John Whitelegg, Professor John Whitelegg, is a remarkable man who has spent his entire professional life as a scholar, teacher, critic, publisher, activist and politician, trying to make sense out of our curious world and the contradictions of transport and mobility. And in a successful attempt to bring all the threads together, what he has learned about our topic in three decades of international work spanning all continents, he has just produced for our reading and instruction a remarkable and, I truly believe, much-needed book. His title gives away the game – Mobility: Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future.
John’s view of transport and mobility is conditioned by the fact that his point of departure is geography (his doctorate) and the uphill struggle to sustainable development and social justice (his professorship). And in the case of this latest book he digs deep beyond all that we can find in the crowded field of books, reports and articles about sustainable transport that will be published this year, in order to get into the guts of what it is really all about: the life philosophy behind it all. For if we have no philosophy we can have no vision. And if we have no vision, there is no way that we can shape and influence our future.
A handful of things distinguish “Mobility” from the rest: It is much needed. It is timely. It is wise. It is readable. It challenges and makes your brain work. And for less than $10, you can have it in front of your eyes in a few short minutes (see below for ordering instructions). Yet one more thing that sets apart this book, and indeed all his work from the rest, and the author’s utter willingness to enter into armed intellectual combat to set out and defend his ideas and values. John’s work always brings to mind the wonderful words of the passionate Irish poet and politician, William Butler Yeats, who wrote a century ago that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” John lights the fire.
For a more complete view of our discussions and coverage of these improtant events, you are invited to click to https://goo.gl/P4oWJw
If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. – F. Nietzsche
On the early morning of 27 June when reading that the leader of the Greek coalition government, Alexis Tsipras, called for a national referendum to get the views of Greece’s population on the bitter on-going disputes with Europe and the IMF, and in particular whether or not to accept the Troika’s uncompromising bailout conditions to settle the country’s government-debt crisis, I decided to see if we might do our bit by providing selective daily summary and international commentary on this unfolding the topic – and, more importantly, the uncertain evolving process behind it.
This quickly took the form of a series of daily summaries of a certain number of what I regard as the key points, issues, ideas, attitudes and players shaping this debate. You will find just below the dozen-plus articles that were posted in the pages of World Streets since the 27th. They appear here in the order written, and each is hot-linked to facilitate your access.
The core of this story is the huge gap between the level of understanding of leading members of the economics and policy community and that of the troika members. The ever combatative Paul Krugman put it like this in a 5 July article in the New York Times.
– By Paul Krugman, NYT JULY 5, 2015. Full text here.
Europe dodged a bullet on Sunday. Confounding many predictions, Greek voters strongly supported their government’s rejection of creditor demands. And even the most ardent supporters of European union should be breathing a sigh of relief.
Of course, that’s not the way the creditors would have you see it. Their story, echoed by many in the business press, is that the failure of their attempt to bully Greece into acquiescence was a triumph of irrationality and irresponsibility over sound technocratic advice.
18:00, Sunday 5 July 2015 in Greece and the polls have just closed on this momentous day for democracy. The outcome of the unexpected but oh so important referendum will not be known for several hours yet. So what better time to pour a glass of cool retsina white, sit down with some friends, and sort through the accumulated evidence of these last ten days in which the eyes of the world have turned to Greece.
Here are a few observations and thoughts about the future which come most immediately to mind to this ever-curious observer:
It has been hard slogging over the last two weeks of what we hope has been balanced discussions about the economic and political crisis that is currently racking Greece, Europe and in fact the world, so before we move into our final stage of closing comment with the urns now open but before the votes are counted in Greece, what about taking a step back and seeing what would happen if we take this conflict to another, higher level? Check it out here:
Seven reasons why Northern and Eastern Europe are not supporting the Greek cause.
Forgetting the Germans (not that this is ever possible of course) and the more prissy lipped representatives of European institutions, why might we reasonably ask ourselves are there so many angry accusations coming in from Eastern and Northern Europe? It’s a bit complicated, so let us consider this in several stages.
First and most reassuring to those of us who care about the economy and democracy, these are not universally shared positions in those countries. And this is what you are not hearing from the media, as much as anything else because the real message is so complicated: namely that there are substantial portions of the populations and political alliances in each of these countries who are in fact NOT AT ALL IN AGREEMENT with the orchestrated media pronouncements of certain government representatives, including national delegations to the various European institutions. For those of us who are concerned not only with matters of the well working of the economy but also that of democracy, this multiplicity of views is reassuring news.
The roots of Greece’s crisis are simple. Before Greece joined the Eurozone, investors treated it as a middle-income country with poor governance — which is to say, a credit risk. After Greece joined the Eurozone, investors thought that Greece was no longer a credit risk — they figured, if push came to shove, other Eurozone members like Germany would bail Greece out. They were wrong.
If you had to pick one chart that encapsulates Greece’s crisis, it would be this one:
Signing of Versailles Treaty imposing ruinous economic sanctions on the defeated Germany
Last night I dreamt I was wandering the stacks of the great Butler Library at Columbia, in a search to see if I could identify a certain number of what I would like to call “leading political economists” who have through their work and contributions over the last several centuries helped to shape our understanding of the relationship between economy, efficiency, democracy and governance. In particular I was looking for indications in their work that would allow me to make an educated guess as to what their position might have been in the case of the Sunday Referendum in Greece.
– Extract from article by Paul Krugman, NYT, 3 July 2015
It’s depressing thinking about Greece these days, so let’s talk about something else, O.K.? Let’s talk, for starters, about Finland, which couldn’t be more different from that corrupt, irresponsible country to the south. Finland is a model European citizen; it has honest government, sound finances and a solid credit rating, which lets it borrow money at incredibly low interest rates.
It’s also in the eighth year of a slump that has cut real gross domestic product per capita by 10 percent and shows no sign of ending. In fact, if it weren’t for the nightmare in southern Europe, the troubles facing the Finnish economy might well be seen as an epic disaster.
And Finland isn’t alone.