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articles – updated 8/2022
thisismoney.co.uk/ 23-8-2022 Single currency in crisis: The ECB is caught between a rock and a hard place ahead of crunch rates decision – by MAGGIE PAGANO
Christine Lagarde and the European Central Bank are in dangerous territory as they consider whether to be hawkish with more aggressive interest rate hikes when they meet next on September 8.
There may be hints about future policy over the next few days from the Bundesbank chief Joachim Nagel when he meets fellow central bankers at the Fed’s Jackson Hole Economic Symposium tomorrow.
Deciding what to do next will be tricky. The ECB is caught between a rock and a hard place. Raising rates may do more harm than good and tip the region into a deeper recession.
Lagarde will need to come up with her version of Mario Draghi’s famous ‘Whatever It Takes’ to avert another eurozone crisis and stop the euro falling further.
And she can’t even blame Brexit.
unherd.com/ 9/12/2021 The Japanification of the Eurozone – ECB holdings of government debt are now very close to Japanese levels – Governments around the world have borrowed their way through the Covid crisis. Increasingly, they’ve relied on their own central banks — like the US Federal Reserve or the Bank of England — to buy-up government bonds. by Lubomir Tassev
…”But where do the central banks get the money they need to do this? The answer, of course, is from nowhere. It is created out of nothing through the magic of quantitative easing or QE. Because nothing is an inexhaustible resource, central banks have been able to print trillions of dollars of “free” money, which has been used to purchase bonds. As a result central banks own an ever-greater share of their own governments’ debt. An extraordinary chart from Robin Brooks shows just how dramatic the surge has been:
…What about Britain? According to the latest quarterly report from the UK Debt Management Office, the Bank of England now owns a third of UK government debt, which is not that dissimilar from the Eurozone. However, while HMG is in debt to a central bank under its ultimate control, the Eurozone countries are in debt to a central bank largely controlled by foreigners — and especially the Germans.
As the largest Eurozone economy, with some of the lowest debt levels, Germany wields increasing influence over its neighbours’ economic policies. Unluckily for fans of unrestricted public largesse, the new German finance minister is Christian Lindner, a dry-as-dust fiscal conservative. The fact that he’s just praised the “very impressive reform measures” (forced upon the Greek government in the wake of the Eurozone crisis), is a warning of what may be to come.”
ft.com 27/11/2021 Draghi urges EU to confront ‘inevitable’ reform of fiscal rules
bloomberg.com/ 24/11/2021 ‘World’s Most Interesting Central Banker’ Sells ECB to Germans – Schnabel has forged role speaking to skeptical fellow citizens – Inflation in Germany may surge close to 6% in November data By Alexander Weber
ft.com 20/11/2021 Japan unveils cash handouts
focus.de 20/8/2021 Europas Notenbanker warten ab – Warum weltweit viele Notenbanken die Zinsen anheben, aber die EZB nicht by Christoph Sackmann
…”Frühestens zum Jahresende könnte die Fed mit dem Tapering beginnen, es würde sich wahrscheinlich schrittweise über mindestens ein Jahr hinziehen. Die Zentralbank muss dabei vorsichtig vorgehen. Als Ex-Fed-Chef Ben Bernanke 2013 ein Tapering einleitete, löste er eine Schockreaktion am Markt aus. Anleger verkauften panisch ihre noch niedrig verzinsten Anleihen, so dass die Zinsen weit schneller in die Höhe schossen als geplant. Leidtragende eines solchen „Taper-tantrum“ getauften Wutanfalls waren vor allem Schwellenländer. Deren Anleihen wurden am Markt häufig verkauft, weil US-Anleger jetzt wieder Renditen auf dem heimischen Parkett witterten. Vielen Staaten wurde so schnell ihre Finanzierungsgrundlage entrissen.
Ein solches Tantrum ist heute nicht zu erwarten. Die Fed hat aus ihrem Fehler von 2013 gelernt. Damals überraschte sie den Markt mit ihrer Tapering-Ankündigung, heute wird der Ausstieg aus den Anleihekäufen rhetorisch geschickter vorbereitet. Sollte er in Jackson Hole verkündet werden, würde das keinen Anlageprofi überraschen.
Warum die EZB die Zinsen nicht erhöht Die Fed ist nicht die einzige Notenbank auf der Welt, die ihre lockere Geldpolitik beendet. In den vergangenen Wochen erhöhten etwa Russland, Brasilien, Chile, Ungarn, Mexiko und die Tschechische Republik ihre Leitzinsen. Und das nicht zu knapp: Am Zuckerhut ging es etwa schrittweise von 2,25 auf 5,25 Prozent nach oben, in Ungarn wurde der Satz von 0,6 auf 1,2 Prozent verdoppelt.
Nur in der Eurozone bleiben die Leitzinsen stabil auf 0,0 Prozent. Dabei ist auch hier die Inflation zuletzt deutlich gestiegen. In Deutschland sind es wie gesagt 3,8 Prozent, im gesamten Euroraum waren es im Juli 2,2 Prozent. So viel waren es seit Oktober 2018 nicht mehr. Darin zeigt sich auch der Unterschied etwa zu den USA. Die Inflation in der Eurozone ist gar nicht so stark gestiegen. Dass Deutschland einen solchen Langzeitrekord bei der Teuerung verzeichnet, liegt vor allem daran, dass die heutigen Preise mit denen vom vergangenen Juli verglichen werden, als geringere Mehrwertsteuersätze galten. Ohne diesen so genannten Basiseffekt wäre auch unsere Inflationsrate nicht viel höher als in den vergangenen Jahren….
Entsprechend sieht die EZB noch keinen Spielraum für ein Tapering. Ignazio Visco, Chef der italienischen Zentralbank und Mitglied des EZB-Rates, warnte schon vor einem Monat vor zu schnellen Schritten. „Wir müssen Tapering vermeiden, bis wir uns wirklich sicher sind, dass die Inflation beständig über zwei Prozent bleibt“, sagt er gegenüber der Finanznachrichtenagentur Bloomberg. Das könnte dauern, denn laut Prognosen wird sich die Teuerungsrate spätestens ab Januar wieder senken, etwa dann, wenn in Deutschland der Basiseffekt ausläuft. Von Bloomberg befragte Ökonomen rechnen für 2022 mit durchschnittlich 1,1 bis 1,2 Prozent Inflation im Euroraum. Das ließe keinen Spielraum für Tapering.
politico.eu 3/8/2021 It’s time to shake up Europe’s fiscal rules, says Irish central banker – ‘Monetary policy doesn’t work in a vacuum. Monetary policy needs friends.’ by Johanna Treeck
“Europe has to radically rethink its economic policies if it wants to move toward carbon-emission neutrality and apply lessons learned from past crises. But the European Central Bank can’t do all the heavy lifting.
That’s the message from Ireland’s central bank chief, Gabriel Makhlouf, who also sits on the ECB’s policymaking body, the Governing Council. Rather than relying on the central bank alone to pull Europe out of the pandemic recession, European capitals will need to better coordinate fiscal policies to kick-start and sustain economic growth, he told POLITICO in an interview.
To be sure, the pandemic has already forced Europe to take steps it wouldn’t have considered before. The EU has placed the fiscal rules of its Stability and Growth Pact on ice, while the ECB’s policymakers launched unprecedented monetary-policy support centered onits €1.85 trillion asset purchase program. In his interview, Makhlouf indicated the central bank might have to extend its emergency bond purchases beyond the current March 2022 deadline. …”…
ft.com 7/2021 Learning from history? ECB shifts strategy to avoid premature rate rises
economist.com 15/5/2021 …”In the ten-year gap between their initially bungling response to the euro-zone crisis and the pandemic, European leaders seem to have learned some lessons, even if they still have not learned them thoroughly enough. … With luck, political circumstance could embed this new attitude permanently in the EU’s own rules on government spending. …Boom-mongers have not yet routed the doom-mongers. There is plenty of opportunity to muck things up. Inflation still haunts European politics. While the noises coming from the ecb suggest that a modest rise in inflation this year will be brushed off, this claim will only be properly tested when German politicians start screaming. (The upcoming election will give plenty of excuses for such hysterics.) …”
ecb.europa.eu/ 26/4/2021 Monetary autonomy in a globalised world by Fabio Panetta … at the joint BIS, BoE, ECB and IMF conference on “Spillovers in a “post-pandemic, low-for-long” world” –
My main message today is that Europe’s economic trajectory is in our hands. The inflation process is still a domestic phenomenon which forceful monetary policy can control. The ECB has already asserted its monetary autonomy and will continue to use it to bring inflation back to our aim of 2%. This, in turn, enables fiscal authorities to use the space available to them to bring about a full recovery, which would guarantee higher productivity, more sustainable debt and more inclusive growth.
ft.com 10/4/2021 Nobel Robert Mundell dies ahead of non optimal Euro
economist.com 3/4/2021 What if Europe’s fiscal largesse were as generous as America’s? America’s rapid recovery from covid-19 offers a glimpse of what could be. It can be easy to forget that Europe might reasonably be expected to outperform the American economy. True, population growth in the former is slower. But because Europe remains far less integrated than America—politically, economically and culturally—it has room to exploit efficiencies that the latter has already realised. And because parts of Europe remain economically underdeveloped (nominal gdp per person in Bulgaria, the eu’s poorest member, is roughly a quarter of that in Mississippi, America’s poorest state), the scope for rapid catch-up growth in poorer places is substantial. Yet Europe has struggled to realise its potential in the 21st century. Chronic underperformance is now more or less taken for granted; the experience during the pandemic, and the likely recovery from it, could reinforce its reputation for mediocrity. But a dose of American-style stimulus—more appropriate to economic conditions in Europe anyway—could change that.
irishtimes.com 20/03/2021 David McWilliams: No one seems to have noticed there’s a monetary revolution under way – If the ECB re-establishes the old rules post-pandemic, a eurozone crisis will ensue
Hans-Böckler-Stiftung Feb 2021 REFORMING THE FISCAL RULEBOOK FOR THE EURO AREA – AND THE CHALLENGE OF OLD AND NEW PUBLIC DEBT by Jan Priewe ABSTRACT : Upholding the EU fiscal rules at the elevated public debt level due to the Corona crisis would trigger a phase of long-standing austerity in the euro area. In this study, major proposals for reforms are reviewed, with a critical focus on the expenditure rule, which is central in many think-tanks’ and academic researchers’ advice. A different reform based on a fiscal analogue to the well-known Taylor-rule for monetary policy is designed here. It is argued that under a low-interest environment growth rates exceed interest rates, a fact not compatible with the present ruleset and with far-reaching consequences. This requires redefining debt sustainability. The proposal chooses as the operational variable for fiscal policy primary balances rather than structural balances. The anchor for fiscal stability, until know the 60% cap on public debt, should be replaced by a cap on the interest payments on public debt at roughly 3% of GDP. This allows higher fiscal space for investment and innovations. The fact that the interest rate burden of all Member States in the euro area stands at the lowest level ever experienced, although the debt level is at an all-time high, clarifies that the focus on the debt ratio is misleading. Change could be possible in the secondary law of the EU without change of the Treaties. EURO Priewe PDF here
https://www.pubaffairsbruxelles.eu/commentary-a-brown-or-a-green-european-central-bank-by-dirk-schoenmaker-bruegel/ pubaffairsbruxelles.eu 2/2021 The European Central Bank portfolio is skewed towards the brown economy, reflecting a bias in the market. Can and should the bank deviate from the market allocation? Climate change is a hotly debated issue in the European Central Bank’s ongoing strategy review. While ECB president Christine Lagarde and her colleagues at the centre favour robust tools to tackle climate change, most national central bank governors (like their colleagues at the US Fed) seem to be against including climate considerations in monetary policy. The core question is: should the ECB continue to accommodate the bonds and bank loans of carbon-intensive companies as assets or collateral, or should it reduce them?
twelvestars.eu 2019 The Euro-Dividend The EU should pay a modest basic income to every legal resident of the European Union or the eurozone, financed by the value added tax. Philippe Van Parijs
excerpts Europe’s difference from the US calls for a Euro-Dividend These are hefty numbers. Why, then, do we need an unprecedented scheme of such magnitude? I will provide four reasons, the most urgent of which is the ongoing crisis in the eurozone. Why is it that the US has been managing for centuries with a single currency despite the diversity of its states and their divergent economic fates, whereas the eurozone teetered on the brink of collapse after just one decade? Why has the US left the damage of the financial crisis largely behind it, while Europe still suffers from it? Economists from Milton Friedman to Amartya Sen have kept warning us: European States, before adopting the euro, could use exchange rate adjustment as a safety valve to release the pressures of diverging shocks or trends. Europe, however, lacks the two buffering mechanisms that serve within the US as powerful substitutes for this safety valve. One of them is interstate migration. The proportion of US residents who move to another state in any given period is about six times higher than the proportion of EU residents who move to another member state. Europeans may become somewhat more mobile with each generation. But our entrenched linguistic diversity imposes rather strict limits on how far we can expect — or, indeed, hope — to amplify this first mechanism. Athens’ unemployed will never migrate as smoothly to Munich as Detroit’s to Austin. The dollar zone’s second powerful buffering mechanism consists of automatic interstate transfers. This is essentially achieved through social benefits largely organised and funded at the federal level. As a result of both buffers, Michigan or Missouri could never sink into a Greece-like downward spiral if they suffer economically. Not only is their unemployment tempered by emigration. In addition, owing to shrinking tax liabilities and swelling benefit payments, a growing part of their social expenditures is de facto funded by the rest of the country. Estimates of the extent of this automatic compensation vary between 20 and 40 percent, depending on the methodology used. In the EU, by contrast, the dampening of a member state’s downturn through adjustments of net transfers across states amounts to less than 1 percent. Given the reluctance to both emigrate and to receive immigrants, the potential of the migration mechanism is poor. This, in turn, only strengthens the argument that the eurozone cannot afford to neglect the mechanism of interstate transfer payment. What form should it take? In theory, one can think of an EU-wide mega welfare state. However, even the few who believe it to be desirable have to admit that it is unlikely to ever come about given the great diversity of existing national welfare states and the extent to which European citizens are understandably attached to them. What is required is something more modest, far rougher, more lump-sum. If it is to be viable, our monetary union needs to equip itself with a number of new tools. One of them is a buffering mechanism for economic imbalances that can only be something like a Euro-Dividend. Europe’s diversity calls for a Euro-Dividend The second reason why we need such a transnational transfer scheme applies to the EU as a whole, not only the eurozone. The linguistic and cultural diversity of the European continent does not only make interstate migration costlier and therefore less likely for the individuals involved. It also reduces the benefits and increases the costs for the communities involved. Integration into the new environment, both economic and social, takes more time, requires more administrative and educational resources, and creates more lasting tensions than is the case with interstate migration in the US. Migrants from not only poorer, but linguistically and culturally different countries flocking into the more affluent metropolitan areas can create a feeling of invasion among the local population. Denouncing such reactions as racism does not make them any less real and potentially dangerous. They feed the drive to reinstate thick boundaries and repudiate both free movement and non-discrimination. Fast migration of large numbers of people also undermines the social fabric and economic prospects of their homelands. There is a much less disruptive alternative, however: Organise systematic transfers from the centre to the periphery. People will no longer need to be uprooted and driven away from their relatives and communities by the sheer need to make a living. Instead, populations will be sufficiently stabilised to both make immigration more digestible in the magnet areas and to stop emigration being badly debilitating in the peripheral areas. If it is to be politically sustainable and socio-economically efficient, a European Union with free internal migration must introduce something along the lines of a Euro-Dividend. The four freedoms of the EU’s single market call for a Euro-Dividend Third and most fundamentally, the free movement of capital, people, goods, and services across the borders of EU member states erodes the capacity of each of these states to perform the redistributive tasks they discharged reasonably well in the past. Member states are no longer sovereign states able to democratically set their priorities and to realise solidarity among their citizens. Free movement without some interstate transfer system to buffer economic imbalances forces the EU’s states to behave more and more as if they were firms: obsessed by their competitiveness, anxious to hold onto or build more financial and human capital, eager to eradicate any social expenditure that cannot be sold as an investment, and keen to phase out any scheme likely to attract welfare tourists and other unproductive folk. It is no longer democracy that imposes its rules on markets and uses them for its purposes. It is the single market that imposes its laws on democracies and forces them to give competitiveness top priority. If our diverse ways of organising social solidarity are to be saved from the grip of fiscal and social competition, part of it must be lifted to a higher level. The power and diversity of our welfare states will not survive the murderous pressure of competitiveness unless the united European market operates against the background of something like a Euro-Dividend. The EU’s defective legitimacy calls for a Euro-Dividend Finally, the European Union will only function – and, indeed, survive – in all its dimensions if the EU’s citizens regard its decisions as legitimate, so that both national governments and citizens will not feel entitled to circumvent them in all sorts of ways. One important aspect of legitimacy is whether citizens perceive very tangibly that the Union does something for them – that is, for all of them, not only for the elites, for the movers, for those who are in a position to seize the new opportunities, but also for the underdogs, for those left out, for the stay-at-homes. Bismarck helped cement the shaky legitimacy of his unified Germany by creating the world’s first public pension system. If the Union is to be more in people’s eyes than a heartless bureaucracy, if it is to be perceived as a caring Europe with which all can identify, it will need to find a way of bringing about something totally unprecedented: a universal Euro-Dividend. Some objections Are there any reasonable objections to this proposal? Of course there are, even if surprisingly few have turned up in the Twelve Stars online debate. Some, for example, may question the wisdom of using VAT to fund the scheme. VAT is the most Europeanised of all major forms of taxation. But would it not make more sense to use the financial transaction tax proposed elsewhere in this volume? Or a carbon tax, for that matter? The issue here is magnitude: What these two taxes could fund, even under optimistic assumptions, is an EU-wide monthly Euro-Dividend of no more than 10 and 14 euros, respectively. Why, then, not use the more progressive personal income tax? Because the definition of the income tax base varies greatly from country to country and is highly sensitive politically. Moreover, today’s income tax is de facto hardly more progressive than VAT. But would a 20 percent rate of VAT added to national rates not be unbearable and thus unsustainable? The answer is that a VAT for the Euro-Dividend does not need to be added to unchanged VAT rates. Rather, the national VAT rates could be lowered as the sheer presence of the Euro-Dividend makes room for increasing the income tax without lowering the net income of taxpayers and for reducing social benefits without lowering the net income of benefit recipients. Others may well object that each of the four functions of the Euro-Dividend listed above could be served better through some more complicated, more sophisticated device. Most of these arguments will be correct. My claim is simply that no other manageable mechanism would serve all four functions as well while being intelligible to the ordinary European citizen. A more fundamental objection is that, however desirable the expected effects, it would be unfair to give everyone something for nothing. This objection rests on a misperception. A Euro-Dividend does not amount to an unfair redistribution of the fruits of some hard workers’ work. It rather amounts to sharing among all European residents, in the form of a modest basic income, part of the benefits of European integration. How much did we save as a result of not having to conduct or prepare for war with our neighbours? How much did we gain as a result of having increased competition between our firms or of having allowed factors of production to move wherever in Europe they are most productive? The exact number is obviously impossible to calculate. What we know for sure, though, is that these benefits are real and substantial. What we also know is that they are distributed very unequally in the European population, depending on whether they are movers or stay-at-homes, depending on whether or not the situation created by European integration happened to make their consumption cheaper or their skills more valuable. A modest Euro-Dividend is a straightforward and efficient way of guaranteeing that some of these benefits will reach each European in a tangible way. Is this utopian? Of course it is. But so was the European Union until not so long ago. And so was the social security system before Bismarck put together its first building blocks. But Bismarck did not invent the pension system out of the kindness of his heart. He did so because people started mobilising in favour of radical reforms across the whole of the Reich he was trying to unify. What are we waiting for?
springer.com 2020 Heterodox Challenges in Economics Theoretical Issues and the Crisis of the Eurozone by Sergio Cesaratto This book discloses the economic foundations of European fiscal and monetary policies by introducing readers to an array of alternative approaches in economics. It presents various heterodox theories put forward by classical economists, Marx, Sraffa and Keynes, as a coherent challenge to neo-classical theory. The book underscores and critically assesses the analytical inconsistencies of European economic policy and the conservative nature of the current European governance. In this light, it examines the political obstacles to proposals to reform the European monetary union, as well as those originating in the neo-mercantilist German model. Given its scope and format, the book offers a valuable asset for researchers and members of the general public alike. Heterodox economics, Classical, Marxian, Sraffian and Keynesian theories, Criticism of neoclassical economic theory and policy, Endogenous money, Balance of payments and the foreign constraint, Core – Periphery imbalances and mercantilism in the EU, Eurozone crisis and monetary policy read more of this Springer book here
theconversation.com The euro at 20: Why the currency’s endurance is not proof of its success Barry Eichengreen 10/1/19 The euro was born with fundamental problems that have weakened it. read article here
EuroMemoGroup 2017 Debate on the Eurozone: a New Contribution from France Notes on Aglietta and Leron, The Double Democracy: a Political Europe for Growth, by John Grahl Executive summary The necessity of deep changes in the EU and the eurozone, denied by dominant economic and political groups for many years, is now winning increasing recognition. The recent book, La Double Démocratie, by the eminent economist Michel Aglietta and his co-author Nicolas Leron, makes a very useful contribution to the debate on a re-foundation of the European project. The notes here follow closely the French text. The argument begins with a political pathology of the EU as it exists. Aglietta and Leron characterise the political dynamic of the existing structures as entropic, as leading to increasing disorder across both EU and member state polities. This political analysis is then used to explore the economic malfunctions of the eurozone, interpreted through Aglietta’s theory of monetary systems as expressions of sovereignty. Finally a programmatic section advocates a democratisation at the European level, centred on the introduction of a modest but significant budgetary capacity under the control of the European Parliament, or of the sub-set of parliamentarians representing eurozone members. Although the specific reforms proposed by Aglietta and Leron (see the final page below) are similar to those advanced by other commentators, the synthesis of economic and political analysis in which the reforms are presented is both original and interesting.b PDF here
Max-Planck-Institut Discussion Paper Fritz W Scharpf 2017 Vom asymmetrischen Euro-Regime in die Transferunion – und was die deutsche Politik dagegen tun könnte Abstract The structural divergence of Northern and Southern economies continues to threaten the stability of the Monetary Union. The asymmetric euro regime is meant to achieve convergence through the enforced structural transformation of Southern political economies. In spite of significant progress, however, this goal is ultimately beyond reach because of the size and the exceptional competitiveness of the German economy. Since the German government will not be able to change these conditions, the most likely course of events will lead to a transfer union – which is likely to establish the permanent dominance of more competitive Northern over less competitive Southern economies. In order to avoid this course it would be useful to establish institutional rules that facilitate the transition to a flexible two-tiered European Monetary Federation. Keywords: EU, monetary union, asymmetry, convergence, transfer union, Germany Zusammenfassung Solange die strukturelle Nord-Süd-Divergenz ihrer Mitglieder andauert, bleibt die Währungsunion instabil. Das asymmetrische Euro-Regime soll Konvergenz durch eine strukturelle Transformation der politischen Ökonomien des Südens erzwingen. Wegen der Größe und der nicht einholbaren Wettbewerbsvorteile der deutschen Wirtschaft kann dieses Ziel aber nicht erreicht werden. Daran wird die deutsche Politik kaum etwas ändern können. Ihr sachlich begründeter Widerstand gegen die Entwicklung zu einer Transferunion wird politisch kaum durchzuhalten sein, aber die Folge wäre eine dauerhafte Dominanz der wettbewerbsfähigen über die weniger wettbewerbsfähigen Ökonomien. Stattdessen käme es darauf an, institutionelle Regeln vorzubereiten, die den Übergang zu einem flexiblen und zweistufigen Europäischen Währungsverbund ermöglichen. Schlagwörter: EU, Währungsunion, Asymmetrie, Konvergenz, Transferunion, Deutschland Euro Scharpf PDF here
Centralisation-Without-Representation: A reply to Frances Coppola, Simon Wren-Lewis and Niall Ferguson
Yanis Varoufakis 2014 EU centralisation-without-representation: a reply to Frances Coppola, Simon Wren-Lewis and Niall Ferguson
Europeans are against ‘more Europe’, because they are against the particular type of authoritarian, anti-democratic political union on offer. It would not after all, be the first time in history that a political ruling class place their preference for more unchecked power ahead of their concern for shared prosperity.
In two recent articles, Frances Coppola and Simon Wren-Lewis, commenting on our article, concurred with our main point and added some of their own. The following sections address their well-taken points, arguing once more in favour of our Modest Proposal, before concluding with a lament about the gross complacency of Europe’s ‘official spokespersons’ (as demonstrated, for instance, by Niall Ferguson’s latest intervention in the Financial Times).
In her reply to our article, Frances Coppola makes an excellent point: Europe’s de facto leadership (national politicians and Brussels bureaucrats alike) will never voluntarily consider our Modest Proposal. The reason is … ” read more here