integration on a limited set of fronts where cooperation profits the common good of the Union, specifically economically and where joint scientific ventures (like space) might profit from formalized confederal joint cooperation.

Absent a development towards a more federal EU, it's time to save the rest of it by getting rid of the euro currency. At this point it's a farce that produces destitution and drives discontent with the entire EU.

Europe's problem is simply high taxes, inefficient bureaucracy, and over-welfare.

Particularly, payroll taxes, which in some countries (France) are at 50%. These hugely complicate hiring employees, and just encourage cash payments and tax avoidance. Taxes should instead be shifted to harmful outputs and products, like food sweeteners and fossil fuels.

Next, bureaucracies need to be be slimmed down and modernised. All EU countries should offer the ability to transact with their bureaucracy (tax returns, permits etc.) in the native language or English.

Finally, welfare should be ended for anyone fit and healthy below a certain age, and the retirement age taken to 70 immediately. Pensions should be phased out for anyone under 40 currently. The refugee intake should be taken to zero, and borders strictly enforced, since the net economic contribution of MENA migrants currently is negative. Access to Master's degrees should be limited to only the best students, to encourage people to enter the workforce earlier and to allow a reduction in education spending.

Through all this there could be a huge reduction in the tax burden, targeted to eliminate payroll taxes (perhaps in combination with replacing it with higher income taxes, the way Scandinavians do) and reduce VAT. Income tax/payroll tax savings could be preferentially targeted to couples with 3 or more children, to encourage higher birthrates.

While I do agree that the high taxes on labor are harmful, I really don't want to live in a country where "pensions are phased out", one has to work until 70 at least and public welfare is non-existant for young people. Luckily, I don't have to and to be honest, I prefer paying 50% taxes but also getting a lot in return. World class public transport (in my city), free university education (including master), pretty good health care, pension which amounts to 80% or inflated life income, lot's of art and culture...

> All EU countries should offer the ability to transact with their bureaucracy (tax returns, permits etc.) in the native language or English.

They .. already do this... usually fully electronically, usually done by the government, no need for 3rd party tax filing software.

> Finally, welfare should be ended for anyone fit and healthy below a certain age, and the retirement age taken to 70 immediately.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retirement_in_Europe it's already usually 65 for men and 60 for women (it's 65-65 in France, Spain and Germany, 66-66 in the UK and Ireland, 68-68 in the Netherlands)

> Pensions should be phased out for anyone under 40 currently.

There are a lot of people getting disability pension, are you thinking about that? I'm not familiar with any other situation for receiving "pension" under 40.

> The refugee intake should be taken to zero, and borders strictly enforced, since the net economic contribution of MENA migrants currently is negative.

Citation needed.

Furthermore, the current problem of Europe (and it's basically the only real and serious one) is the decreasing and aging population. Immigration is almost the perfect tool to solve this.

> Access to Master's degrees should be limited to only the best students, to encourage people to enter the workforce earlier and to allow a reduction in education spending.

Education spending is the best way to lift people out of poverty, it correlates best with future income. It pays for itself. And it's not even the biggest expense. (Healthcare and pensions are.)

> Income tax/payroll tax savings could be preferentially targeted to couples with 3 or more children, to encourage higher birthrates.

It's already happening (and has been going on for decades) in a lot of countries.


So, all in all, citation needed for "Europe's problem is simply high taxes, inefficient bureaucracy, and over-welfare."


> You cannot replace the European population with an African or Middle Eastern population and expect the same outcomes.

True. I don't. And I don't know why do you think a replacement is ... planned/wanted/desired!?

The population of Europe is hundreds of millions of people. The number of immigrants is currently 2 million a year (into the EU). (And without adequate integration and support systems that's obviously too high.) Current total immigrant population is 16 million (in the EU), so less than 1%.

> 30% overqualified for their current job.

That doesn't mean they are over-educated. Some are. Some aren't. How many are under-qualified?

Furthermore, do these folks with their fancy diplomas have higher incomes? If yes, why are they over-educated again?

I agree that education's quality is shit. But that doesn't mean that education is bad, or that we have too much of it. Maybe we need more of CFAR ( http://www.rationality.org/ ) and less useless-feeling schools. More self-learning ability and more time to exercise it and less organized lectures?

> America broadly shows that the low-tax route is better, [...]

Better? US social mobility is down in the gutter. ( http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/1-5%20generations.png ) Despite the low taxes. Why? Because the income inequality is growing. (Poor healthcare is just one thing, the enormous student loan problem makes the US education system very much a no-no. And US cities are rather far from sustainable, the CO2 footprint per capita is very high in the US.)

> Europe needs to make hard decisions

Agreed, but we need to make the smart choices.

> The refugee intake should be taken to zero, and borders strictly enforced, since the net economic contribution of MENA migrants currently is negative

Delete this sentence and the rest of your post is mostly good.

Simplifying bureaucracy? Mandating English as an option? Capping payroll taxes at some reasonable level? All good ideas.

But the idea that we should turn away people fleeing poverty and violence because their "net economic contribution... is currently negative" is racist and gross.

Economic growth is nice, but it's a means to an end. The first step is to have a society worth growing.

> the rest of your post is mostly good.

No, it's not. It's hogwash. Especially the education one.

Income inequality is a lot more serious problem than uncapped payroll taxes.

all of these fiscally conservative moves would be met with massive backlash in france, italy, the UK, and other parts of Europe, where spending on social welfare programs is a relatively large percent of the federal budget and a point of pride for many

furthermore you would be met with a huge backlash from wealthy center/progressive proponents over your anti-immigrant policy. many in power are wealthy enough to see anti-immigrant sentiment as racism rather than an economic necessity (unlike the yellow jacket protestors who are probably making around 30k euro per year - the median in france, and for whom a 25c/gallon increase in gas prices is catastrophic)

i'd be interested to hear your ideas for fiscal expansion - what should the government be prioritizing spending on to increase economic growth, rather than simply making the cuts you've suggested

Europe needs less Government. The problem is that these tax changes are just never linked to tax cuts and actual living improvements for the everyday workers.

A proposal to phase out pensions for people currently aged under 40, in coordination with a large decrease in the Payroll tax rate (and strict orders to business to pass it along entirely to employees) would be met with reasonable popularity.

Europe artificially inflates the cost of labour with its huge taxes, and wonders why there are problems with unemployment and tax evasion. It artificially inflates the cost of living with huge VAT rates, and wonder why people don't have more children or consume more.

Have a look at what Georgia (country) is doing. They have to compete on their own merits and do so with amazingly efficient taxes:

* 20% flat income tax

* No social security or employment taxes

* up to 1% land value tax

* 18% VAT

* 15% corporate tax

* Excise taxes on drugs and fossil fuels

As a result the country is developing very well despite its lack of natural resources, unfortunate geographic positioning, and prior Russian invasion.

European bureaucrats like to defend heavy taxes and redistribution because it creates a need for their services. We should tax people less, and let them decide what to spend their money on. Along the way remove as many impediments for employment as possible, and tax the goods which have negative externalities (fossil fuels, drugs, food sweeteners)


If you really want to set the cat amongst the pigeons, we can look at an entirely different tax regime, where each person and business is expected to pay a fixed tax rate per year, merely for existing (scaled to size of business, and probably age and health status). Then, they are free to earn what they like, independent of tax. I don't see why Government shouldn't operate on the same principles as a business, with transparency and efficiency.

Woah, slow down there Benito.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact