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Britain

1. The British strategy has always been to divide Europe. So far Europe has not been able to respond to that strategy effectively.

2) After the Second World War, when it had to give up the last of its colonies, Britain came to live more and more from financial speculation and its banking sector. It became the financial capital of the world, a position it was gradually to lose to the USA and New York City early in the twentieth century (the same position that they are losing to Asia today).

3) The decay continued when Britain lost most of its high-tech industries in the 1970s and 1980s, fooled by notions of "the service economy", whereupon production began to be seen as something old fashion and dirty even. Now even Rover and Jaguar are Indian, a hard pill to swallow even for only moderately patriotic Britons.

4) When Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt met at Yalta in 1945, the latter two had a private conversation about sharing out the colonies and regions of interest that would emerge from the War, since the British Empire was falling apart. ... When Stalin suggested to Churchill that they kill off 50,000 of the German elite after the War, Churchill walked out of the room. Stalin tried to call Churchill back, saying it was just a joke, but Churchill knew better. (Stalin and Hitler had done this with the Polish elite only a few years earlier.)

5) A country cannot live by producing the finest actors in the world. Nor are there enough consumers who favour high-quality clothing (bespoke shoes, suits, hats, umbrellas, etc.). Britain fell into the trap of becoming a service economy. Now, more indebted than Greece, it faces the threat of economic ruin if public spending cannot be cut quickly enough.

6) The big question for the competitive advantage of Britain now is, as it is for the Netherlands, whether or not its highly multicultural society will be an asset or an economic liability. That question is yet to be answered.

Ireland

1) The business model of Irland was to underbid the corporate tax levels of its neigbours. In the meanwhile the country got more indebted than all of its neigbours too, so that the national debt now accounts for 25 times the annual tax revenue (Lewis, Michael (2011): boomerang. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., P. 14). Their next business model is to be a Chinese Trojan horse.

Italy

1) Italy is not one country but two, southern Italy and northern Italy. Calabria and Sicily are beyond the control of the State, run largely by organized crime. Naples and much of southern Italy have their own language which you will not be able to understand on a basis of having learned Italian. (Neapolitan is a mixture of Oscan, Dalmatian, and Greek). It is a different world from Bologna, and a very different one from Turin.

2) The present-day Italian economy is kept going by the descendants of a German tribe which settled in the Po valley at a relatively late point in history: the Lombards, named after their long beards. Their descendants have created a productive society. Southern Italy on the other hand is a social, political, and economic abyss.

3) According to Alberto Saviano, more people have been killed by organized crime in Naples than were killed in the war in Iraq.

4) In Italy, "you get the government you deserve" is a true saying. Italian governments since the Second World War have lasted on average for less than a year. Political life is a complete farce, but people do not worry too much about that, because they often see and accept life itself as a farce. The Italian people have found a way to live with chaos. Much of the political establishment is Fascist -not so much for political or ideological reasons, one suspects, as on aesthetic grounds, as in an enormous opera buffa.

5) In Italy, emotions outweigh reason. It is more important to be simpatico and charismatic than honest or fair. Thus they have had no trouble electing dictators and cabaret artists as political leaders. Berlusconi and Putin understood each other well because they are molded from the same clay.

6) Berlusconi understood better than any other modern politician that if you control the media you will win elections. If you own the media, even better. The population will forgive you, even if close to a hundred lawsuits have been brought against you and you are going to any lengths to try to claim legal immunity. What matters is to look good on television, to fare una bella figura.

7) Italy is a "casino", a chaos - "ma que bello casino!" The country does not function as a unity, either economically or politically, but manages quite miraculously to perform well nevertheless, being held together at the grass roots by family relationships - ultimately by the Italian mother.

8) Italy's chief episodes of colonization included Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia in 1920. Ethiopia was added in 1935-36, and Albania in 1939. These were, like so many other foreign-affairs initiatives in Italian history, mere romantic escapades.

9) No-one did more to fight the Mafia than Mussolini. He had almost destroyed the organization when the Americans arrived. The Americans did a deal with the Mafia to secure the support of the local inhabitants. As a result, their advance to Palermo was unproblematic, and very few Americans were killed on Sicily. But the Americans paid the price for this alliance after the War, when the Mafia came calling: "remember us?" The same families are still there today.

10) After the war, the USA used the Mafia in order systematically to infiltrate and undermine their own labour unions.

11) The port of Naples is today dominated by Chinese interests. From here and from their own port of Piraeus154 they distribute their products all over Europe. According to Roberto Saviano, fewer than ten per cent of containers are checked. This is probably the best example of Chinese geoeconomic strategy in Europe.

12) After Berlusconi there will be someone to collect the dirty dishes. Technocrats will have to replace charismatic politicians.

 
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