Nuts and Bolts: pizza economics

Posted: February 15, 2012 in Denmark, Lithuania, notes, Off Topic

I had promised myself that I would be a kinder more gentle blogger this year, but that New Year resolution hasn’t lasted long. So here is the first in a new series of opinionated posts entitled Nuts and Bolts that might be a bit off topic at times, but hopefully will show that crime fiction is still making the sort of relevant social comments that made Maj Sjowal and Per Wahloo’s Martin Beck series such as success back in the 1960s and 1970s.

In “Nuts and Bolts” I will be giving my opinions on things that I have read in crime fiction books, or something I have read in a review. 

Recently  I have started reading the Danish best seller The Boy in The Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol [who is also the translator] and Agnete Friis.  

“Tivoli!” she said. “Could we go there?………………”

They paid a day’s wage to get in, and ate a pizza that only set him back about seven or eight times as much as it would have cost him in Vilnius.

It seems to have taken our homegrown politicians, and Brussels bureaucrats totally by surprise that people from Greece [surely about to default] or Lithuania can’t live at the same standard of living as the Danes, the Dutch or people living in South East England. In the 1970s I spent several holidays touring the Greek Islands, and apart from Hydra, it was clear that Greece was a poor peasant society, whose people were very friendly towards the Scandinavians, Americans and Brits, and not quite so friendly towards the Germans. 

When the countries of the former Soviet Bloc became members of the European Union we were told that only about 15,000 Eastern European workers would come to England to look for work! Wages and standards of living would equalize throughout the EU, that would make it unnecessary  for large numbers of people to migrate. How this equalization was to be achieved we were never told. But obviously the plan was to move factories and jobs  from high wage countries to the low wage economies of Eastern Europe. We have vast differences in household income between London, the South East England, and the rest of the UK, so how anyone believed citizens of Lithuania, or Greece could live at the same standard of living as people in Denmark, or the Netherlands is quite beyond me.

I feel incredibly sorry for the ordinary people in Greece, as I do for those in Iceland and Ireland, who are paying the price for the folly that is the Euro and the program of European political integration. What kind of life will it be for ordinary people under the Greek government’s new austerity program? And which country will be next in line.

I always take any statistics with a pinch of salt, but by being a selective they can be useful to emphasize or exaggerate a point.

GDP per capita [IMF 2011]

Netherlands $42,330, Denmark $37,741, UK $35,974, Greece $27,624, Lithuania $18,338 

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – What an interesting feature! I really like this idea, and I look forward to seeing what you do with it. As to the issue you raise today, it’s a very thoughtful commentary. Not being European, it’s not my place to comment. But you’ve raised a crucial issue and I know I’ll learn as this feature goes on. I have the feeling I will learn a great deal.

  2. Norman says:

    Margot- your reticence to comment on the European mess is admirable. But I have a feeling that I might with Charles McCarry, George Pelecanos, James Lee Burke, and Michael Connelly on my shelves not be able to resist saying something about the US election. 😉

  3. kathy d. says:

    Say anything you want to. Our feelings in the States are not rattled by mystery readers of the world, anywhere near how they’re rattled by the ongoing and outrageous election campaign over here by those attacking women, working and low-income communities;unemployment, retirement and medical benefits (which people paid into their entire working lives!); public education; immigrants, and the entire federal government. It’s impossible to watch any of this on TV or read about it in the print or online media.

    So any commentary from across the pond has to be better than what is actually being said by the candidate wannabes.

    I feel terribly for the Greek majority, whose wages are now being cut even more with more layoffs. Women who’ve been laid off can’t get medication for their sick children now at health centers. People are going without housing and food. Several have gone back to try to work the land to eke out food and a living.

    And I can well understand their anger at Germany, which occupied their country during WWII and killed hundreds of thousands of Greeks. The people bravely stood up and resisted, but even so, their country was ravaged as it is now being ravaged economically.

    But, I’m afraid, Portugal is now in the running to become another Greece. And Italy, lots is going on, too, which will not help average people.

    Such big economic inequalities in Europe. Lots more to come, i’m afraid.

  4. […] rest is here: Nuts and Bolts: pizza economics « CRIME SCRAPS REVIEW Tags: australia, conan, denmark, fiction, jornal, making-the-sort, new-series, […]

  5. Norman says:

    Kathy-we saw a program earlier in the week [Panorama I don’t know whether you can get it on BBC I-Player] about the American poor, tent cities, queuing for hours to see dentists and doctors for free, $20,000 to operate on a hernia, and the destruction of parts of Detroit etc.

    Also some poor Greek woman was out on a ledge threatening to jump yesterday! As you say a lot more trouble to come.

  6. I’m sure I shall enjoy your Nuts and Bolts posts Norman…even if I feel unqualified to comment too deeply. I try to follow what’s going on but it is hard from a distance that is both geographic and experiential – the reality (though our radio shock jocks would not agree) is that we have been very fortunate in Australia not to have suffered terribly hard in the world’s most recent economic disasters (though it will be our turn when we have finally dug up the last valuable mineral and all collapsed into the giant hole that will be left where our country used to be)

    But on one thing I can agree…my heart aches when I see or hear about people who are suffering so deeply through no fault of their own – just an accident of birth – especially when you know that the people who caused it all are not suffering at all.

  7. Maxine says:

    Very apt points, Norman. When we elected not to join the Euro, most people who were against it were anti on nationalistic grounds. I was against it for another reason, which is as you say, that the countries concerned have different economies, standards of living, expectations, practices, corruption levels, etc. As more countries joined the Euro the problem intensified for them and for the poorer ones in the union. The EU did set up a check/balance system for countries in the Euro, but failed dismally to enforce it, throwing more money at countries that never had a hope of paying it back. I said 3 years ago that Greece would have to default and everyone either laughed at or attacked me – but it was common sense. At least in the Times there has been a sensible suggestion for how they might go about it, for surely staying in the Euro will lead them into ever-ongoing disaster.

    Agree with you about the London property prices by the way, it is mad, and terrible for our younger generations, not least all the ghastly bankers’ mess we are dumping on them.

  8. kathy d. says:

    Norman, there are lots of tv shows, documentaries and news about poor people over here in the States who have no medical or dental care. (I actually know people in this situation, too.) Some more concerned talk show hosts raised funds last year for a floating free medical clinic (thousands came; some had heart disease, cancer and diabetes and had never been been diagnosed) and later for people in Arizona where the right wing had cut funding for organ transplants. (They had to pull back on the transplant policy due to a massive hue and cry.)
    Article after article in the NY Times shows poverty stricken areas and how medical cutbacks are hurting people. The heating assistance program was cut in December; millions are going through the winter without proper heat.
    Meanwhile, the right wing is trying to cut Social Security and health benefits that people paid into throughout their working lives. The age for receiving benefits has gone up, hurting many. Many friends who are past retirement age can’t retire. They can’t afford to do that.
    The NY Times just ran an article that more benefits now are going to the falling middle class than to traditionally poor communities. People who never thought they’d need government programs (who rail against them actually) now need them for their families and themselves — food stamps, free school lunches, clinics, etc.
    I am afraid that it will increasingly be like Greece over here, as more programs are cut, as unemployment doesn’t ease up, as wages are cut.

  9. Norman says:

    Bernadette, I have always said I would never stand in the way our children if they wanted to emigrate to Australia, even though we could never fly that far. As you say you have the minerals, the distance from other countries, and the will to avoid the current situation in Europe.

    Maxine, I agree and I can’t believe people laughed at you when you suggested a Greek default as you say it is common sense.
    The fact that money has been “thrown at countries with no hope of paying it back” is so similar to the situation with NINJA mortgages one wonders about the sanity of the people in Brussels and Strasbourg. I read today that our last PM has made £1.4 million since he left office and was paid £63,000 for one lecture! At least Silvio Berlusconi had a fortune BEFORE he was a politician.

    Kathy, on that program they showed a floating free medical and dental clinic in Tennessee with people queueing for hours. Very sad.
    Our politicians don’t want to see the obvious, that when decent wage jobs are replaced by call centre minimum wage jobs the tax return drops, and a vicious circle.

  10. kathy d. says:

    Yes, I saw the Tennessee line. But when free clinics were set up elsewhere in the States, the same thing happened, where people walking around with cancer, heart disease and diabetes were diagnosed and some taken to hospitals. The sorry state of dental care is another tragedy. In Kentucky, a huge proportion of adults have had no dental care. Some can’t apply for jobs because they wouldn’t be hired because they are missing visible teeth, etc.

    Former health industry vice-president Wendell Potter saw that Tennessee line and quit his position and became an advocate for health care for all. He’s now working for a nonprofit organization.

    I see so much of this in my own city, with friends who don’t have medical or dental insurance or care, except in an emergency. Medicaid does not pay for root canals. It’s either fillings or extractions. And some states now are not paying for dentures for elderly people. Some people in California a few years ago, who were in the midst of getting dental care, were just summarily cut off, couldn’t finish or get dentures or crowns or anything, especially the elderly.

    Yet trillions of dollars go to wars and banks. And why? Eight boys out sheep- and goat-herding in rural Afghanistan were just killed last week by a bomb. They were cold and had huddled together under a rock and lit a fire. And then were bombed. This is not only a terrible tragedy for them, but their families lost help with their very basic subsistence and survival.

    And the banks here are sitting on tons of money. People can’t get loans. It’s all ridiculous.

  11. Norman says:

    Kathy, my friends who run a dental laboratory in rural Pennsylvania tell me people are getting old dentures repaired rather than have new ones. If the dentures are ill fitting this can lead to other more serious problems.
    I suspect the number of extractions has increased here in the UK. Items like dentures, crowns , bridges and root canal therapy was not well remunerated in the NHS when I was working and new methods of payment may well have made it even less lucrative to do complex treatments.

    There is always money for military adventures to remove a dictator, and for politicians’ trips abroad to snuggle up with a revolutionary committee in exchange for oil and arms deals.
    It is indeed all ridiculous.

  12. kathy d. says:

    See why I’m not thrilled about the presidential elections, with the current round of candidates outdoing each other in trashing medical programs which people need?

    I’d like to see everyone who needs it get medical and dental care and not bombs which kill children out helping their families with farm chores, or banks which won’t loan to anyone, except at exorbitant rates.

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