Lets kick off with "Face value|Iliad's warrior" on page 81. The piece is about the French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, who is attempting to win a mobile phone licence for his company Iliad.
... after years of deliberation and fierce opposition form the big three - Orange, Vivendi,... and Bouygues Telecom,... the government invited bids for a fourth mobile licence ...The article depicts current arrangements as a cosy cartel and reports the estimates of Nicolas Didio of Exane BNP Paribus, a stockbroking firm, that Iliad could eventually lift its operating profit by 50% while cutting profits at Orange by 10%, at SFR by 17% and at Bouygues Telecom by 23%. An eyebrow is raised at the failure of Martin Bouygues to use his friendship with President Nicolas Sarkozy to block the fourth licence.
My fifteen year old self was able to read the subtext. Big businessmen are a bunch of blood sucking parasites whose corrupt political cronies help them pick the pockets of the public. Yeah, right.
On the facing page, "Dogan v Erdogan" reports "Turkey's biggest media group gets a colossal tax fine." Are the blood sucking parasites of big business getting their comeuppance? No. Dogan has pissed off Turkey's prime minister and Turkey's tax laws are notoriously complex. "They can be used as a spear of a shield."
All angsty teenagers know why we have laws against cannabis and pornography. Ayn Rand/William Burroughs have told us. You cannot govern innocent men. You must have plenty of laws so that every-one is guilty of something. The Economist runs with this narrative and one imagines Sir Humphrey advising "But minister, if the tax code were simple enough that people could comply with it, you would not be able to threaten your opponents with a tax audit."
At least the briefing on India's water crisis will be about meteorology, not an opportunity for sneering at the wise rule of our elders and betters.
But, the world over, without expensive maintenance to prevent siltation in reservoirs and leakage form canals, grand dams and irrigation schemes tend to be as inefficient as they are environmentally destructive. And India's corrupt, under funded and overmanned state irrigation departments - Uttar Pradesh's, for example employs over 100,000 people - often provide no maintenance at all.Whoops!
1975-1977 was the tail end of Heath/Wilson corporatism in the UK. 16 year old Alan would have no difficulty in picking up the sharp dig at the soft left and their nationalised industries. Looking at a 2009 edition of the Economist and assuming nothing has changed since 1975, you can see why alan1975 thought that the magazine was nihilist, left-wing agit-prop.
I don't where I'm going with this diary. Homosexual law reform in the UK was in 1967. My father disapproved. Alan1975 thought that homosexual law reform was about sex. When he grew up he would have opinions of his own about whether buggery was evil or fun.
Alan2009, corrupted by his subscription to the Economist, takes the Malaysian view. When the political opposition is asking awkward questions about whether nepotism is rendering industrial policy ineffective, you need a spear and a shield. A spear to stab you opponent. A shield to protect your relative's loot from prying eyes. The prohibition of homosexuality is a combined shield/spear so good they used it twice. The prohibition of homosexuality is not about sex, it is about who gets the windfall profits from tariffs on car imports. That is not quite right. I realise that Cynicism is dangerously naive and that some people actually care what others do in the privacy of their bedroom.
Perhaps this diary is an instance of the adage that growing old is not the piling up of wisdom but the losing of illusions, though I hope that I've been discarding illusions to make room for wisdom. Please make wise comments; Tullock knows, there is plenty of room for them.
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