Archive for the 'Economy' Category

Chavez II?

25 January 2006

The new president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, was inaugurated this weekend. His inauguration address in parliament was a long plea for the indigenous people of Bolivia, second-rate citizens for 500 years. Bolivia is the poorest country of South-America, but with its wealth of natural resources it could be richer than Sweden, he argued.

So, am I happy? I am not sure. He certainly highlights important problems and it is wonderful and rather exciting that more and more countries in the region are electing presidents that speak for the impoverished masses instead of the rich elites. That is democracy in action. (more…)

Software patents: understanding the procedure

1 March 2005

The European Commission yesterday rejected the European Parliament’s request for a whole new proposal on software patents. That does not seem very smart from a tactical point of view, as Parliament’s request was unanimous and it is Parliament which eventually decides if the proposal becomes law.

The Commission could however have decided to chance it, as software patent activists have a tendency to cry foul and overstate their case to such an extent that there is a real risk of backfiring. This would be a pity as at least part of the activists’ case (to what extent and under which conditions do patents, in general, promote or inhibit innovation) deserves serious consideration. That discussion, however, is for another time. For now, I will just try to add structure to the debate by providing a short outline of the legislative procedure at EU level in order to make clear what the next steps are. (more…)

Saving cod and red herrings

10 December 2004

EU-serf, an EU-sceptic blog, wrote on 8 December:

In a desperate effort to undo some of the damage wrought by the stupidity of the Common Fisheries Policy, a complete ban on fishing in some parts of the North Sea is being proposed.

Unfortunately he is right: the Common Fisheries Policy is such a disaster that drastic measures like these have now become a necessity. I also agree with what I think is the basic idea of his post, namely that our best chance of returning to sustainable fish stocks lies in combining the ownership of fishing rights with responsibility for the same stock: The Icelandic shrimper whose boat I once sailed on had no issue whatsoever sticking to his quotas, because he knew that if he caught too many shrimp in his fjord this year, there would be fewer next year.

However, I am not convinced of what seems to be the other basic idea of EU-serf’s post, namely that this combination of fishing rights with responsibility must be achieved by returning fisheries policy to the national level. Cod levels in the North Sea, for instance, have been depleted by the joint efforts of local fishermen from mainly the UK, not (yet) by evil Spanish trawlers using the EU rules on “common fishing waters” to empty “our” sea before moving on to the next one. And local cocklers in the north of the Netherlands have succeeded in doing great damage to the ecosystem in their own tidal sea (while, for the time being, maintaining cockle production levels), without the help of any foreigners.