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The Conjoining of Affect with Cognition: Self and Emotional Life

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Book Review: SELF AND EMOTIONAL LIFE, Adrian Johnston and Catherine Malabou (Columbia University Press, 2013)

Most of us know that we don’t know ourselves as well as we like to think we do but there is a more trusting and steadfast belief in our possession of a self. In everyday life we make reference to it in a variety of ways and, notwithstanding those occasions when we catch a glimpse of an image in a mirror and wonder who that person is, filling out personal details on a form is not usually the cause of metaphysical trepidation. Besides such acts of public self-identification, we do not doubt  that our name is also a marker for a more private and defended identity that lies behind the forename and surname we answer to and surrender to others. Descartes got to the heart of it when he set about doubting everything about the world but reached a bedrock of knowledge with the certainty of his own thinking self.  From this zero-level of  self-proof a mind-body dichotomy emerged as constitutive of the conscious subject and while many philosophers after Descartes have challenged his model it is only with the advance of neuroscience that it has been seriously wounded. This is the subject matter of Self and Emotional Life, a book of two halves by two authors.

Neurobiology shows the brain, consciousness and the body’s nervous system to be interconnected in such remarkably labile ways that the metaphor of the brain as a computer, neatly processing information that reaches it via the senses, has to give way to a picture of an open organism, plastic and frangible, affective and cognitive. The brain – the emotional brain – is modelled as the site of a libidinal economy and this carries implications for any notion of a selfhood inhabiting a comfortable milieu where a subject can be in conversation with itself and its affects. Such an alluring notion is understandable; we think mostly with words after all and forms of introspection, as depicted in cartoon’s thought bubbles or in fiction’s stream-of-consciousness, can seem like engagements with our inner self.

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Emergency Protest & Rally: Stop Israel’s slaughter in Palestine! Sat 12th July 2pm @The Spire O’Connell St

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[Dublin] Emergency Protest & Rally: Stop Israel’s slaughter in Palestine!

Sat 12th July 2014, 2pm @ The Spire, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1

Please bring friends, flags, banners, noise. We would ask that you do not bring party-political flags.

The Israeli state has launched a fresh assault on the Palestinian people, a collective punishment of a captive population. At the time of writing, more than 100 people have been killed in bloody airstrikes in Gaza, including at least 9 children. Israeli occupation forces have launched hundreds of attacks on the people of Gaza, and injured scores. Attacks have also been taking place in the West Bank for the past month, where at least 9 people were killed.

This slaughter must end immediately, and Israel must be held accountable for its criminal actions against the Palestinian people.

Join us this Saturday to make your voices heard.

Organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Supporting Organsiations: Gaza Action Ireland, Irish Anti-War Movement

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Ten Years On, Israel Continues to Defy the Legal Opinion of the International Court of Justice with impunity

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The 9th of July 2014 marked a decade since the International Court of Justice issued an Advisory Opinion regarding the construction of the Apartheid Wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  As if the onslaught currently being wreaked upon the people of Gaza weren’t evidence enough of the degree of exceptionalism afforded to Israel by the international community, the anniversary of the ICJ verdict further underscores Israel’s effective exemption from the most basic norms of international law and human rights. The conclusions reached by the ICJ were unambiguous: the wall constitutes a violation of international law, Israel should cease its construction, tear down those sections already built and pay reparations for the damages caused by its construction thus far.

In addition to affirming the illegality of the wall itself, the ICJ stated that the manner in which it is traced serves to effectively annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel, thereby converting the illegal West Bank settlements into irreversible “facts on the ground.”  This constitutes a grave breach of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is a “flagrant violation” of international law according to the ICJ, echoing the wording of previous United Nations Security Council resolutions concerning the settlements.

International complacency

One would be forgiven for assuming that in the wake of such an unequivocal condemnation by the highest judicial authority in the world, the international community would have taken some concrete measures to compel Israel to meet its international law obligations, seeing as it has consistently failed to do so.  Indeed, according to the opinion of the ICJ, such action is legally required of the international community:

“Given the character and the importance of the rights and obligations involved, the Court is of the view that all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction.”(p. 13)

In spite of this however, the ten years since the ICJ ruling have instead seen an unabated expansion of the Apartheid Wall and its “associated regime” of illegal settlements, all with the tacit consent of the international community and at the expense of the Palestinians whose daily lives have been rendered unliveable by the wall’s physical presence.

The devastating impact that the Apartheid Wall has had on such families and communities has been well documented by human rights groups such as AmnestyHuman Rights WatchB’tselem and al Haq. There would appear to be a general consensus among such organisations that the real function it serves is to aid Israel in realising its territorial ambitions, while brazenly violating the Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement, as well as numerous other inalienable human rights in the process.

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Hoarding Cash While Refusing to Invest

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This article originally appeared on Socialist Economic Bulletin on the 8th of July.

The world’s largest companies are hoarding cash and cutting productive investment at the same time. The Financial Times reportsa survey from one leading ratings’ agency, Standard & Poor’s, which shows that the 2,000 largest private firms globally are sitting on a cash mountain of $4.5 trillion, which is approximately double the size of Britain’s annual GDP.

Yet capital expenditure, or ‘capex’ by those firms fell by 1% in 2013 and is projected to fall by 0.5% this year. But this does not presage an upturn. Steeper declines in productive investment are projected by those firms in both 2015 and 2016. Taken together, if these projections materialise the actual and projected falls in capex over the 4 years from 2013 to 2016 will approach the calamitous fall in productive investment seen at the depth of the recession in 2009. This is shown in the FT’s chart below.

Chart 1. Real Capital Expenditure by 2000 leading firms

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SEB has previously argued that companies are not prevented from investing by lack of access to capital or similar factors. They are sitting on a cash mountain. The same is true of British firms. There is plenty of money left, but firms refuse to invest it.

This is because private firms are not concerned with growth, either GDP growth or the growth of their own productive capacity. They are primarily driven by the growth of their own profits, or preserving them. Where that is not possible, where new capex will not meet an expected level of return, no new investments will be made.

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The Dangers of Exaggerating RMB Internationalisation

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RMB ‘internationalization’ is one of the most discussed issues in China’s economic policy. But many claims regarding the extent of RMB internationalization are greatly exaggerated and the practical proposal to attempt to achieve it, capital account convertibility of the RMB, is extremely dangerous for China’s economic and social stability. To eliminate false estimates and policies, it is, therefore, necessary first to accurately establish the facts regarding the real international role of the RMB and then analyze what consequences flow from these.

Those wishing to present a highly exaggerated picture of the degree of RMB internationalization frequently do this by presenting percentage growth figures. This gives a misleading impression because it fails to mention that such growth rates look impressive merely because they are calculated starting from extraordinarily low levels. To take a typical example, the proportion of RMB payments carried out in the US in April 2014 had risen by 100% compared to a year earlier. This sounds spectacular – until it is noted that the rise was only to 0.04% of all worldwide currency transactions!

A sense of reality is immediately injected if its noted that in April 2014 the RMB accounted for only 1.4% of international payments – globally, RMB payments are entirely marginal. Furthermore even this very low figure exaggerates the RMB’s internationalization because a large percentage of the payments are merely between mainland China and Hong Kong.

To illustrate the real situation, start with China’s strongest area internationally – trade. By the end of 2013, 8.7% of world trade was denominated in RMB – but the dollar’s share was almost 10 times as high at 81%. Furthermore, the RMB figure was artificially flattering as around 80% of RMB payments were for Hong Kong. Excluding Hong Kong RMB payments were marginal. For example, by April 2014 only 2.4% of China and Hong Kong’s trade with the US, China’s largest single country export market, was in RMB.

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What is Wrong with Irish Business?

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IBEC’s pre-budget submission is a tour de force.  In the name of ending austerity it calls for  . . . more austerity; namely, reducing public expenditure in real terms.  This is done to pay for tax cuts that will primarily benefit higher income groups.  And in calling for real cuts in investment it then proposes to use fiscally inefficient public-private-partnerships which will drive up the cost of investment in order to create new channels of profits.  And in all this it manages to avoid the elephant in the room – the long-term chronic under-investment of Irish business in the economy.

Irish business has gotten all the breaks.  Historically, it has been the beneficiary of ultra-low corporate tax rates and social insurance while paying below-average employee compensation (compared to most other EU-15 countries).  And, yet, it is a chronic under-investor.  The following data is taken from the EU Ameco database.

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In 2012, Irish corporate investment is at the bottom of the table.  Even when adjusted for multi-national accounting practices (which is what the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council’s hybrid-GDP effectively does), we come in marginally ahead of battered Greece.  Our corporate sector invests 38 percent less than the EU-28 average – or nearly €6 billion less.  It invests less than half the level that pertains in other small open economics (SOE) – or nearly €9 billion less.   This is pretty bleak.

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The July Issue of the Socialist Voice Out Now

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The July Issue of the Socialist Voice is Out Now. 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/index.html

In this issue 

1. Housing is a right, not a privilege

There is not a town or city in this country that is not experiencing increased homelessness. Walk down any street and you will see at first hand the growing problem of individuals and whole families sleeping rough or wandering around the streets, as they have to leave a hostel or B&B during the day. 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/01-housing.html

2. The anti-clericalism of the chattering classes

The recent revelations regarding the finding of up to eight hundred infant bodies buried in what were the grounds of a children’s home in Co. Galway hit the headlines and led to much ill-informed speculation, spurring renewed anti-clericalism by the establishment media. 
      While the numbers and the causes of death are still not clear, this has not prevented the state-controlled RTE and the corporate media from engaging in wild speculation. 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/02-homes.html

3. Poetry
Richard B 

140 Reasons to Feel Betterhttp://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/03-poetry.html

4. Lessons of the Republican Congress

Contrary to the common perception, history rarely repeats itself, and never in exactly the same fashion as before. Conditions and circumstances change constantly, and so therefore does the story. Nevertheless, certain episodes from the past provide valuable lessons, offering important ideas or crucial insights. 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/04-rep-congress.html

5.  Workers in struggle
Block a return to slave wages and conditions

The privatisation of the collection of household refuse has led not just to chaos in housing estates with the duplication of collection services but to ever-increasing charges on working people for the collection of their black, green and brown bins. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/05-workers.html

6.  Further sentence for Margaretta D’Arcy

On Tuesday 24 June, in Ennis District Court, Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell were given two-week suspended sentences by Judge Patrick Durcan following their conviction for “interfering with the proper use of an airport.”
 http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/06-margaretta.html

7.  Bausch and Lomb: the sequel

Workers at Bausch and Lomb in Waterford voted last month to accept the deal proposed by Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The SIPTU vote was 563 to 107. 
      Although the union made no recommendation, members were left in no doubt that a “no” vote would close the factory, with the loss of all 1,100 jobs. The same happened at the TEEU ballot, where the vote was 68 to 23 for acceptance. In effect there was no choice: you either accepted or lost your job.
 http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/07-bausch.html

8. Education under attack

The austerity attack by this Government and its ally, the European Union, continues to affect the many thousands of our people who are still suffering not only austerity but, equally important, the anxiety and stress that this causes to the general health of our people.http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/08-education.html

9.  Inequality to continue?

When Government ministers wax lyrical these days about “recovery just around the corner,” “green shoots,” and “light at the end of the tunnel”—beware! They are far from talking about a return to the “good old days” of the Celtic Tiger, when the Irish capitalist economy boomed (for some). 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/09-ilo.html

9. Clean water is a human right

What will happen when an unemployed worker, pensioner or single mother is unable to pay a water bill? Will our privatised water and sewage-disposal service, Irish Water, be willing to meet in full its obligations to all citizens? Or will it threaten to cut off the water supply of those who are behind with their bills?
 http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/10-water.html

10.  An Garda Síochána scriosta le polaitíocht

Ní inné ná inniu a tháinig ceisteanna chun cinn faoi fheidhmíocht nó ionracas an Gharda Síochána. I gcónaí riamh ba “phoblacht neamh­spleách” é taobh istigh den stát, agus níor leasc le go leor de na baill, an cheannasaíocht san áireamh, gníomhú taobh amuigh den dlí. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/11-garda.html

11. Connolly Study Circle, Dundalk

Over the last few months the CPI has held three talks for activists in Dundalk 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/12-dundalk.html

12. Réabhlóid na Fraince agus a polasaithe eacnamaíocha

Ba í Réabhlóid na Fraince an tréimhse staire ba mhó tionchar ar pholaitíocht agus idé-eolaíocht na hEorpa sna trí haois dheireanacha. 
      Leath tionchar na réabhlóide go dtí gach críoch ar domhan, agus roghnaíodh tríd­hathacha mar shuaitheantas beagnach gach náisiún a lorg neamh­spleáchas, múnlaithe ar an mbun-leagan Francach
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/13-reabhloid.html

13. The economic philosophy behind the euro

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher was the first European prime minister to introduce the neo-liberal agenda. She was soon followed by Ronald Reagan in the United States, and the European Union formally adopted the neo-liberal ideology in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/14-euro.html

14. The hall that Jimmy built

James Gralton was the only Irish person (so far) to be deported from the country of his birth as an undesirable alien. The deportation was ordered on the grounds of dubious logic and equally dubious legality, which claimed that because he had adopted American citizenship he was a foreigner. 

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/15-film.html

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/index.html

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Stag-covery

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Stag-covery (n): a situation where statistical recovery occurs within a persistent economic stagnation  

The CSO’s new release shows a statistical recovery and a stagnant economy – a state of affairs that can be described as stag-covery.

The headline rates show a GDP quarterly increase of 2.7 percent.  This might seem solid enough but all this is driven by net exports.  The domestic economy remains mired in stagnation.

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The worst of the economic crash ended in 2010.  Since then it’s just a matter of bouncing along the bottom.  In 2013 consumer spending fell, spending on public services bumped up marginally while investment fell marginally.  We can debate the swings and roundabouts (impact of the pharma cliff, aircraft leasing, etc.).  But the narrative remains the same – the ship sunk to the bottom and is struggling to get back to the surface.

The first quarter of 2014 didn’t get off to a hectic start.  On a quarterly basis:

  • Consumer spending fell, though this shouldn’t be too surprising given that it was coming off a quarter that contained Christmas spending.
  • Spending on public service resumed its long-term fall – by over 2 percent.
  • Investment fell by a substantial 8 percent.

It is this inability of the latter to generate any momentum upwards that is particularly worrying.

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This represents is a potential problem for the Government.  In the last quarter investment fell by 8 percent.  Yet the Government has pencilled in investment growth of over 15 percent this year.  Of course, the game isn’t even half over but this is an especially poor start.

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Photographing Absence

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Book Review: Phantom Home, Ahlam Shibli  (Hatje Cantz, 2013) 

The sudden and violent death of someone close to you can only intensify the grief and feeling of loss that accompanies any bereavement, so much so that looking at a picture of the person may be too unbearable to bear. The raw and unavoidable facticity of someone’s absence becomes a too-painfully presence that would be compounded by a photograph that makes the ordeal even more difficult to cope with. This is understandable and it takes an effort of imagination and empathy to comprehend another kind of response when the sudden and violent death is a public and political moment in the life of a community that is itself living with an ongoing sense of loss and deprivation. Palestinians living in their land under occupation by Israel have witnessed death at the hands of their occupiers for most of their lives and seen the destruction of their homes and crops. They live with daily indignities that prevent them from travelling on certain roads in the West Bank, they suffer from a grossly unfair allocation of water and they observe the expansion of settlements for Israeli colonizers.

Western Graveyard, Nablus, January 20, 2012 In Nablus, the families of the deceased visit the graveyards on Thursday evening or Friday morning to take care of the tombs and sit next to them in commemoration. Usually members of the same family are buried close to one each other, whether they died a martyr’s death or of natural causes.

Ahlam Shibli, a Palestinian photographer, explores the visual culture — posters, murals, banners, paintings, photographs and graffiti – of the community of Nablus as it commemorates those accorded the status of martyrs: Palestinians killed fighting Israeli forces, civilians killed in Israeli attacks and suicide bombers whose missions took them into Israel.

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Pablo Iglesias: “put a stop to the grand coalition that is imposing austerity and financial totalitarianism.”

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This is a rush translation of the address by Podemos MEP Pablo Iglesias to the European Parliament this morning, on the occasion of presenting his candidacy for President of the European Parliament. Original text via Público.

It is an honour to speak to you all in presenting my candidacy for the presidency of this chamber. This parliament is called upon to represent the sovereignty of Europe and we must, fellow deputies, live up to what that means today.

The dream of Europe has been buried many times but it always managed to awake once again. This is what happened nearly 70 years ago: Europe awoke again in the resistance of its peoples against fascism, in the survivors of the extermination camps, in those who gave their lives for justice and for freedom. Thousands of my own compatriots, who had struggled to defend democracy in Spain, took part in that struggle and that dream of justice. You cannot imagine the pride I have as a Spanish person that the first tanks that entered Paris to liberate it were manned by Spanish combatants. Today, as intolerance and xenophobia threaten us once again, I want to call upon Europe’s memory of antifascism, and that of all those peoples who love freedom and democracy.

My fellow deputies, the best of our continent and our common history was forged in the revolutions that made the people the subject of rights, above kings, gods, noblemen and major property owners. The best heritage of Europe is the will of its citizens to be free and to be the serfs of no-one. To be no-one’s serf, my fellow deputies, that is democracy.

That is why I must tell you today that the peoples to whom we owe our social freedoms and rights did not struggle for a Europe in which its people live in fear of poverty, of exclusion, of unemployment or of abandonment when faced with illness. The expropriation of sovereignty and subjection to the rule of financial elites threaten the present and the future of Europe, they threaten our dignity, they threaten equality, liberty and fraternity, they threaten our life in common.

The creation of new supranational entities does not have to come at the price of leaving the citizens helpless. Our peoples are not children, nor are they colonies of any investment fund. They did not win and defend their freedom so as to hand it over to a financial oligarchy. These are not abstract terms, my fellow deputies: all of you are well aware of the problem.

The ease with which lobbies in the service of major corporations move around here is scandalous, as are the revolving doors that turn public representatives into millionaires in the pay of big businesses. We have to say it loud and clear: this way of operating robs the peoples of their sovereignty, attacks democracy, and turns political representatives into a caste.

My fellow deputies, democracy in Europe has been the victim of authoritarian erosion. In the European periphery the situation is tragic: our countries have almost become protectorates, new colonies, where powers that no-one has elected are destroying social rights and threatening the social and political cohesion of our societies.

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Unite Seminar: Ireland needs a pay rise: Wage floors and economic recovery

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A Unite the Union Seminar
Unite offices (Matt Merrigan Hall), 55/56 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1
Thursday 10th July, 9.30am – appr. 1.30pm

How can we ensure that all workers in Ireland earn a Living Wage or above? Research shows that Irish wages in the private sector are well below other European countries, despite the fact that Irish productivity is high and Irish profits are growing. This is not just a feature of the traditional low-paid sectors – retail and hospitality.

Even in the manufacturing and professional services sectors, low pay persists. This seminar will examine how robust wage floors can help produce a wage-led recovery.

Schedule

09.00 Registration, tea/coffee
Chair: Siobhán O’Donoghue, Director, Uplift
09.30 Opening
David Begg, General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions
09.40 Why the economy needs a pay rise
Prof Terrence McDonough, NUI Galway
10.00 Minimum Essential Standards of Living: Expenditure and a Living Wage
Sr Bernadette McMahon, Vincentian Partnership
10.15 Raising the floor: Driving up the Minimum Wage
Dr Rory O’Farrell, Nevin Economic Research Institute
10.30 Raising the floor: Increasing hours
Brian Forbes, National Co-Ordinator, Mandate trade union
10.45 Is there a case for an enhanced system of JLCs?
Dr Joe Wallace, University of Limerick
11.00 Panel discussion – beneficiaries of improved wage floors (tea/coffee)
Representatives from National Women’s Council of Ireland, Migrant Rights
Centre Ireland, Civil and Public Services Union and We’re Not Leaving.
(5 minute presentations followed by discussion)
12 noon Strategies for raising the floor
Michael Taft, Research Officer, Unite the Union
12.10 Discussion
1.00 Response
John Douglas, President, Irish Congress of Trade Unions
1.15 Closing
Jimmy Kelly, Regional Secretary, Unite the Union
Tea/coffee, sandwiches
For information or to reserve a place contact alex.klemm@unitetheunion.org

Time & Date
Thursday 10th July, 9.30am – appr. 1.30pm

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast #050: The Matrix

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This week I am delighted to welcome back the economist, economic historian, and extremely prolific author, Professor Michael Perelman of the California State University, Chico. We talk about the latest book he is working on: ‘The Matrix: An exploratory political economy of the dangerous, paradoxical interactions between war, the economy, and economic ideology’.

We discuss unintended consequences, the difficult of decision-making in complex situations, US Imperialism, Vietnam, Heavyweight Boxing ,and the little talked about darker side of Winston Churchill.

You can check out the Professors books here

And here is his blog:

http://michaelperelman.wordpress.com/

Enjoy!

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Closer to the Bottom than to the Top

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Irish living standards are now closer to the bottom of the EU-15 countries than to the top; they are closer to Greece than to Germany or Belgium or the UK or most other EU-15 countries.

Eurostat has just released its annual estimates of household living standards. To measure this they use Actual Individual Consumption (AIC).  According to Eurostat:

‘In national accounts, Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) denotes expenditure on goods and services that are purchased and paid for by households. Actual Individual Consumption (AIC), on the other hand, consists of goods and services actually consumed by individuals, irrespective of whether these goods and services are purchased and paid for by households, by government, or by non-profit organisations. In international volume comparisons, AIC is often seen as the preferable measure, since it is not influenced by the fact that the organisation of certain important services consumed by households, like health and education services differs a lot across countries.

For example, if dental services are paid for by the government in one country, and by households in another, an international comparison based on HFCE would not compare like with like, whereas one based on AIC would. . . Actual Individual Consumption per capita is an alternative indicator better adapted to describe the material welfare of households.’

In short, AIC captures goods and services bought by households and by Governments on behalf of households.

The following table shows the relationship of European countries’ living standards to the EU-15 average, with the EU-15 equalling 100.

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Ireland is approximately 11 percent below the average EU-15 living standards.  We rank 12th in the league table.  What’s noteworthy is that we are closer to Greece than to most other countries.  We are 14 indice points above Greece but 15 points below the UK.  There are eight other countries above the UK.

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