Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Mushroom wars, Nepalese style.


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This sort of thing:

A villager was shot dead in Nepal and three others were injured in clashes over a rare and valuable fungus coveted for its reputed aphrodisiac qualities, an official said.

Mugu district chief Keshab Raj Sharma said a gang of 10 to 12 looters was shooting "indiscriminately" on Wednesday night, and added that locals claimed the gang had stolen their harvest.

But when the mushroom in question sells for up to $78,000 per pound....

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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The two referendum campaigns.

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I got a call from the woman who runs Denholme Elders, a support group for older people in this village perched on top of the South Pennines. They'd been discussing what they wanted to do and had decided they wanted someone to talk to them about the forthcoming EU referendum - could I oblige.

I obliged and set out to give as balanced a presentation about the issues, for and against, as I could. I think I did a passing fair job and I got a little confirmation after about three-quarters of an hour when one gentleman said something like "OK Simon but how are you going to vote?"

It was an interesting hour where some, shall we say, pretty robust views were expressed in that 'do you really think I give a damn' manner that anyone working with the elderly will know. What was striking was that these old people weren't thinking selfishly about their circumstances but rather were asking questions about the sort of country their children and grandchildren would live in. They asked about jobs, welfare benefits, crime and immigration. And they were pretty universally appalled by the lack of seriousness and substance in the rhetoric of the two national campaigns.

Anyone whose sole appraisal of this referendum campaign is through the slogans of Vote Leave or Stronger In - as well as the writings of a host of media experts, bloggers and pundits - would despair at what has become of British politics. An avalanche of half-truths, insults, personal attacks and patronising condescension - plus a sort of proxy war over who succeeds David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party - has buried the real debate. And, as I saw in Denholme, there is a real debate.

During the first (and slightly quieter) part of the campaign, we had local elections here in Bradford. This meant that we spoke with perhaps a thousand people. A good number of these pushed aside our plea to talk about why they needed a Conservative councillor to ask about the referendum. Some had made their mind up but most hadn't and wanted to explore the issues. This wasn't from a 'please tell me how to vote' perspective but rather a conversation, the sort of engagement you'd have with friends or colleagues.

I've enjoyed this aspect of the referendum because most people know they've been entrusted with a very significant decision and are taking that responsibility seriously. Even last night one person was saying 'I'm voting out but I really want to hear the in case one more time to be sure.' This sort of engagement is in marked contrast to the scaremongering, divisive national campaigns - no-one's falling out, they're just trying to decide what they'll do on Thursday.

For me, after a lifetime in politics - I joined the Conservative Party in 1976 - it is affirmation of two things. Firstly that, given the responsiblity, people can and do take political decision-making seriously and can be trusted. And secondly that our current system, dominated by a London-based media and London-based politicians, does not deserve those people's trust and support. It's not just the familiar 'Westminster bubble' line but something more profound, it's a complete disconnection from the real lives, worries, loves and concerns of those people. Except when they can patronise them as some sort of victim, as vulnerable, or as people these caring politicians can do things do - most often in the form of telling them to stop something (eating burgers, vaping, smoking, drinking, telling jokes).

I saw a tweet - I think is was from the writer and journalist, Gaby Hinsliff - talking about the bitterness of the referendum campaign and the likely bitterness of the aftermath. And this is true, if your world is the world of the London media and London politics. Out here in the sticks people will simply get up on Friday morning and go to work, take the dog for a walk, look after the grandchildren, pop to the shops - do the sort of things they'd do on any other Friday morning. There might be a little disappointment if their vote was for the losing side or pleasure if for the winning option. But there'll be no bitterness - except maybe a sense that our national politics was shown to be nasty, selfish, short-term and consescendingly righteous.

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Sunday, 19 June 2016

Federalism is the positive case for EU membership - which is why no-one's making it



There's a positive case for the UK's membership of the European Union. Not the scattering of seemingly random words - cooperation, unity, stronger and so on and on - but a genuine case for us tying ourselves to 27 (and growing) other nations. But no-one - or at least no-one in the Remain campaign - is making that positive case.

There's a reason for this and its because of what that positive case is about. If we're better off as a member of the EU then we must also be better off if that union is stronger. And the way to make the EU stronger is to gradually diminish the nations that make up the union. This means a commitment to federalism as a future polity for Europe - something that the UK has always shied away from. It means, for all its problems, making the decision to join the Euro because being outside that single currency undermines the operation of the union. And it means accepting that taxes paid by the English, Swedes, Dutch and Germans will be used to pay Greek pensioners, to invest in Romanian infrastructure and to support the Spanish welfare system.

Instead of this positive case, because it isn't likely to be popular, we have an entirely negative case for retaining our EU membership. A case based on short term issues, on the selfishness of now. We're told to vote Remain because there might be a recession after we leave. We're told taxes might have to rise in the short-term. We're given threats about public service cuts - again an issue about now not our future. Nothing in the case being made to remain in the EU talks of a future ten years hence let alone twenty or thirty years ahead. Yet that is the decision we're taking. A decision Remain want us to make on the basis of what it will be like in 2017 not what Britain might be in 2037.

I don't support the idea of a federal Europe because the inevitable remoteness of such a government plays into the hands of separatists, nationalists and the emerging nativist right. But I'm prepared to listen to someone who thinks differently and can set out a cogent case for a stronger, more united Europe. That no-one dares make this case gives the lie to Remain's arguments about Britain being 'stronger in' - so long as the federal direction of the EU is denied by its advocates, the UK will remain marginal to the central decision-making of the EU.

If we accept Remain's argument then the UK is left as a semi-detached member of the EU, paying a huge price for the limited benefit of access to the single market. Unless, of course, Remain aren't telling the truth about the EU's future and Britain will subsume its remaining independence in working for a federal Europe, will join the Euro and will see Ken Clarke's prediction of Westminster's place that little bit nearer.

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Saturday, 18 June 2016

Why we don't need an Evidence Information Service (but do need better access to evidence)

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Whenever I think about evidence-based policy making and the use of data by government, my mind turns to an article by Dr Vince-Wayne Mitchell:

Demographic segmentation variables are cheap and easy to measure, while psychographic variables are more expensive and harder to measure, but can provide more insight into consumers’ psychology. Suggests that a prima facie case exists for the suitability of astrology as a segmentation variable with the potential to combine the measurement advantages of demographics with the psychological insights of psychographics and to create segments which are measurable, substantial, exhaustive, stable over time, and relatively accessible. Tests the premise empirically using results from a Government data set, the British General Household Survey. The analyses show that astrology does have a significant, and sometimes predictable, effect on behavior in the leisure, tobacco, and drinks markets. Discusses managerial implications of the results in terms of market segmentation and promotion.

Dr Mitchell is a very highly regarded researcher in consumer behavious and marketing and I've no idea whether he believes in horoscopes or not. But what these results tell us is that we should treat the findings of research studies with a degree of caution. Just because it's badged as science doesn't mean that it's right or that there isn't some other research telling us something entirely different, even opposite. Indeed we know that sometimes supposedly evidence-based policy is anything but:

In 1980, after long consultation with some of America’s most senior nutrition scientists, the US government issued its first Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines shaped the diets of hundreds of millions of people. Doctors base their advice on them, food companies develop products to comply with them. Their influence extends beyond the US. In 1983, the UK government issued advice that closely followed the American example.

The most prominent recommendation of both governments was to cut back on saturated fats and cholesterol (this was the first time that the public had been advised to eat less of something, rather than enough of everything). Consumers dutifully obeyed. We replaced steak and sausages with pasta and rice, butter with margarine and vegetable oils, eggs with muesli, and milk with low-fat milk or orange juice. But instead of becoming healthier, we grew fatter and sicker.

We see this problem repeated time and time again - governments enact legislation that draws on the scientific evidence, on the environment (diesel cars), in health (vaping), in criminal justice (tagging), and farming (agricultural protection) only for the results to be either sub-optimal or else for evidence to arise showing the policy to be plain daft. In part this is because evidence isn't definitive - in the case of fat, there were a different set of scientists who government ignored saying we should look instead at carbohydrates and sugar. And the same is true on vaping - the experts used by the World Health Organisation and European Union to support severe restrictions on vaping and the sale of vaping products are countered by another set of experts with a very different position who argue that vaping should be encouraged by public health not controlled.

The problem here is that these experts move from being producers of evidence to recommenders of policy. After all, when researchers write up their findings for publication they will be expected by the journal (and probably their funders) to comment on the implications of their findings as well as to describe limitations and the areas where further research should focus. The findings, however, don't necessarily tell us what the policy should be - we may discover, for example, links between high levels of sugar consumption and type-2 diabetes but this doesn't mean we have to introduce a soda tax. Other policy solutions - or none -  are available and just as valid.

This brings me to the proposal set out by Chambers et al in The Guardian, for a new Evidence Information Service:

Our idea is to create a hub for connecting a broad network (hive-mind) of UK scientists and researchers with the political community. At present, the knowledge and expertise of more than 150,000 UK scientists and academics is being underutilised. To ensure the smartest possible democracy we need to create the largest active network of engaged scientists and researchers in the world, and then we need to use it.

Superficially this seems a great idea - make it easy for politicians (and a slightly sinister grouping entitled "policy-makers", who presumably aren't necessarily politicians) to connect with the academic and research body of knowledge. The authors go on to observe that there's an imbalance in the information available - ministers have more policy-making resource than a back bench MP or opposition spokesperson. And, as the leader of an opposition group on a large metropolitan council, I can confirm that this is true. The question is whether creating this Evidence Information Service really improves the way in which policies are decided?

I think not. Indeed, I think there are genuine risks in the proposal were it to be implemented.

Firstly, the connection made for the policy-maker isn't a connection to the evidence but is a connection "with specialist experts in that field". Now it may be that these experts simply hand across their evidence to the policy-maker who goes off to craft his policy on painting bus lanes green or whatever. Or it could be that the policy-maker asks the researcher what his or her policy prescription is rather than just for evidence. It's also likely that confirmation bias kicks in - a left wing policy-maker might seek out or prefer evidence from a sympathetic source while ignoring evidence from a source that seems counter to that policy-maker's ideology (this, of course, applies to conservative policy-makers equally).

The second problem is that the proposed Evidence Information System creates valorised and non-valorised evidence. So evidence provided by the new system is 'good' evidence whereas evidence from outside that system is not to be trusted. And because the Evidence Information System is entirely about institutional researchers (academics, in effect) the value of independent research and evidence from outside that sphere is undermined. By way of example, the proposed new system excludes commercially procured research, good quality journalism (including blogs and websites), many think tanks and opinion polling. There is an assumption that only those "150,000 UK scientists and academics" are a valid source of evidence for policy-making.

Next we have the problem of ideology. By this I don't mean socialism vs neoliberalism but rather than policy-decisions are informed by ideological issues. To use vaping as an illustration, we can see two distinct ideological positions within public health and tobacco control. To simplify a little these are essentially Harm Reduction and Gradual Prohibition. This divide applies throughout, to policy-makers and to researchers. No amount of evidence showing how vaping reduces harm will persuade someone ideologically committed to Gradual Prohibition as the purpose of tobacco control. We can pull across this issue into any area of public policy - we encouraged diesel engines because they had lower carbon emissions but now pay a price as those engines have a negative impact on urban air quality and health. In the proposed Evidence Information System there is no safeguard, no means of knowing whether research is ideologically-framed (or more likely, how that research is ideologically-framed). And we can't assume that researchers - especially in social science fields - don't fall foul of confirmation bias or ideological preference.

Lastly we need to get some idea as to what we mean by evidence (knowing from the start that this is a very contested idea). On the one hand we have data which is just that, a great pile of information that, if we're not careful, throws up evidence along the lines of the Mitchell research I opened with. Without some form of analysis, data is pretty useless but which is the better route - giving policy-makers the tools to interrogate the data or getting that interrogation mediated by (possibly biased, perhaps ideological) academic researchers? We then have - especially since it is social science research that will dominate policy-maker enquiry - the issue of 'soft' evidence. Is a qualitative study gathering the views of 50 teachers on in-class discipline more or less valid than a big analysis of Ofsted reports in 1000 primary schools? And what about discussion, op-ed and speculation, where do these fit in - they're important to academia but do they form part of the evidence base?

I applaud the attempt to get better data, information and evidence in front of those who design, decide and implement public policy but don't think that an Evidence Information System as described is the way to proceed. If the issue is asymmetric access to evidence surely the answer is to get more open data and better (easier to use perhaps) tools for using that data. I also worry that the Evidence Information System would create a different asymmetry in access to and use of evidence by valorising only academic evidence. Finally, governments can and do lean too heavily on evidence in decision-making often, as anyone familiar with England's Local Plan process would attest, to the point of sclerosis or even stasis.

Policy-making will always be a balance between having enough evidence and the need to act. It has always been something of a cop out to say, "we need more evidence", when you actually need to do something. And the interest of voters will always trump evidence in the minds of people who are elected by those voters - this is why there's no comprehensive review of London's 'green belt' and why Australia scrapped its carbon tax. Finally, we need to remember that - remember the diesel engines issue - different policy area conflict and the policy decision is not simply a matter of looking at one set of evidence but rather at a series of sets that can point to radically different decisions.

There's a good case for better connections between researchers and the real world - not just politicians but business people, writers, charities and schools - but this proposal doesn't achieve this outcome and would create a service with limited access. Far better would be to negotiate a public library license with publishers making all that evidence - and the search tools needed to use it - available in every community and for every person.

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Friday, 17 June 2016

It's not for the left to decide what is freedom




Freedom... we're talking bout your freedom
Freedom to choose what you do with your body
Freedom to believe what you like
Freedom for brothers to love one another
Freedom for black and white
Freedom from harassment, intimidation
Freedom for the mother and wife
Freedom from Big Brother's interrogation
Freedom to live your own life...

A chunk of lyrics from Tom Robinson's 'Power in the Darkness', a song that became a sort of anthem for Rock Against Racism and the birth - or was it a rebirth - for Britain's cultural left. And, you know, I can't disagree with a word in that mantra, that statement of freedoms. As a child of '70s South London the events and culture of Rock Against Racism couldn't be avoided - at school badges sprouted, the radio echoed to a different set of musical sounds, there was a strut about Brixton, West Norwood and Crystal Palace that hadn't been there before.

Yesterday I went to the opening at Bradford's Impressions Gallery of an exhibition of Syd Shelton's photographs of the Rock Against Racism days along with my friend and former colleague, Huw Jones, who sort of famously features in the exhibition as (in his words) the 'token white' in the world's only Asian punk band - Alien Kulture. Now bear in mind that I'm a Tory, indeed I joined the Conservative Party as a teenager in 1976 almost in the teeth of this anti-establishment rock and roll sentiment. Even now, in an audience of now older Rock Against Racism aficionados I'm pretty much an exception. So Sid Shelton can - albeit a little hesitantly - include the Conservative Party in the parade of today's wrongness and racism.

All of which takes me to those lyrics and why they matter to me. Too often we forget that freedom - free speech and free choice - is central to our idea of civilisation. Indeed we trap ourselves in mealy-mouthed justifications of restrictions of speech or choice, always for good reasons never simply to oppress. It's not just concepts like 'hate speech', safe spaces or no platform but also the idea of preventing imports, the demonising of free enterprise and the banning of others' pleasures because we deem them unpleasant, unhealthy or unsightly.

Speech is central to this and we live in a society where the desire to prevent other voices is at risk of being institutionalised. Just as back in the 1970s the voices of black and Asian minorities weren't heard (and still fight for space), today there's a voicelessness about what some call the 'traditional working class'. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of racism out there (and that 'traditional working class' is no averse to a bit of it) but there's also a sense of a new excluded group - that 'traditional working class'.

In its slightly clunky sociologist way, The Guardian has spotted this problem. Here's Lisa McKenzie (whose from the same Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire mining communities where my grandfather started life) talking about the issues:

Over the past 30 years there has been a sustained attack on working-class people, their identities, their work and their culture by Westminster politics and the media bubble around it. Consequently they have stopped listening to politicians and to Westminster and they are doing what every politician fears: they are using their own experiences in judging what is working for and against them.

In the last few weeks of the campaign the rhetoric has ramped up and the blame game started. If we leave the EU it will be the fault of the “stupid”, “ignorant”, and “racist” working class. Whenever working-class people have tried to talk about the effects of immigration on their lives, shouting “backward” and “racist” has become a middle-class pastime.

This analysis - reflecting the patronising, dismissive, even uncomfortable response of us middle-class professionals (regardless of our politics) to that traditional working class - cuts close to the bone of the issue. We don't talk about why boys from a white working class background do worst at school and are least likely to go to university, we don't look at how angry many of these pretty ordinary Britons feel left behind and we don't ask the impact of ignoring their culture in favour of a mish-mash of the elite's Britishness with assorted imported cultures. The idea of Englishness is seen as a problem - we are perhaps the only place where many observers see flying the national flag as an act of racist provocation or, in some ways worse, being ignorant and common.

As many readers will know, I have pretty liberal views on immigration but even I can see why many ordinary people are agitated by it. Yes some of the ways in which it's discussed can sound racist but get underneath that and you'll find a real set of concerns that have little to do with a fear of foreigners - frets about homes and schools, worries over jobs, the loss of community facilities like the pub and the post office, isolation, bad policing and a sort of feeling that lots is being done for some other people and nothing for you and yours.

Although Rock Against Racism started with the thoughts of mostly white middle class musicians, anger at the racism of the music establishment, it opened the door to a bunch of working class performers and, in the Ska revival, the first black-white musical fusion (as opposed to appropriation) since the height of the jazz era. It's right that we recall what happened back then but we also need to heed the words from Power in the Darkness and raise the banners of freedom again. Not just in the continuing opposition to racism but in liberating ordinary people from the oppression of the modern state with its nannying, its obsession with supposed anti-social behaviour, its demonising of pleasure and its desire to police your speech, your movement and your choices.

What I object to in all this is that Tom Robinson's presentation of freedom deliberately excludes the right in politics. Millions of ordinary people who will all put their marker down as supporters of freedom and choice are told by the left that their idea of freedom has no place because that freedom includes expropriation of assets, the belittling of wealth and success, and the sustaining of the state as an agent of oppression through advocating punitive taxation.

I'll stand side-by-side with anyone opposing racism, supporting gay rights or making the case for free speech. But when people want to deny the freedom to succeed, to limit the availability of pleasure and to attack the choice that's central to our consumer society then I'll be on the other side of the barricade defending liberty from attack. And when - as we see from the middle-class left time and again - you're dismissive, rude or condemning of the words some ordinary Briton expresses, when you seek to close down what they say because it offends you, then you have become the enemy of freedom. An enemy of the ideals Tom Robinson set out in those lyrics I quoted.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

It shouldn't need saying but....


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Here are some words from my colleague, Zaf Ali in a message going out to people in his Keighley Central ward about the forthcoming referendum:

Having said that (Zaf is supporting Leave), I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not force, intimidate, harass and pressurise, bully, advocate and pester any one as to how they cast their vote. It's entirely up to each individual to look at both sides' arguments and debate through media, TV and newspaper - then decide yourself.

Can I echo those words. Too often we've seen unacceptable pressure - verging on intimidation - on voters to support one or other candidate in an election. I don't need to repeat the allegations made every year here in Bradford for people to understand that there's a better way of politics. It's fine to vote for someone because he's your friend, your brother. But it's not OK to put undue pressures on women or the young - indeed on anyone - to vote for that friend or that friend's side in an election.

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Saturday, 11 June 2016

The EU's courtiers can't see the truth - their project is rotten to its core





The greatest of political scientists, S. E. Finer, wrote about how all polities have a court. And that those courts featured those closest to the king, those aspiring to get close to the king and those who formed a rival court. The threats to these courts are of two different types - ones that determine who is king and who are the courtiers closest to the king and ones that create a different order, that replace the king with a different king.

So when we analyse the European Union - important right now because we have to decide whether to be part of it - we should remember that it is a political thing not an economic thing and that many of the people seeking to influence your decision are, in one way or another, courtiers. We should also remember that those courtiers have no interest in there being a change of king because their career trajectory clings to the current rulers. To be more precise the courtiers adhere to the current system rather than to the specific people who form the central court of the European Union.

Tim Worstall describes the outlook in a comment on Visegrad 4 ( or rather some sort of conference thing in Prague recently under the aegis of the Visegrad 4 grouping):

The interesting bit was how scary it was in fact. The groupthink is strong in this arena. There is no questioning of the goal, even if it’s not clearly delineated. That ever closer union is just assumed: how to bring it about being the only difference anyone has. I was the only truly eurosceptic person there and I wasn’t on the panel discussing eurosceptics for example (Frances is reasonable on this subject where I am not).

At one stage I pointed out that fiscal union simply was not going to happen. Europeans just are not going to allow 15-20% of GDP to be distributed through Brussels, which is what would be needed for the automatic stabilisers to operate properly so that the eurozone comes even close to being an optimal currency area. To do that really does mean German taxes paying Greek pensions.

It. Will. Not. Happen.

Not this century at least.

Everyone was shocked: how could you say such a thing? And anyway, we need to work out how to make this happen not think of why it cannot.

What’s scary about this is that these are the people (the varied policy wonks, political aides and so on who made up the audience) who are actually deciding policy within that EU bureaucracy. and they’re simply off with the fairies.

Now Tim is an economist of sorts rather than a political scientist. This isn't to say that he doesn't understand how political systems work but rather that his answer (in this case about the Euro) is couched in terms of the economic consequences of one or other choice. Yet Tim has noticed that the European Union's court - the body round which these policy wonks, aides, advisors and so forth are clustered - is not making decisions based on the economic rightness or otherwise of that decision. Even were the careful deconstruction of the Eurozone to be the right policy, there is no way in which these courtiers could countenance that policy choice being pursued. This would be politically unacceptable.

The reason for this situation - why, in Tim's terms, the assorted folk at this summit are 'away with the fairies' - is that their personal interest, career and future income is tied to the interests of the EU's central court. To challenge the fundamental policy premise of that polity - to point out that Brussels is naked - would be to threaten those interests, that career and the good income to be gained from clustering round the EU's court. So what the courtiers offer is the classic response of such people when faced with an existential threat - reform. We're told that the EU can be reformed, which means that a different set of courtiers sit at the centre of a slightly reconfigured court (with the gamble from the courtiers proposing 'reform' that they will be closer to that centre - and a little richer, a tad more powerful - than at present).

Everything that these courtiers do is Laputan in its distance from the real world of the people who those courtiers like to pretend are the real drivers of their world. For all the talk of elections, voting and democracy, the world of our courtiers is - for the most part - unchanging. This goes some way, perhaps to explaining why there is so much fret about neo-reactionary trends in European politics - it's not just that the Free Democrats, National Front, AfD or UKIP are right wing but rather that they position themselves away from the comfort of the EU's court. This trend is a threat to the EU and therefore incomprehensible, frightening and to be stopped at all costs.

So when those courtiers tell us we're 'blind' or wave their arms and exclaim in exasperation 'wake up, wake up', what they're doing is telling us we should come in from the cold, join their cosy world. We should accept the core ideology of the EU court - 'ever closer union' and so forth - and work with them on 'reform'. At one time I'd have been inclined to take this offer - the EU was a positive force in the world (or so we thought) - but having been close enough to what it does, I know differently. Far from buying the old lie about economic benefit, I now realise it is a political project that seeks the end of those things I value as important. It is only superficially democratic, specifically supranational and founded in List's old ideas of state directed, corporate capitalism (the same ideas borrowed by Mussolini in trying to hammer some sort of intellectual structure onto Fascism).

In one respect it is quite sweet that so many very clever people cluster around the EU's court. Like every other bunch of courtiers throughout history, these people mostly believe (when they've finished chasing consultancy contracts, speaking engagements, advisor positions and policy jobs) that there really is no alternative to the world in which they live, they develop a sort of strabimus with one eye gazing into their narrow little world while the other swivels frantically searching for ever grander ideas of union, collaboration and co-operation. We're told these people are the bright ones, the 'experts', yet they are - quite literally - ignorant of the lives, loves, aspirations and hopes of the people who are supposed to be their bosses.

What scares these courtiers is that a unruly rabble of people they've been told to dislike (and, as with all revolutions, some will actually be dislikeable) will pull down their comfortable castle and expose it to the light of truth and reality. There is a world beyond the EU. We can have a different king. There is - as there always is, whatever Maggie said - an alternative.

The argument for the EU is presented to us as an economic one - we'll be better off as a member, as art of a process of papering over genuine differences with euro-pap. What you should remember is that this is a political project. As Michael Portillo put it:

It has created hardship, unemployment and division on a dangerous scale. It is the result of an ideology; and the ideologues who pursue the goal of union do not count the cost in human misery. Why should they, since it is paid by others? Europe’s political elite is so self-satisfied with its self-proclaimed virtue in uniting Europe that it never doubts itself nor tolerates those who point out the damage that it does and its sheer incompetence.
The EU's courtiers don't see the truth - their project is rotten, dying and it it risks, as we've seen in Greece, pulling down the lives of ordinary people to satisfy its hubris.

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