Bill Carmichael: Economics of the bar-room

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HE was one of those “characters” who always seem to hang about the bar in street corner pubs, and every time I popped in for a pint he would always greet me with the words: “If you loan me a tenner, I’ll be able to pay you back that fiver I owe you.”

I didn’t take him up on the offer – and come to think of it I never got my original fiver back.

He was what might be called an eccentric spendthrift, and you quickly learned to loan money to him only the once.

But if I’d known that his way with money would soon form the basis of the economic system for an entire continent, I would have pushed him in the direction of Brussels where he may have found gainful employment.

Because strange as it may seem, my ex-drinking companion’s approach to debt is much the same as the European Union’s. The main difference is the Eurozone deals in many billions of pounds rather than the odd fiver.

As with the guy in the bar, lenders are reluctant to offer any more money to several European countries, because they doubt if they will get it back. For example, talks are still continuing to decide how much of Greece’s huge debt will be written off, never to be seen again.

Another uncanny parallel is the notion that you have to loan more money to debtors so they can pay back a small proportion on what they already owe you.

Take Italy for example. This week the new unelected “technocratic” government imposed on the Italian people by their European masters, decided it would donate 23.5bn euros to shore up the finances of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Italy is effectively bust. It doesn’t have two euros to rub together. It can’t in fact donate money it doesn’t have.

No matter, Italy is apparently planning to borrow the cash from the Eurozone’s existing bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), which was set up with donations from Eurozone countries, including Italy.

Once the IMF has been topped up with 150 billion euros from Europe – although according to George Osborne, not including the UK – it will be a position to bail out failing European countries by way of the EFSF.

So let’s see if we can unpick this money-go-round; the EFSF is lending 23.5bn euros to Italy, so Italy can donate that money to the IMF, so the IMF can give that money to the EFSF, which in turn will give it to Italy.

Got that? I mean what could possibly go wrong?

Sign of the times

TODDLERS in York have been banned from making a star sign when they sing along to the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in case it offends deaf people.

Apparently the “diamond in the sky” symbol formed by thumbs and forefingers that children have used for generations, is similar to the sign language gesture used for female genitalia.

Jill Hodges, assistant director of education, children and young people’s services at City of York Council responsible for the Sure Start mother and toddler group in Acomb, denied it was a case of political correctness, insisting it was more “a sensible decision to prevent deaf children and deaf parents being offended by the use of the gesture”.

And how many deaf children and parents attend the Sure Start group? The answer is none. Honestly, where do they find these people?

The blame for this stupid decision lies, as is so often the case, with the diversity Gestapo. Staff at the nursery had recently returned from “sensitivity” training on sign language. It is a pity they didn’t teach them a bit of common sense while they were about it.