Return to Tony's HomePage
This article has been posted on European Union USENET groups.

(c)tony goddard, belfast 1996

FUTURE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION Many people wonder what politicians and beaurocrats are talking about when they discuss Europe. There are some unpalatable facts. (1) The war in former FY/J is at the heart of Europe. (2) Nationalism, ethnicity and unemployment are rife in EU. (3) Movement towards a common currency is way behind schedule. There are also some obvious advantages which are not always appreciated. (1) EU is a migrant destination (survival/economic reasons). (2) EU is region of high per-capita income. (3) Rich cultural heritage including stolen artifacts. Various predictions are made about a common currency, especially those pertaining to the distribution of labour. Jobs may shift with large scale migrations to areas where jobs can be found. It is also possible that jobs may just be lost outright in a bid to keep inflation down. War and excessive unemployment make economic planning very hard. Since central planning became a dirty word, currency union as a step towards planned economic integration is not seriously discussed. But the prosperity of much of the EU has depended on semi-colonial relations with the rest of the world. The last aggressive move to protect its resource base was Gulf War II on CNN. Big arms contracts by Britain and France filtered down to many sub-contractors Europe wide. The rich tapestry of separate languages and traditions provide a fine smoke screen to hide dubious financial transactions. Drug dealing has also proved very attractive. According to Tullis: Narcotic drugs have become one of the biggest items of international trade, with the total volume of drug trafficking estimated at about $500 billion a year. The OECD estimates that $85 billion in drug profits is laundered through financial markets each year, of which $32 billion passes through the United Kingdom. [1] UNDP Human Development Report 1994 Box 2.5 Other recent items in the UK media seem to show the gravity of the problem. A recent meeting of policemen put the figure at only a few billion, something like $2.5 billion, for London. So even senior police officials ignore the level of crisis. The colonial relationships can be delayed when there is a local war. Sanctions against Serbia do very well to bolster the profits of institutions specialised in money laundering and false documentation. Weapons and drugs are standard means of conquest, and in the absence of strategic planning economic competition will degenerate into bloodshed. INFORMATION AGE Monetary union takes time. But with a credit card, monetary union is already here. The banks charge for the service, and generally win. They are the managers of a sort of casino where wrong guesses on exchange rates can land men in jail. Thieves and those with jobs already enjoy plastic money. But plastic money is unknown to many. Trans National Corporations (TNCs) are often able to operate more effectively than governments, because their information needs are more tightly controlled. Credit card companies are already much more powerful than governments in their ability to check out suspicious customers. Europe requires more information integration, before it comes down to a common currency. Indeed the easiest way to introduce a full common currency would be to change to electronic banking. Every welfare recipient would get a free computer to update the cash card. There would obviously be some choice of computers. One of the features would be a magnetic card slot. The user puts the card in the slot, signs with an electronic signature that something is needed, and the computer will write an authorisation for the transaction on the card, which can then be used in a machine. Cards like these could serve as identity cards. While compulsory, it should be possible for people to have personalised ID cards, with jokes, or words of wisdom written on them. The ID cards could also serve as EU Lottery Cards, so that people remembered their number. Each week, a few winners would get $5000. This would be a good test of the security of the system. EU ID CARD NAME Public DATE OF BIRTH Public PLACE OF BIRTH Public SEX Public BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER Private CONTACT NUMBER Private CITIZENSHIP Public Technophobes beware. The New Europe is still neutral at this stage. There are benefits as well as drawbacks from such a scheme. (1) Equality of social rights. (2) Common currency in at least one account. (3) Job creation in building infrastructure. Of course the EU ID card is also a key to participatory democracy. It can be used as a telephone card to certain government departments. There could be user changeable parts of the card, although the card remains the property of the issuing agency. Civic access computer systems will allow the EU ID card to be used to log on and send hate mail to various government departments. Abusive language would generally not be tolerated, and various sysadmins would probably ban some people from access. This would be a microcosm of crime and punishment which would be learnt by school children. All citizens would have access to things rather like USENET groups, and since the well behaved ones would not get thrown off the system, they would perhaps become addicted, which is even worse than using bad language. Friends and family would suffer while the victim went and participated in committees to solve the problems of poor housing, unemployment, crime and all the rest. Normal voting for political parties would be facilitated by the card. Some people would object that it would be easy to record the vote with the card number, and that would compromise the secrecy of the ballot, but in practice many people do not even bother to vote. Privacy would be treated lightly. The full lists would be available on civic computer terminals everywhere. People with unique names in the EU would stand out, while those with common names could hide in a crowd. Every month the list would appear on CD-ROM or whatever the fashion was. All of this could be done in a couple of years, well before conventional monetary union. In UK they were able to hook all the newsagents shops together for the national lottery in a very short time. It would be quite easy to give law enforcement officials some EU wide ID card, just by making them pay for it. Normally they would just get what is accessible to any other member of the public and no more. What they would really like would be details of fines and other things. SCHENGEN INFORMATION SYSTEM (SIS). The Schengen information system (SIS) is a collection of databases to try and make the Schengen Agreement look convincing. Anyone who expected open internal borders on 1992 knows just how many unforeseen problems have come into being. It should also be added that predictable problems were ignored from the start. The new french president, Monsieur Chirac is very angry at the Netherlands policy on so called 'soft-drugs'. Most EU countries now have their own separate privacy laws. It is very difficult to arrive at common agreement as on implementation details of their computer systems. Here are some details of what the police are allowed to get from the SIS. A SIS information report for the police on an individual can include only the following items:- * name * identifying physical features * date and place of birth * sex * nationality * whether violent * whether armed * reason for report * action to be taken Ref: Will SIS be Europe's "Big Brother". Martin Baldwin-Edwards and Bill Hebenton. University of Manchester LIBERTARIAN OBJECTION Some people oppose ID cards, because they remember, or at least try to make other people remember, the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, and so on. However, all of these were instruments for a state to operate coercive measures by exploiting secrecy. Local vigilante committees operate in the open. There are areas within Europe where both forms of policing co-exist. In fact there are many quasi-police forces (private security agencies) who have their own data-bases, and these generally do not have interest in some person's ID card. They tend to act first and think later. If tax payers are willing to pay for the police, then they should be willing to see the police have what tools they need. Many are, since they think obvious 'enemies of the people' such as rapists and murderers should be incarcerated. But the police will do what they are told, and if they are told to arrest everyone whose serial number is odd, they may do so as long as they don't have to arrest too many of themselves. Generally an ID card could be made universal, but voluntary. Non EU nationals, while on holiday would be issued ID cards with tourist numbers. That would be no problem. The police could pay people to look for crime once ID cards were used a lot. It would be easy to hire thousands of people like the old stalinist beaurocracies, and the pay would come from forfeitures of contraband goods. Any of those wretched communist command economies required a black market really, to create crimes from subsistence. Although the politicians hold up their noses and pretend that it does not happen here, there are also clandestine economies within the EU itself. Patterns of spending are of public concern, so it is quite likely that accounts of companies should be audited in public. Any laws which require disclosure of information, should make a provision for that information to be available on a public access computer system. This applies to the accounts of major companies and banks. Anyone will be able to find out who makes arms and explosives by public data base search. An ID card will merely be a proof that the bearer volunteers to be part of a data-base. The role of the state will be that of a supplier of last resort. It is easy enough to require several credit cards, because of non payment of debts, but an ID card would still be an option. The state would never require the return of an ID card. The strong state will also exercise control over the providers of the EU ID card. Firstly they will put the primary data-base in the public domain: that is no private company can own the names and birthdate info. Credit reference agencies, and others which use this data will pay some sort of tax. State law enforcement agencies could pay at a lower rate, or be exempt from tax, but not necessarily libel law. LAW ENFORCEMENT OBJECTION The stalinist economies of East Europe collapsed for various reasons, and one of these was an unreasonable obsession with secrecy and censorship. Although government spokesmen beat their chests and deplore organised crime and drugs and prostitution, and the traffic of illegal immigrants, in practice they are often reluctant to share or use information about their own criminals. It may be ok for spanish or english security forces to monitor the telephone conversations of their monarchs, but they certainly don't want to share this information with other police forces, and neither do they want it to move far in the hierarchy of command. The whole concept of policing may well have to change with the existence of high access computer networks, and for that matter cellular mobile telephones. Eventually one of the harshest acts of law enforcement will be seen as shutting down most communication systems. This has already happened in Karachi where the government, besides closing down most of the press, has tried to restrict the operation of mobile phones and pagers in order to restore law and order. This has had an adverse effect on business as well as the opposition MQM (Mahajir qami movement). INFO STATISTICS. A socio-economic measure The Al-Haq HDI uses literacy rates. In fact the World Bank normally uses illiteracy as the measure, and then subdivides by sex: female, then total. This type of rating says nothing of the degree of literacy of the rest. Because Al-Haq and the World Bank attach so much importance to literacy, the economic scientists could consider the derivative of the literacy rate: dL/dt. Sudden or gradual changes could be better indicators of well being than just the values alone. The access of people to text depends on several factors, some of which may be quantified. Illiterate people can access no texts. However, texts have been used to project power for millennia. Literacy has always been desirable for social control, but sometimes the old texts lose credibility, and then there will be periods of the destruction of texts. HDR COMMUNICATIONS PROFILE The HDR communication profile tries to quantify, using several quantities or ratios. These are:- Radios per 100 TV sets per 100 Cinema attendance per person Daily newspapers copies per 100 Book titles published per 100000 Paper consumed: tonnes per 1000 Post offices per 100000 Letters posted per capita Telephones per 100 complete coverage Motor vehicles per 100 (c) UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM. Figures collected early 1990s. IDN Population Telephones Austria AT 7.8 64 Belgium BE 10.0 59 Denmark DK 5.2 88 Finland FI 5.0 76 France FR 57.1 61 Germany DE 80.2 59 Greece GR 10.2 49 Italy IT 57.8 57 Luxembourg LU 0.4 53 Netherlands NL 15.2 66 Portugal PT 9.9 31 Eire IE 3.5 27 Spain ES 39.1 40 Sweden SE 8.6 80 United Kingdom UK 57.7 48 total 367.7 [Norway NO] End (C) UNDP HDR1994@UNDP OWNERSHIP:: Religion | Government | Commerce DISTRIBUTION :: Government | Education | Religion | Commerce CENSORSHIP :: Moral | Political |Religious |Commercial Further analysis is required, because there have been spectacular collapses in literate societies. Nazi Germany, Israel and the former Jugoslavia spring to mind. Also the Al-Haq HDI needs further testing by backwards estimation of literacy rates. There are also great divisions between people on the availability of books. Many african nations cannot afford books or paper anyway while in the North people receive junk mail often describing complex financial services which neither the writer nor the reader are really meant to understand. Literacy rates may fall, as well as rise. Where statistics are subject to political manipulation this may not be immediately apparent. Literacy rates depend on other things besides cash investment in teaching. The language may be too difficult for many, like chinese, or bengali. Literacy in more than one language is a 'tail' phenomenon: that is it only affects a very small percentage of the population. But multi- literacy is influential for a nations' commercial and imperial relations. Pol-Pot's Khmer-Rouge showed zeal in killing literate people. There have been many historical instances of book burning, and even the burning of writers themselves. Clearly some ruling classes saw literacy as a mixed blessing. The mere fact that people can talk of 'THE DUMBING OF AMERICA', shows that a possible reversal in literacy rates is a widely appreciated phenomenon. Modern advertising campaigns encourage 'literacy by slogan'. This has continued to inflame passions since ancient times. Governments invented monumental architecture with description of victories carved into rock. Fortune tellers also started writing texts including prophesy. Armies went in for literacy so that a communications network could be established. So many people learnt their schoolday words from the dispatches of soldiers, even if in the guise of 'war poetry'. Much of this militaristic thinking pervades education to this day. Many countries taught their pupils about a great patriotic war, and a generation later there is indeed a new war. The old independence struggles are replaced by a bloody civil war waged by a new generation brought up on an idealised version of struggle written by the recent victors. This happened in Algeria, and the former Jugoslavia. One of these was more literate than the other (Algeria 55 43, YU 12 7). Both countries were labour exporters, and both were traditional victims of imperialism. Observations on HDR (UNDP 1994) : Communication. The statistics for newspapers, telephones etc. may come from either government or commercial sources. By aggregating the UNDP moved the figures from the commercial to the public domain. Almost total response for the telephone figures is interesting. Sometimes there is little difference between a stalinist-style government monopoly or a transnational corporation: neither are democratic. Rather than indicating deliberate censorship the figures point either to extreme waste or extreme scarcity. The countries with more radios than people are mainly those with high vehicle ownership. It should be noted that these second radios often feature in opportunistic crime. High consumption of paper is also a crime in its way. Educated people are often the perpetrators of the last. For example the legislatures of industrialised countries often turn out anti-crime bills year after year. Harsh treatment of the poor is the only issue which can unite the demagogues. Stalinist governments and transnationals seek to wage war by slogans. These make up for too much wasted paper. The Saudis forbid the destruction of print which contains the word of god. Since invoices start with 'bism allah al rahman al raheem' and newspapers contain regular islamic advice columns, the people are taught to revere the written word. Think of the forests which could be saved. Print media abuse is an excess which serves no one well. Literacy acts as a sort of caste system. Knowledge of classical languages was often reserved to elites. Those who are multi-literate can be co-opted to exert power. The HDR figures say how much, but do not tell who owns the information, unless subdivisions are made. Data protection acts imply ownership. They are unnecessarily restrictive. The various lists should not hold names and addresses, but rather pointers to a publicly accessible data-base. Access to written material is made more even. Equal access to information is a new egalitarian goal. When Newt Gingrich advocates lap-top computers for the underclass, everyone asks "who pays" ? Maybe it comes from holes in the science budget. The underclass can get grand opera and works of art besides constructive and destructive games, via the possible connectivity of their lap-tops. Of course the lap-top computers have limited potential without connectivity. Any government program of distribution would put data on the machines. This should include certain hardware checking and diagnostic programs. Stuff that the commercial providers wish to keep secret perhaps. A powerful government should have the right to put certain information into the public domain. This can be an issue bigger than Mossadegh's Oil Nationalistion which caused a middle east crisis in the 1950s. China has shown its government is not yet strong enough to either control its own capitalists, or face a prolonged confrontation with the USA on this issue. Any government or group which seeks to reform the existing order needs to extend the concept of public ownership to information. It may seem that governments already do control information, but most of this control is in fact purely negative. They try to stop information coming in, and often put out distorted stories of their own success. But supposing Newt Gingrich gets his way, and some of the science budget got spent on giving out lap-top computers to the poor, instead of bureaucrats ? The machines would break down quickly, and unless some sector of the economy could develop in servicing the machines, the project could fail. There are still problems in using the technology in extremes of temperature and humidity. The Newt Gingrich idea is still better than giving welfare recipients food stamps alone. Info stamps enable people to get real information instead of the often idiotic leaflets produced every so often to show people they are entitled to more, while giving them less. The bureaucrats defend their position by producing ever more memos and instructions. Why not move to a cheap price information economy, rather than a propaganda economy ? Eventually lap-tops will enable the poor to get hold of the names and addresses of the rich from stand-pipe data-bases. People just plug in the laptops and download whatever they want. These are relational databases: car license plates and owners, or bank balances and people. It means that the evil can be tracked down by the just. Life lists and death lists form part of the data. Write and keep your transactions, as commanded in the koran. That should include more of the waging of war, so that crimes are not just accounted by the government agencies which are often useless, but by other organisations. War crime lists and war plans need to be put in the public domain. Trotsky was well aware of this when negociating separately with the Germans in 1917-18. Military secrets form the apex of a heirarchy when it comes to strong states. Commercial secrecy and copyright or information ownership form the corner stone of modern power structures such as banks and trans-national corporations or TNCs. USES OF LITERACY Mass literacy started with compulsory schooling which was perhaps a nineteenth century invention. Already human rights are infringed in a certain sense. The state has a bureaucracy to enforce school attendance. This is very helpful when people want to introduce linguistic conformity. Koreans could be forced to learn japanese, or the irish to learn english. The thai government discouraged chinese schools. Literacy becomes a tool of nationalism. SKIN DEEP ID CARD While it is well known that the nazis tattooed ID numbers on concentration camp inmates, it is perhaps not so evident to modern day beaurocrats that some people very much want a racial, or tribal, or even violent/none violent identity. Some people have facial scars from Africa, while others may have machine guns with garlands displaying their political affiliation tattooed on their body. Regulations on ID cards should take this into account, and allow those who wish, and can pay for it to have their ID cards surgically implanted. Enthusiastic researchers in the USA are already working on 3D holographic memories for vast fingerprint databases. Brain-wave scanning is already under consideration. If the banks and credit card companies had access to this technology, then certain cash machines could simply perform a test on the user, rather than a transferable piece of plastic. It is quite likely that insurance companies would start to insist on this surgical implant technology. It would also be good for electronic tagging. The felon has an explosive device injected, which may be activated on violation of the bail conditions. As an alternative to boot camps, chain gangs or amputation this may seem cruel and unusual punishment, but then the electric chair was used in disputes over the relative merits of AC or DC power. Westinghouse and Simians did not really object, although the method never really caught on in Europe. The German chemical industry provided the answers when large scale executions were proposed as the solution to Europe's ethnic problems. The fact that England wants to give the police a DNA database is mind boggling. They must of course share the knowledge with the rest of the ECU partners, or at least with Ireland. There are already drag-net operations where people are rounded up and offered compulsory tests after horrific sex killings. Of course the availability of do-it-yourself test kits would save the police a lot of time. They just announce the DNA profile, rather like a lottery number, and wives and mothers can do the test. In fact a genetic ID is being registered on the data-base or maybe the samples are kept for real, in sealed test-tubes. A virus in that sort of computer system would lead to many miscarriages of justice, and only people with an addictive mind will pursue such a crime fighting policy. The fact is that administrative confusion will create many victims. Despite enthusiasm for DNA testing, it is the extension of local watch schemes which is likely to catch criminals and terrorists. While the Internet may be used by pornographers and child abusers it is ever easier to catch them. A policeman in Minnesota or Denver may initiate an arrest in Liverpool or Birmingham, without ever leaving his chair. Pornographers happen to want to advertise themselves, in what they hope are private networks. En Nazis and racists also advertise themselves on the Internet, while the richer ones use normal TV and Radio. But a civic net would give the place for people to find out if various convicted criminals were living in the area. This is where civil rights groups argue: once a man served the prison sentence, then the offense is forgotten. But is this really the case. The answer is often no. The criminal will re-offend when let out of prison. Another victim of crime, because prison served no purpose. The prison guards failed, so every individual needs to be a prison guard. One of the forgotten triumphs of communism was the East German SATs. They managed to provide jobs for enormous numbers of people. Probably there were bars and nightclubs which could not have existed without the bribe money from the secret police. Enormous numbers of people worked for them spying on friends neighbors and family. Rather than giving everyone a gun, just give them enough information as to who the criminals are. Anyone should be able to check out anyone else on the civic data-base. Pupils would know the salaries of their teachers, and also those teachers who had committed crimes. They might even start to learn that not everything on the computer is true. Given access to such information some of the school children would probably try to falsify information about their teachers. They might invent horrid crimes to go into the files of their teachers, or try to inflate the salaries of their friends. Other things which could be made available to the general public are a persons' medical history, and the doctors that treated that person. This would save a tiny amount of fraudulent use of health resources, but it would also enable anxious would be sexual partners to determine from an independent source the last recorded HIV status of the person. FAILURE OF THE STATE Since the late 20th century is full of weak states, with the possible exception of China, and strong Tics and elite billionaires there are serious failures in most state accounting systems. It may be pensions in the West, or embezzlement and corruption in the Far East but there is great disillusionment on the part of the public. Some see the solution to this problem in stronger local government. This would be OK unless countries dissolve into warring stateliest, waiting to be re-unified by a stronger power. Despite these problems, residents of Singapore see theirs as the way of life for the 21st century. It is certainly true that some small city states have prospered as international financial centers, but others, such as Bahrain, have had problems. However their seems no real reason why the number of international finance centers should not increase. In order for the expansion of financial institutions to be a success much tougher policing is required. Many states have either failed to control of crime at the top, or even denied that the problem exists. South Korea and Italy are taking steps to prosecute their old leaders, while in many other countries the judiciary is investigating the activities of the leaders. Because finance has become internationalized it is no longer sufficient for the central banks of former colonial powers to control trading and currency exchanges. Recent events show that in fact control is not exercised: all the banks are allowed to get away with damaging practices, and misuse of the system for currency speculation and insider trading is widely established. An international framework for such laws is required, but in the absence of such a system US law is often preferred. Criminal law was advanced by war crime trials in the 1940s and 1950s when the former leaders of Germany and Japan were arraigned for expansionist and aggressive behaviour, and waging unsuccessful wars. In fact the international financial community can only be effectively policed if there is strong international pressure from an organisation such as the World Trade Organisation. Since many of these international organisations are used as tools by strong countries, this is unlikely to happen quickly. What is perhaps required is the same sort of international cooperation between police as that currently used for copyright violators, drug dealers, or terrorists, but not yet international arms dealers and shippers. Unfortunately for the Singapore style of big city life some sort of police presence from outside the city state may be required to investigate the arms trade at a later date. Singapore could probably avoid most blame by simply coming clean, and releasing its own deals to the public. This could enfeeble many states, and even TNCs if their dealings were further publicised. The european Schengen agreement is a first tentative step in this direction. (c) tony goddard belfast 1996 Return to Tony's HomePage