bookmark_borderGerman salaries should go up by 20%

Euro, a photo by aranjuez1404 on Flickr.
After the introduction of the euro, the German politicians got worried that Germany wasn’t the best place to run a business any more (the “Standort Deutschland” discussion). As a result of this, salaries and other labour costs were lowered. This reform was a success, insomuch as the German economy subsequently boomed.

However, one might argue that this reform was partly responsible for the current euro crisis.

In any area using one currency there will necessarily be areas doing well and other areas doing badly. Normally one would expect the rich areas to have higher salaries, pensions and prices, so that the poorer areas can compete through lower costs.

However, by ruthlessly cutting the costs of doing business, Germany and several other countries in northern Europe have made it almost impossible for southern Europe to compete. In the old days, they would from time to time have devalued their currencies, but now that they can’t do that, they have a real problem. Cutting salaries and pensions (as for instance Greece is doing at the moment) is hardly a great solution, because it makes the local economy grind to a standstill.

I believe Germany (and other high performers in the Eurozone) should accept that they’re benefiting a lot from the euro. If it didn’t exist, lots of European countries would have devalued their currencies drastically, and businesses would be leaving Germany in huge numbers.

I’m half German, so I think I’ve got the right to say that Germany — because of what happened there in the 1930s — has a moral obligation to prevent other countries from sinking into the kind of situation that leads to the emergence of fascism.

My preferred solution would be putting up German salaries and pensions (perhaps by 20% or so). This could be very popular in Germany (“you’ve worked hard, so we think you deserve a pay rise”), and it would immediately make it much more attractive to place a business in Greece or Spain instead of Germany. However, the markets would probably immediately react by lowering the exchange rate of the euro by approximately the same amount, so it’s likely that German products wouldn’t actually get any dearer outwith the EU, which means that unemployment probably wouldn’t rise too much in Germany.

An alternative would be creating eurobonds, as suggested by George Soros and others.

I don’t really care what Germany does, but I’m sick and tired of hearing Merkel lecturing the southern Europeans to become Schwäbische Hausfrauen. I have tons of Swabian housewives in my family, and while they’re absolutely wonderful people, I really don’t think the solution to the Eurozone’s troubles is to turn Greece into a Mediterranean Schwabenland.

bookmark_borderBuchwider Bräu α₂

Buchwider Bräu ??
Buchwider Bräu ??
The first beer I ever tried to brew in Scotland was a German Weißbier, ??.

Although I was pleased at the time, I later came to view it as a bit of a failure — it wasn’t really pleasant enough to be enjoyed on its own.

I therefore decided I would try again. I more or less used the same recipe before, but I used a different yeast (Wyeast Bavarian Wheat Blend instead of Wyeast Bavarian Wheat).

I’ve tried one bottle so far, and although it’s somewhat better than my first Weißbier, it’s still not quite right. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it lacks a certain fruitiness.

I guess I’ll need to try again next year!

bookmark_borderDividing England along the Severn-Wash line

Isoglosses for 'last', 'cross' and 'sun'
Isoglosses for ‘last’, ‘cross’ and ‘sun’. Based on this image by NordNordWest modified by User:Xhandler, with isoglosses from An Atlas of English Dialects

In the past I’ve been writing about ways to split up England for the purpose of making federalism work in the UK (see this and this and this).

For some bizarre reason one split I never suggested in these blog posts was in many ways the most obvious one.

As a linguist, I’ve been aware for years that English dialects split into two main groups: Southern English south of a line roughly from the Severn to the Wash, and Northern English north of this line. (Scottish dialects are a completely different story.) Three of the most important isoglosses are shown on the map on the right.

However, this line turns up in lots of other contexts, e.g.:

  • Economics: “The current government’s attempts to bridge the north-south divide look doomed to failure. All but one of the 20 worst districts for hidden unemployment lie north of a line from the Severn to the Wash […]”
  • Politics: “South of a line drawn from the Wash to the Severn estuary, Labour has just 10 seats outside of London.”
  • Geology: “The line links the mouth of the River Tees between Redcar and Hartlepool in the north east of England with the mouth of the River Exe in Devon, the south west. The lowlands (sedimentary rocks) are predominant to the east of the line and higher land (igneous and metamorphic rocks) dominates to the west. As well as geology, those areas to the north and west of the line are generally wetter in climate than those to the east and south. Similar lines are commonly drawn, for similar purposes, between the Severn Estuary and the Wash, and between the Severn and the mouth of the River Trent.”
  • Ornithology: “[The nightingale is] a secretive bird which likes nothing better than hiding in the middle of an impenetrable bush or thicket. In the UK they breed mostly south of the Severn-Wash line […]”
  • Medicine: “Although the 1916 and 1917 waves of meningitis in the civil population were less intense than the primary wave of 1915 […], the underlying pattern of heightened disease activity in counties to the south of the Severn-Wash line persisted.”

I’m sure there are many more examples, but these should suffice to show that the Severn-Wash line is the most obvious border. North England and South England would be different in so many ways that they would quickly develop separate identities.

Obviously I don’t think England will ever be divided, but the consequence is that an undivided England will always dominate the UK to such a great extent that Scottish independence becomes a necessity.

bookmark_borderTweeting your links automatically

Multiple Tweets Gradient
Multiple Tweets Gradient, a photo by mkhmarketing on Flickr.
If you follow my political independence blog, Arc of Prosperity on Twitter, you will have noticed that I often tweet topical links, prefixed with the text “Seen elsewhere:”.

This happens automatically when I bookmark a link so long as I add a certain label to it.

To do this, I use two free websites, and Twitterfeed. is simply a bookmarking site that allows me to save bookmarks and attach labels. All links that I want to appear on Twitter get the label “aop”. (You can see all my aop links here.) The most important feature from this point of view is that you can retrieve these bookmark lists in RSS format (e.g., this RSS feed for my aop links).

Twitterfeed posts RSS feeds to Twitter, so all you need to do is to tell it the address of your RSS feed and determine the posting frequency etc. and Twitterfeed work really well together, and it’s my impression that many of my Twitter followers really appreciate the links I’m posting.

bookmark_borderBuchwider Bräu ι₁

Buchwider Bräu ??
Buchwider Bräu ??.
I completely forgot to blog Buchwider Bräu ?? back in January when I starting drinking it. I’ve just opened my second last bottle (apart from the ones in my “archive”), so it’s high time to write about it.

My ?? is a clone of Caledonian Deuchars IPA, using a recipe from CAMRA’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale.

I think it’s a very pleasant beer, and my dad praised it highly when he and my mum visited us two weeks ago. Unfortunately I haven’t got a chance to compare it directly with the real Caledonian Deuchars IPA — I must do that with my last bottle!

bookmark_borderFossil fuels

C02 emissions since 1850 (red); exponential growth (blue); cuts to hit climate target (dashed). Source: The Guardian
C02 emissions since 1850 (red); exponential growth (blue); cuts to hit climate target (dashed). Source: The Guardian
There was a really interesting article about fossil fuel in The Guardian recently.

The author points out that in spite of everything we’re doing (renewable energy, emissions trading, etc.), CO? emissions are still rising at the same rate as before — have a look at the graph on the right. As it says in the article: “For whatever reason, cutting carbon has so far been like squeezing a balloon: gains made in one place have been cancelled out by increases elsewhere.” The dotted line shows what the world needs to be doing to limit temperature rises to 2°C — there’s just no way the red line (the actual emissions) are going to fall like this over the next couple of decades.

The article doesn’t offer many concrete solutions, but I think it’s very important to realise that we aren’t currently actually doing anything to limit the rise in CO? emissions.

bookmark_borderNuntii Latini

Inscripció dels emporitans
Inscripció dels emporitans, a photo by Sebastià Giralt on Flickr.

Many years ago, somebody told me that Yle (the Finnish Broadcasting Company) were broadcasting weekly in Latin. However, in those pre-Internet days I had no idea how to find a way to listen to it.

These days things are much easier.

Yle have created a webpage containing podcasts, so that we can all easily get our weekly five minutes of Latin.

I must say, however, that the presenters sound very Finnish. I also find it interesting that they pronounce ‘c’ as /k/ before front vowels while at the same time pronouncing ‘ae’ as /?/ — I would have thought that would be a somewhat unlikely combination.