Thursday, May 11, 2006

Survey of Poland: Chapter One

Cheer up

May 11th 2006
From The Economist print edition


Reuters
Reuters


Poles and outsiders alike are too gloomy. Despite the country's fractious politics, its prospects are bright and its problems solvable, writes Edward Lucas

WARSAW airport immediately strikes the visitor as oddly cramped for something that seems so modern. That is because travel, like so many other things in Poland, is booming. A new airport building opened in 1992, replacing the ghastly concrete slum built by the communist central planners who ran Poland until 1989. The new building was designed to handle an ambitious 3.5m passengers a year. Last year it handled 7m, and this summer a new $225m terminal will open, raising capacity to 10m. Other Polish airports too are expanding at a cracking pace. The one at Katowice had just 16 passengers in 1991. In 1995 it had 15,000 and last year 1m.

Poland has become modern and prosperous on a scale that some still find surprising. Warsaw bristles with skyscrapers, and most of Poland is online. At the airport, three wireless internet networks compete for travellers' laptops. Across the road is a Marriott hotel, bustling with young, middle-class Poles in-between flights and business meetings, fiddling with their BlackBerries and chatting on their mobile phones.

But foreign travel is not a pastime only for Poland's rich. In another part of the airport, a large concrete barn known as the “Etudia” terminal is packed with Poles going to and from work abroad. Some are in suits; for Polish companies, low-cost travel is a boon, enabling them to do business abroad much more cheaply. But many of these passengers are the sort of people that you would not find in the Marriott. The older and more tired-looking ones are probably heading abroad for casual jobs in agriculture, construction or domestic service. At least such work brings in more money than similar drudgery at home.

The numbers working abroad are huge, even for a country with nearly 40m people. Since 2004, some 200,000 Poles have gone to Ireland, and probably over half a million to Britain. The main reason is that there are few jobs at home, especially for the young and the unskilled. General unemployment is running at 18% and youth unemployment at a shameful 40%, partly because of a demographic bulge, but also because Poland's hefty pension and social charges make its labour expensive. For a couple with two children, this tax “wedge” is 42%, the third-highest in the industrialised world. Only half the working-age population is active in the labour market (see chart 1).



Migration and unemployment are big topics in the Polish media, which are by far the best of any post-communist country. Three heavyweight dailies, a zingy tabloid and three serious colour newsweeklies are on sale at every news-stand. But some news-stands are better than others. The state-owned chain, Ruch, offers cluttered layout, dim lighting and languid, even snarling service. Its main competitor, Relay, is much more user-friendly. That is because its smiling staff are the owners and employees of tiny businesses that rent the premises from the owner of the brand and use family labour—teenage children, spouses and parents—to avoid the job-killing tax and social charges. The Polish business environment may be full of obstacles, but the country's entrepreneurs are amazingly good at circumventing them.

Travel from the airport is revealing too. Rich Poles are met in limos; slightly poorer ones collect their cars from the hotel car park; the unwary take overpriced taxis, having failed to find the regular sort on offer round the corner. The poorest travel in the draughty, slow, old, dirty and pickpocket-infested bus that grinds its way to the city centre.

The best bits of Poland are now indistinguishable from their counterparts anywhere else in the world; the worst bits, including public services such as transport, are egregiously bad. Politicians, so far, have done little to dent that. “The Polish emerging market works much better than the Polish emerging democracy,” says Grzegorz Kolodko, a former finance minister now based at one of Warsaw's top business schools.

As you inch into town, cast an eye on the concrete-panelled fences to right and left, and the vast tracts of former military land behind them. Those on the right have been sold off cheaply in murky circumstances under past governments: a good example of how bad public administration in the past has cheated the taxpayer, disillusioned voters and perhaps enriched crooks. On the left, behind a display of decaying tanks and rusty fighter planes, is the huge 60-hectare Zwirki site, centred on a shabby 1970s concrete conference building where the Warsaw Pact's generals once deliberated. That would be worth perhaps $100m if the government were to sell it simply as land. But the defence ministry is looking for a different, more lucrative sort of deal in which it would share in the profits from any development. That sort of deal would have been unthinkable when Poland's military property agency was run by bureaucrats. But now the agency is headed by a forceful retired Anglo-Polish investment banker, Maciej Olex-Szczytowski, who has moved to Warsaw to work, pro bono, for the new government, to help it live up to its motto: “Cheap and efficient”.




“European quality, Polish prices, Czech VAT.” The sign captures Polish capitalism in a nutshell. Marek Glinkowski's doors and windows business is based in Poland, but as close to its customers in the Czech Republic as is physically possible, in the last building before the bridge over the river Olza that links the Polish city of Cieszyn with its suburb of Tesin in the Czech Republic. Mr Glinkowski's firm epitomises the way Polish businesses are now attacking the newly opened markets of neighbouring countries—which is one reason for the leap in Poland's exports from $61 billion in 2003 to $95 billion last year.

Until Poland joined the European Union in May 2004, Cieszyn, known in Habsburg days as “Little Vienna”, was a pretty but rather depressed town on Poland's periphery, isolated from the rest of the country by bad roads and from the rest of Europe by the border. Getting goods across the bridge was difficult because of complicated paperwork and unpredictable queues. Mr Glinkowski says his business, founded in August 2004, simply would not have been possible before entry into the EU. Thanks to Poland's big domestic market, doors and windows there are 10-15% cheaper than in the neighbouring Czech Republic. Mr Glinkowski now has a sales force of four based in the Czech Republic, and 12 Polish craftsmen who drive over the border to install the windows.



For small firms such as Mr Glinkowski's, Poland's entry into the EU has transformed the business environment. Instead of being isolated behind customs barriers, they can sell their wares anywhere. Mr Glinkowski's biggest problem now is Poland's own bureaucracy, particularly as regards taxes. The tax rates are not much higher than those of its post-communist neighbours, but their administration is hugely more bureaucratic. Whereas the Czech tax authorities deal with his value-added tax in just 60 days, in Poland getting VAT refunded on exports takes around six months. And tax is only one of myriad administrative problems.

These are not just the usual entrepreneur's whinges. In the World Bank's latest comparison of the business environment in different countries, Poland comes 54th, behind such places as Kuwait, Tonga and Armenia. It is beaten by all its post-communist competitors in central Europe, except stodgy Slovenia. The cost of setting up a firm, for example, equals 22% of GDP per person, against an average of 13% in the post-communist region as a whole. In Poland an everyday business project—building a warehouse—involves 25 bureaucratic procedures and takes 322 days, compared with 21 procedures taking 252 days elsewhere in the region (and a lightning 70 days in America).

A half-hour drive to the north it is the same story, of success and frustration, but on a larger scale. Mokate, a privately held company with 1,000 employees and sales of 300m zloty, is Poland's best-known producer of prepared drinks. Some are strikingly, even piratically, similar to international brands of coffee; others are inventive to the point of oddness. The main product line is foil-packed cappuccino powder (flavours include vanilla and almond). Then there are teabags, regular, flavoured and even one spiked with a patented form of powdered alcohol to produce a mulled wine of sorts. Post-communist consumers are lively experimenters.

Mokate is a third-generation family firm. When its pre-war restaurants and shops were nationalised under communism, the Mokrysz family started up a private building-supplies firm, which survived even though the company claims it suffered from “persecution”. Certainly Mokate has done remarkably well since 1990, increasing its sales more than fiftyfold in 15 years after moving from cement in sacks to coffee-creamer in sachets. EU membership has greatly boosted its exports and the firm now sells to 55 countries.

Whereas Mr Glinkowski's success is based on a low-cost, low-tech product, Mokate's edge is in high technology and know-how. Its ultra-modern powder tower rises like a skyscraper over a gleaming white R&D facility, looking slightly out of place in the impoverished countryside around it, where a decrepit coal mine, now closed, used to be the main employer. Food scientists produce a stream of new consumer products.

But even though the ingredients of the two firms' success are different, Mokate's spokesman, Jerzy Chrystowski, is just as frustrated with the government as is Mr Glinkowski. “We just want the rules to stay the same,” he moans. “They are always changing: VAT, corporation tax, excise duty. One day all our vendors, even tiny roadside stalls, had to buy cash registers. Now they are told it's not necessary after all. And everything is overformalised and slow. The procedures are too rigid.”

That is the big challenge facing Poland, and the central subject of this survey. The country's private sector is increasingly able to compete with the rest of the world, whereas the public sector, wasteful, expensive and bloody-minded, is not. That is one reason why up to a million Poles are now working abroad. But this migration, symptomatic of Poland's problems, also holds the key to their solution.


147 comments:

poland.is.4.lovers said...

Fully agree with Edward. Poles are sometimes too pessimistic in their verbal opinions about themselves and the condition of their country, however they are great in actions. No government, no matter how bad, confused or inexperienced, can do much damage to the country now. In particular I am very impressed by the young generation of Poles and their great contribution to the development of this country.

beatroot said...

The foundations of the Polush economy are good, and the Economist survey shows this.

But do not underestimate the link between the nature of the political governments and how Poles feel about themselves.

the current bunch of populists/nationalists/racists are having a real negative effect on Poles view of their country.

Huzar21 said...

Despite my sentiments agreeing with the article, it is not good to see the comparison of RUCH and RELAY being so badly utilized. Private firm Kolporter is the largest in the market at twice the market share of RUCH and Relay is a small chain in airports and train stations. Locals sense bad research and ignore the rest.

Otherwise, good article.

Huzar 21

Jan Maxa said...

The whole pargraph about media struck me as odd in the otherwise excellent survey. Edward says the Polish media are by far the best of any post-communist country. I am Czech and no fan of our print media (in spite of having worked in one of them for several years), but surely the proof of high quality of Polish media cannot be that 3 dailies, 1 tabloid and 2 serious weeklies are on sale???

Edward Lucas said...

I know that Relay is not the biggest private competitor to Ruch. But they do have an impressive business model, and are getting a lot of investment and backing from their French parent, Hachette.

On the media, I read Czech too, and I can't say that either Hospodarske Noviny or LN comes even close to Gazeta, Rzeczpospolita or Dziennik in the depth and scope of their coverage. Just count the number of foreign correspondents. The Polish magazines too are much bigger and better. It's no criticism of Czech journalists, just (I think) a consequence of the size of the market, nearly four times bigger.

gall_eon said...

There should be "Etiuda", not “Etudia”. Every where in Europe you can meet place like this, chceck eg Paris Beauvais...

Poland even though seems with strange country, however isn't so bad. I now what I'm talking about.

kaganowski said...

What has happened to my comment? Why it has disappeared? Because it was too critical?

kaganowski said...

My email address is lech.keller@gmail.com
What I wrote was basically that your article was not bsed on any serious research, is heavily biased against the working class of Poland, and is very inacurate, nad thus not a reliable source of information, especially for businesspeople. For example city bus from Okecie airport to Warsaw city centre is quite modern (usually articulated MAN), cheap, frequent, clean and safe. Days of taxi mafia at Okecie also belong to the past. I remember city buses in Liverpool, city roughly size of Warsaw: outdated, and with no timetables posted on bus stops and with no available city map showing bus routes. Compare this to Warsaw, and then criticize Poland...

pricklypole said...

Oh, please! Of course, you knew that Relay was not the biggest competitor to Ruch.
The misleading sentence in your text, I quote: "(...)Ruch [and](...).its main competitor, Relay(…)” - is a hoax. Only a dumb ass fails to see that. Admitttedly, I, too, had felt puzzled until you reassured me that it’s all right, because living my life in Warsaw and considering myself au currant with the immediate outside reality, I had never ever even heard of relay – its emergence opposite Ruch could hardly be inconspicuous and that, you see, could make me stop trusting myself. However, that danger forestalled, I relaxed and I saw the light and realized how stupid it was of me to have let myself be annoyed by every other sentence – as I then thought-being at fault with facts. What a petty argumentative dwarf hides in me. It is all there for a purpose: numerous distortions, striking omissions, straight falsehoods, half-truths, commonplaces, even ugly insinuations and shady hear-say - all started to make sense. I haven’t quite made the whole of the sense yet – but I know it makes the two true statements in this groundbreaking survey shine real bright!

Mr. Lucas, I’m sorry for this opening but for the few days since I read your survey, I’ve had an urge to respond somehow but I didn’t know how or whether at all but the simple style of your reaction just spoke to me and kick-started me and the whole discursive surplus that has mounted in me - follows. It’s nothing personal, but you’ve made me write my first letter to an author. I just could not leave it as it is just as I could not stay idle knowing that someone broadcasts bogus weather reports on the flight control intercom. That is what your product is - a useless pseudo-report. Its not whether the image in it is “bad” or “good” – it is simply wrong. Sometimes so vividly wrong that It defies any explanation why it is so, given the fact that you boast 20 years in the region. The actual state of affairs cannot be unknown to you, if you truly have dealt with this issues for so long. In fact, critical observation of the last two years would suffice and the seat wouldn’t have to be first row, not to mention behind the scene. I ‘m talking facts, public knowledge, not secrets.
If, however, you really lack this knowledge, or cannot process it into synthetic picture, the big question is what are you doing at The Economist? Why am I not in your place if I am effortlessly able to produce survey by far more insightful than yours? And I could easily do that not because I am such a genius, but because you, in terms of informative value, have produced a text of such a quality that if it were a pot – and you a pot maker - it would never make it to the kitchen. Or maybe the 20 years is simply too long? The amount of work you put into it, perhaps would be enough to produce a survey of Vanuatu or Belize. You write about the country not only in Europe but in the European Union, moreover; the country almost the size of Italy and yet you seem to think that to give an authoritative account of what is what and who is who it is enough to visit two or three companies, talk to 5 people of a random choice, interview two or three ministers (of which a one-sentence extract is in the text). My objections are unevenly distributed; generally speaking, hard data are undisputable, although one might wonder why you did not reach out for a poll published a few weeks ago in “Rzeczposoplita” (OBOP’s or CEBOS’, I’m not sure) showing that a vast majority of western investors already established in Poland would have chosen Poland again, had they been given a chance. Highly educated workforce is what they value the most and, interestingly enough, underline that it is the quality they had underestimated. Do you think it might have anything to do with surveys like yours? Admittedly you do mention about Polish workers being educated but in some other place you also say that Polish universities are bad (you provide an exotic exception, yes). Well, I am not going to open fire over universities but having read this I instinctively asked myself (or you, in spe); if they are so bad, where did all this skilled workforce come from? From pockets of excellence?
Before proceeding to the more serious stuff I will begin with lighter tone, knowing that you are blessed with fine sense of humour and because your first chapter is one the least controversial side. You have really made me laugh; you certainly don’t waste a minute of your life and leave no mystery unfathomed. The whole airport-to-hotel part sparkles with precious findings that your all-pervading mind just can't stop making; cast of an eye here - and the social stratification gets stripped as well as its correlative - the diversification of transport options. Well done! (I just thought: what's up with those limos, though? I live here and haven't actually...oh, I know!... no, see, those long white ones are not rich Poles. Its wedding rental - a must-have among the Gypos. But that’s all right, you couldn't have known that.) If I may suggest a natural follow-up to this research would be a comparative study of whether this striking havs-in-good cars vs havnots-in-public transport axis is as readily discernible elsewhere in the region. Sounds thrilling to me.
Jokes apart, I must say this was the part I liked best; it did not make me wince, no real controversies, all true statements or negligibly close to the truth, absolutely no danger of anything new (I mean, newer than the 1989-survey - if there was such) – same good old pattern shared throughout the Western world of political magazines (traveller’s observations + the so- much- has- changed- here- since… part where you just have to insert the desired threshold date, usu 1989 or accession date + then, economic praises with, but dates and frequency of "since joining the EU" phrase occurrence) plus this pleasant, schoolboy-like "oh,s@#t! I-haven't-done-my- homework-but-I-got-an idea" kind of stuff.
Unfortunately, it gets worse as you venture into the area of higher complexity that the airport car-park - the politics and eventually smirk gets wiped out of the venom-spitting faces like mine when the conclusion under the all-telling title "it takes time to become normal" hits the fan. But first things first. The politics. "The accidental government" What we've got here is slightly different story than the adolescent sham of the first chapter. It is there too, but I also sense something more serious; ill-will approach to the current administration and consequently evident siding with one political option while remaining blind to facts.
You want evidence? Here we go.
At the beginning of the chapter “accidental government” you say in the headline: “Poland’s(…)rulers are very different from all their predecessors”. I am sorry, but this is bullshit! The majority of the ministers as well as the decision-making core of the Law and Justice parliamentary club are people actively present in the politics for at least 10 years, either in the past parliaments (just compare the lists of the AWS seat-holders with the LaJ’s), which in fact, in my opinion as a person who voted for the latter, is to a fault – this, however, you do not touch upon. You than serve us a golden thought that Poland had strong governments and honest governments but never both. Mhm. Which exactly, you would say, were strong? I can’t think of any, if strong means effective. And which honest? Except maybe for the Olszewski’s cabinet, which did not last for more than half a year. Besides I could swear I read this gem somewhere already…you like it so much? Well, sounds good but means nothing. You then go on to spawn adjectives like “unwieldy” (about the new coalition) or “righteous” and “unpredictable” (about Law and J’s ex-dissidents); I would think it takes time to see if an arrangement is unwieldy, but some posses this gift of seeing into the future. And wouldn’t you agree that if we know someone well enough to say he is righteous (a positive quality, is it not?), to call him ‘unpredictable’ undermines our own powers of judgement? Righteous usually do what is right; they don’t steal, walk old people across streets, chase thieves, help the weaker, stuff like that. Seeing a righteous person in a situation where someone else might hesitate (run or help? Steal or buy, etc.), you would rather bet on what the righteous person’s choice would be, wouldn’t you? Now, if righteous politicians do not differ in your understanding from other righteous human beings, than why do you call them unpredictable? Either you don’t know what is right or wrong or you are just bad-mouthing them. There is a third possibility; you mindlessly copy what their opponents say. Well, actually it is not the third – it is still bad-mouthing, is it not?
Then you become even more outrageous. What sort of monsters rule Poland, one may think, if even the level-headed Olejniczak compares them to Lukashenka. How long have you known mr Olejniczak to be able to describe him as such? I see him in public life for about a year and he has been normal, yes. The Kaczynski brothers have been in the official politics for 15 years and at least as much in the opposition; one or the other they held positions of the chief of National Security Council, Justice Minister, head of the Supreme Chamber of Control, Mayor of Warsaw. I say it is enough to learn that whatever one has to say in relation to their political views, comparison with Lukashenka is a bit spaced-out. You quote it but you do not refute it. Quite the opposite, in fact. The whole tone of passages where you refer to anything that smells of Law-and-Justice seems to endorse such absurd. Right below the Lukashenka-comparison, for example, you write “that does not seem to bother Poland’s new bosses” and further that “they delight in picking fights with gays, feminists (…) , media or anyone who crosses their path”. Knowing what there is to be known about the LaJ outfit, I would say they act reasonably not reacting to a cosmic slander and but an information-hungry reader starts to develop a notion that the administration in office are Lukashenka-clones. Besides, who delights in picking fights? I have the overwhelming impression, and the data to support the opposite is abundant (just skip through the titles of a week collection of Gazeta Wyborcza, listen to a randomly picked records of any information broadcast on TVN or Polsat; whatever has anything to do with Law and Justice is wrong before it is born) I am political pragmatist and I am rather disappointed with the LaJ, but for the reasons you have not even come close to touching and the way they are attacked is so evident! Why do you copy lies? The banking commission was not, as you said, invented to make Balcerowicz’s life hard, in fact it had not a single thing to do with him!! Not until he chose to throw himself into the spotlight! You must have known that as the Minister of Finance or the Central Bank governor he had little to do with the privatisation of the banking system – and that was why the commission was to be set up! So why? “He ( Kaczynski) denounced Balcerowicz (…) demanding an investigation into his record and is setting up a powerful new body to oversee the banking system” – WHAT?? This is a little over the top; let us put the horse in front of the cart. First there was the UniCredito row (the Italian Bank allegedly violated limits set in one of the previous privatisation deals, again mr Balcerowicz had nothing to do with it) than when the existing body supervising the banking system, of which mr Balcerowicz is the head, was asked for opinion, mr Balcerowicz threw outdoors one of this body’s legitimate members – a government representative Mr Mech – claiming he was not objective. While retaining in the very same gremium a person, whose wife actually WORKS at the UniCredito. Then, he was criticised by mr Kaczynski, although nobody’s record was ever to be investigated, nor does “the new body” have anything to do with him. In fact, “the new body” happens to be the parliamentary commission – a creation of a democratic kind (while the commission which mr Balcerowicz is presiding is outside parliament and its responsibilities are rather vague) – I personally think it is useless and wrong from the PR point of view, but suggesting that Kaczynski is setting up a “body” to oversee the banking system because he delights in picking fights and mr Balcerowicz just had the misfortune of crossing his path is a monstrous manipulation and eventually a simple lie. Examples of a similar kind there is plenty of. I will provide them when I see that you actually let it appear on your blog. On the whole, adolescence is strangely blended with deeply-rooted loathing (which, by the way, you do not hesitate to ascribe to the bad-party). You make an impression of a baby throwing bad words that you heard when your parents were having a fight. You pose as a specialist on the region, but mistake small airport chain of press distribution for a giant all-country competitor and you simply refuse to admit you were wrong when someone nails you. You call politicians odd that where there for ever and call their foreign policy inept and ignorant while slobbering at the ex-communists ways and how well “they knew to make themselves look good” abroad. Is this your notion of a sound foreign policy? To make a good appearance outside? Beauty is only skin deep, don’t you know? And then you fail to provide a single evidence of inapt handling of this matters. Or is evidence a piece of hear-say about the Kohl-incident which if true is rather an old one, or maybe the objection against the undersea pipe-line? By the way, it was never compared to Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, but to the Rapallo pact of 1922 (are you really a historian?) and what’s so inapt in it? It is after all another example of the Russian-German dealings over our heads in matters of vital importance (which you strangely admit!) and the Rapallo comparison is all the more valid that it was the first agreement of the two powers in their new republican clothes, long before Hitler and it, too, on the surface, had nothing to do with Poland and yet it foreshadowed what happened after. Mr Hervouet had to wait four hours for the Polish President? That’s a slap in the face! Please, if you happen to bump into the poor man some day tell him he is in good company because once Michael Jackson during his head-of-state style visit to Poland had President Kwasniewski and the spouse wait just as long! Yes, that President Kwasniewski with all his knowledge of the ways of the world – sadly, the State he was the head of waited there with him. Things you won’t do for a common picture and an autograph…
All in all, I’d say, the trouble is not so much with Poland as it is with you, mr. Lucas, and more specifically with your understanding of things.
I cannot shed the impression that underpinning the survey is this attitude (although, as I said, in the end it doesn’t matter what it was): one day during a long meeting at the editor’s office you came to a realization of a dreadful fact. Or maybe only a nuisance: "s@#t! - you thought-its my turn to make a survey. No doubt, they’ll want me to make a survey of Poland - there's this new government there...s@#t! I don't want to make a survey of Poland. Its so big, all those nagging people, this pompous history badly mixed with poor public infrastructure. and now those weird twins and (one of them had a moustache, I think - ain't that odd? I hope they won't have me interview just him...). Think - what to do, what to do... I know! I am genius! I 'll call the ...ski's in Warsaw, what are local friends for, ha? They are so young and open and full of entrepreneurial spirit plus they are in this fantastically cosmo Civic Platform - I'll have them brief me over the weekend - on monday two-three interviews - and on tuesday....bye Poland! The blanks I’ll fill out of my brilliant head. Even if I screw up here or there , who's gonna know? who but me writes anything on Poland apart from stock market figures ? who reads it but Poles and they are always happy if they're talked about and they don't write English so their objections are harmless because they're mostly gibberish."
Correct me if I err, but the outcome is such that its the only sensible explanation that does not entail accusation that all this was premeditated. If you ever answer any of what I wrote, do not try to tell me you were objective, because here and there you mentioned that things may not be as bad as they seem; for one, because they SEEM bad because of journalists like you, at home and abroad in the first place, and secondly, you render those reservations meaningless, when you do what you did with the facts I mentioned. And there is more of that, much more!
Finally, I really want to know what was in your head when you were writing in your conclusion - hilarious "Baedecker" of "What an Englishman should nod to when accosted by those funny backward-reeking zombies unless he wants to be bored to death" - that one has to bow to the partitions-complex - and further, barely holding the outburst of laughter-"the wound still remains livid although it late XVIII century"? What prompted you to do that when I cannot imagine you didn't know that Poland remained partitioned until 1918 not to mention that it had been the time of persecution, especially under Russians (visceral sentiment in this direction has something to do with that.) where Poles were hanged, sent to Siberia by the thousands? You find this funny? You are way out of line, mister!!Do you as merrily poke fun at the Irish (who also regained independence around this time-in 1917)? Do you really find it abnormal (since the sub-title is “it takes time to become normal”) that people have historical awareness of their own land? You would be in the right, if those claims of your Polish interlocutors were untrue. Georgia is a good example as people there still massively worship Stalin claiming he did not know and had bad advisers. Then, you could write: “if you come to Georgia, don’t argue on Stalin, unless you want to have AK-47 pointed at you”. But the case is that ALL those claims you chose to ridicule are 100% true and no-one puts it in question. By giving such jocular advice, you hint at the opposite. Why? Do you also take fancy in trying to evoke lighter moods by bringing up example of the Jews and do you say with similar grin, for example: “Imagines vous, Jews are so obsessed with Holocaust, you cannot talk to them for 5 minutes without hearing 'gas-chamber' at least a dozen times. "??You suggest that Poles resent Russians for reasons that are mostly historical. Well, tell me, what to make of the fresh decision of the Russian legal authorities that the Katyn crime was not genocide and that it was a plain crime? Mind you, 15 000 Polish officers and clerks were put to death with a shot to the back of their heads on the order of Beria and Stalin, which exists to this day.
Think about that and if you have some sense of decency, you will answer this.
Jakub Chmielewski

Kagan said...

Dear Jakub Chmielewski,
I basically agree with your comments, but, unfortunatelly, you wrote a too long, rather poorly structued text, so it is difficult for me to find what was exactly your main argument. But I agree with you that Mr. Lucas was poorly prepared for a rather difficult task of writing an analysis of Poland. Firstly he has a very superficial knowledge of Poland, its history, language etc. I was like I would have made an attempt to write an analysis of Britain, even if I lived there for almost a year, worked in Barclays Bank as an analyst and (before that)graduated in economics and politics from two first class Australian universities, so I know Anglo-Saxon culture and English language much better than Mr. Lucas knows Polish culture and Polish language. Secondly, Mr. Lucas' analysis is heavilly biased ideologically. He cannot see, or does not like to see, that the main source of curent Polish problems was poorly designed transformation (so-called Balcerowicz Plan) that put Poland into more than 10 years of deep recession and created millions of unemployed (unemployment rate in Poland is, even today, closer to 20% than to 10%). But the orthodox neoliberals from The Economist, like Mr. Lucas himself, will never admit that thre is something fundamentally wrong with their ideology, that it was always based on false assumptions of human character to be basically selfish, and its inability to change in time, as well as on false assumptions of microeconomics by Marshall, with his oversimplified model of homo oeconomicus. Thus the West, and especially the US and EU should compensate Polish people, especially the numerous victims of Balcerowicz-led transformation for its negative effects, such as high structural unemployment and lost savings. This is basically what Mr. Lucas has chosen not to mention in his very superficial report on Poland, that fits better a sensational tabloid than high quality weekly The Economist used to be. Shame for The Economist for so poor quality of work and so bad choice of authors... :(

Edward Lucas said...

Dear Jakub Chmielewski and otheres

Thank you very much for taking the time to write such a detailed response to my survey. It is flattering to get feedback--even when it is critical. You make a number of points and I hope you will forgive me if I don't write at such length.

First, I should like to point out that the survey is not primarily aimed at a Polish audience. We sell 1.1m copies a week, and many of our readers have little or no knowledge of Poland. It is therefore necessary to attract and maintain their interest, including using scenesetting and lively characterisations which may possibly seem a bit simplistic to specialist readers.

Secondly, a few words about myself. I studied Polish in 1986, speak it adequately, and have been visiting Poland regularly since then. I had five weeks to write the survey, which I spent mostly in Poland, a lot of it outside Warsaw. I certainly don't count myself as an academic expert, but there are fairly few journalists dealing with the CEE region who speak a number of the local languages and have been dealing with it for an extended period of time. So although I am sure that the survey is superficial in places, and contains errors of both fact and judgment, I would ask you to compare it not with, say a book by Norman Davies or Timothy Garton Ash, but with other journalistic efforts.

On to the specfic points. I apologise for the careless mispelling of Etiuda. It should be changed on the website shortly. I agree that other countries have barn-like minor airports for cheap flights and no disrepect for Poland was intended. However the aim was to point out that cheap flights have been a boon to Polish business, and as a way of illustrating the huge migration of the past two years.

To Kaganowski: I certainly didn't delete your first e-mail. I am a novice blogger, so errors are possible, but I was actually fast asleep at the time you posted. Your second and third postings are on the site

I was perhaps a bit unfair to the 175 but I think it is slow, it is not always a modern bus. I was on it recently and it was cold, and not very clean. Public transport in Poland is quite efficient, but is very clapped out and I think rather weakly managed. That was the point I was trying to make. Other countries have bad public transport too--but I was contrasting the dynamic and increasingly efficient private sector, with the public sector which is lagging behind. I don't think many people would argue that it is the other way round.

On the working class: I am not quite sure what you mean. Do you have specific examples?

On Relay. I apologise for this mistake. I think at the airport Relay is quite a big competitor--and it was certainly my impression that they are outselling Ruch there. But I was trying to paint an impressionistic picture of the airport, not give a serious analysis of the whole newspaper industry. But I apologise for the careless phrasing .

On the scope of my research: I think I visited a dozen companies, talked to 100-odd people, including government ministers, civil servants, busienss people, teachers (lots) pupils, academics, students, and so on. That is broadly comparable to what my colleagues do when they write surveys of other countries. I would ask you to compare the Poland survey with, say, the Italy survey we published recently and see if you can spot notable differences in the research carried out.

I am baffled that you think I am disputing Poland's investment advantages. The whole message of the survey is that, despite everything, the Polish economy is doing rather well. It is sad but true that FDI performance in past years has been nothing special, and lagged behind other CEE countries. But overall, the economic record is not bad at all. Hence the title "Cheer up".

On universities. I think that the good secondary-school education in Poland pleases foreign employers. A lot of universities have one or two good departments, But I have talked to a lot of employers who say that they are worried about the quality of degree-level education. This may be one reason why so many Poles want to study abroad.

On the chapter about the airport: please remember the point I made earlier. I am trying to tempt people in Hong Kong and Minnesota to devote ten minutes to reading about a country they may barely be able to find on a map. When I said limo, I don't mean the stretch kind (or I would have written "stretch limo") but the kind of Mercedes and BMW which I see regularly picking people up from Okecie.

On politics: I do think that this government differs sharply in character from previous ones. It has some similarities to AWS, but only some. One reason is that it excludes the PO people who were earlier in Unia etc. So the "Kaczynski" flavour is a lot stronger.

I think that the ex-commie govt was quite strong under Miller. But it was bad.

I think the coalition can now be quite fairly described as unwieldy. Anything that includes Giertych, Gilowska and Lepper as deputy PMs can hardly be otherwise. I confess I may have used some of the phraseology in articles elsewhere, both the Economist and European Voice. It is hard to be perpetually original...

I would not say that I mindlessly copy the PiS opponents' charges. Compared to any other foreign journalists, I think I have been remarkably fair-minded, perhaps too much so. But it is my job to make judgements and characterisations. I stick by righteous (praise) and unpredictable (criticism).

Olejnicak's criticism is indeed harsh, and I think wrong. But I am explaining at this point to the readers what the critics are saying. If you continue reading the article, you will see that having set up these criticisms, I knock a lot of them down as exaggerated. I point out specifically that Mr Balcerowicz provoked the row with the government (originally I described the throwing out of Mech, but it was too complicated for the general reader so we cut it)

I would contest that I am slobbering over the ex-commies. But it is a fact that they were technically very competent at foreign policy. Look at the way Belka nearly became sec gen of the OECD, and Kwasniewski was in the running at the UN. I don't like them but I have to concede they were good at this bit of their job.

Radek Sikorski specifically compared the pipeline to Molotov-Ribbentrop. Others have compared it to Rapallo, which is a legitimate but different analogy.

Your characterisation of the way in which the survey came about is so fanciful that it verges on the absurd. I argued very strongly that we should have a survey on Poland (after all, the CEE region is my job, and I travel to Poland every month for other stories). I spoke to only one or two PO representatives during the entire five weeks (although I have interviewed all the main figures in previous months). If I really thought that Polish objections and comments were worthless, I would hardly have bothered to take part in the debates on the Gazeta and Wprost websites (in Polish).

On the final chapter, which you refer to as Baedeker-like (which I take as a compliment, though you mean it as an insult, I suspect). The partition of Poland happened (the act) in the late 18th century. I can't see how you find that sentence so objectionable. I devote really quite a lot of room to trying to explain to the outside world why Poland has such a dreadful history, and I certainly aimed to do so in a respectful, not a sneering, way. I am sorry if that didn't come across.

On to the next post...

Again I would start by asking for some consideration of context. Most journalists are not great experts in the subjects they write about. Even on the countries they survey. It may be a pity, but it's true. My knowledge of Poland is certainly not great, but I knew a great deal more about the country than the authors of the previous two surveys (in 2000 and 1994 I think) , who spoke no Polish and in once case had never been there previously.

I make quite an effort not to turn the survey into a hymn of praise for Balcerowicz. You will note the phrase "fans say" and so forth when I describe him and his policies.

I think that the attention I give to institution-building would belie the charge that I am interested only in economics and selfish individualism.

pricklypole said...

Thank you for your response. I hope that your expertise will add gravity to my objections and I am glad that my comment provoked your answer on a more serious note than your previous remarks about the buses - rightfull as they were; public transport, not only from the airport - has gotten rid of pickpockets and runs mostly on buses and street cars as modern as those in, say, Vienna. As to the unclarity you expressed concerning the structure and argument of what I wrote; well, it was a comment, if a lenghty one, comments as such do not have structures of their own, they rather reflect the structure of the utterance they refer to, so basically I followed after the outpourings of mr. Lukas, trying to put right, what I saw as wrong. Therefore, there is no argument sensu stricto other than my conviction, which I thought I had made clear enough, that 1.The survey in question is a faulty product to a point of danger; not only superficial - if it had been only this, it would have been worthless, perhaps, but innocuous. It is not only inaccurate in this or that - had it been such, it would have been enough to correct this or that. Its bad to the bone. In fact, as you rightly put it, its a tabloid-style pseudo-report. It pertains the state of affairs in a make-belief country conjured up from the elements of someone's blurred notion of Poland, at least a few years old mixed with media "chatter" - the sum of which distorts the image of Poland far beyond recognition, worse still - the bias has a vector which makes it fall in the cut of already existing wrongs about my country.
It is a strange brew, indeed, and eventually mr Lukas is kind of outrun by his own game; he sets out to manipulate the extra-verbal content of his writing but is easily caught red-handed midway, as he apparently is short of the relevant skills. I tried to signal this on a few examples (most impudent is the instance of the "powerful body to oversee the banking system" - in fact its, in my opinion, liable to litigation). There are plenty more; look at how it works (or fails to work, in fact) observing mr Lukas when he first admits the "critics" of the current administration and "media chatter" to be biased, when he tries to evoke a mock-up of objectivism by distancing himself from them. Right after that, however, he slides under the door back into the very same 'chatter' and has nerve enough to sell under the label of objective, distanced reporter. As you see things from the point of view of an expert in economics - I, on my part, have been dealing professionaly with semantics and linguistics of acts of speech and textual analysis, but in truth it doesn't take half of mine or your knowledge to strip this double-act naked. It is enough to be a careful reader and have some common-sense. This leads to my second argument, that mr Lucas personally should be persuaded out of active journalism, if this profession still means providing reliable information. Top it off with his lack of the basic culture in his offensive patronising at the end of what he wrote and you have my 'argument'. As I said: I had no intention of starting an ideological dispute with mr Lukas, nor with his editor - they have the right to see things their way if only they could be explicit about where their ideology enters - the sincerity The Economist once had. It is valuable what you have added as far as ideological fallacy is concerned, but I tried to alarm anybody who would listen, that what we are dealing here with is nothing but a fraud - its a problem more fundamental and prior to ideological differences between this or that school. I see no reason why I should hold myself back from revealing it, when it strenghthens and proliferates wrongful notions of my country by the lowest of means!
Sad it is, indeed, that it happens on the pages of the magazine that once had the courage to stand up in indignation when the British government tried to hush down cries of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
Jakub Chmielewski

pricklypole said...

I wrote the second comment responding to 'Kaganowski', of course - and the word 'expertise'-refers to him. I have only just read mr Lucas' resposnse - and I must say he fails to convince me in the least bit. For one, let me use a figure from your text, mr Lucas, and ask you why are you comparing yourself downwards? I really could not care less for the previous reports or other journalism, although as a regular reader of The Times and The Daily Telegraph, I have come across much better, if less far reaching attempts. It still does not account for your serious fiddling with the facts, which I laid bare. You may or may not stick by this or that adjective or conviction of yours - it does not exactly make them right, you know! And, as I told you, I do not really care if you actualy spoke to 1 person or a 100, if diversity of views reported by you in the article does not exceed the first figure - it just means that 99 interviews are gone missing for whatever reason. The same goes for all other minor things on which you waste your defensive energy. If you think that running for spots like OECD or UN jobs is a measure of a foreign policy efficiency, ...well I'll stop short of completing. Let me just tell you my view; apart from the fact that both got rejected and no=one knows just how close actualy they were at that point - it might be a strong evidence of self-promotional skills, if they won. Since opposite is the case, it remains solely evidence of isatiable ambition matched with a poor reality check. As for their performance on a state level, especially mr Belka seems a wrong example, as he was the one ready to give up numerous issues on the EU summits on the budget, (he declared for example that to make peace between Britain and France over CAP, he - Poland - is ready to give up a sum out of our ample subsidies, which ran into many zeroes, but of which the exact amount I am oiblivious. Another example is his reluctance to stand by the freedom of services)That's it. You try to answer by standing by your gravest mistakes admitting to the ones that are trifle; take 'limos' - ok, but that was a bit of a joke as well as the part on your attitude; it was there to let you and the audience know what I cannot help to see through your design. I am sorry if you felt offended and I never meant to insult you (the least with Baedecker - it was only a one-word description of your stylistic formula - so don't get used to it as a compliment either)and I do not care much on how much effort you put in convincing the editor to write about Poland as long as I don't see anything of it come through. And I just can't see why a man in Hong-Kong or Minnesota couldn't be interested with truth - accurate, without exaggeration or other F/X you claim is necessary. After all, as far as information is concerned, photohgraph is far more valuable than any painting, although perhaps less flattering to an ego.
I must, at the end, complement you on taking the trouble to read and respond.
Sincerely,
Jakub Chmielewski

Kagan said...

1. To Mr. Chmielewski: please post here a SHORT, well structured note relating to your comments to my posts.
2. To Mr. Lucas: Thank you very much for your cpmments to my comments. It is nice to get such a detailed feedback.

Edward Lucas: Thank you very much for taking the time to write such a detailed response to my survey. It is flattering to get feedback--even when it is critical. You make a number of points and I hope you will forgive me if I don't write at such length.

LK: I will comment mostly your responses to my criticism, but also sometimes your responses to Mr Chmielewski.

First, I should like to point out that the survey is not primarily aimed at a Polish audience. We sell 1.1m copies a week, and many of our readers have little or no knowledge of Poland. It is therefore necessary to attract and maintain their interest, including using scenesetting and lively characterisations which may possibly seem a bit simplistic to specialist readers.

LK: OK. But it does not mean that The Economist should lower its standards to the level of sensationalist tabloid.

Secondly, a few words about myself. I studied Polish in 1986, speak it adequately, and have been visiting Poland regularly since then. I had five weeks to write the survey, which I spent mostly in Poland, a lot of it outside Warsaw. I certainly don't count myself as an academic expert, but there are fairly few journalists dealing with the CEE region who speak a number of the local languages and have been dealing with it for an extended period of time. So although I am sure that the survey is superficial in places, and contains errors of both fact and judgment, I would ask you to compare it not with, say a book by Norman Davies or Timothy Garton Ash, but with other journalistic efforts.

LK: Again, you are technically right, but for me neither Norman Davies nor Tim Garton Ash are experts in Polish affairs. Davies made a career because no one of better quality had his books on Poland published in large print runs in English. Garton Ash usually has no idea about Poland, so he can hardly be considered as an authority. You should simply write this report with a native Pole, a real expert in Polish economy… I know that it means less money for you, but only in short term.

On to the specific points. I apologise for the careless mispelling (SIC) of Etiuda. It should be changed on the website shortly. I agree that other countries have barn-like minor airports for cheap flights and no disrepect for Poland was intended. However the aim was to point out that cheap flights have been a boon to Polish business, and as a way of illustrating the huge migration of the past two years.

LK: Misspelling of terminal name is not a serious mistake. As to airports: some terminals in Heathrow look like Third World, not to mention the whole Larnaka airport…

To Kaganowski: I certainly didn't delete your first e-mail. I am a novice blogger, so errors are possible, but I was actually fast asleep at the time you posted. Your second and third postings are on the site.
LK: OK. I accept this explanation.

I was perhaps a bit unfair to the 175 but I think it is slow, it is not always a modern bus. I was on it recently and it was cold, and not very clean. Public transport in Poland is quite efficient, but is very clapped out and I think rather weakly managed. That was the point I was trying to make. Other countries have bad public transport too--but I was contrasting the dynamic and increasingly efficient private sector, with the public sector which is lagging behind. I don't think many people would argue that it is the other way round.

LK: 175 bus is not an express bus, so it is not fast, but it is very cheap and frequent. If you buy a daily ticket, you can travel whole Warsaw for 24 hours for PLN 7.20 i.e. around GBP 1.2. Compare this to price of ticket by underground or rail from Heathrow to Central London. As to public transport in UK: it is very expensive, not always clean (London underground!) and poorly managed, especially when privatised. See, for example, case of Connex, that lost some licenses due to mismanagement of some routes. Privatisation usually means higher unemployment and higher cost of tickets, not better standard. Buses were privatised in Melbourne, Victoria, and result was only more costly tickets, with virtually nil improvement of service.

On the working class: I am not quite sure what you mean. Do you have specific examples?

LK: What I mean that Balcerowicz’s “reforms” resulted in huge unemployment, around 20% and widespread poverty. In “communist” Poland there was no unemployment and no widespread poverty. So my point is that because of uncritical following of Western advices (including those given in the past by The Economist) , Poland lost approximately 10 years due to severe recession and is plagued by mass, structural unemployment, poverty, and very unequal distribution of wealth and incomes.

On Relay. I apologise for this mistake. I think at the airport Relay is quite a big competitor--and it was certainly my impression that they are outselling Ruch there. But I was trying to paint an impressionistic picture of the airport, not give a serious analysis of the whole newspaper industry. But I apologise for the careless phrasing .

LK: That is of marginal importance.

On the scope of my research: I think I visited a dozen companies, talked to 100-odd people, including government ministers, civil servants, busienss (SIC) people, teachers (lots) pupils, academics, students, and so on. That is broadly comparable to what my colleagues do when they write surveys of other countries. I would ask you to compare the Poland survey with, say, the Italy survey we published recently and see if you can spot notable differences in the research carried out.

LK: But did you talk to ordinary Poles: blue collar workers, small farmers, unemployed and pensioners?

I am baffled that you think I am disputing Poland's investment advantages. The whole message of the survey is that, despite everything, the Polish economy is doing rather well. It is sad but true that FDI performance in past years has been nothing special, and lagged behind other CEE countries. But overall, the economic record is not bad at all. Hence the title "Cheer up".

LK; OK! 
On universities. I think that the good secondary-school education in Poland pleases foreign employers. A lot of universities have one or two good departments, But I have talked to a lot of employers who say that they are worried about the quality of degree-level education. This may be one reason why so many Poles want to study abroad.

LK: The huge majority of Polish students cannot afford to study abroad. There are also problems with recognition of overseas diplomas. In my case: I graduated from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia (PhD in Politics) and The University of Melbourne (MA in Economics), but my academic post-graduate qualifications are not officially recognised in Poland, even if The University of Melbourne is the oldest and best university in Australia, and Monash is not far behind. This is the real problem, but you did not address it at all.

On the chapter about the airport: please remember the point I made earlier. I am trying to tempt people in Hong Kong and Minnesota to devote ten minutes to reading about a country they may barely be able to find on a map. When I said limo, I don't mean the stretch kind (or I would have written "stretch limo") but the kind of Mercedes and BMW which I see regularly picking people up from Okecie.

LK: Airport in Minneapolis I remember well, because of chaotic design, no public transport access and very poor information. I was also in new Hong Kong airport the next day after opening, and could not even find a working telephone with connection to Australia or Poland…

On politics: I do think that this government differs sharply in character from previous ones. It has some similarities to AWS, but only some. One reason is that it excludes the PO people who were earlier in Unia etc. So the "Kaczynski" flavour is a lot stronger.

LK: Current regime is of not much importance. There are still the old elites in power, and only this matters. Do you know elite theory by Pareto, well known Italian economist and philosopher?

I think that the ex-commie govt was quite strong under Miller. But it was bad.

LK: If you use word “commie”, you should also describe liberals as “libs” etc. Mr Miller was, anyway, never a communist, but a Western-style neoliberal. PZPR (PUWP) was, at least since late 1960s, not a party of communists, but a party of apparatchiks, interested only in power and perks, so it was condemned by the Polish working class, and thus collapsed…

I think the coalition can now be quite fairly described as unwieldy. Anything that includes Giertych, Gilowska and Lepper as deputy PMs can hardly be otherwise. I confess I may have used some of the phraseology in articles elsewhere, both the Economist and European Voice. It is hard to be perpetually original...

LK: Lepper is a successful, nationalist businessman, and a very intelligent person. Giertrych is a hard line Catholic and not really bright person. Gilowska is a poor quality former expert on political economy of socialism. They are very different people…

I would not say that I mindlessly copy the PiS opponents' charges. Compared to any other foreign journalists, I think I have been remarkably fair-minded, perhaps too much so. But it is my job to make judgements and characterisations. I stick by righteous (praise) and unpredictable (criticism).

LK: OK!

Olejnicak's criticism is indeed harsh, and I think wrong. But I am explaining at this point to the readers what the critics are saying. If you continue reading the article, you will see that having set up these criticisms, I knock a lot of them down as exaggerated. I point out specifically that Mr Balcerowicz provoked the row with the government (originally I described the throwing out of Mech, but it was too complicated for the general reader so we cut it).

LK: Again: those are things of minor importance. What is important that Balcerowicz is a former communist party expert in managing (or rather mismanaging) socialist economy. He was actually employed for many years by the Central Committee of Polish Communist (Workers’) Party, a poorly qualified pseudo economist who was allowed to experiment on Polish economy with disastrous effects: 20% unemployment, 10 (+) years of recession etc.

I would contest that I am slobbering over the ex-commies (SIC). But it is a fact that they were technically very competent at foreign policy. Look at the way Belka nearly became sec gen of the OECD, and Kwasniewski was in the running at the UN. I don't like them but I have to concede they were good at this bit of their job.

LK: As I said: they were career politicians, apparatchiks, not communists… Belka was actively involved in illegal occupation of Iraq, Kwasniewski also, but less directly. They are both war criminals for me…

Radek Sikorski specifically compared the pipeline to Molotov-Ribbentrop. Others have compared it to Rapallo, which is a legitimate but different analogy.

LK: Sikorski should give up his British citizenship to be in Polish government. As Poland played silly games with Russia, so the Russians paid them in the same currency…

Your characterisation of the way in which the survey came about is so fanciful that it verges on the absurd. I argued very strongly that we should have a survey on Poland (after all, the CEE region is my job, and I travel to Poland every month for other stories). I spoke to only one or two PO representatives during the entire five weeks (although I have interviewed all the main figures in previous months). If I really thought that Polish objections and comments were worthless, I would hardly have bothered to take part in the debates on the Gazeta and Wprost websites (in Polish).

LK: OK. It was to me…

On the final chapter, which you refer to as Baedeker-like (which I take as a compliment, though you mean it as an insult, I suspect). The partition of Poland happened (the act) in the late 18th century. I can't see how you find that sentence so objectionable. I devote really quite a lot of room to trying to explain to the outside world why Poland has such a dreadful history, and I certainly aimed to do so in a respectful, not a sneering, way. I am sorry if that didn't come across.

LK: I agree with you, that as to Polish-Russian relations, the Poles should forget about the past. The ordinary Russians were never anti-Polish, unlike the Germans. I think that the Germans are plotting to destroy good Polish-Russian relations, so they hope for disintegration of Poland the Yugoslavian way and dream of recovery of lost territories in the east…

On to the next post...
LK: OK! 

Again I would start by asking for some consideration of context. Most journalists are not great experts in the subjects they write about. Even on the countries they survey. It may be a pity, but it's true. My knowledge of Poland is certainly not great, but I knew a great deal more about the country than the authors of the previous two surveys (in 2000 and 1994 I think) , who spoke no Polish and in once case had never been there previously.

LK: OK. But you cold find a Polish partner to help you finish this survey…

I make quite an effort not to turn the survey into a hymn of praise for Balcerowicz. You will note the phrase "fans say" and so forth when I describe him and his policies.

LK: OK. But Balcerowicz is a man who destroyed Polish economy, forced it to more than 10 years recession and created mass, 20% structural unemployment and widespread poverty. In any other country he would be put in prison…

I think that the attention I give to institution-building would belie the charge that I am interested only in economics and selfish individualism.

LK: OK. Let it be this way…

Edward Lucas said...

I think short posts are generally better than long ones. If we are going to continue this debate, may I suggest that all future postings are no more than 200 words? (this one is longer because I am replying to the exhaustive postings above)

This is clearly not the place to debate the merits of capitalism versus communism. I was a student in the PRL. I think that post-communist Poland, for all its faults, is incomparably better. I know that there are Poles who think otherwise. I also know that Balcerowicz is an ex-communist and seen as a hero by some, and a villain by others. I make it clear in the survey that the range of opinions is wide, but I can't possibly, in 10 pages, do justice to all the possible arguments. The Economist is a free-market liberal-conservative paper and I think the readers understand that. If you want a different worldview, try bhhrg.org

I did talk to a wide range of people for the survey. I would draw your attention to the bit relating to Nienadowka. I have also spent time in other depressed bits of the country, and talked to lots of people in Warsaw. However, my overall conclusion is that the situation though bad, is improving. I find it odd that some people leaving comments here are determined to portray me as a polonophobic outsider when the survey is rather pro-Polish and optimistic.

If LK thinks that Garton Ash and Norman Davies are not experts, I would ask whether he believes _any_ outsider has ever written well about Poland.

I think I detect a feeling that only Poles, or foreigners guided by Poles, should write about Poland. That might add expertise, but perhaps you would lose critical distance.

Kagan said...

Also on your article about Europe's new poor.
It is a classic example of poor understanding of the subject of economics by the staff of The Economist. You simply take GDP as a measure ow wealth created, whilst it is only a measure of market activity. Take Greece and Cyprus: both countries are much poorer than Slovenia, even poorer than Poland, but have higher GDP per capita due to technicalities (see appendix below). For me the real problem with EU was money wasted for decades on Greece and premature admission of Cyprus, that was totally unprepared for joining the EU. Do you know that there is still a customs border betwen Greece and Cyprus?
According to UN: GDP encompasses the production of marketed goods and services, which includes both those that enhance welfare and those which detract from it. It measures the services of government at cost and includes subsistence output of farmers only to the extent it is imputed, and other household production, in particular that of women, only if it is sold and in practice not even then. Informal sector output is not included at all. Aggregate figures for GDP and averages for GDP per capita provide no information about the distribution of income or the economic benefits different groups in society may gain from economic growth. It says nothing about conditions of work, satisfaction gained on the job, the degree of participation in national life of different groups in society or other important dimensions of development such as demographic characteristics and political arrangements. International comparisons suffer from the failure of the exchange rate to reflect adequately the relative purchasing power of currencies over domestic goods and services. Studies of alternative methods of comparing GDP among countries based on the purchasing power parities of currencies indicate that conventional exchange rate translations may overstate significantly the relative economic distance between high- and low-income countries, as is illustrated by the fact that no one could survive in industrial countries on the incomes estimated for survival in poorer countries.
SOURCE: United Nations: Overall Socio-economic Perspective of the World Economy to the Year 2000 (New York: UN, 1990 p. 21)

Kagan said...

1. Your blog is very interesting, but it desperately needs indexing, otherwise too much time is wasted on manually searching thru it...

EL: I think short posts are generally better than long ones. If we are going to continue this debate, may I suggest that all future postings are no more than 200 words? (this one is longer because I am replying to the exhaustive postings above)
LK: OK. I'll try my best...


This is clearly not the place to debate the merits of capitalism versus communism. I was a student in the PRL. I think that post-communist Poland, for all its faults, is incomparably better. I know that there are Poles who think otherwise. I also know that Balcerowicz is an ex-communist and seen as a hero by some, and a villain by others. I make it clear in the survey that the range of opinions is wide, but I can't possibly, in 10 pages, do justice to all the possible arguments. The Economist is a free-market liberal-conservative paper and I think the readers understand that.
If you want a different worldview, try bhhrg.org
LK: OK. But you should justify your judgements and also tell the readers who Mr. Balcerowicz really was. Otherwise they are kept in dark. Being liberal-conservative does not mean a license to avoid the truth. Anyway, I understand that you can be either liberal or conservative. Can you be, at the same time for unrestricted free market (liberal) and for protecting the less fortunate (conservative)? Liberal-conservative is a classic oxymoron, like conservative-radical...

I did talk to a wide range of people for the survey. I would draw your attention to the bit relating to Nienadowka. I have also spent time in other depressed bits of the country, and talked to lots of people in Warsaw. However, my overall conclusion is that the situation though bad, is improving. I find it odd that some people leaving comments here are determined to portray me as a polonophobic outsider when the survey is rather pro-Polish and optimistic.
-LK: It always happens when you try to be, at the same time, liberal and conservative...

If LK thinks that Garton Ash and Norman Davies are not experts, I would ask whether he believes _any_ outsider has ever written well about Poland.
LK: Unfortunatelly, no one in English speaking word is expert on Poland. Too much cultural difference. Polish culture is Slavic with strong Roman-Catholic influence, Anglo-Saxon culture is Germanic and strongly Calvinist, thus have totally different sets of values. As to Davies - he understand nothing about Poland and Poles, the other one even less... Davies writes in nice English, and this is the only good think I can say about his books on Poland...

I think I detect a feeling that only Poles, or foreigners guided by Poles, should write about Poland. That might add expertise, but perhaps you would lose critical distance.
LK: I did not say so. What I suggested is to cooperate with Polish experts. Not to be "guided" by them... I spent over 20 years in English-speaking countries, got Aussie citizenship, but do not consider myself well prepared to make authoritative remarks on almost every subject relating to Britain and its former (and present) colonies and dominions. Unfortunatelly, Mr Lucas, with his, rather limited knowledge of Poland, feels fit to make such authoritative judgements on Poland and even the whole region...

Kagan said...

And apologies for some silly spelling mistakes, but there is no speller check here... And, as you know, English text is really a kind hieroglyphic system, where you take a word as a hieroglyph, not as a collection of letters... ;) Otherwise how "jail" and "gaol" could have the same pronounciation?

Edward Lucas said...

as a novice blogger, I'd appreciate advice about how to structure the site better. How should I index? (perhaps reply off-line, to spare my blushes)

To say that no outsider (in any language?) has written competently about Poland is quite a strong statement... Does that say something about Poland, or something about what Poles think about Poland?

Kagan said...

To Mr. Chmielewski.
Now I had time to read your latest post. I agree with you in 100%. The report made by Mr. Lucas is indeed very dangerous, as it was written in good English and published by The Economist. But the main problem with Mr. Lucas is that he knows next to nothing about Poland and the Poles, but feels free to make authoritative judgements on this subject. As I wrote: he assumes, because of his education and background, that the Anglosaxon, and thus Germanic-Calvinist culture is superior, and judges every other culture on only one criterium: how closely it resembles his Germanic-British-Calvinist culture.
He also has no understanding of economics, he even does not know what is rally measured by GDP (surely not wealth or productivity, but only the level of market activity). He also does not understand the difference between liberal and consrvative ideology (I teach this 1st year students). I do not know how good is his Polish, but am afraid that rather poor, as I have never ever met a Briton of American (or Aussie, Kiwi etc.) without Slavic roots, who could speak even basic Polish, and remember that I have spent over 20 years in English speaking countries, working in big business and academia... Shame on The Economist for such poor choice of their authors... How can I now trust their reports, say on Brasil, a country in which I have never been, if I found so many grave mistakes in Mr. Lucas report on country I know so well (Polish transition was a subject of my disseration, for which I was awarded postgraduate title, namely MA at The Univesity of Melbourne). But as I am a Pole, not Briton, so the editor of The Economist prefers superficial analyses by his fellow countymen, rather then much better quality analyses made by "bloody Poles" as me (not that I see myself in shoes of Mr. Lucas, but know many Poles who could do a better job than Mr. Lucas)...

Edward Lucas said...

A couple of specific points: Civic Platform's leaders have frequently described themselves as "Liberal-Conservative" in interviews with me and others. It seems to me quite a useful term, meaning more free-market, and more socially-liberal, than eg the Kaczynskis.

Many Economist journalists are not British. Or even American. If you find our worldview annoying, that's your privilege. We have 1.1m people who buy it every week.


More generally, I wonder if anyone really wants to assert that a) no native English speaker ever speaks fluent Polish. b) no foreigner can ever write anything sensible about Poland.

The second, in particular, means that is hard for me to continue the discussion! I am sure that nobody would really assert this, but to reassure me, can the other members of the discussion give an example of any foreigner, in any language, who has written well about Poland? Ever.

If not, I rest my case and suggest that we close the discussion.

May I ask all the contributors so far to try to write a 200-word summary of their objections and send it to letters@economist.com, with a copy to me at edwardlucas@economist.com

I will do everything I can to make sure that they are published, as part of the selection of letters we have received about the survey.

Kagan said...

Please read me with understanding. I wrote only that the Britons, with their Calvinist set of values and unglorious imperial past are unable to comprehend other cultures, as they see them as simply inferior. Similar probles have French people as well as Germans, Austrians and Greeks. This can be fixed only by changing the educational system, so it will be more informative than brainwashing... But it requiries time, money and good will. Unfortunatelly, neither Bitain nor US have money (they live on credit), and certainly lack good will (they try to fix existing, postcolonial problems by colonising more countries, for example Iraq and Afghanistan). They still got time, but can they use it rationally?

Kagan said...

EL: A couple of specific points: Civic Platform's leaders have frequently described themselves as "Liberal-Conservative" in interviews with me and others. It seems to me quite a useful term, meaning more free-market, and more socially-liberal, than eg the Kaczynskis.
LK: If someone uses the wrong, confusing term it does not mean that The Economist must mindlessly copy that mistake...

Many Economist journalists are not British. Or even American. If you find our worldview annoying, that's your privilege. We have 1.1m people who buy it every week.
LK: Millons of people eat McDonald's GM "hamburgers" and drink acid drink named Coca Cola. It only means that both MC Donald's and Coca Cola have good marketing experts. 70 millions of Germans blindly followed Hitler till the very end. Does it mean that they were right?

More generally, I wonder if anyone really wants to assert that a) no native English speaker ever speaks fluent Polish. b) no foreigner can ever write anything sensible about Poland.
- Give me examples, if you can. What is % of Britons learning Polish and Polish studies in general? Compare it to % of Poles laerning English and British studies in general...

The second, in particular, means that is hard for me to continue the discussion! I am sure that nobody would really assert this, but to reassure me, can the other members of the discussion give an example of any foreigner, in any language, who has written well about Poland? Ever.
- Spend some time in library. Maybe you will find something... ;)

If not, I rest my case and suggest that we close the discussion.
- Afraid of arguments beyond your reach?

May I ask all the contributors so far to try to write a 200-word summary of their objections and send it to letters@economist.com, with a copy to me at edwardlucas@economist.com
I will do everything I can to make sure that they are published, as part of the selection of letters we have received about the survey.
- I did it (Kagan)

Kagan said...

Refers to Edward Lucas’ survey of Poland:

In my opinion The Economist has lowered its standards to the level of sensationalist tabloid by publishing the superficial “survey” of Poland by Mr. Lucas. That “survey” was full of inaccuracies. For example on airport bus in Warsaw: OK, is not an express bus, so it is not very fast, but it is very cheap and frequent. If you buy a daily ticket, you can travel whole Warsaw for 24 hours for PLN 7.20 i.e. around GBP 1.2. Compare this to price of ticket by underground or rail from Heathrow to Central London.

But there are more important errors and omissions in Mr. Lucas “survey”. For example he did not mention that Balcerowicz’s “reforms” resulted in huge unemployment, around 20% and widespread poverty. In “communist” Poland there was no unemployment and no widespread poverty. So my point is that because of uncritical following of Western advices (including those given in the past by The Economist) , Poland lost approximately 10 years due to severe recession and is plagued by mass, structural unemployment, poverty, and very unequal distribution of wealth and incomes. This was not even mentioned by Mr. Lucas. He only talked to successful businesspeople, not to ordinary Poles: blue collar workers, small farmers, unemployed and pensioners, i.e. victims of the “transformation”.

He also concentrates on cabinet changes that are of rather little importance. There are still the old elites in power in Poland, and only this really matters. Does Mr. Lucas know elite theory by Pareto, well known Italian economist and philosopher? He also does not understand that Mr. Miller and Mr. Kwasniewski were never communists, but only Western-style neoliberals. PZPR (PUWP) was, at least since late 1960s, not a party of communists, but a party of apparatchiks, interested only in power and perks, so it was condemned by the Polish working class, and thus collapsed…

As to Lepper - he is a successful, nationalist businessman, and a very intelligent person. Giertrych is a hard line Catholic and not really bright person. Gilowska is a poor quality former expert on political economy of socialism. They are very different people, but Mr. Lucas misses the real differences between them.

What is important, and what Mr. Lucas is unable to comprehend, is that Mr. Balcerowicz is a former communist party expert in managing (or rather mismanaging) socialist economy. He was actually employed for many years by the Central Committee of Polish Communist (Workers’) Party, a poorly qualified pseudo economist who was allowed to experiment on Polish economy with disastrous effects: 20% unemployment, 10 (+) years of recession etc. Balcerowicz is a man who destroyed Polish economy, forced it to more than 10 years recession and created mass, 20% structural unemployment and widespread poverty. In any other country he would be put in prison…

He should also mention that Mr. Radek Sikorski should give up his British citizenship to be in Polish government. And to Polish-Russian relations: Poland played silly games with Russia, so the Russians paid them in the same currency…I agree with Mr. Lucas, that as to Polish-Russian relations, the Poles should forget about the past. The ordinary Russians were never anti-Polish, unlike the Germans. I think that the Germans are plotting to destroy good Polish-Russian relations, so they hope for disintegration of Poland the Yugoslavian way and dream of recovery of lost territories in the east…

Finally: The report made by Mr. Lucas is indeed very dangerous, as it was written in good English and published by The Economist. But the main problem with Mr. Lucas is that he knows next to nothing about Poland and the Poles, but feels free to make authoritative judgements on this subject. As I wrote: he assumes, because of his education and background, that the Anglo-Saxon, and thus Germanic-Calvinist culture is superior, and judges every other culture on only one criterion: how closely it resembles his Germanic-British-Calvinist culture.

He also has no understanding of economics, he even does not know what is rally measured by GDP (surely not wealth or productivity, but only the level of market activity). He also does not understand the difference between liberal and conservative ideology. I do not know how good is his Polish, but am afraid that rather poor, as I have never ever met a Briton of American (or Aussie, Kiwi etc.) without Slavic roots, who could speak even basic Polish, and remember that I have spent over 20 years in English speaking countries, working in big business and academia... Shame on The Economist for such poor choice of their authors... How can I now trust their reports, say on Brazil, a country in which I have never been, if I found so many grave mistakes in Mr. Lucas report on country I know so well? Not that I see myself in shoes of Mr. Lucas, but know many Poles who could do a much, much better job than Mr. Lucas...

Edward Lucas said...

hmm. I assume you have sent this to letters@economist.com
it will need real name, phone no etc so that the letters editor can check the identity of the writer

it is also rather too long, so may be edited

I have no difficulty in citing a dozen works by foreigners about Poland which I think are serious and praiseworthy. My question to you is, can you name even one? If not, then the probable hypothesis is that you are someone who cannot accept outsiders writing about your country, rather than all outsiders are invariably wrong.

Kagan said...

Edward Lucas said...
hmm. I assume you have sent this to letters@economist.com
it will need real name, phone no etc so that the letters editor can check the identity of the writer.
OK. I will send my ID to the editor.

It is also rather too long, so may be edited
- OK. I'll edit it as well.

I have no difficulty in citing a dozen works by foreigners about Poland which I think are serious and praiseworthy. My question to you is, can you name even one? If not, then the probable hypothesis is that you are someone who cannot accept outsiders writing about your country, rather than all outsiders are invariably wrong.
- Another simple explanation is that there are no English-speaking persons who wrote something valuable about Poland. I do not read much in other languages than Polish and English, so I could miss someone, say one great Chinese author who wrote a very good book about Poland. But don't tell me about Davies and other British or American authors. Anglosaxons, with very few exceptions, are not interested in other cultures, and even if they are interested, they, as a rule, misunderstand them, as they always asume, that their Germanic-Calvinist system of values is superior. This is the major cause of British and American imperialism and war crimes committed, even presently, by the British and American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places...

Kagan said...

To:letters@economist.com
Copy to: ewardlucas@economist.com

Sir,

Faulty survey of Poland by Mr. Edward Lucas

In my opinion The Economist has lowered its standards to the level of sensationalist tabloid by publishing the superficial “survey” of Poland by Mr. Lucas. That “survey” was full of factual inaccuracies (for example on airport bus in Warsaw), but there are even more important problems with Mr. Lucas “survey”. For example he did not mention that Balcerowicz's “reforms” resulted in huge unemployment and widespread poverty. In “communist” Poland there was no unemployment and no widespread poverty. So my point is that because of uncritical following of Western advices (including those given in the past by The Economist) , Poland lost approximately 10 years due to severe recession and is even today, after more than 15 years of pro free market reforms, plagued by mass, structural unemployment, poverty, and very unequal distribution of wealth and incomes. This was not even mentioned by Mr. Lucas. The other problem is that he preferred to talk to successful businesspeople, not to ordinary Poles: blue collar workers, small farmers, unemployed and pensioners, i.e. victims of the “transformation”.

Mr. Lucas concentrates on many unimportant things, such as cabinet changes. The important thing is that there are still the old elites in power in Poland. I am afraid that as Mr. Lucas does not know elite theory by Pareto, so he is unable to understand that Mr. Miller and Mr. Kwasniewski were never communists, but only Western-style neoliberals. PZPR (PUWP) was, at least since late 1960s, not a party of communists, but a party of apparatchiks, interested only in power and perks, so it was condemned by the Polish working class, and thus collapsed…

As to Mr. Lepper – unlike what poorly informed Mr. Lucas thinks, the former is a successful, nationalist businessman, and a very intelligent person. Mr. Giertrych is a hard line Catholic and not really bright person, while Ms. Gilowska is a poor quality former expert on political economy of socialism. They are very different people, but Mr. Lucas, because of his limited knowledge of Polish economics and politics, misses the real differences between them.

What is important, and what Mr. Lucas was unable to comprehend, was that Mr. Balcerowicz was a former communist party expert in managing (or rather mismanaging) socialist economy. He was actually employed for many years by the Central Committee of Polish Communist (Workers') Party, so he was a poorly qualified pseudo economist who was allowed to experiment on Polish economy with disastrous effects: 20% unemployment, more than 10 years of severe recession etc.

Finally: The report made by Mr. Lucas is indeed very dangerous, as it was written in good English and published by The Economist. But the main problem with Mr. Lucas is that he knows next to nothing about Poland and the Poles, but feels free to make authoritative judgements on this subject. As I wrote: he assumes, because of his education and background, that the Anglo-Saxon, and thus Germanic-Calvinist culture is superior, and judges every other culture on only one criterion: how closely it resembles his Germanic-British-Calvinist culture.

He also has no understanding of economics; he even does not know what is really measured by GDP (surely not wealth or productivity, but only the level of market activity). He also does not understand the difference between liberal and conservative ideology. I do not know how good his Polish is, but am afraid that rather poor, so it can be another reason why his report was so faulty. Shame on The Economist for such poor choice of their authors... How can I now trust their reports, say on Brazil, a country in which I have never been, if I found so many grave mistakes in Mr. Lucas report on country I know so well? Not that I see myself in shoes of Mr. Lucas, but know many Poles who could do a much, much better job than Mr. Lucas...

In original with full name and address
lech.keller@gmail.com

Kagan said...

SHORTER VERSION
To:letters@economist.com
Copy to: edwardlucas@economist.com

Sir,

Faulty survey of Poland by Mr. Edward Lucas

In my opinion The Economist has lowered its standards to the level of sensationalist tabloid by publishing the superficial “survey” of Poland by Mr. Lucas. That “survey” was full of factual inaccuracies, but there are even more important problems with it. For example it did not mention that Balcerowicz's “reforms” resulted in huge unemployment and widespread poverty. In “communist” Poland there was no unemployment and no widespread poverty. So my point is that because of uncritical following of Western advices (including those given in the past by The Economist) , Poland lost approximately 10 years due to severe recession and is even today, after more than 15 years of pro free market reforms, plagued by mass, structural unemployment, poverty, and very unequal distribution of wealth and incomes. The other problem is that Mr. Lucas preferred to talk to successful businesspeople, not to ordinary Poles: blue collar workers, small farmers, unemployed and pensioners, i.e. the victims of the “transformation”.

Mr. Lucas concentrates on many unimportant things, such as cabinet changes. The important thing is that there are still the old elites in power in Poland. I am afraid that as Mr. Lucas failed to understand that Mr. Miller and Mr. Kwasniewski were never communists, but only Western-style neoliberals. PZPR (PUWP) was, at least since late 1960s, not a party of communists, but a party of apparatchiks, interested only in power and perks, so it was condemned by the Polish working class, and thus collapsed…

What is also very important, and what Mr. Lucas was unable to comprehend, was that Mr. Balcerowicz was a former communist party expert in managing (or rather mismanaging) socialist (“planned”) economy. He was actually employed for many years by the Central Committee of Polish Communist (Workers') Party, so he was a poorly qualified pseudo economist who was allowed to experiment on Polish economy with disastrous effects.

Finally: The report made by Mr. Lucas is indeed very dangerous, as it was written in good English and published by The Economist. But the main problem with Mr. Lucas is that he knows next to nothing about Poland and the Poles, but feels free to make authoritative judgements on this subject. He assumes, because of his education and background, that the Anglo-Saxon, and thus Germanic-Calvinist culture is superior, and judges every other culture on only one criterion: how closely it resembles his Germanic-British-Calvinist culture.

(signed in original)

najt.blek said...

Although I'm just 22 and, contrary to my predecessors, not so well educated yet and probably my English isn't even half as good as theirs, I found the dispute very interesting. I know that it doesn't have a lot to do with the survey but just wanted to say what I learned during a year-long employment in UK.
Kagan wrote:
Anglosaxons, with very few exceptions, are not interested in other cultures, and even if they are interested, they, as a rule, misunderstand them, as they always asume, that their Germanic-Calvinist system of values is superior.
This argument may be well ilustrated by some questions from 30-something English (both men and women) that I faced during my employment eg "Are there any polar bears in Poland?"; "Do you have colour TV?"; "Do Poles have their own language?". These questions, in my point of view, clearly show that Brits (true - not well educated, but I got an impression that it is a general trend) are ignorant about any cultures/countries other than their own. This fact leads to conclusion that they lack some traits that maybe at least useful if not necessary for proper understanding and analysis of situation in Poland.
I also have to disagree with Mr. Lucas' view on Polish universities. In my opinion these institutions provide equally comprehensive education as their western equivalents. Although, it maybe true that they are not run as smoothly as it is done in western Europe. But that is just my impression as I do not have any experience in this matter.
But I think that striking difference in education begins earlier. I've worked in a hotel and most of the staff there haven't done any further education. Yet I was astonished to find out that out of 40 people working in my dept. only 2 agreed that 2 plus 2 times 2 is 6, not 8. Most of them said that Poland must have some different weird maths system because people in UK count from left to right... You might find this argument inappropriate or too infantile for this discussion but I just wanted to ilustrate the general ignorance of people in the UK.
But generally I have to say that I found your survey quite interesting. My fellow countrymen may say that I fail to notice all the mistakes because I am not really well educated, and surely their right. And I have to agree with them that parts of the articles look as if directly written by opposition. Yet I haven't found the survey biased. Still, a phrase "It takes time to become normal" was rather an unfortunate one to use.People that are not really into eastern Europe may think that everyone to the east of the Oder river is some kind of freak resembling this farmer in the photo.
Anyway, many thanks for your work Mr. Lucas as it seems to me that the foreign press, although I don't read much of it due to high prices, hardly ever elaborates on Poland. It's good to know that there are people who try to find out something more about it.
Sincerely,
Maciej Meller

Kagan said...

To Maciej Meleller (najt.blek)

I see that you generally agree with me as to ignorance and arrogance of the Western Europeans. Recently I was attending a conference at the Free University in (former) West Berlin. The conferecne was on Australia, and for the Germans from the West (Wessies) my acent could sound Australian, so they took me for just another Auusie, and were feeling free to say openly what they think about Germans from the former GDR and Poles. I was surprised by the sheer size of their prejudicies (remember, they were higlky educated scholars from a leading West Berlin university). If educates scholars from the leading West Berlin university have such openly racist and xenophobic attitudes to even Eastern Germans (Ossies), so do not be suprprised that they think about Poland as a waste land inhabited by half-naked, wild peasants and polar bears... I remeber a meeting with anoter West German scholar in Poznan - he was surprised that Poznan looks like any other (Western) European city, as he has been told in Germany, that after the Poles took over this city, it was devastated, in ruins etc. He even took with himself a supply of bottled water!
Unfortunately, decades of cold war propaganda are very difficult to reverse. Maybe next generation of Western Europeans will be free of those racial prejudicues againts their fellow Europeans from the East of Oder-Neisse...

Edward Lucas said...

I think my fellow-countrymen's sense of humour may have got the better of them. Telling a foreigner that 2 x 2 is six and that his maths is weird because he counts from left to right sounds like a line from a British television comedy, and I fear that you have been the victim of this rather crude humour.

I still wonder about Polish exceptionalism here. Is Poland uniquely misunderstood, or are all westerner equally ignorant about all non-western countries, or are Brits particularly ignorant, or what?

Kagan said...

1. Maciej Meller wrote that 2 plus 2 times 2 is 6, not 8. In other words 2+2*2=6.
It is rather simple: multiplication is always done FIRST, so it is like 2+(2*2)=2+4=6, not as Mr. Lucas thinks (2+2)*2=4*2=8. I am afraid that Mr. Lucas attended an excellent public (i.e. private, as the English discovered newspeak long time before Orwell wrote his ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’), where he learned excellent English, but maths was a totally neglected subject (higher classes in Britain, as you know, have accountants to count for them)… ;)
2. As I wrote: as the Germans, who live just across a river from Poland, are so ignorant about Poland, so what can you expect from an Islander, parted from mainland Europe by English Channel, much wider that Oder and Neisse taken together. Splendid Isolation was a very British invention, but can have some quite nasty side-effects… You can’t (at the same time) have a cake and eat it. Either you drop your Western prejudices, or refrain from criticising countries and peoples, about which you have no idea at all…

FlyingOko said...

"Prickly Poles" is right. "What a scandal that Australians pronounce their highest peak 'Mount Koskee-uskoe'!" says the same Pole who insists that the most northerly station on the Warsaw Metro is pronounced 'Plats Veelsonuh'. No sense of reciprocity.

Kagan said...

FlyingOko said...
"Prickly Poles" is right. "What a scandal that Australians pronounce their highest peak 'Mount Koskee-uskoe'!" says the same Pole who insists that the most northerly station on the Warsaw Metro is pronounced 'Plats Veelsonuh'. No sense of reciprocity.
1. Aussies pronounce this "Mont Kozyosko", and used to spell it "Kosciusko" instead of "Kosciuszko" (first "s" should be with an accent on the top, anyway). But don't worry, they are going to change it to a more Australian name.
2. That Wilson Square is in Warsaw, Poland, so what do you expect? Poland is not an multicultural country of immigrants, as Australia claims to be!

najt.blek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
najt.blek said...

Edward Lucas said:

I think my fellow-countrymen's sense of humour may have got the better of them. Telling a foreigner that 2 x 2 is six and that his maths is weird because he counts from left to right sounds like a line from a British television comedy, and I fear that you have been the victim of this rather crude humour.
Unfortunately, I cannot agree. I also thought I was a joke. But as the argument intensified I learned that English not only did not realise that they were wrong, but what's more they were far from accepting the right solution. Finally, my arguments were backed by a guy from senior management, who got tricked as well but happened to know a bit more about maths. The rest that opposed me earlier said: 'We don't study maths. We didn't go to uni, you see.' Here it got proper funny, because I thought you can't go through whole college or any other school at similar level, than pass you GCSE or A levels, without knowing at least some maths. As far as I know maths is a core subject, isn't it? And I think that the sequence of operations (or whatever it is called in English) in maths is crucial knowledge needed to do any maths at all. Do I have to mention that these people were dealing with cash...
I don't want to criticise English education system as I don't know much about it. But I'm getting at is that these people refused to accept my explanation just because I was Polish, not English. And that's in my opinion a symptom of some ignorance... Maybe I'm just nit-picking :)
Cconcerning bad education and its consequences: have a look at http://video.google.com and put 'next country to invade' in the searchfield. Play the first from the top. :]

I still wonder about Polish exceptionalism here.
Some older generations think of Poland in these terms, I think. Younger people (at least most of them) don't. Prejudice towards toher nations is also declines because schools provide comprehensive education and there are many cross-cultural happenings taking place. But the truth is that more is done to explain western cultures to Poles than it is to explain eastern cultures to the West. Thus, books on eastern Europe written by westerners are not of very high quality.
Regards,
Maciej Meller

FlyingOko said...

To Kagan:

I've read your posts and find them symptomatic. They remind me of a train journey to Kielce when I was in a compartment with seven people and a political debate broke out. After listening for half an hour or so I said "I now know what you don't want. But what do you actually want? I did not hear any clear views from anyone. So...

Kagan - what are your policies on:
Interest rates - should they be higher or lower?
Zloty - is it too high or too low compared to the euro or dollar?
Taxes - Too high or too low? If too high, where would you cut and how would you plug the budget deficit?
Foreign investment - would you encourage or discourage? If encourage, which sectors would you wish to attract to Poland? If discourage, what alternative forms of employment would you create for Poles?
Free enterprise Do you believe the state has any business to run banks, airlines, hotels, factories etc? If so, do you think it can do so more effectively than the private sector? Do you think that running a small business in Poland should be made easier in terms of the bureaucratic burdens? Do you think more people should be encouraged to start their own businesses? If so how?

I'd be interested to hear your views on the above!

richardlith said...

I would offer this advice to the bloggers here.
1) Lucas' has written a piece of journalism, which never claims to be authoritative.
2) Secondly, he has written a survey, which by definition is not a detailed analysis, but a general impession.
3)Polish exceptionalism is not limited to Poland. In my experience, the layman or woman in every country cannot see how an outsider can understand them (see all the articiles in the British press of "don't the French/Germans thing stange things about us."
4) one of the good things to come out of the recent Polsih emigration to the UK is that they are losing their preconceived ideas that the British are gentlemen, educated, polite, etc. Some British are very well educated, while others are shockingly illiterate. Any Polish scandal has an equivalent in the UK, I promise you.
4) To those who claim that the Austalian can't pronounce Mt Koszciusko properly, Would they please stop spelling London Londyn and Edinburgh Edynburg. Mind yoy, that means that English would have to lose Warsaw and write Warszawa.

najt.blek said...

richardlith said...
...one of the good things to come out of the recent Polsih emigration to the UK is that they are losing their preconceived ideas...
Agree on that one. Before I went to the UK I thought Brits are really reserved, mannered and just love Americans. It all turned out to be false as I met people who were friendly, fun-loving, having insane ideas, not really caring about good manners (though I've served serving some really posh couples as well) and constantly telling rude jokes about Americans.

To flyingoko
If you allow, I'll try to answer some questions as well, living in Poland and being interested in such matters a bit. My knowledge of economics is far from being good or even fair but I'd like to write what sounds reasonable to me.
Interest rates
As my parents used to work in banking sector, dealing with loans, I have some idea of how things look. from the point of common man. The dispute over banks has more to do with how it used to be and how it is now, I think. At the beginnings fo '90s there were 9 so called 'children of NBP' state-owned banks which were prospering very well and' if I think right' thus provided good income. Than in some not really clear circumstances they were privatised. The effects of this decisions were: the state lost the majority shares in all these enterprises, lost both income and control. Later on banks became subsidiaries of large foreign companies. It made them more competetive but it cost many, many people their jobs. That's why not everyone think that Mr. Balcerowicz was such a blessing to Polish economy... And today's interest rates seem to me a bit inadequte (too high that is) if polish inflation rate is much, much lower.
Zloty
This depends on what people do. Since I went to England to earn my living and came back I would like Zloty to be weeker in order to get more from earned quid.
Taxes
A good example of good tax policy seem to be our neighbours such as Czech Republic and Slovakia. Some call them a 'tax paradise'. Their governments lowered the tax rates and simplified the whole system and it proved the right thing to do as new companies have been started, some foreign have moved in and the general rate of taxpayers has risen. The state hasn't actually lost their tax income, it is reported to have had risen.
Foreign investment
That's of course a really complicated matter but as far as I can rely on my observation few things can be said. Foreign investment usually doesn't bring any employment. The example of UniCredito - since they gained control of two very large banks, many of their eomployees were made redundant. But an example of LGE investment in LCD factory or some of automotive industry is clearly a positive one.
Free enterprise
As I mentioned before. State-owned companies proved that they can do at least as well as private ones, employing more people at the same time. Starting a company in Poland is difficult but lately there were some improvements (eg lowering contributions the employer has to pay for each person employed) made in this matters. Reportedly there are some more changes to be made to limit red tape and encourage small business.
Hope it makes any sense. :)
Maciej Meller

Kagan said...

FlyingOko said...
To Kagan: - what are your policies on:
Interest rates - should they be higher or lower?
K: It is not very much relevant. You think in terms of monetary policy, which is inefficient, as it controls only secondary (financial) market. Poland needs EMPLOYMENT policy, to reduce its 20% unemployment rate to at least 5%. Monetary policy alone is unable to achieve it.

Zloty - is it too high or too low compared to the euro or dollar?
K: Definitely to high. It must be devalued ASAP, to encourgae EXPORT, not IMPORT. Poland has current account deficit!

Taxes - Too high or too low? If too high, where would you cut and how would you plug the budget deficit?
K: Taxes are too high for average wage/salary earners, too low for big business. I would cut unecessary military expenditure (scrap unnecessary F-16 program and replace it with lease of jet fighters from Sweden, the Czech way), bring back Polish troops from Iraq, will not finance papal visits, scrap 90% of Polish embassies, scrap senate and post of prime minister (we got a president), scrap political secret police and IPN (thought police) and will not give up to greedy doctors - replace them by cheaper, but frequently better physicians from the former SU.

Foreign investment - would you encourage or discourage? If encourage, which sectors would you wish to attract to Poland?
If discourage, what alternative forms of employment would you create for Poles?
K: Encourage, but mostly in high-tech manufacturing and services. In other areas I will expect foreign companies to pay taxes the same way Polish companies pay.

Free enterprise Do you believe the state has any business to run banks, airlines, hotels, factories etc? If so, do you think it can do so more effectively than the private sector?
K: Yes. They can do it better, if they concentrate on service for customers instead on short term profit.

Do you think that running a small business in Poland should be made easier in terms of the bureaucratic burdens?
K: Of course.

Do you think more people should be encouraged to start their own businesses? If so how?
K: No, they should not. If they want, they should be allowed to open a business, but should not receive any help from taxpayers, as this is against the logic of free enterprise, namely survival of the fittest. So no to bureacratic obstacles (red tape) and no to government assistance to business.

Kagan said...

Just few words on interst rates: obviously they should be low in Poland, firstly to encourage investing in real business instead of investing in, mostly unproductive and speculative, financial market and secondly to lower cost of borrowing for business. And a word of caution: it was just a short answer to questions asked, and in no way can represent a solution to economic problems of Poland... Poland was put in a serious socioeconomic crisis by plainly stupid policies of Balcerowicz and his followers, so it will take much time an effort to fix the damages made by Mr. Balcerowicz & Co.

FlyingOko said...

Interesting responses. If I may venture an observation about Poles (being 100% genetically Polish but UK born)...

Poles have very close ties at family level, and very strong association with the country at the national level, but in between there's a complete and utter lack of trust (mainly as a result of deliberate communist policies to unglue the fabric of society.

Neighbour mistrusts neighbour, driver is inconsiderate of fellow road user, employer mistrusts employee, employee mistrusts employer, tax payer mistrusts tax office, government mistrusts citizen.

Everyone's got a bad word for everyone else. And so the need for ukladziki which gives rise to uklady. 'Do business with those you can trust' - family and friends.

Growing up in socialist Britain under Harold 'Moscow' Wilson and Edward 'Three Day Week' Heath, the appearance of Margaret Thatcher on the scene was a shock. 25 years on, Brits do not question the idea that it's free enterprise that drives the economy not government.

Government more efficient than the private sector at running airlines? Look at BA before and after privatisation. Look at Greek carrier Olympic. A bankrupt joke. Or Alitalia. Hotels - I well recall the shoddy service in the Orbis chain in the early 1990s - unrecognisably better today.

State attempts at running businesses (anyone remember Sealink or British Leyland) were dismal failures in the UK. In Poland, where the temptation to have install political place-men into state enterprises runs high, the chances that they will deliver value to anyone other than political parties is low.

OK - England may not have more than a handful of working coalmines today, but GDP per capita is higher than in France, Germany or Italy, unemployment is around half of what it is in those countries (and a quarter of what it is in Poland) and economic growth is some 50% faster than in the Eurozone.

Markets work better when politicians don't dabble in them.

Edward Lucas said...

I would never defend the idea of the urbane English "dzentelman" as more than a sentimental cliche.

I am sorry that so many of my fellow-countrymen are rude and ignorant about other countries. Maybe our education system is even worse than in, eg America. It's hard to compare. I am sure that it is good for the Poles working in the UK to find that they are better-educated and more hard-working than their local counterparts. Perhaps that will mean they will lose any lingering neuroses about being Polish.

I strongly disagree with Kagan that fiscal policy is the route to full employment. Experience of other countries suggests that micro-economic measures work better (whether Danish or British model is a matter for debate)


I still find Kagan's approach illogical and somewhat insulting. Is he really saying that living on an island and having a protestant culture (supposedly) disqualifies any Brit from making any comment about Poland, ever?

I think it would be good to agree that any journalist from any country has at least the potential to write interestingly about any other country. For those who assert otherwise, the onus is on them to explain why someone from country X is uniquely disqualified from writing about country Y.


On Kagan's curiously neurotic point about langauge: Polish is not that difficult a language (compared to, say, Burmese). There are dozens of Brits in Warsaw who speak it fluently--just go to a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce.

I strongly agree with flyingoko that private enterprise works better than state ownership and I find it baffling that anyone would assert the opposite given the experience of the past 30 years.

Kagan said...

Flying Oko: Interesting responses. If I may venture an observation about Poles (being 100% genetically Polish but UK born). Poles have very close ties at family level, and very strong association with the country at the national level, but in between there's a complete and utter lack of trust (mainly as a result of deliberate communist policies to unglue the fabric of society).
- I’d say something contrary. When I was a student in “communist” Poland there was a lot of trust and cooperation between students. I was recently a visiting professor in several Polish universities and I noticed total lack of that mutual trust and cooperative spirit between students. “Solidarity” would be impossible now, when, thanks to free market capitalism, Polonius Poloni lupus (pardon my very poor Latin, but I have no time to consult proper dictionaries)…

Neighbour mistrusts neighbour, driver is inconsiderate of fellow road user, employer mistrusts employee, employee mistrusts employer, tax payer mistrusts tax office, government mistrusts citizen.
- Only because new system is co corrupted and based on mass theft of public property, that was called in Poland, in the “best” Orwellian tradition, “privatisation”…

Everyone's got a bad word for everyone else. And so the need for ukladziki which gives rise to uklady. 'Do business with those you can trust' - family and friends.
- The same is in the UK. Without proper education, and in UK it means “public” (i.e. private) schools such as Eaton or Harrow you are nobody, even if you own Harrods…

Growing up in socialist Britain under Harold 'Moscow' Wilson and Edward 'Three Day Week' Heath, the appearance of Margaret Thatcher on the scene was a shock. 25 years on, Brits do not question the idea that it's free enterprise that drives the economy not government.
- Because they were totally brainwashed. There is no opposition in UK, only liberal “Labour”, more liberal “Conservatives” and, by definition liberal Liberals. Elections in UK are a parody of democracy because of “winner takes all” system that excludes up to 50% of voters, and a system of whips means that MPs report to the party leaders, NOT to the electorate.

Government more efficient than the private sector at running airlines? Look at BA before and after privatisation. Look at Greek carrier Olympic. A bankrupt joke. Or Alitalia. Hotels - I well recall the shoddy service in the Orbis chain in the early 1990s - unrecognisably better today.
State attempts at running businesses (anyone remember Sealink or British Leyland) were dismal failures in the UK. In Poland, where the temptation to have install political place-men into state enterprises runs high, the chances that they will deliver value to anyone other than political parties is low.
- OK. Explain me why there are not a single British car manufacturing company. Not so long time ago Britain had Jaguar, Leyland and Rolls Royce. None of them is now British and there is no Rover at all. One or two cases of mismanagement do not mean that state sector is by definition always less productive. Look at Enron or WorldCom. Look at Arthur Andersen…

OK - England may not have more than a handful of working coalmines today, but GDP per capita is higher than in France, Germany or Italy, unemployment is around half of what it is in those countries (and a quarter of what it is in Poland) and economic growth is some 50% faster than in the Eurozone.

GDP is not a measure of economic well-being, but only a very superficial measure of market activity. Very poor Cyprus has, “thanks” to money laundering higher GDP per capita then Poland, but lower real standard of living.
According to UN: GDP encompasses the production of marketed goods and services, which includes both those that enhance welfare and those which detract from it. It measures the services of government at cost and includes subsistence output of farmers only to the extent it is imputed, and other household production, in particular that of women, only if it is sold and in practice not even then. Informal sector output is not included at all. Aggregate figures for GDP and averages for GDP per capita provide no information about the distribution of income or the economic benefits different groups in society may gain from economic growth. It says nothing about conditions of work, satisfaction gained on the job, the degree of participation in national life of different groups in society or other important dimensions of development such as demographic characteristics and political arrangements. International comparisons suffer from the failure of the exchange rate to reflect adequately the relative purchasing power of currencies over domestic goods and services. Studies of alternative methods of comparing GDP among countries based on the purchasing power parities of currencies indicate that conventional exchange rate translations may overstate significantly the relative economic distance between high- and low-income countries, as is illustrated by the fact that no one could survive in industrial countries on the incomes estimated for survival in poorer countries. (United Nations: Overall Socio-economic Perspective of the World Economy to the Year 2000 (New York: UN, 1990 p. 21)

Kagan said...

2) To Edward Lucas:
EL: I would never defend the idea of the urbane English "dzentelman" as more than a sentimental cliche.
- OK. It was not my comment. I learned about English football hooligans very long time ago. It is, obviously, a by-product of a very sick British class system…

I am sorry that so many of my fellow-countrymen are rude and ignorant about other countries. Maybe our education system is even worse than in, e.g. America. It's hard to compare. I am sure that it is good for the Poles working in the UK to find that they are better-educated and more hard-working than their local counterparts. Perhaps that will mean they will lose any lingering neuroses about being Polish.
- Unfortunately, Poles are discriminated in UK. They have very good qualifications but are employed mostly in menial, low paid jobs. This is an example of racially-based discrimination that is tolerated by the so-called labour government. Shame, Britain, a very big shame! 

I strongly disagree with Kagan that fiscal policy is the route to full employment. Experience of other countries suggests that micro-economic measures work better (whether Danish or British model is a matter for debate).
- Microeconomic measures do not work. There is strong statistical evidence that they either do not work at all or have only marginal effects.. Simply the real extent of unemployment is hidden by manipulating unemployment statistics. For example” Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that the real level of unemployment in Commonwealth of Australia is closer to 20% that to official 5%...

I still find Kagan's approach illogical and somewhat insulting. Is he really saying that living on an island and having a protestant culture (supposedly) disqualifies any Brit from making any comment about Poland, ever?
- Disqualifies only from making authoritative, unqualified comments. I found your attitude arrogant…

I think it would be good to agree that any journalist from any country has at least the potential to write interestingly about any other country. For those who assert otherwise, the onus is on them to explain why someone from country X is uniquely disqualified from writing about country Y.
- Again. You could publish it as your own impressions from a short journey to Poland, but NOT as an authoritative SURVEY!

On Kagan's curiously neurotic point about langauge: Polish is not that difficult a language (compared to, say, Burmese). There are dozens of Brits in Warsaw who speak it fluently--just go to a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce.
- They think that they speak fluently Polish… I know most of them. Their Polish is tolerated, as they are persons of power and influence. But their Polish is below even the lowest standards… :(

I strongly agree with flyingoko that private enterprise works better than state ownership and I find it baffling that anyone would assert the opposite given the experience of the past 30 years.
- You were so strongly brainwashed and indoctrinated that you take as a dogma that “private is always better than public”. But empirical evidence tells us that private enterprise wastes limited resources on such illogical and irrational activities as marketing of unnecessary, and even harming products or services (such as tobacco, alcohol, “sexual services” that can leave you with AIDS and so on). Free market capitalism is , for example, very good in producing tasty tooth paste, but very inefficient in providing good education for all, as we can see in UK and in the US…

Kagan said...

I see that my comments disappeared from your blog and that my leteter to publisher was not printed by the Economist. In the West it is called "freedom of speech"... :(

Kagan said...

OK. My comments are here again. Interesting that sometimes I can see them, and sometimes not. But what about my letter to the Editor? Maybe Poland was not so important subject for him (her)?

richardlith said...

I fear that my little comment about dzentlemeny has got us off the point a bit. This is meant to be about Poland, not the failings of the UK (about which there are million of blogs out there). One insight could be that many, many people from all over the world have knowledge of the UK and can make comments about it, whereas relatively few know anything about Poland. Therefore, when article's like Mr Lucas' are published, they create a stir among Poles.
Secondly, a major theme of the criticism is that a Briton like Lucas cannot possibly know anything about Poland, and therefore his criticism is invald. However, Britons are even more critical of their own country. For example, Lucas criticises the buses in Poland, but it was mild compared to what the media say about public transport in Britian.
Thirdly, it should not really be relevent where Lucas comes from. He is just a foreign journalist giving his impressions.

Kagan said...

richardlith said: I fear that my little comment about dzentlemeny has got us off the point a bit. This is meant to be about Poland, not the failings of the UK (about which there are million of blogs out there). One insight could be that many, many people from all over the world have knowledge of the UK and can make comments about it, whereas relatively few know anything about Poland.
- OK. But I can write that fotball hooliganism in Britain is a consequence of British class system, deprivation of working class etc. This is a fact. Poverty in UK may look like luxury for an average Indian, but remains poverty... I used to live in UK. I saw slums of East London, Warford or Bradford...

Therefore, when article's like Mr Lucas' are published, they create a stir among Poles.
- No, they create stir because they are higly incurate and biased, but are published by THE ECONOMIST that advertises itself as an
"Authoritative weekly newspaper focusing on international politics and business news and opinion".
http://www.economist.com/

Secondly, a major theme of the criticism is that a Briton like Lucas cannot possibly know anything about Poland, and therefore his criticism is invalid. However, Britons are even more critical of their own country. For example, Lucas criticises the buses in Poland, but it was mild compared to what the media say about public transport in Britian.
- Because public transport in Britain is in very bad shape, as for the leading European country! Again, this is a consequence of British class systems, as the British upper classes never use public transport with exception of first class seats in planes and in long distance express (premium) trains. In UK there are even separate 1st class waiting rooms so higher classes do not have to mix with inferior people while waiting for a train.

Thirdly, it should not really be relevent where Lucas comes from. He is just a foreign journalist giving his impressions.
- But the Britons are the most ignorant (in Europe) of other cultures because (somehow this is absurdal, but true) of long colonial tradition ("white man burden" but also "beyond the English Channel are only frog-eaters, krauts, bolsheviks and generally barbarians, niggers and other wogs")... :(

FlyingOko said...

Kagan says: "But empirical evidence tells us that private enterprise wastes limited resources on such illogical and irrational activities as marketing of unnecessary"

Mr Kagan - let the consumer decide what he wants or does not want to buy. Your statement reeks of years of communist indoctrination. Do you remember trying to buy toothpaste in PRL? If you were lucky enough to find any it would taste of chalk. Flavoured toothpaste is indeed illogical, irrational and a waste or resources.

The battle for the soul of Poland will be fought on demographic grounds. Each year some 400,000 young people reach voting age. Each year some 400,000 elderly Poles die.

Kagan said...

FlyingOko said:
Kagan says: "But empirical evidence tells us that private enterprise wastes limited resources on such illogical and irrational activities as marketing of unnecessary"

Mr Kagan - let the consumer decide what he wants or does not want to buy. Your statement reeks of years of communist indoctrination.
- NO! Its is your comment that is a result of years of capitalist indoctrination and brain washing. Marketing is mostly about creating wants for products and services for which there is no need, and which are frequently harmful, such as tobacco and alcohol... You have conveniently cut my post... Dr Goebbels would be proud of you tactics! :(

Do you remember trying to buy toothpaste in PRL? If you were lucky enough to find any it would taste of chalk. Flavoured toothpaste is indeed illogical, irrational and a waste or resources.
- In PRL I do not remember shortage of tooth paste. And I agree - adding flavour to toothpaste is a terrible waste of scarce resources...

The battle for the soul of Poland will be fought on demographic grounds. Each year some 400,000 young people reach voting age. Each year some 400,000 elderly Poles die.
- Poland is overpopulated. Optimal population for Poland is around 30 millions. Today not quantity but quality of population matters. China is proud that it is reducing its population.

Kagan said...

And PS: in Poland there is over 3 millions of unemployed, thanks to Messrs Walesa, Mazowiecki, Balcerowicz et al. Most of Polish unemployment is structural. So Poland does not need such a large population, if it is unable to provide work to all Poles who want to work. So why Polish parents should produce future unemployed? If there is no job security, no intelligent person will be going to have children...

FlyingOko said...

Mr Kagan - are you right wing or left wing? In the UK or US, you'd be suspected of being a raving Trotskyite. However, given your issue with Balcerowicz's PZPR past, I'd guess in Polish terms, you are right wing.

This is part of the problem with the way the Anglo-Saxon world reports Poland - it's impossible to tag its politics in a conventional Anglo-Saxon way. In recent weeks I've seen Samoobrona being defined as a 'left wing populist party' and a 'right wing populist party.

A better way of understanding Polish politics is along a two-axis grid, with a horizontal axis showing (left) tolerance of foreign ideas, a pro-EU stance, social liberalism and secularism. Showing (right) would be traditional values, nationalism, clericalism, and moralism.
A vertical axis would have (up) economic liberalism and (down) statism and redistributionism economics.

Mr Kagan - would you agree with this analysis?

Kagan said...

FlyingOko said: Mr Kagan - are you right wing or left wing? In the UK or US, you'd be suspected of being a raving Trotskyite.
- Believe mi or not, I have never been a member of any political party, especially communist one (incl. maoist, trostskyist etc.). I suspect that you are extreme liberal, i.e. de facto anarchist... ;)

However, given your issue with Balcerowicz's PZPR past, I'd guess in Polish terms, you are right wing.
- You got a sense of humour! :)

This is part of the problem with the way the Anglo-Saxon world reports Poland - it's impossible to tag its politics in a conventional Anglo-Saxon way. In recent weeks I've seen Samoobrona being defined as a 'left wing populist party' and a 'right wing populist party'.
- Samoobrona has left-wing social program and right-wing economic program... Old classifications to "left" and "right" are now irrelevant. British Labour and Australian Labor are now de facto neoliberal... (ALP=Alternative Liberal Party, no longer Australian Labor Party) ;)

A better way of understanding Polish politics is along a two-axis grid, with a horizontal axis showing (left) tolerance of foreign ideas, a pro-EU stance, social liberalism and secularism. Showing (right) would be traditional values, nationalism, clericalism, and moralism.
- But I will be here, as electron, in two places simultaneously, as I am secular but nationalistic, pro EU, but anti gay!

A vertical axis would have (up) economic liberalism and (down) statism and redistributionism economics.
- Here I am for state intervention (neo-Keynesism).

Mr Kagan - would you agree with this analysis?
- Yes and no. See above - again too simplistic. Good for 1st year students, but not for practitioners...
Any way, nice to discuss with you! :)

FlyingOko said...

Here's the nub of the problem in Poland; the electorate feel comfortable with promises of some statism and redistribution - but who can they trust to do it?

The ding-dong politics of the past 15 years in which no ruling party has ever been re-elected is the result. Governments consisting of parties from either side of the pre-1989 fault line get into power by promising some form of socialism, failng to deliver, then getting roundly turfed out of office four years later.

Unemployment remains the highest in the EU, motorways remain unbuilt, and in each successive Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International, Poland slips further and further down the ranking.

All I'm asking for is for a Polish government to follow best practice in fiscal, social and business policy from exemplars such as Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Slovakia etc, countries that have dramatically turned themselves around in terms of jobs growth, GDP, inward investment and good governance.

At the end of the day its businesses - run by entrepreneurs - that create value, jobs and growth. NOT government. If you believe otherwise, please name countries that have are succeeding economically (low unemployment, high growth) that have avowed statist interventionist policies.

FlyingOko said...

A final comment from myself (if anyone wishes to continue please do so over at my blog site).

Poles love to complain. 'Narzekanie' is universal. Poles at bus stops complain habitually complain about the government, about corruption, lack of decent infrastructure, the capricious interpretations of the tax authorities - but heavens forfend some foreigner dares to say the same things - then Poles take umbrage. Taking umbrage (obrazalstwo) is another national characteristic of Poles. Taking it personally.

I'd just like to say, having heard Edward Lucas make an after dinner speech in almost faultless Polish - having studied in Krakow - that the Economist could not have hoped for a better informed, more astute observer of Poland to write the survey.

Kagan said...

FlyingOko said:
Here's the nub of the problem in Poland; the electorate feel comfortable with promises of some statism and redistribution - but who can they trust to do it?
- Practically every electorate is against privatisation. So privatisation is usually done by stealth. If “S” was clear that its program was large scale privatisation and mass unemployment, it would never win elections in Poland!

The ding-dong politics of the past 15 years in which no ruling party has ever been re-elected is the result. Governments consisting of parties from either side of the pre-1989 fault line get into power by promising some form of socialism, failing to deliver, then getting roundly turfed out of office four years later.
- Professional politicians, as a rule, always lie…

Unemployment remains the highest in the EU, motorways remain unbuilt, and in each successive Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International, Poland slips further and further down the ranking.
- Transparency International is not reliable. In Australia even judges are totally corrupted (case of Ms Hanson, political prisoner), but this is not taken under consideration by TI… 

All I'm asking for is for a Polish government to follow best practice in fiscal, social and business policy from exemplars such as Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Slovakia etc, countries that have dramatically turned themselves around in terms of jobs growth, GDP, inward investment and good governance.
- As I wrote before: GDP is only a measure of market activity, so has low correlation to material well being… Estonia and Slovakia are racist countries, with inglorious past (collaboration with Nazis), so are very bad examples!

At the end of the day its businesses - run by entrepreneurs - that create value, jobs and growth. NOT government. If you believe otherwise, please name countries that have are succeeding economically (low unemployment, high growth) that have avowed statist interventionist policies.
- USA during the presidency of F.D.R. Germany 1933-1939 (later failed only because of aggression on Poland). China (PRC) in present day. Singapore. Enough?


FlyingOko said: A final comment from myself (if anyone wishes to continue please do so over at my blog site). Poles love to complain. 'Narzekanie' is universal. Poles at bus stops complain habitually complain about the government, about corruption, lack of decent infrastructure, the capricious interpretations of the tax authorities - but heavens forfend some foreigner dares to say the same things - then Poles take umbrage. Taking umbrage (obrazalstwo) is another national characteristic of Poles. Taking it personally.
- It is better than attitude in, for example, Greece, where no one is able to see, that things are in a very bad shape. Better to be critical than accept rather bad situation as normal.

I'd just like to say, having heard Edward Lucas make an after dinner speech in almost faultless Polish - having studied in Krakow - that the Economist could not have hoped for a better informed, more astute observer of Poland to write the survey.
- I understand that you have some important reasons to write that commercial for E. L.

FlyingOko said...

Kagan said - "Practically every electorate is against privatisation". Explain then the popularity of the PKO BP privatisation. As a client of this bank, I must say it's a whole lot better today than it was several years ago when I moved to Poland! It's online banking facilities are superior to many UK banks.

Why do you insist that politicians (who as you say "as a rule, always lie") are better at running assets than professional managers?

Kagan said: Transparency International is not reliable.

It's the best measure there is. Poland's been in the CPI ranking since 1996 (when it was the cleanest post-communist country, and cleaner than three members of the EU 15). Since then, it's gone down in every single ranking - regardless of who's been in power. Take a look: http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi


Kagan said: "GDP is only a measure of market activity, so has low correlation to material well being"

OK - then just look at unemployment.

Kagan said (replying to my challenged to name countries with avowed statist interventionist policiesthat have are succeeding economically).
- USA during the presidency of F.D.R. Germany 1933-1939 (later failed only because of aggression on Poland). China (PRC) in present day. Singapore. Enough?

Very poor examples. The USA's economy only really got going after Pearl Harbor. FDR never nationalised anything. Nazi Germany? Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_reich#Economic_policy . PRC? Slave labour with one kidney? No thanks. Singapore - decidely free enterprise model. (OK you can't chew gum without a doctor's prescription).

I'd give you Cuba, North Korea, Turmenistan and Zimbabwe as examples of state intervention gone wrong. Free market democracies don't go wrong. The voter and the consumer see to that.


Kagan said- "[incessent complaining]... is a better attitude than in, for example, Greece, where no one is able to see, that things are in a very bad shape. Better to be critical than accept rather bad situation as normal."

I don't disagree with you there. I just challenge Poles' monopoly to criticise negative aspects of Poland.

Kagan said
"I understand that you have some important reasons to write that commercial for E. L."

How symptomatic. Because I happen to share a world-view with E. L., I happen to be part of a larger conspiracy involving kick-backs. That's just pathetic.

Kagan said...

Kagan said: "Practically every electorate is against privatisation".
FlyingOko said: Explain then the popularity of the PKO BP privatisation. As a client of this bank, I must say it's a whole lot better today than it was several years ago when I moved to Poland! It's online banking facilities are superior to many UK banks.
- What do you mean by “popularity of the PKO BP privatisation”? That was a very badly managed bank. But in Australia I remember State Bank of Victoria that was the best bank in Australia. Unfortunately, it was run down by the government, who decided to privatise it, as neoliberal orthodoxy did not allow government to run a commercial bank, even if it was run better by the state government than by the private sector… Again, you gave only one example, and I gave you a contrary example. Remember, that privatisation of railways in UK by Thatcher resulted in numerous accidents and deaths. It is symptomatic, that Thatcher was not sentenced for causing so many unnecessary deaths… :( As you see, privatisation frequently means manslaughter… :(

Why do you insist that politicians (who as you say "as a rule, always lie") are better at running assets than professional managers?
- There are not politicians, who run state-owned enterprises, but professional managers. And do not take my words out of context, as this is dishonest. I clearly wrote that politicians always lie before elections, but you have taken it out of this context…

Kagan said: Transparency International is not reliable.
FlyingOko said: It's the best measure there is. Poland's been in the CPI ranking since 1996 (when it was the cleanest post-communist country, and cleaner than three members of the EU 15). Since then, it's gone down in every single ranking - regardless of who's been in power. Take a look: http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi
- Again: as I wrote – TI is not a reliable source of information, as it is heavily biased against any form of non-western democracy and it does not notice high level of corruption in such countries as Australia or UK. Poland has many corrupted government officials, and this is obvious, but, in my opinion, it is less corrupt than, for example, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Germany, UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia (I know those countries very well, as I used to live and work it them). OK: Scandinavian countries and Switzerland are cleaner than Poland, but as to the rest of the world, I would be more cautious than you and TI.

Kagan said: "GDP is only a measure of market activity, so has low correlation to material well being"
FlyingOko said: OK - then just look at unemployment.
- Again: I agree that unemployment in Poland is very high, as a result of failed reforms commenced and mismanaged by Balcerowicz & Co. But Australian Bureau of Statistics openly admits, that REAL level of unemployment in Australia is not official 5%, but is close to 20%. And the same is truth for other countries. If Australia or US had really so low unemployment (5% means that only 2%-3% are unemployed, as 1-2% are always so called frictional i.e. short term unemployment), then it would be no restriction for Poles who would like to work there…

Kagan said (replying to my challenged to name countries with avowed statist interventionist policies that have are succeeding economically) : USA during the presidency of F.D.R. Germany 1933-1939 (later failed only because of aggression on Poland). China (PRC) in present day. Singapore. Enough?

FlyingOko said: Very poor examples. The USA's economy only really got going after Pearl Harbor. FDR never nationalised anything.
K: Really? What about gold and foreign currency that were nationalized by FDR? What about taking private sector under strict government control during the war? OK, there was no formal (legal) transfer of ownership (as was also the case in Nazi Germany), but the state took EFFECTIVE control of economy!

Nazi Germany? Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_reich#Economic_policy
K: Again. Wikipedia is not an authoritative source in area of economics. And see my comments for the US.

PRC? Slave labour with one kidney? No thanks
- PRC is the most dynamically developing economy in the world. I understand that it is hard for you to accept it, but his is the fact. I was in China and saw it with my own eyes. And OK, there is still a lot of poverty in China, but it is the same as in the US: very close to White House there are huge slum areas of Washington DC…

Singapore - decidedly free enterprise model. (OK you can't chew gum without a doctor's prescription).
- Singapore is a classic example of police, totalitarian state. State controls everything: from sale of chewing gum to investment, banking etc.

FlyingOko said: I'd give you Cuba, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe as examples of state intervention gone wrong. Free market democracies don't go wrong. The voter and the consumer see to that.
K: Primo - Cuba does very well, and would do much better if not US embargo. Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe are just two isolated cases when dictators gone mad, so they prove nothing. North Korea is a very special case (last Stalinist dictatorship) and it is a result of US aggression on Korea in the 1950s. Without that aggression, Stalinist would never be in power in N. Korea. Secundo – voting changes nothing. Voters are manipulated, and results of elections are simply falsified (as in case of the latest referendum in Montenegro). Remember what has happened when the left won in Chile? There was an instant intervention by CIA…

Kagan said- "[incessent complaining]... is a better attitude than in, for example, Greece, where no one is able to see, that things are in a very bad shape. Better to be critical than accept rather bad situation as normal."
FlyingOko said: I don't disagree with you there. I just challenge Poles' monopoly to criticise negative aspects of Poland.
K: OK. But the critic must be better informed than E.L.

Kagan said: "I understand that you have some important reasons to write that commercial for E. L."
FlyingOko said: How symptomatic. Because I happen to share a world-view with E. L., I happen to be part of a larger conspiracy involving kick-backs. That's just pathetic.
K: Not necessary. I just found it very strange that you wrote such a commercial for E.L. after my devastating critique of his “survey”, that’s all…

FlyingOko said...

Kagan said: "privatisation of railways in UK by Thatcher"

She'd been out of office for four years before rail privatisation had begun.

It is symptomatic, that Thatcher was not sentenced for causing so many unnecessary deaths

Symptomatic of your lack of knowledge.


Kagan said: ...not politicians, who run state-owned enterprises, but professional managers.

And who hires these professional managers? The "lying politicians". Look at what happens after every Polish general election. One lot gets in, sacks the senior management running state enterprises for no other reason than because they were put into office by the outgoing government.

Kagan wrote TI is not a reliable source of information, as it is heavily biased against any form of non-western democracy and it does not notice high level of corruption in such countries as Australia or UK. Poland has many corrupted government officials, and this is obvious, but, in my opinion, it is less corrupt than, for example, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Germany, UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia

Kagan - if you think for ONE SECOND that Poland is less corrupt than New Zealand or the UK, I very much doubt if I can continuing arguing away with you. This is willful ignorance. What has happened in the UK over the past three years that can compare with Rywingate, Lapinski & Nauman at the Health Ministry, Kaczmarek at the Treasury, Peczak, Starachowice, the Lodz ambulance 'headhunters', the Lodzkie Voivodship Environmental fund, the Afera Paliwowa, the systematic match-rigging in Polish football, numerous documented cases of prosecutors and judges being bought off by criminals... I could go on... I challenge you to name as many PROVEN cases of corruption in the UK (or New Zealand ha ha!)

Kagan said: unemployment in Poland is very high, as a result of failed reforms commenced and mismanaged by Balcerowicz & Co.

... Being who? The governments of Mazowiecki, Bielecki, Olszewski, Pawlak, Suchocka, Oleksy, Cimoszewicz, Buzek, Miller, Belka and Marcinkiewicz. Premiers representing most shades of mainstream political thought. And still we have 18% unemployment and hardly any motorways.

Kagan - I can't say anything about Australia, having never been there, but the reason the US had with its low unemployment restricts its labour market is because opening it up to Latinos does not play well to blue collar voters. The UK opened its labour market fully to Poles instantly after accession. Compare that to statist France.


Kagan said: "Wikipedia is not an authoritative source in area of economics."

What is? Name me a good website that is authoritative in economics?

Many people with axes to grind dislike Wikipedia with its policy of NPOV (neutral point of view)

Kagan said: PRC is the most dynamically developing economy in the world. I understand that it is hard for you to accept it

I accept China's growth. I've talked to entrepreneurs who've been there are are doing business there; they say the government understands the importance of entrepreneurialism and low bureaucratic barriers to business. However, it's a one-party state and a long way from my definition of a free society.

- Singapore is a classic example of police, totalitarian state.

It might not be the freest democracy on earth, but it's the least corrupt place in Asia.

FlyingOko said: I'd give you Cuba, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe as examples of state intervention gone wrong. Free market democracies don't go wrong. The voter and the consumer see to that.
Kagan: North Korea it is a result of US aggression on Korea in the 1950s. Without that aggression, Stalinist would never be in power in N. Korea.

OK - I get where you're coming from.

...elections are simply falsified (as in case of the latest referendum in Montenegro)...

Kagan said- "[incessent complaining]... is a better attitude than in, for example, Greece, where no one is able to see, that things are in a very bad shape. Better to be critical than accept rather bad situation as normal."
FlyingOko said: I don't disagree with you there. I just challenge Poles' monopoly to criticise negative aspects of Poland.
K: OK. But the critic must be better informed than E.L.

Kagan said: "I understand that you have some important reasons to write that commercial for E. L."
FlyingOko said: How symptomatic. Because I happen to share a world-view with E. L., I happen to be part of a larger conspiracy involving kick-backs. That's just pathetic.
K: Not necessary. I just found it very strange that you wrote such a commercial for E.L. after my devastating critique of his “survey”, that’s all…

I don't rate your critique as 'devastating'. More as tendentious.

Kagan said: I was recently a visiting professor in several Polish universities

I've just spotted this. AAARRRGHHH! How on earth was this allowed to happen :-)

Edward Lucas said...

Just a few comments. I am grateful to flyingoko for his defence of me.

For a start, nobody has deleted his posts, and the reason that his letter has not been published is that no letters have been published about the survey. We normally wait a few weeks for them all to come in, and then the letters editor makes a selection.

I am baffled that Kagan thinks that the survey could be published as a travelogue but not as an "authoritative survey". That's just part and parcel of the way that Economist does things. He should really be grateful that they have a correspondent who speaks Polish at all--the last two surveys of Poland were written by journalists who had scarcely visited the country at all.
I feel that what he is really saying is that he doesn't like western journalism in general. In which case he should say so, and stop whinging about me and the Economist.

I think there is no point in arguing the merits of capitalism and communism. If anyone really thinks life was freer and more prosperous under the old system, then nothing I say is going to change their minds.

However, I would like to challenge the assertion that Britain is discriminating against Poles. This is a strong charge and requires elaboration. I would ask

1) Is Britain discriminating just against Poles, or against all "east Europeans"? If yes, then why? If not, then the second question is

2) Is Britain discriminating against east Europeans only or against all foreigners? If yes, then why? If no, then

3) Is Britain uniquely racist/xenophobic? If yes, then why? If not, then the whole charge falls apart.

I would argue that having opened the labour market to up to 1m workers from the CEE region is unlikely to be a sign of entrenched xenophobia.

I really find it hard to see how Kagan can sustain the idea that he has made a "devestating" critique of my survey. He has spotted some minor errors, but his main argument seems to be that as a Brit I cannot possibly speak Polish; that in fact no Brits speak Polish; that my cultural conditioning disqualifies me, like all other Brits. from making any worthwhile comment on the situation in Poland. And so on and so forth. That sounds to me suspiciously like my stereotypical prickly Pole. In fact I am beginning to wonder if Kagan really exists, or whether he is in fact one of my friends playing a clever practical joke on me. In which case, Robert (or whoever it is) well done. You really had me fooled.

Perhaps on that note we should lay this discussion to rest.

FlyingOko said...

Sorry Kagan old chap - you're quite welcome to lecture Poland's youth about the writings of Lem. Just don't stray onto economics! (Warsaw School of Economics? surely the Chief School of State Planning SGPiS)

FlyingOko said...

Edward - Kagan aka Lech Keller does exist.

http://mywebpage.netscape.com/ljkel2/

The Internet's a wonderful thing. A few minute's research and I can see that the guy can be characterised as a 'awanturniczy grizipior', a regular visitor to forums and blogs, where he bangs on about Poles in Australia, the Australian government (type "Keller v Commonwealth" into Google) believers, economic liberals or homosexuals. Steeped in the bitterness that possesses his generation, born into Stalinism, he may appear be isolated and eccentric, but the baggage he carries is there on the shoulders of many Poles of his age.

Ignore him and he will eventually go away.

Kagan said...

Kagan said: "privatisation of railways in UK by Thatcher is an example of criminal activity resulting in deaths”
OKO: She'd been out of office for four years before rail privatisation had begun.
- But she has started it. Major was only continuing…

K: It is symptomatic, that Thatcher was not sentenced for causing so many unnecessary deaths
Oko: Symptomatic of your lack of knowledge.
K: What lack of knowledge? Railway accidents in UK and Germany are closely linked to savings on repairs and maintenance, resulted from attempts to improve short term financial results in order to make rail companies more attractive for private investors. And those savings cost many human deaths and injuries. This is the true story about attempts to rail privatisation in UK and Germany…

Kagan said: ...not politicians, who run state-owned enterprises, but professional managers.
Oko: And who hires these professional managers? The "lying politicians". Look at what happens after every Polish general election. One lot gets in, sacks the senior management running state enterprises for no other reason than because they were put into office by the outgoing government.
- The same happens in the US and almost every country. I do not say that this is perfect, but it can be healthy, as rotation of executives is usually a good thing.

Kagan wrote TI is not a reliable source of information, as it is heavily biased against any form of non-western democracy and it does not notice high level of corruption in such countries as Australia or UK. Poland has many corrupted government officials, and this is obvious, but, in my opinion, it is less corrupt than, for example, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Germany, UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia
Oko: Kagan - if you think for ONE SECOND that Poland is less corrupt than New Zealand or the UK, I very much doubt if I can continuing arguing away with you. This is wilful ignorance. What has happened in the UK over the past three years that can compare with Rywingate, Lapinski & Nauman at the Health Ministry, Kaczmarek at the Treasury, Peczak, Starachowice, the Lodz ambulance 'headhunters', the Lodzkie Voivodship Environmental fund, the Afera Paliwowa, the systematic match-rigging in Polish football, numerous documented cases of prosecutors and judges being bought off by criminals... I could go on... I challenge you to name as many PROVEN cases of corruption in the UK (or New Zealand ha ha!)
K: Because in Poland, those affairs were openly discussed, while in UK the government decided to start a war with Iraq without consulting the nation. OK, this was also the case in Poland, but in Poland there is, at least, an open discussion and newspapers write about corruption on the highest levels, while in UK the secret service murders everyone who leaks truth to the media (remember that unfortunate scientist killed by British secret service for telling the press the truth?). What about selling of titles by the current Labour government? Of course, in UK judges are so corrupt, that there is no chance that any case of high level corruption will be confirmed by the British “justice” system. As to NZ: situation there is very similar to UK, but remember that population of NZ is much less than Great London, so the scale of corruption is much smaller than in UK.

Kagan said: unemployment in Poland is very high, as a result of failed reforms commenced and mismanaged by Balcerowicz & Co.
OKO: ... Being who? The governments of Mazowiecki, Bielecki, Olszewski, Pawlak, Suchocka, Oleksy, Cimoszewicz, Buzek, Miller, Belka and Marcinkiewicz. Premiers representing most shades of mainstream political thought. And still we have 18% unemployment and hardly any motorways.
K: This is my point. Governments changed frequently since 1989, but the same corrupt, postcommunist and “Solidarity” elites were in power, Balcerowicz disastrous policies were continued, Balcerowicz is still in a key economic (financial) position, and silly ideas that motorways should be built by private sector resulted is so few motorways. Private sector is interested only in “fast buck”, not in long term investments in infrastructure…

OKO: Kagan - I can't say anything about Australia, having never been there, but the reason the US had with its low unemployment restricts its labour market is because opening it up to Latinos does not play well to blue collar voters. The UK opened its labour market fully to Poles instantly after accession. Compare that to statist France.
K: In France there better working conditions than in UK. And US blue collar workers are not afraid of new immigrants from Europe, as those immigrants become quickly Americans, and soon demand better wages, while Latino immigrants will never become Americans and are happy with the lowest wages.

Kagan said: "Wikipedia is not an authoritative source in area of economics."
O: What is? Name me a good website that is authoritative in economics?
K: There is no single authority in economics. You should read a book about history of economic thought (there is a very good one by recently deceased prof. Galbraith) so you will learn, that there is no single “economic science” but many schools, and there are fundamental differences between them. Only THE ECONOMIST and WALL STREET JOURNAL try to hide the truth and tell the readers that there is only one, neoliberal, economics…

O: Many people with axes to grind dislike Wikipedia with its policy of NPOV (neutral point of view)
K: OK. But it is only an attempt. Wikipedia is strongly Western-liberal…

O: Kagan said: PRC is the most dynamically developing economy in the world. I understand that it is hard for you to accept it

O: I accept China's growth. I've talked to entrepreneurs who've been there are doing business there; they say the government understands the importance of entrepreneurialism and low bureaucratic barriers to business. However, it's a one-party state and a long way from my definition of a free society.
K: Do you regard US society as a free, with so high % of prisoners and such huge distance between the top 1% and the rest of society? Why do you assume that liberal democracy is the best system? Don’t you see limitations of this liberal-democratic system, such as lack of long-term vision and primacy of interest of small ruling elites over the interest of the great majority of population?

K: Singapore is a classic example of police, totalitarian state.
O: It might not be the freest democracy on earth, but it's the least corrupt place in Asia.
K: How do you know? There is no free press in Singapore…

FlyingOko said: I'd give you Cuba, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe as examples of state intervention gone wrong. Free market democracies don't go wrong. The voter and the consumer see to that.
Kagan: North Korea it is a result of US aggression on Korea in the 1950s. Without that aggression, Stalinist would never be in power in N. Korea.
OK - I get where you're coming from.
K: ??? Please also notice that South Korea is an example of successful state intervention in economy. All big business in S. Korea is controlled by the government, using a Japanese model of MITI (superministry of economy)…

K:...elections (in the West and its dependencies) are simply falsified (as in case of the latest referendum in Montenegro)... EU wanted 55%, so the result was 55.5%!
(…)
Kagan said: "I understand that you have some important reasons to write that commercial for E. L."
FlyingOko said: How symptomatic. Because I happen to share a world-view with E. L., I happen to be part of a larger conspiracy involving kick-backs. That's just pathetic.
K: Not necessary. I just found it very strange that you wrote such a commercial for E.L. after my devastating critique of his “survey”, that’s all…
O: I don't rate your critique as 'devastating'. More as tendentious.
K: Just your own judgement. My is totally different…
(Will be cont.)

Kagan said...

Kagan said: I was recently a visiting professor in several Polish universities
O: I've just spotted this. AAARRRGHHH! How on earth was this allowed to happen :-)
K: Typical attack ad personam. Be ashamed of yourself. You are intolerant of any other ideas than your own, and are using unfair tactics such as attack ad personam…

Edward Lucas said...
Just a few comments. I am grateful to flyingoko for his defence of me.
K: Is “flyingoko” your alter ego? I’m afraid that he is…

EL: For a start, nobody has deleted his posts, and the reason that his letter has not been published is that no letters have been published about the survey. We normally wait a few weeks for them all to come in, and then the letters editor makes a selection.
K: OK. Let me see it…

EL: I am baffled that Kagan thinks that the survey could be published as a travelogue but not as an "authoritative survey". That's just part and parcel of the way that Economist does things. He should really be grateful that they have a correspondent who speaks Polish at all--the last two surveys of Poland were written by journalists who had scarcely visited the country at all.
K: OK. “The Economist” tries to rise its (rather low) standards, but it is like a student, who last year failed with 10% marks, and this year improved his marks twice to 20%, but still failed…

EL: I feel that what he is really saying is that he doesn't like western journalism in general. In which case he should say so, and stop whinging about me and the Economist.
K: I do not like one particular style of the Western journalism. Read about fallacy of composition. You also wrongly assumed that as I do not like your journalist style and you are from the West, so I do not like the style of ALL Western journalists. Did you ever study basic logic?

EL: I think there is no point in arguing the merits of capitalism and communism. If anyone really thinks life was freer and more prosperous under the old system, then nothing I say is going to change their minds.
K: And vice versa…

EL: However, I would like to challenge the assertion that Britain is discriminating against Poles. This is a strong charge and requires elaboration. I would ask
1) Is Britain discriminating just against Poles, or against all "east Europeans"? If yes, then why?
K: OK. Generally about the East Europeans. But as Poles were more than 50% of population of new members of the EU, this translates mostly to discrimination of Poles…

EL: If not, then the second question is
2) Is Britain discriminating against east Europeans only or against all foreigners? If yes, then why?
K: UK is discriminating against any foreigners who work and live there. But the problem with Poles is that they are, at least de jure, no longer foreigners in the UK, as they are now EU citizens…

EL: If no, then
3) Is Britain uniquely racist/xenophobic? If yes, then why? If not, then the whole charge falls apart.
K: UK is indeed uniquely racist and xenophobic. It is because of geography (island!) and inglorious imperial history – the wealth of Britain was built on foundations consisting of systematic theft from the colonies. Bangla Desh is the best example, as it was systematically robbed by the British even when there was hunger in British-controlled Bengal. So British people have no moral right to criticise any other nation…

EL: I would argue that having opened the labour market to up to 1m workers from the CEE region is unlikely to be a sign of entrenched xenophobia.
K: You opened the labour market because you need a supply of cheap but highly qualified labour. It was a purely business decision. Thanks to Polish guest workers, GDP of UK increased by about 1%, and the real wealth of Britain by much more…

EL: I really find it hard to see how Kagan can sustain the idea that he has made a "devastating" critique of my survey. He has spotted some minor errors, but his main argument seems to be that as a Brit I cannot possibly speak Polish; that in fact no Brits speak Polish; that my cultural conditioning disqualifies me, like all other Brits. from making any worthwhile comment on the situation in Poland. And so on and so forth. That sounds to me suspiciously like my stereotypical prickly Pole. In fact I am beginning to wonder if Kagan really exists, or whether he is in fact one of my friends playing a clever practical joke on me. In which case, Robert (or whoever it is) well done. You really had me fooled.
K: Who knows…

Perhaps on that note we should lay this discussion to rest.
K: But what about my letter to the editor?

Kagan said...

FlyingOko said: Sorry Kagan old chap - you're quite welcome to lecture Poland's youth about the writings of Lem. Just don't stray onto economics! (Warsaw School of Economics? surely the Chief School of State Planning SGPiS)
K: So what? That school had different names. I studied economics not only in Warsaw, but also at The University of Melbourne (postgraduate i.e., MA level)…

FlyingOko said: Edward - Kagan aka Lech Keller does exist.
http://mywebpage.netscape.com/ljkel2/
K: That is not a secret. Tell us something about yourself. Are you alter ego of Edward Lucas?

O: The Internet's a wonderful thing. A few minute's research and I can see that the guy can be characterised as a 'awanturniczy grizipior', a regular visitor to forums and blogs, where he bangs on about Poles in Australia, the Australian government (type "Keller v Commonwealth" into Google) believers, economic liberals or homosexuals. Steeped in the bitterness that possesses his generation, born into Stalinism, he may appear be isolated and eccentric, but the baggage he carries is there on the shoulders of many Poles of his age.
K: Now you are attacking me personally. Your Stalinist mind tells you that it is fundamentally wrong for a citizen to sue the government, as “government is always right”. Tell me, please, what is wrong in defending you rights against the racist Australian government? Why shouldn’t I criticise the liberals, and why should I be always “politically correct”?

O: Ignore him and he will eventually go away.
K: As you have no counter-arguments ad rem, you try arguments ad personam and ask for a boycott of my dissident ideas and of my persona. Comrade Stalin would be proud of you!

Edward Lucas said...

To summarise Kagan's argument:

1)Britain is a country founded on imperialism, theft and murder and has no right to criticise any other country.
2) No Brits speak Polish
3) No British commentator has ever said anything worthwhile about Poland
4) The Economist is a particularly poor example of a very poor genre of media
5) Communism was, overall, better than capitalism
6) Poland is less corrupt than most countries in Europe.
7) Poland's history since 1989 has been one of unrelieved disappointment, misrule, impoverishment and degradation.
8) because of 1), 2) and 3), nothing I say could possibly change his mind about 5), 6) and 7)

I hope that is fair.

I wonder if Kagan would do me the favour of trying to summarise my arguments.


One other thing: I have no idea who oko and richardlith are.

Kagan said...

Edward Lucas said: To summarise Kagan's argument:
1) Britain is a country founded on imperialism, theft and murder and has no right to criticise any other country.
- Unfortunately, this is the truth. Without colonial exploitation, UK would be now a poor, peripheral island in the north of Europe. Do you know the story of Tasmanians (perfect Holocaust, better then that made for Jews by the Germans) or who invented modern concentration camps (British in South Africa, for the Boers) or who has promised Poland military assistance in 1939 but failed to provide it and who gave Poland to the Soviets in Yalta?
2) No Brits speak Polish
- No Briton speaks GOOD Polish (unless is of Polish or Slavic origin). But there are many ethnic Poles, who speak perfect English.
3) No British commentator has ever said anything worthwhile about Poland.
- Unfortunately, this is the fact.
4) The Economist is a particularly poor example of a very poor genre of media.
- Again, this is a fair judgement.
5) Communism was, overall, better than capitalism
- I did not say this. Remember about fallacy of composition. I only wrote that so-called communism (really state capitalism under communist party control) was better in POLAND and also in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, DDR, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia than liberal version of free market capitalism.
6) Poland is less corrupt than most countries in Europe.
- Again: I did not say this. I only said that it is less corrupt than UK and possibly Germany, and, of course Greece, Cyprus and generally the Balkan and Eastern European countries with exception of Slovenia.
7) Poland's history since 1989 has been one of unrelieved disappointment, misrule, impoverishment and degradation.
- Unfortunately. It was the period of broken promises, huge unemployment and theft of public property.
8) because of 1), 2) and 3), nothing I say could possibly change his mind about 5), 6) and 7)
- This is only your conclusion based on faulty reasoning. Remember, you spent on your “survey” few weeks, but I studied Polish transformation since 1993 (initially at The University of Melbourne, later at Monash University and in several Polish universities). But because of your very British arrogance, you think, that you are an expert in Polish affairs!
I hope that is fair.
- I’m afraid it isn’t…
I wonder if Kagan would do me the favour of trying to summarise my arguments.
- Your arguments are in your “survey”. It is not my job to prepare an executive brief…
One other thing: I have no idea who oko and richardlith are.
- Really?

Edward Lucas said...

If the aim is mutual understanding rather than abuse, it is a good idea to try to make sure that you have completely understood your opponent's view and then to pose questions based on what both sides agree is being said. So I am going to try again to make sure I have understood Kagan's viewpoint.

1) [agreed] Britain's history is uniquely disgraceful and therefore Britons are uniquely disqualified from commenting on other countries

To which I have a question. Is any other country anywhere near as bad as Britain?

2) [agreed] No Brit has ever learnt good Polish. Question: does that mean that Brits are appalling linguists for all languages, or could a Brit learn Russian, say, or Japanese, or Greek, but just not Polish?.

3) [agreed] No British commentator has ever said anything worthwhile about Poland. My question: Has any foreigner ever said anything worthwhile about Poland?

4) [agreed] The Economist is very poor example of very poor genre. My question: are the people who read it stupid or deceived by our marketing?

5) Life in the PRL (whatever you call the political system then) was better than in post-1989 Poland. Is that a fair expression of your view? If so, would you say that of all the PRL period (including 1948-53, 1968-9?) or just the late Gierek period? Or post-Solidarity?

6) Poland is less corrupt than any other post-communist country except Slovenia, and less corrupt than UK and Germany (is that fair?)

7) Post-1989 Poland has been a huge swindle. (again, is that fair?)

8) Nothing I say can change your mind (you say that isn't fair, but I'd like to ask you what _would_ change your mind?)

9) If you think I am too arrogant to comment on Polish affairs, would that change if you found out that I was not in fact British? IE is it the nature of my comments, or my background, that determine the arrogance

10) If you won't believe me when I say that I don't know who the other two posters are, what is the point of my saying anything? You just won't believe me on that too. If you don't believe anything I say, why are you bothering to argue with me?

11) To make sure that you have understood me properly, why not try to summarise my arguments. Either you are right, in which case you can then proceed to attack me on an agreed basis. Or you will be wrong, in which case you will be corrected and the argument will then be more productive. Do you agree that it is at least in principle possible that you have at least fully understood me?

Regards
Edward Lucas

Kagan said...

Edward Lucas said: If the aim is mutual understanding rather than abuse, it is a good idea to try to make sure that you have completely understood your opponent's view and then to pose questions based on what both sides agree is being said. So I am going to try again to make sure I have understood Kagan's viewpoint.

1) [agreed] Britain's history is uniquely disgraceful and therefore Britons are uniquely disqualified from commenting on other countries.
To which I have a question. Is any other country anywhere near as bad as Britain?

- Probably only the US and Israel have worse reputation abroad than UK. However, France, Spain, The Netherlands and Belgium also had very bad history. Small Belgium managed to exterminate around 20 mln natives in just one colony, namely in Congo. Germany also has a very inglorious history. And there is a strong correlation between material wealth per capita and number of foreigners exploited and killed in the past by a given country. This explains why UK and US are so keen to start new imperial wars.

2) [agreed] No Brit has ever learnt good Polish. Question: does that mean that Brits are appalling linguists for all languages, or could a Brit learn Russian, say, or Japanese, or Greek, but just not Polish?
- Britons are unable to learn any non Western European language. I do not know any example of Briton who could learn proper Russian (this explains why British spies were so easily picked by the Soviets). On Cyprus (former British colony) there are no Britons who speak at least acceptable Greek. Enough?

3) [agreed] No British commentator has ever said anything worthwhile about Poland. My question: Has any foreigner ever said anything worthwhile about Poland?
- Probably not. Give me an example, if you can find it!

4) [agreed] The Economist is very poor example of very poor genre. My question: are the people who read it stupid or deceived by our marketing?
-It’s all marketing, as in case of Microsoft Windows, Coca Cola or Mc Donald’s.

5) Life in the PRL (whatever you call the political system then) was better than in post-1989 Poland. Is that a fair expression of your view? If so, would you say that of all the PRL period (including 1948-53, 1968-9?) or just the late Gierek period? Or post-Solidarity?
- Mostly Gomulka and Gierek years with exception of post-1976, when the West sabotaged (quite successfully) Polish economy. I’m too young to know ‘first hand’ about period 1948-1953.

6) Poland is less corrupt than any other post-communist country except Slovenia and less corrupt than UK and Germany (is that fair?)
- Quite fair. In West Germany almost every finance minister finishes in prison. And what about the secret funds kept by Herr Kohl (mentor of Frau Merkel)?

7) Post-1989 Poland has been a huge swindle. (again, is that fair?)
- Unfortunately. Walesa, Mazowiecki, Balcerowicz, Bielecki, Michnik, Miller, Belka and other leading Polish post-1989 politicians are (were) in 90% crooks and thieves…

8) Nothing I say can change your mind (you say that isn't fair, but I'd like to ask you what _would_ change your mind?)
- As I wrote: I analysed Poland’s transformation (on academic level, in the so-called West) since roughly 1993. So don’t expect that you will change my mind with your limited knowledge of Poland and its language, culture, politics and (last but not least) economics.

9) If you think I am too arrogant to comment on Polish affairs, would that change if you found out that I was not in fact British? IE is it the nature of my comments, or my background, that determine the arrogance
- You may be not 100% British, but you emulate British as well as you can, and I can say very well indeed (if you are really not of British, i.e. Anglo-Saxon stock). You behave and think as you were British (a real McCoy). You may be, for example, Jewish, but it is irrelevant, as you work for a British newspaper and accept its editorial line without any doubts.

10) If you won't believe me when I say that I don't know who the other two posters are, what is the point of my saying anything? You just won't believe me on that too. If you don't believe anything I say, why are you bothering to argue with me?
- You are simply not a trustworthy, reliable person. But you publish in “The Economist” that, thanks to excellent marketing is highly regarded in the West, so you make a lot of damage. It is why I argue with you.

11) To make sure that you have understood me properly, why not try to summarise my arguments. Either you are right, in which case you can then proceed to attack me on an agreed basis. Or you will be wrong, in which case you will be corrected and the argument will then be more productive. Do you agree that it is at least in principle possible that you have at least fully understood me?
- As I wrote: I don’t have time to do it, unless “The Economist” will pay me for such an analysis. After all, we have free market capitalism and there is no such thing as free lunch! And I base my opinions on thorough scientific research, not on superficial analysis and irrational beliefs, as in your case.
Kagan with conventional (British) regards

Edward Lucas said...

I cannot see how to take this discussion forwards. If anyone else is still reading, I would be glad to hear their views.

FlyingOko said...

I'm still reading, Edward, if only because Kagan's world view is one shared by all too many post-communist citizens of his age group. Confused what to think of their past, unable to place themselves into a new post-cold war reality, carping, critical, over-sensitive, unable to move on.

This confused world view multiplied by a few million(including my aunt, a former member of the PZPR who's outlook is 95% the same as Kagan's) reflects the odd politics we have here in Poland.

I'm delighted to say that Poles in their early 30s or younger have a more positive attitude. They realise that sitting in a bath of dirty stale water that's going lukewarm is not as life-enhancing as a hot shower.

Individual responsibility - not devolved upward to Stalin, Gomulka, Kim Jong-Il or anyone else.

What's confusing about Kagan's world view (if it were unique I'd have walked away from this discussion long ago) is that when it comes to matters spiritual, (racjonalista.pl) he's entirely happy to ditch the vicar. But on economics, he still believes in some lay god that can steer the ship of state towards the greater good of all men better than can the free market.

Flying Oko - NOT an alter ego! I AM 100% ethnically Polish, no Anglo Saxon, Jewish blood. So there.

Kagan said...

FlyingOko said: I'm still reading, Edward, if only because Kagan's world view is one shared by all too many post-communist citizens of his age group. Confused what to think of their past, unable to place themselves into a new post-cold war reality, carping, critical, over-sensitive, unable to move on.
- Totally wrong diagnosis. I left Poland in 1981, as otherwise, as an active member of “Solidarity” I would be interned, i.e. imprisoned by the authorities. In the West I worked as a computer programmer, systems analyst and then won a series of postgraduate scholarship that enabled me to finish postgraduate studies at The University of Melbourne (Masters in Economics) and Monash University (PhD in Political Science). Since then I lectured at Monash, Newcastle and later in Polish universities. What else you want from me? To accept what propaganda tells me about Polish transformation? I prefer to think for myself…

Oko: This confused world view multiplied by a few million (including my aunt, a former member of the PZPR who's outlook is 95% the same as Kagan's) reflects the odd politics we have here in Poland.
- Again, you are totally wrong. I was never a member of PZPR or of any political party (with possible exception of “Solidarity”). I was always for a radical reform of “communist” Poland, but as I travelled a lot to the West (I was IT manager in a state foreign trade firm), so I knew capitalism well: its positives as well as negatives, and this knowledge was deepened by my period of emigration (almost 25 years), mostly in Australia, but also in UK and US. So I know capitalism better than 99% Poles of my generation…

Oko: I'm delighted to say that Poles in their early 30s or younger have a more positive attitude. They realise that sitting in a bath of dirty stale water that's going lukewarm is not as life-enhancing as a hot shower.
- They were simply brainwashed, they do not know other reality, for them extreme poverty close to extreme wealth and high level of unemployment is something normal, as they were been told so by the mass media and school. They are a convenient material for marketers, as they are so easy to manipulate, and been told that the more they consume, the more happy they must be, and “if you are still not happy while consuming, it means, that you are abnormal and should go to the physician”…

Oko: Individual responsibility - not devolved upward to Stalin, Gomulka, Kim Jong-Il or anyone else.
K: Again – fallacy of “no middle”, i.e. you must be either a liberal, or Stalinist, because there are no other alternatives. In real life Stalinists and liberals are on the extremes, and between them there is a whole spectrum of different views… I am not devoted to any idol, including the God Mammon, the God of liberals…

What's confusing about Kagan's world view (if it were unique I'd have walked away from this discussion long ago) is that when it comes to matters spiritual, (racjonalista.pl) he's entirely happy to ditch the vicar. But on economics, he still believes in some lay god that can steer the ship of state towards the greater good of all men better than can the free market.
- There are liberals, who are inconsistent, as they agree to human intervention in almost any area, including human body (medicine), nature (dams, roads, buildings, airports with long runways) etc., but when it comes to economics, they say no! Human should leave economy to the nature, let only the fittest survive. And I ask: why leave only the economy to the play of “natural” forces? Why liberals allow human intervention in the nature and state intervention in non-economic areas human behaviour? Why only market should be allowed to control prices of goods and services, while in non-economic behaviour, for example in area of social life state dictates what is “proper” and what is not? Why so-called liberal state does not allow a complete freedom in areas, where one man happiness does not mean unhappiness of other? Why we are, for example, not allowed to go naked to the city, to make love in public places and even are subject to censorship on the Internet? Does been naked and making love in public constitute a danger for society? No. But the same “liberal” state in US or UK keeps a huge army that kills innocent civilians. And this is OK for the liberals, as they are who kill (using paid soldiers), and not been killed…

Flying Oko - NOT an alter ego! I AM 100% ethnically Polish, no Anglo Saxon, Jewish blood. So there.
- Why this statement? Are you 100% sure that there were no Jews in your family? In Poland it is very unlikely that someone is without a drop of Jewish, Tatar or German blood…

Kagan said...

Here is a completely free of charge short summary of Edward Lucas’ worldview (Weltanschauung (*), as there is no equivalent of “światopogląd” in English):

1) Britain's history is a most glorious one. British people have not killed a single native in Africa or Asia, and they are simply the best, the most honourable and the most ethical people in the whole world so they have a God-given right to criticize any other country or nation (with an obvious exception of Israel and the Jews).

2) The Britons have natural talent to learn foreign languages. Every Briton speaks fluently at least 3 foreign languages, of which one is non-European. In addition every Englishman and Englishwoman speaks fluent Gaelic (Scottish) and Welsh.

3) The only worthwhile things ever written about Poland were by Britons and in Queen’s (King’s) English. No Pole had ever said anything worthwhile about Poland (Poles are rather stupid people, you know).

4) “The Economist” is the best authoritative weekly ever published in the whole world. It is not at all politically biased, has respect for other cultures and ideologies and is a shining example of quality journalism.

5) Life in PRL (People’s Republic of Poland) was miserable: there was widespread poverty, very high unemployment, economic stagnation and widespread corruption and lawlessness. You were afraid to leave your flat, and there was no reason to do it: there was no work and shops were always empty. To travel to other city or village than of your residence you had to ask for a special permit that was, anyway, very expensive (1 average monthly gross wage).

6) Today’s Poland is more corrupt than any other country on the world.

7) Post-1989 Poland has been a bright, shining example of success: fast economic growth since the first day of reforms, elimination of poverty and unemployment, there was built (by a private sector, of course) a vast network of fast (over 200km/h) railways and thousands of kilometres of freeways (free motorways), and housing problem was solved once for all. All foreign debt was paid, current account is permanently in surplus since 1990 and there is no budget deficit. Poland is the fastest developing post-communist country in the whole word.

8) Edward Lucas is a highly intelligent journalist and the best expert on Poland in the whole world. He is not dogmatic at all, and given proper arguments, is able to change his mind.

9) Because of 1 to 8 Edward Lucas is always right and his critics are always wrong.

10) Because of 1 to 9 Kagan is always wrong. He is an arrogant, stupid Pole, with very poor English, educated entirely in the communist Poland, a member of former PZPR (Polish United Workers’ Party), a typical communist apparatchik who does not want to see a great success of the Balcerowicz Plan in today’s Poland. He should be exterminated (where are the Daleks? Doctor Who for the rescue!).

http://www.bartleby.com/61/15/W0091500.html

Weltanschauung
ETYMOLOGY: German : Welt, WORLD (from Middle High German wërlt, from Old High German weralt;) + Anschauung, VIEW (from Middle High German anschouwunge, observation, mystical contemplation.

Kagan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kagan said...

Sorry for posting the same text twice, but in was not my intention (the reason was mostly poor design of blog site).

Edward Lucas said...

Hmm. I tried to characterise Kagan's views fairly. He has (in my view) exaggerated and caricatured mine. Kagan, do you want to try again? Or do you prefer to exchange insults?

For example, my view on 1) would be
"Britain has some shameful and some glorious bits in its history. Most, if not all, countries do. This feeling of collective responsibility, affection or whatever may affect government policy (ie, in Britain's case towards Ireland, or in Germany's towards Israel). But this should not affect the "right" of an individual journalist to analyse, praise or criticise.

Until we both agree what the respective positions being advocated are, we can't have a sensible discussion.

I have no idea what Kagan did in the PRL time or in emigration thereafter and I don't think it is necessarily relevant to the discussion.

Any advice about how to index or design this site is welcome

najt.blek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
najt.blek said...

A whole new issue of The Economist could be made up of these comments although, it's doubtful if anyone would be interested... ;)
This discussion got really heavy now, so in order to avoid insulting and offending anyone I'll just comment on few points.

Unfortunately the more arguments are given by Kagan the more I think that they are out of place. You claim that in Mr. Lucas' views Britain's history is a most glorious one. British people have not killed a single native in Africa or Asia, and they are simply the best, the most honourable and the most ethical people in the whole world so they have a God-given right to criticize any other country or nation (with an obvious exception of Israel and the Jews). Thus, you hint that in your opinion Poland is a God's chosen place/country and is justified in doing the same. I have to agree with Mr. Lucas that each country has some inglorious moments in its history but that actually doesn't give us the right to judge the doings of all other countries just because our history is full of defeat and suffering. Take England's expansion. You say that exploiting colonies was something completely wrong. It wasn't a righteous thing to do but are you so sure that Poland wouldn't do the same if it had a chance. Again, the fact that our history wasn't full of success doesn't mean that our moral standards are very high.

And there is a strong correlation between material wealth per capita and number of foreigners exploited and killed in the past by a given country. Look at the past again. Polish history has seen our country to be the biggest country in eastern Europe. And as you know it wasn't full of praise from other nations which were just delighted to have polish rule over them. Concerning Iraq I wouldn't say that there are so many differences between the Poles and Brits. In both countries (correct me if I'm wrong) the public opinion condemned the invasion. And in both countries governments pretended not to notice it. But what's different between countries in coalition is the fact that Poland gained nothing. American appreciation of Polish military help in Iraq is rather disputaple. Furthermore, Poland lost soldiers even though there is no war. Angered Iraqis and weakened its relationships with some countries, not only Arabian ones. It's constantly loosing a lot of money on its troops in Iraq and haven't gained any of expected econimic benefits. Taking all these arguments into account it turns out that we're even worse than the British or Americans as we invaded another country having no vested interest in that.

Again – fallacy of “no middle”, i.e. you must be either a liberal, or Stalinist, because there are no other alternatives.
Leaving the political option on the side, you seem to me to be a person of such attitude. It seems that you don't think anything positive of the western countries. I may not agree with all of Mr. Lucas' arguments or views but what's the point in creating an axis of evil with most of other countries on it?
...who has promised Poland military assistance in 1939 but failed to provide it and who gave Poland to the Soviets in Yalt
Sometimes, not always, things of the past must stay such. Is there any sense in for example the upcoming trial of people who are responsible for introducing the martial law in Poland ? Will imprisonment of some grandpas make up for wrong done? And as far as I'm being taught at my uni British wanted the Soviet border on Curzon's line, even in Yalta. Before one says that we were given to Soviets one has to consider the fact that by the end of the war the USSR was the most powerful (thanks to american help...) country in Europe, if not in the whole world, and given that British, which by the way also came out of the war much weakened, were always political pragmatists only a fool would hope that they would risk their necks for Poland. I can also imagine that westeners didn't realise what was really coming down to eastern Europe. I think that they truly believed that even though Poland would be much affected by Soviet policy in the region it would remain mostly independed and with more democratic society and economy, as it happend in Finland. Now, is it really the UK to be blamed or the USSR which was constantly misleading western democracies and planned to conquer whole Europe...
Maciej Meller

richardlith said...

Don't any of you have jobs? We can't spend all day posting on blogs.

To Kagan, in the interest of balance, you are aware, I hope, that there are counrties in Europe that regard Poland as an imperial power at various stages of history? The white eagle isn't all that white.

FlyingOko said...

I can't resist arguing with Kagan because it's a great testing ground for the types of arguments one always gets into with Poles of a certain age. Arguments that are frightfully confused compared to the shining purity and intellectual rigour of Washington Consensus neoliberalism (there Kagan - I said the 'L' word).

Prior to 1989, Kagan was both pro- and anti-communist at the same time. He despises Balcerowicz for his membership of the PZPR, yet believes that life in the PRL was better than it is in Poland today.

He's against undemocratic phenomena in the USA, UK or Australia, but has praise for authoritarian regimes in Asia.

He is a libertarian and has no problem with people being "naked and making love in public" (which does not "constitute a danger for society"), as long as the participants in such activities are not of the same sex.

In the west his statist and anti-clerical views would put him firmly into the left-wing camp. Yet his homophobia would exclude from any well-meaning group of liberals (in the orginal 'bleeding heart') sense of the word.

The UK is uniquely xenophobic? Is not Moscow the African student-stabbing capital of the world?

And talking of xenophonia - my ethnicity - Kagan has a point here. I don't know anything about my family tree before the 1880s, I do know that my four grandparents were Poles, all four born as subjects of the Tsar.

Some substantive issues:
Kagan said In West Germany almost every finance minister finishes in prison Please list W. Germany's post-war finance ministers, noting with an asterisk which ones were incarcerated on leaving office.

British motor industry: while the great British names have gone, the industry still provides tens of thousands of jobs directly at manufacturers such as Nissan, Toyota, Honda, General Motors and Ford. Cars are the UK's biggest export to Poland!


I love this bit of plaintive wishful thinking... "Why am I not in your place if I am effortlessly able to produce survey by far more insightful than yours?" Why indeed. I laughed out loud as I read the question! Love it!

Well, Kagan, I'd love to read it! How many, though, would pay for such 'wypociny'? A infinitely tiny handful of lefty homophobes in the west plus a somewhat larger number of the 50+ age group struggling to cope with post-communist transformation. Who'd not pay 18 zlotys. So the answer to Kagan's 'why' is economics.

I find this entire exercise extremely interesting, as Kagan is so symptomatic of this group. His excellent English and his dogged persistence makes the dialogue worth while.

I am away for two days on business, busily exploiting the proletariat and peasants by providing them with the opportunity to live and work in the UK. I wonder how many brainwashed English speaking Polish under-30s will be interested...?

Back Thursday...

richardlith said...

I would venture that Kagan is in fact more Australian than Polish -- he never tires of telling us of his studies down under. Perhaps his rambling here is revenge against the English and Edward Lucas for England winning the Ashes last year. Perhaps he feels hard done by that Michael Kasprowicz only played one test for the Aussies.

Edward Lucas said...

I would like to note that this whole thing has been a pilot for The Economist. We have never in the past offered readers a chance to comment interactively about published articles.

I do apologise if the design and structure of the site are inconvenient or clumsy. It is only a first attempt and I am sure future efforts will be better designed.

I'd like to thank everyone for their patience.

My main conclusion is that when and if we roll this out as a general feature of the Economist's online offering, we will need a means of limiting contributions to 200 words or thereabouts. The single most tiresome feature of the discussion has been the extraordinarily wordy and rambling nature of some of the comments.

I am also very surprised that some people, chiefly Kagan, who clearly loathe the Economist and everything it stands for, are willing to devote so much time and effort to denouncing it, and me. I suppose it's a compliment.

On that note, I would suggest that participants make one final comment, and we lay the discussion to rest. As one participant put it nicely, we all have jobs and families to go to.

I will be most grateful for comments made in response to other articles on this site.

Many thanks to everyone (particularly Kagan, if he really exists, for articulating a viewpoint which is rarely heard, and to my anonymous defenders)

Edward

najt.blek said...

Actually, I don't have a job nor family ;) Sure, I have to study from time to time :)
I would like my final post to stay focused to the situation at home. Mr. Lucas I 'd like to recommend to you watching a program broadcasted on TVP1 (Polish Public TV Channel No 1, as you surely know) named 'A case for a journalist/reporter', if you get a chance. It shows many amazing cases of injustice that are taking place nowadays in Poland, legally I must add. Today's episode was a really good one as it concerned the situation of the Bar in Poland... Unfortunately it showed that it's really bad and that the current government may fail to change it due to strong connections in this particular enviroment. I think that a number of similar cases is to blame for polish pessimism.
PS: I did comment on your other articles but nobody has noticed and no such intense discussion as here has taken place :)
Regards
Maciej Meller

richardlith said...

It was all a ruse for the economist!!! Looking back, it is a bit strange that EL should bother to read and reply to everything. It's all been done on company time!! Seriously, the problem of these interactive blogs is that a small group of people take it over, putting off others who may have someting to contribute . Certainly, posts should have a maximum length. They also need to be policed and moderated, to stop some users dominating and to halt the decline into personal attacks, like the online forum of a certain national newspaper in a CEE country EL covers. On the other hand, the BBC website is overmoderated, as it just becomes a list of comments without any debate.

Edward Lucas said...

it's not a RUSE! And my wife has been complaining incessantly that I spend so much home time on my "blog thing"

All other comments about how things could be better arranged in future would be welcome.

On the whole I would put up with a lot of abuse to keep it lively.

I am hoping to get Kagan's letter published this week.

I will certainly look out for that television programme next time I am in Poland.

Regards
Edward

Kagan said...

For Mr/ Lucas and those who can read in Polish. The text below is a fragment of ” Jak walczyć z Giertychem” (“How to fight Giertrych”) from “Gazeta Wyborca” of 31 May 2006 (Giertych is current Polish minister of education and some regard him as an extreme nationalist and representing extreme clerical right). It is not important here who really Mr. Giertrych is, but that rise of extreme right in Poland can be linked to social injustices caused by Mr. Balcerowicz and his failed “free market” reforms.

http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/kraj/1,34314,3380372.html
(…)”Przyczyną porażki polskiego modelu przemian oraz jego reprezentantów była przede wszystkim niesprawiedliwa polityka gospodarcza oparta na przekonaniu, że sukces nielicznych kiedyś zamieni się w sukces całości. Nie zamienił się, a całość nie wytrzymała. Następną przyczyną klęski III RP było jej zamknięcie na dyskusję o własnych założeniach i określanie kształtu sfery publicznej nie w otwartej debacie, ale przez negocjacje z jednej strony z postkomunistami (tu negocjowano neoliberalny kształt przemian w zamian za możliwość uczestnictwa przedstawicieli byłego reżimu w nowej demokracji), a z drugiej z Kościołem (tu z kolei przedmiotem targów był kształt prawa i zakres obecności Kościoła w sferze publicznej w zamian za poparcie integracji europejskiej).

Oddanie miejsca lewicy postkomunistom i zawarcie z nimi neoliberalnego konsensusu pozostawiło ludziom, którzy tracili na przemianach, jedynie dwie drogi protestu: klerykalną albo populistyczną. W tym właśnie sensie III RP sama stworzyła sobie IV RP, która jest po prostu symptomem jej słabości jako projektu, funkcją braku lewicy społecznej. Nie zmieni tego zaklinanie rzeczywistości abstrakcyjnymi hasłami ze słownika demokracji.

Dlatego właśnie nie jest żadnym rozwiązaniem prosta afirmacja protestu i powtarzanie, że demokracja jest zagrożona, że chodzi o prawa i wolności obywatelskie, o powrót do "normalności". To nie da nam odpowiedzi na pytanie, skąd Giertych wziął się na salonach. Czy przypadkiem nie jest za to odpowiedzialna owa "normalność", w której połowa społeczeństwa żyje poniżej minimum socjalnego, a bieda jest dziedziczona z pokolenia na pokolenie? Niesprawiedliwy kształt polskiej transformacji pchnął pozostawione samym sobie grupy społeczne w objęcia ojca Rydzyka, który wychował z nich elektorat IV RP. Tam wykluczeni mogli usłyszeć przemieszane z antysemickim bełkotem i szczuciem na mniejszości fundamentalne pytanie, na które nie miały zamiaru w ogóle odpowiadać zafascynowane ideologią radź-sobie-sam elity: dlaczego w nowej Polsce nie ma dla mnie miejsca? Bez rozwiązania tego problemu nie będzie możliwa żadna skuteczna reakcja demokratyczna na rosnące w siłę ruchy nacjonalistyczne i populistyczne.” (…)
Authors:
Sławomir Sierakowski - redaktor naczelny "Krytyki Politycznej", doktorant w Instytucie Socjologii UW
Adrian Zandberg - członek Młodych Socjalistów, doktorant w Instytucie Historii UW

Kagan said...

Maciej Meller:
Unfortunately the more arguments are given by Kagan the more I think that they are out of place. You claim that in Mr. Lucas' views Britain's history is a most glorious one. British people have not killed a single native in Africa or Asia, and they are simply the best, the most honourable and the most ethical people in the whole world so they have a God-given right to criticize any other country or nation (with an obvious exception of Israel and the Jews). Thus, you hint that in your opinion Poland is a God's chosen place/country and is justified in doing the same.
- No! I did not say so. You create a man of straw of only a rough resemblance to me and then destroy it… Polish people are not unique, just happen to kill much less foreigners than the British…

I have to agree with Mr. Lucas that each country has some inglorious moments in its history but that actually doesn't give us the right to judge the doings of all other countries just because our history is full of defeat and suffering. Take England's expansion. You say that exploiting colonies was something completely wrong. It wasn't a righteous thing to do but are you so sure that Poland wouldn't do the same if it had a chance. Again, the fact that our history wasn't full of success doesn't mean that our moral standards are very high.
- It is not important what WOULD HAVE HAPPENED, but only what HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. You can speculate “if Hitler was not born, maybe Germans will not be turned en masse in a nation of murderers and sadists”. But this would be only a sterile speculation…

And there is a strong correlation between material wealth per capita and number of foreigners exploited and killed in the past by a given country. Look at the past again. Polish history has seen our country to be the biggest country in Eastern Europe. And as you know it wasn't full of praise from other nations which were just delighted to have polish rule over them. Concerning Iraq I wouldn't say that there are so many differences between the Poles and Brits. In both countries (correct me if I'm wrong) the public opinion condemned the invasion. And in both countries governments pretended not to notice it. But what's different between countries in coalition is the fact that Poland gained nothing. American appreciation of Polish military help in Iraq is rather disputable. Furthermore, Poland lost soldiers even though there is no war. Angered Iraqis and weakened its relationships with some countries, not only Arabian ones. It's constantly loosing a lot of money on its troops in Iraq and haven't gained any of expected economic benefits.
- OK! I always wrote that invasion on Iraq was a criminal act and was thus wrong. But you cannot compare, for example, such criminal acts by Britain as extermination of the whole nation (Tasmanians) and ruining whole Indian subcontinent and much of Africa to Polish rule in, say, Ukraine…

Taking all these arguments into account it turns out that we're even worse than the British or Americans as we invaded another country having no vested interest in that.
- No this only proves that Polish ruling elites were more stupid than British or American…

Again – fallacy of “no middle”, i.e. you must be either a liberal, or Stalinist, because there are no other alternatives. Leaving the political option on the side, you seem to me to be a person of such attitude. It seems that you don't think anything positive of the western countries. I may not agree with all of Mr. Lucas' arguments or views but what's the point in creating an axis of evil with most of other countries on it?
- I know the West to well to be of other opinion. The West (mostly Western Europe and US) is responsible for 99% of all political and economic troubles in the present-day world, as they used to misrule this world since at least beginning of 19th century and continue to do so even at present…

...who has promised Poland military assistance in 1939 but failed to provide it and who gave Poland to the Soviets in Yalta. Sometimes, not always, things of the past must stay such. Is there any sense in for example the upcoming trial of people who are responsible for introducing the martial law in Poland? Will imprisonment of some grandpas make up for wrong done? And as far as I'm being taught at my uni British wanted the Soviet border on Curzon's line, even in Yalta. Before one says that we were given to Soviets one has to consider the fact that by the end of the war the USSR was the most powerful (thanks to American help...) country in Europe, if not in the whole world, and given that British, which by the way also came out of the war much weakened, were always political pragmatists only a fool would hope that they would risk their necks for Poland. I can also imagine that westerners didn't realise what was really coming down to Eastern Europe. I think that they truly believed that even though Poland would be much affected by Soviet policy in the region it would remain mostly independent and with more democratic society and economy, as it happened in Finland. Now, is it really the UK to be blamed or the USSR which was constantly misleading western democracies and planned to conquer whole Europe?
- Why do you blame the Soviets for having a very clever foreign policy? If they could get Poland in Yalta, why shouldn’t they take it? I was stupidity of the US and UK that allowed it. And for this reason alone Poland should receive financial compensation from UK and US, and from France as well anyway. I think that money currently wasted by the US on supporting one artificial Zionist entity in the Midle East could be better spent in Central-Eastern Europe, where the US could get genuine friends and this way have control of a very important region, bordering with Russia…

Kagan said...

richardlith said: Don't any of you have jobs? We can't spend all day posting on blogs.
- I’ve just finished semester. But don’t worry –next week I go for a conference and will have no time to write on this blog!

To Kagan, in the interest of balance, you are aware, I hope, that there are countries in Europe that regard Poland as an imperial power at various stages of history? The white eagle isn't all that white.
- Of course. But Polish rule was not as disastrous as British. The only country really colonised in the past by Poland was Ukraine (Lithuania was for Poland like Scotland for England – a partner, not a colony), and it was the Ukrainians, who committed most of crimes against humanity there. Remember Bandera’s murderous bandits, remember SS division Galizien SS (100% Ukrainian) etc. It was not Polish rule that caused huge hunger in Ukraine, but Ukrainian (Soviet)… etc.

FlyingOko said: I can't resist arguing with Kagan because it's a great testing ground for the types of arguments one always gets into with Poles of a certain age. Arguments that are frightfully confused compared to the shining purity and intellectual rigour of Washington Consensus neoliberalism (there Kagan - I said the 'L' word).
- OK. What’s your point?

Prior to 1989, Kagan was both pro- and anti-communist at the same time. He despises Balcerowicz for his membership of the PZPR, yet believes that life in the PRL was better than it is in Poland today.
- Because for the majority of the Poles it was indeed better. Look at:
http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/kraj/1,34314,3380372.html
I did not like PZPR for their narrow dogmatic line and being a party pf apparatchiks (“karierowicze”). But I appreciate that it eradicated unemployment and poverty in Poland and gave every young Pole a chance of advancement thru free, high quality education. I consider SGPiS (now again SGH) as better than Department of Economics and Business of prestigious University of Melbourne, in which I also studied and graduated, and, of course, better than Monash Uni.

He's against undemocratic phenomena in the USA, UK or Australia, but has praise for authoritarian regimes in Asia.
- Because they try to protect economic rights of their citizens. You don’t understand Asia. Asians have different culture, different values than Europeans, but are as intelligent as we are and have a great culture, especially the Chinese. I don’t think that Europeans can criticise Asia, as Europeans will never fully understand Asia (and vice versa)…

He is a libertarian and has no problem with people being "naked and making love in public" (which does not "constitute a danger for society"), as long as the participants in such activities are not of the same sex.
- Of course. I’m for nature, not against it!

In the west his statist and anti-clerical views would put him firmly into the left-wing camp. Yet his homophobia would exclude from any well-meaning group of liberals (in the original 'bleeding heart') sense of the word.
- I’m not a liberal, and proud of it. And I’m not homophobic: I am for helping homosexuals to return to normal life!

The UK is uniquely xenophobic? Is not Moscow the African student-stabbing capital of the world?
- Why they are studying there, if they are clearly not welcome? If I find a given country unfriendly, I leave it, not wait for being attacked by a mob… And seriously: Moscow could be worse than London for the blacks, but it does not mean that everything in London is OK!

And talking of xenophobia - my ethnicity - Kagan has a point here. I don't know anything about my family tree before the 1880s, I do know that my four grandparents were Poles, all four born as subjects of the Tsar.
- They could be Tatars, Russian, Khazars and who now what else?

Some substantive issues: Kagan said In West Germany almost every finance minister finishes in prison Please list W. Germany's post-war finance ministers, noting with an asterisk which ones were incarcerated on leaving office.
- Don’t have time do so. Could you please do this exercise?

British motor industry: while the great British names have gone, the industry still provides tens of thousands of jobs directly at manufacturers such as Nissan, Toyota, Honda, General Motors and Ford. Cars are the UK's biggest export to Poland!
- OK. But where are the PROFITS? Poland also export cars, but profits do not stay in Poland, but escape to Germany (VW, GM-Opel) or Italy (FIAT)…

I love this bit of plaintive wishful thinking... "Why am I not in your place if I am effortlessly able to produce survey by far more insightful than yours?" Why indeed. I laughed out loud as I read the question! Love it!
- Exactly, what is your point?

Well, Kagan, I'd love to read it! How many, though, would pay for such 'wypociny'? A infinitely tiny handful of lefty homophobes in the west plus a somewhat larger number of the 50+ age group struggling to cope with post-communist transformation. Who'd not pay 18 zlotys. So the answer to Kagan's 'why' is economics.
- I do not respond to such low level insults and attacks ad personam…

I find this entire exercise extremely interesting, as Kagan is so symptomatic of this group. His excellent English and his dogged persistence makes the dialogue worth while.
- I don’t regard my English as excellent. This is definitely not Queen’s English, but it was nice to hear such polite assessment…

I am away for two days on business, busily exploiting the proletariat and peasants by providing them with the opportunity to live and work in the UK. I wonder how many brainwashed English speaking Polish under-30s will be interested...?
- Probably plenty, thanks to around 20% unemployment in Poland (courtesy of free market capitalism and Mr. Balcerowicz)…

Kagan said...

richardlith said: I would venture that Kagan is in fact more Australian than Polish -- he never tires of telling us of his studies down under. Perhaps his rambling here is revenge against the English and Edward Lucas for England winning the Ashes last year. Perhaps he feels hard done by that Michael Kasprowicz only played one test for the Aussies.
- I don’t think that I’m really an Aussie. I appreciate rather original British than its pale imitation, colonial Aussie culture. Cricket is a total mystery for me. What I think that I understand of Cricket is not much: that it is the game for the accountants, should be called “wicket” and “when you are in, you are out” (or in reverse)… And had Kasprowicz was born with an Aussie surname (Howard, Hawke, Keating, Frazer or even Costello), he would be a permanent member of the Aussie cricket team. And I don’t understand why to fight for the Ashes? But, of course, I’m neither British nor Australian…

8:14 PM
Edward Lucas said...
I would like to note that this whole thing has been a pilot for The Economist. We have never in the past offered readers a chance to comment interactively about published articles
- I think that it was a very good idea to allow a public discussion.

I do apologise if the design and structure of the site are inconvenient or clumsy. It is only a first attempt and I am sure future efforts will be better designed.
- That’s not your fault.

I'd like to thank everyone for their patience.
- Mutual.

My main conclusion is that when and if we roll this out as a general feature of the Economist's online offering, we will need a means of limiting contributions to 200 words or thereabouts. The single most tiresome feature of the discussion has been the extraordinarily wordy and rambling nature of some of the comments.
- Not every one is a professional journalist as you are!

I am also very surprised that some people, chiefly Kagan, who clearly loathe the Economist and everything it stands for, are willing to devote so much time and effort to denouncing it, and me. I suppose it's a compliment.
- Because, as I said, “The Economist” is very influential. And I did not attack you as a persona (although sometimes it might look as I did indeed, but it was because of my rather limited mastery of English – I’ve never pretended to be a native speaker of this language).

On that note, I would suggest that participants make one final comment, and we lay the discussion to rest. As one participant put it nicely, we all have jobs and families to go to.
- As I wrote: on this Saturday I fly to Europe to attend a conference and will have no time to write more comments.

I will be most grateful for comments made in response to other articles on this site. Many thanks to everyone (particularly Kagan, if he really exists, for articulating a viewpoint which is rarely heard, and to my anonymous defenders)
- As you see, I take you and “The Economist” very seriously, as I recommend it to my students only with a caution that it represent a very well defined, namely neoliberal, pro free market point of view.

Kagan said...

Maciej Meller (najt.blek): Actually, I don't have a job nor family ;) Sure, I have to study from time to time :)
- U must be joking! With your conservative ideology you should have a job in the bank and at least 2 kids!

I would like my final post to stay focused to the situation at home. Mr. Lucas I 'd like to recommend to you watching a program broadcasted on TVP1 (Polish Public TV Channel No 1, as you surely know) named 'A case for a journalist/reporter', if you get a chance. It shows many amazing cases of injustice that are taking place nowadays in Poland, legally I must add. Today's episode was a really good one as it concerned the situation of the Bar in Poland... Unfortunately it showed that it's really bad and that the current government may fail to change it due to strong connections in this particular environment. I think that a number of similar cases is to blame for polish pessimism.
- Lawyers are always corrupted. You study law and medicine for money, not for any intellectual pleasure. If you want knowledge, you study economics, politics or biology, if you want money you study law and medicine – two most boring disciplines at any uni…

PS: I did comment on your other articles but nobody has noticed and no such intense discussion as here has taken place :)
- So please repeat it or send me to ljkel2@netscape,net, so I’ll try to answer.

richardlith said: It was all a ruse for the economist!!! Looking back, it is a bit strange that EL should bother to read and reply to everything. It's all been done on company time!! Seriously, the problem of these interactive blogs is that a small group of people take it over, putting off others who may have someting to contribute . Certainly, posts should have a maximum length. They also need to be policed and moderated, to stop some users dominating and to halt the decline into personal attacks, like the online forum of a certain national newspaper in a CEE country EL covers. On the other hand, the BBC website is overmoderated, as it just becomes a list of comments without any debate.
- So you see that there is no “golden” middle and that moderation frequently means just censorship…

Edward Lucas said: it's not a RUSE! And my wife has been complaining incessantly that I spend so much home time on my "blog thing"
- My wife is in Oz, I’m in Asia (Levant), so have tome to write so much. But there will be (at least I hope) a reunification…

All other comments about how things could be better arranged in future would be welcome. On the whole I would put up with a lot of abuse to keep it lively. I am hoping to get Kagan's letter published this week.
- Fingers crossed (I’m not superstitious, but just in case)… And I’m a real person, as in my letter to editor.
(…)

pricklypole said...

Please, ladies and gentlemen! I haven't been here for a while and I see that in a few places the new participants have confused me with Kagan; that is unfortunate consequence of my not having made it clear that I do not share any of his views except for the sheer fact that I am very, very critical of t Mr. E.L's survey. I was going to do that and I am sorry I didn't; One reason of confusion may be that Kagan said somewhere he agreed with me 100% - well, that does not mean I agree with him!
Secondly, my kindness in referring to his "expertise" came as a credit after his mentioning he was a university professor in his positive response to my criticism. It included none of the outlandish nonsense that came later. So: to Flying Oko and others- I, Jakub Chmielewski aka Pricklypole, have written that, let me quote myself from my original post to E.L:
"Its not whether the image[of Poland]in it[E.L.'s survey] is “bad” or “good” – it is simply wrong. Sometimes so vividly wrong that It defies any explanation why it is so, given the fact that you boast 20 years in the region. The actual state of affairs cannot be unknown to you, if you truly have dealt with this issues for so long. In fact, critical observation of the last two years would suffice and the seat wouldn’t have to be first row, not to mention behind the scene. I ‘m talking facts, public knowledge, not secrets.
If, however, you really lack this knowledge, or cannot process it into synthetic picture, the big question is what are you doing at The Economist? Why am I not in your place if I am effortlessly able to produce survey by far more insightful than yours? And I could easily do that not because I am such a genius, but because you, in terms of informative value, have produced a text of such a quality that if you were a pot maker - your pots would never make it to the kitchen."
And I fully stand by it. As to FlyingOko's reference to a Pricklypole's remark on pronounciation...I am really in the dark what the hack you were talking about? I never said anything on that subject as I find it silly and futile to discuss phonetic ability here! The same goes for the "prickly-not prickly" part of this exchange. I would never subscribe to any foolish generalisation like Kagan's that that no Anglo-saxon could ever and so on. I am, however, sustaining all that I said in reference to Mr.Lucas. In fact, I am going to post here a copy of my letter to The Economist to reiterate what I find unacceptable.

Edward Lucas said...

I just heard from the letters editor. He plans to publish a bunch of letters about the Poland survey next week. Anyone who would like to be considered for publication should write (the shorter the better) to letters@economist.com

with a copy to me (esl@economist.com)

I certainly didn't intend to confuse pricklypole with kagan and I apologise if I gave that impression. I am glad that pricklypole doesn't share what seem to me to be indefensible generalisations about the Brits. I can agree that Brits are remarkably talentless linguists, but I only have to produce one or two who speak Russian or Polish perfectly (perhaps because they lived there for years, or married a local, or studied hard, or are geniuses) and Kagan's argument is exploded. In my experience, arguments that include the words "never" and "always" are pretty fragile.

I doubt that it makes any sense to create a hierarchy of countries where the media is "allowed" to comment on others (ie Germans can write about French, but not about Israelis. Arabs can write about Iranians but not Africans. Or whatever). Surely it is better for everyone to be treated as an individual, and have their views judged on their rightness or wrongness, rather than because of some disgusting and indefensible thing done in Tasmania, Auschwitz or wherever.

But I am still puzzled about what exactly pricklypole found so dreadfully inaccurate about my survey. He is determined to pigeonhole me as a superficial foreigner who jets in for the weekend, talks only to a few people in Platforma, who believes that Balcerowicz is a hero and that Polish history is a joke. I agree that a lot of foreign journalists could be labelled like that. But it seems to me that the survey goes out of its way to do the exact opposite.

Kagan said...

pricklypole said: Please, ladies and gentlemen! I haven't been here for a while and I see that in a few places the new participants have confused me with Kagan; that is unfortunate consequence of my not having made it clear that I do not share any of his views except for the sheer fact that I am very, very critical of t Mr. E.L's survey. I was going to do that and I am sorry I didn't; One reason of confusion may be that Kagan said somewhere he agreed with me 100% - well, that does not mean I agree with him!
- That’s not my fault! Sorry…

Secondly, my kindness in referring to his "expertise" came as a credit after his mentioning he was a university professor in his positive response to my criticism. It included none of the outlandish nonsense that came later. So: to Flying Oko and others- I, Jakub Chmielewski aka Pricklypole, have written that, let me quote myself from my original post to E.L: "Its not whether the image[of Poland]in it[E.L.'s survey] is “bad” or “good” – it is simply wrong. Sometimes so vividly wrong that It defies any explanation why it is so, given the fact that you boast 20 years in the region. The actual state of affairs cannot be unknown to you, if you truly have dealt with this issues for so long. In fact, critical observation of the last two years would suffice and the seat wouldn’t have to be first row, not to mention behind the scene. I ‘m talking facts, public knowledge, not secrets.
- OK. But you used a lot words to say nothing. Did you ever consider a career in diplomacy?

If, however, you really lack this knowledge, or cannot process it into synthetic picture, the big question is what are you doing at The Economist? Why am I not in your place if I am effortlessly able to produce survey by far more insightful than yours? And I could easily do that not because I am such a genius, but because you, in terms of informative value, have produced a text of such a quality that if you were a pot maker - your pots would never make it to the kitchen."
- Again. The above was just a classical attack ad personam, this time again poor Edward Lucas. Not that I agree with Mr. Lucas, but you should first say what was exactly wrong in his “survey” before making a conclusion…

And I fully stand by it. As to FlyingOko's reference to a Pricklypole's remark on pronunciation...I am really in the dark what the hack you were talking about? I never said anything on that subject as I find it silly and futile to discuss phonetic ability here! The same goes for the "prickly-not prickly" part of this exchange. I would never subscribe to any foolish generalisation like Kagan's that that no Anglo-Saxon could ever and so on. I am, however, sustaining all that I said in reference to Mr. Lucas. In fact, I am going to post here a copy of my letter to The Economist to reiterate what I find unacceptable.
- So what was exactly your point? Why my generalisation was “foolish”? There was no such thing as British colonialism or so?

Edward Lucas said: I just heard from the letters editor. He plans to publish a bunch of letters about the Poland survey next week. Anyone who would like to be considered for publication should write (the shorter the better) to letters@economist.com with a copy to me (esl@economist.com).

- Should I write again? If not may I see edited version of my letter before publication (if it is to be published, of course)?…

I certainly didn't intend to confuse pricklypole with kagan and I apologise if I gave that impression. I am glad that pricklypole doesn't share what seem to me to be indefensible generalisations about the Brits. I can agree that Brits are remarkably talentless linguists, but I only have to produce one or two who speak Russian or Polish perfectly (perhaps because they lived there for years, or married a local, or studied hard, or are geniuses) and Kagan's argument is exploded. In my experience, arguments that include the words "never" and "always" are pretty fragile.
- I can bet a lot of money that you will NEVER produce a Briton who speaks fluent Polish. I used to live in English-speaking countries for about quarter of century, worked at big business and in academia, met a lot of people and have NEVER found a Briton who was able to speak more than few words in Polish. The only persons with British/American/Australian etc. citizenship who speak fluent Polish are of Polish or other Slavic stock. That is the truth…

I doubt that it makes any sense to create a hierarchy of countries where the media is "allowed" to comment on others (i.e. Germans can write about French, but not about Israelis. Arabs can write about Iranians but not Africans. Or whatever). Surely it is better for everyone to be treated as an individual, and have their views judged on their rightness or wrongness, rather than because of some disgusting and indefensible thing done in Tasmania, Auschwitz or wherever.
- My point was that wealth of Britain, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium was built on brutal colonial exploitation. Poland was for the whole 19th century a colony of Austro-Hungary, Germany (Prussia) and Russia, so it was closer in its staus to India than to England. It is pretty simple a takes a lot of bad will to fail to understand that fundamental difference between Poland (colony) and England (colonial power)…

But I am still puzzled about what exactly pricklypole found so dreadfully inaccurate about my survey. He is determined to pigeonhole me as a superficial foreigner who jets in for the weekend, talks only to a few people in Platforma, who believes that Balcerowicz is a hero and that Polish history is a joke. I agree that a lot of foreign journalists could be labelled like that. But it seems to me that the survey goes out of its way to do the exact opposite.
- Here I agree with you. His criticism, although generally correct, lacks substance…

Kagan said...

pricklypole said: Please, ladies and gentlemen! I haven't been here for a while and I see that in a few places the new participants have confused me with Kagan; that is unfortunate consequence of my not having made it clear that I do not share any of his views except for the sheer fact that I am very, very critical of t Mr. E.L's survey. I was going to do that and I am sorry I didn't; One reason of confusion may be that Kagan said somewhere he agreed with me 100% - well, that does not mean I agree with him!
- That’s not my fault! Sorry…

Secondly, my kindness in referring to his "expertise" came as a credit after his mentioning he was a university professor in his positive response to my criticism. It included none of the outlandish nonsense that came later. So: to Flying Oko and others- I, Jakub Chmielewski aka Pricklypole, have written that, let me quote myself from my original post to E.L: "Its not whether the image[of Poland]in it[E.L.'s survey] is “bad” or “good” – it is simply wrong. Sometimes so vividly wrong that It defies any explanation why it is so, given the fact that you boast 20 years in the region. The actual state of affairs cannot be unknown to you, if you truly have dealt with this issues for so long. In fact, critical observation of the last two years would suffice and the seat wouldn’t have to be first row, not to mention behind the scene. I ‘m talking facts, public knowledge, not secrets.
- OK. But you used a lot words to say nothing. Did you ever consider a career in diplomacy?

If, however, you really lack this knowledge, or cannot process it into synthetic picture, the big question is what are you doing at The Economist? Why am I not in your place if I am effortlessly able to produce survey by far more insightful than yours? And I could easily do that not because I am such a genius, but because you, in terms of informative value, have produced a text of such a quality that if you were a pot maker - your pots would never make it to the kitchen."
- Again. The above was just a classical attack ad personam, this time again poor Edward Lucas. Not that I agree with Mr. Lucas, but you should first say what was exactly wrong in his “survey” before making a conclusion…

And I fully stand by it. As to FlyingOko's reference to a Pricklypole's remark on pronunciation...I am really in the dark what the hack you were talking about? I never said anything on that subject as I find it silly and futile to discuss phonetic ability here! The same goes for the "prickly-not prickly" part of this exchange. I would never subscribe to any foolish generalisation like Kagan's that that no Anglo-Saxon could ever and so on. I am, however, sustaining all that I said in reference to Mr. Lucas. In fact, I am going to post here a copy of my letter to The Economist to reiterate what I find unacceptable.
- So what was exactly your point? Why my generalisation was “foolish”? There was no such thing as British colonialism or so?

Edward Lucas said: I just heard from the letters editor. He plans to publish a bunch of letters about the Poland survey next week. Anyone who would like to be considered for publication should write (the shorter the better) to letters@economist.com with a copy to me (esl@economist.com).

- Should I write again? If not may I see edited version of my letter before publication (if it is to be published, of course)?…

I certainly didn't intend to confuse pricklypole with kagan and I apologise if I gave that impression. I am glad that pricklypole doesn't share what seem to me to be indefensible generalisations about the Brits. I can agree that Brits are remarkably talentless linguists, but I only have to produce one or two who speak Russian or Polish perfectly (perhaps because they lived there for years, or married a local, or studied hard, or are geniuses) and Kagan's argument is exploded. In my experience, arguments that include the words "never" and "always" are pretty fragile.
- I can bet a lot of money that you will NEVER produce a Briton who speaks fluent Polish. I used to live in English-speaking countries for about quarter of century, worked at big business and in academia, met a lot of people and have NEVER found a Briton who was able to speak more than few words in Polish. The only persons with British/American/Australian etc. citizenship who speak fluent Polish are of Polish or other Slavic stock. That is the truth…

I doubt that it makes any sense to create a hierarchy of countries where the media is "allowed" to comment on others (i.e. Germans can write about French, but not about Israelis. Arabs can write about Iranians but not Africans. Or whatever). Surely it is better for everyone to be treated as an individual, and have their views judged on their rightness or wrongness, rather than because of some disgusting and indefensible thing done in Tasmania, Auschwitz or wherever.
- My point was that wealth of Britain, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium was built on brutal colonial exploitation. Poland was for the whole 19th century a colony of Austro-Hungary, Germany (Prussia) and Russia, so it was closer in its staus to India than to England. It is pretty simple a takes a lot of bad will to fail to understand that fundamental difference between Poland (colony) and England (colonial power)…

But I am still puzzled about what exactly pricklypole found so dreadfully inaccurate about my survey. He is determined to pigeonhole me as a superficial foreigner who jets in for the weekend, talks only to a few people in Platforma, who believes that Balcerowicz is a hero and that Polish history is a joke. I agree that a lot of foreign journalists could be labelled like that. But it seems to me that the survey goes out of its way to do the exact opposite.
- Here I agree with you. His criticism, although generally correct, lacks substance…

Kagan said...

And PS: I used to work at School of Languages and Cultures at Monash University in Melbourne, when it was a Polish Section there (it was closed in order to save money the very year Poland joined EU, which tells a lot about stupidity of Monash VC and Australians' attitude to Poland and Polish people). There were several Australians of Anglo-Saxon origin there, and their practical knowledge of Slavic languages was very poor. They could write (in English) a paper on, say, Russian or Polish grammar or literature, but where unable to say a single sentence without a serious mistake in grammar or pronounciation. So if someone, who studied Rusian at the uni, and then made a PhD in Russian at Oxbridge cannot be regarded as a fluent speaker in Russian, so what to expect from less talented and less educated people in UK, US or Australia? Another "shining" example of linguistic talents of native speakers of English is current US Secretary of State, with PhD in Soviet Studies, but with practical knowledge of only two Russian words: DA and NYET...
Cheers! :)

Edward Lucas said...

I have a suggestion for Kagan. I will book a table at one of the most expensive restaurants in Warsaw. I will bring a bunch of British citizens who I think speak excellent, fluent, Polish. Most of them studied slavic languages at university, some married Poles, most have lived in Warsaw for ten years or more. Kagan will bring a neutral judge. We will have dinner. The judge will adjudicate. If he agrees that the guests do speak excellent, fluent Polish, then Kagan will pay (around $2,000). If not, I will

regards
Edward

(I should add that I don't count myself in this category of excellent Polish speaker: I just insist that they exist)

Kagan said...

Edward Lucas said...
I have a suggestion for Kagan. I will book a table at one of the most expensive restaurants in Warsaw. I will bring a bunch of British citizens who I think speak excellent, fluent, Polish. Most of them studied slavic languages at university, some married Poles, most have lived in Warsaw for ten years or more. Kagan will bring a neutral judge. We will have dinner. The judge will adjudicate. If he agrees that the guests do speak excellent, fluent Polish, then Kagan will pay (around $2,000). If not, I will
regards
Edward
(I should add that I don't count myself in this category of excellent Polish speaker: I just insist that they exist)

K: A very nice idea indeed, but the problem is in a nutshell that:
1. Who will select the judge (or better a panel of at least three neutral judges)? Should they come from the academia (Warsaw Uni?) or be some leading writers or actors? I know a lot of people from academia and some good writers, but no actors.
2. How can I find that those really good speakers of Polish have no Polish and generally Slavic or Jewish/Slavic roots (as Lem, Tuwim, Brzechwa and many many others)?
3. I don't really like the most expensive restaurants(they are little bit too stuffy for my taste and casual lifestyle), but we can find a compromise: a place enough relaxed and enough expensive.
4. We will have to set a limit on amount of vodka one is allowed to drink, as otherwise the judge(s) can find, that at the end the test no one was able to speak fluent Polish...
As Poles say: devil is in details. Anyway, I accept your challenge and hope that you quoted price in Aussie dollars and that we can find truly neutral judge(s)...
Kind Regards
Kagan = LK

Kagan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Edward Lucas said...

kagan's piece seems to have been posted twice in identical form, so I have deleted the first one

I will first recruit my panel of Polish-speakers and then see about the location and judges

Edward

Kagan said...

Lucas said...
kagan's piece seems to have been posted twice in identical form, so I have deleted the first one.
- Mea culpa...

I will first recruit my panel of Polish-speakers and then see about the location and judges
- OK!

Edward Lucas said...

richardlith: I am going to be in Vilnius this coming week and would be glad to meet you. Sorry I don't have your e-mail address

Regards
Edward
edwardlucas@economist.com

FlyingOko said...

Kagan said: [PRL}eradicated unemployment and poverty in Poland

What about underemployment? "Czy sie stoi czy sie lezy dwa tysiace sie nalezy" which conveys the same sense as the joke "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work". Kagan - do you remember queuing up for meat, toilet paper, socks? Do you remember when beer was unavailable? And don't blame the west for pulling the plugs on Gierek. PRL was a worker's "paradise" but a consumer's nightmare.

Kagan: [PRL] gave every young Pole a chance of advancement thru free, high quality education.

Free yes. High quality? Marxism/Leninism and other claptrap underpinning all areas of liberal arts and social sciences?

I consider SGPiS (now again SGH) as better than Department of Economics and Business of prestigious University of Melbourne.

State planning was a disaster.

Kagan - you cannot stop the world from globalising. The free market treats any attempts to manipulate it in the same way as water flows around a boulder.

The logical conclusion of your economic weltanschauung is to cut Poland off from global markets, prevent Poles from working abroad, trading with foreigners, or indulging in consumer choice. NO THANKS MATE.

FlyingOko

Kagan said...

FlyingOko said: Kagan said: [PRL] eradicated unemployment and poverty in Poland
- What about underemployment? "Czy sie stoi czy sie lezy dwa tysiace sie nalezy" which conveys the same sense as the joke "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work". Kagan - do you remember queuing up for meat, toilet paper, socks? Do you remember when beer was unavailable? And don't blame the west for pulling the plugs on Gierek. PRL was a worker's "paradise" but a consumer's nightmare.
K: 1) Underemployment is obviously wrong, but better than unemployment, and it is present almost everywhere, maybe with exception of Hong Kong. Take, as an example the US: huge army of parasitic lawyers, who not only do NOT create any new values, but only consume what the others produced. US has the highest number of lawyers per 1000 population (I’m talking about large, significant countries). Lawyer know virtually nothing, and they really do not have to know the law, as results of criminal cases are known (as a rule) well in advance and in civil cases always (as a rule) wins that party which has more money. Take also under consideration the huge number of parasitic middlemen (especially in Japan, but also in the US), and the huge army of state bureaucrats, now, in era of Internet, mobile phones and jet planes, totally unnecessary and duplicating work of federal agencies (same is true in Australia and Canada – federal system made sense only in the era of horse buggy and highwaymen). And do you know that present-day Poland employs more bureaucrats than PRL?
As to shortages of goods in the late 1970s – it was obviously a result of de facto embargo of the West, that promised economic assistance to Poland and then withdrew it in order to destabilise Poland and after the whole Soviet Bloc (with a great help of the “Polish” pope and Polish R-C Church).

Kagan: [PRL] gave every young Pole a chance of advancement thru free, high quality education.
Free yes. High quality? Marxism/Leninism and other claptrap underpinning all areas of liberal arts and social sciences?
K: As I said I studied both in PRL and in Australia and I consider SGPiS (now again SGH) as much better than Department of Economics and Business of prestigious University of Melbourne, and much better than whole Monash University in Melbourne. I have NOT been brainwashed in SGPiS, actually we had broader syllabus there, as we covered Marxist, neoclassical, marginal and Keynesian economic theory, while in Melbourne Uni there was only neoliberal orthodoxy… I‘ve learned in PRL classic, medieval and 19th century European philosophy, even we had a lot of lectures on psychoanalysis (as I studied initially Social Economics before transferring to Industrial Economics).

O: State planning was a disaster.
K: Really? It helped Poland to quickly rebuild after the war. State planning was successfully introduced during the WW2 in the US, and the years of state planning were the years of the fastest economic growth of modern-times US. I agree that there were some problems with state planning in PRL, but it was a problem of poor implementation, not that state planning is inherently inferior to the rule of the market.

Kagan - you cannot stop the world from globalising. The free market treats any attempts to manipulate it in the same way as water flows around a boulder.
K: I cannot, but there are some, who can do it. Look at South America, Iran etc. There are strong counter forces against globalisation “the US style”. Free market capitalism is not the ‘final natural system’; it is only a step in historical development of humanity. Slavery was also regarded as a natural, God-given system and strongly defended even by such minds as Plato, for whom liberal ideologues such as Milton Friedman are not an intellectual match…

O: The logical conclusion of your economic Weltanschauung is to cut Poland off from global markets, prevent Poles from working abroad, trading with foreigners, or indulging in consumer choice. NO THANKS MATE.
K: Again, you made a man of straw and demolished it. I am for participation of Poland in global markets, but on equal terms. I am for allowing Poles to work abroad. I always ask Germans ands Austrians, why do they discriminate Poles, who are, at least in theory, full citizens of the EU? I am for choice for customers, but also for a choice for those, who have to sell their labour force on a market, so they can easily find jobs and not just jobs, but secure, safe and healthy jobs that pay (at least) enough to secure them and their families standard of life at least above the European level of poverty! And I’m NOT your mate, sorry!

Kagan said...

Just for closing the discussion. A poll made in September 2005 by authoritative broadsheet “Rzeczpospolita” gave such results:
1) Most of Poles are critical about “Solidarity” and its legendary leader Lech Walesa.
2) Only 50% Poles are happy because of Polish membership in the EU.
3) Only 50% Poles see freedom of speech as something important for them, and a real achievement of post-1990 Poland.
4) Only 1/3 (around 33%) Poles say that “regaining independence” after 1989 was important for them.
5) Only ¼ (around 25%) of Poles is positive about Mr. Balcerowicz and his free market “reforms”.
6) Only 14% Poles think that stable and convertible zlotowka (Polish currency) was a real achievement of post-1989 Poland.
7) The great majority of Poles blame “Solidarity” for high unemployment and widespread poverty.
8) Less than ¼ of Poles (24%) thinks that their life has improved in years 1990-2005.

Kagan said...

And I understand that in Lithuania the majority of pupulation, due to high unemployment and widespread poverty regrets EU membership and is for closer links with Russia. Similar situation is in Ukraine, especially in the (mostly Russian) east and in Georgia. West-controlled elites in those post-Soviet republics are very unpopular, and are very bad adverts for Western-style democracy. Current leaders of Lithuania, Georgia and Ukraine gained power by making promisses, that were impossible to fulfill, so they are just ordinary cheats. I hope that they will lose power peacefully, not in another revolution...

Kagan said...

URGENT!
Mr. Mark Doyle, Letters Editor of The Economist HAS COMPLETELY CHANGED SENSE OF MY LETTER.
Here is his email:

Dear Mr Keller-Krawcyzk,
Thank you for your letter on Poland. I intend to publish an edited version (below) in our next issue, dated June 10th. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries.

Yours sincerely,
Mark Doyle
Letters Editor
The Economist
25 St James's St
London
SW1A 1HG
United Kingdom
E-mail: markdoyle@economist.com
Tel: +44 (0)20 7576 1066


SIR * Your superficial survey of Poland is full of inaccuracies (May 13th). It was because it uncritically followed Western advice that Poland lost approximately ten years due to a severe recession and is even today, after more than 15 years of free market reforms, plagued by mass structural unemployment, poverty, and very unequal distribution of wealth and income (you neglected to mention that in "communist" Poland there was no unemployment or widespread poverty). The survey's author knows next to nothing about Poland and the Poles, yet feels free to make authoritative judgments. He assumes that Anglo-Saxon, and thus Germanic-Calvinist, culture is superior and judges other cultures by only one criterion: how closely it resembles his own. I do not know how good his Polish is, but I'm sure it is rather poor. I have never met a Briton or American without Slavic roots who could speak even basic Polish. A much better quality analysis could have been made by "bloody Poles", such as myself or fellow countrymen and women.
Lech Keller-Krawcyzk
Nicosia, Cyprus

Here is my response:
Dear Mr. Doyle,
Thank you for your email and promise to publish my letter. But I am generally very unhappy happy with the edited version, so please fix not only spelling of my surname, that should be KRAWCZYK. Although this misspelling of my surname supports my argument that no Britton can speak proper Polish, I do not like my surname to be misspelled…

And please also make some important changes in the text, as your editing has not only changed the meaning of my text and made it, in some parts rather illogical, but also introduced some words, that I have never written, such as about “:bloody Poles”. I put the changes in CAPITAL LETTERS. Otherwise, better do not publish it, as the text you have presented to me is not my text, but a compilation of my text and Mr. Lucas’ words, so it can lead to a litigation.

SIR - Your superficial survey of Poland (May 13th) is full of inaccuracies. It was because it uncritically followed Western advice that WAS A MAIN REASON WHY Poland lost approximately ten years due to a severe recession and is even today, after more than 15 years of free market reforms, plagued by mass structural unemployment, poverty, and very unequal distribution of wealth and income (you neglected to mention that in "communist" Poland there was no unemployment or widespread poverty). IN MY OPINION the survey's author knows VIRTUALLY next to nothing about Poland and the Poles, yet feels free to make authoritative judgments. He assumes that Anglo-Saxon, and thus Germanic-Calvinist, culture is superior and judges other cultures by only one criterion: how closely it resembles his own. I do not know how good his Polish is, but I'm sure it is rather poor, as I have never met a Briton or American without Slavic roots who could speak even basic Polish. A much better quality analysis could have been made by A SOMEONE WITH TRUE COMMAND OF POLISH LANGUAGE AND APPRECIATION FOR POLAND: ITS PEOPLE AND CULTURE.
Lech Keller-KRAWCZYK
Nicosia, Cyprus

Please do something about this!

Kagan said...

And now:
Dear Mr Keller-Krawczyk,
My apologies for the typo when spelling your name. We will not now be publishing your letter, but thank you for your interest in The Economist.

Best wishes,

Mark Doyle
Letters Editor

So my response was:
Now I have a true reason to sue The Economist, as you intended to publish only such a version of my letter, that would make readers think that I am an idiot. But when I send you a corrected text, you refuse to publish it. I consider this a very arrogant, racist attitude...

Edward Lucas said...

I really think Kagan is reacting absurdly here.

Follow the chronology: I invite him to write a letter. I explain it needs to be short. He writes a very long one. I shorten it, combining various texts he has posted here. I make, incidentally, a special point of selecting the letter for publication out of the dozens that we have received. To be sure that we have expressed his views correctly in the edited form, we send it to him for checking.

At this stage he could politely request some changes in the wording. Instead he responds with a threat of litigation! Our letters editor,a very senior Economist journalist of great patience and courtesy, is rather insulted by this, and decides (despite my pleas) not to publish the letter. Kagan then threatens to sue again.

He also claims that we have deliberately distorted his letter, a charge not supported by the rather minor changes that he wants.

I am increasingly convinced that Kagan is a mischievously conceived fictional character, designed to stoke the stereotype of the absurdly paranoid and prickly Pole.

I invite the readers of this blog to vote online. Please post your verdict: do you think the Economist (and I) have behaved politely and professionally, or do you think Kagan is right?

Regards
Edward

Kagan said...

Dear Mr. Lucas,
He should first to check spelling of my name (why not to use "cut and paste" technique). When I read that letter, I found, that he has TOTALLY changed its sense and in some places the text, due to poor (or deliberately poor) editing simply did not make any sense. It was unacceptable manipulation. He should tell me clearly, that it is only his proposal, not a version to print, as I understood from his email. And he should not allow his personal prejudicies to cloud his professional judgement. What else could I do, if I saw my text edited in such a way, that I'd be looking in the eyes of the readers as an idiot? I see that I waste my time discussing with arrogant Britons.
LK

Edward Lucas said...

what do you mean "totally" changed the sense of what you wrote?

You have made minor suggestions which we would have been glad to incorporate into the text if you had shown even minimum politeness, instead of which you prefer to spray your insulting and defamatory comments. How dare you accuse someone that you have never met of being racist, simply because he left out one letter in an unfamiliar surname?

Kagan said...

EL: I really think Kagan is reacting absurdly here.
Follow the chronology: I invite him to write a letter. I explain it needs to be short. He writes a very long one. I shorten it, combining various texts he has posted here. I make, incidentally, a special point of selecting the letter for publication out of the dozens that we have received. To be sure that we have expressed his views correctly in the edited form, we send it to him for checking.
At this stage he could politely request some changes in the wording. Instead he responds with a threat of litigation! Our letters editor,a very senior Economist journalist of great patience and courtesy, is rather insulted by this, and decides (despite my pleas) not to publish the letter. Kagan then threatens to sue again.
He also claims that we have deliberately distorted his letter, a charge not supported by the rather minor changes that he wants.
I am increasingly convinced that Kagan is a mischievously conceived fictional character, designed to stoke the stereotype of the absurdly paranoid and prickly Pole.
I invite the readers of this blog to vote online. Please post your verdict: do you think the Economist (and I) have behaved politely and professionally, or do you think Kagan is right?
1. Majority, especially its not representative selection, as in any such polls, is usually never right.
2. Changes to my letter were deliberately done in such a way, to make me look as an idiot.
3. Mr Lucas selected text of my first, really long letter, instead of a much shorter last version of my letter, that I sent to the editor.
4. When I saw my text, it was an absurd: no logic, total chaos etc. I introduced a minimal number of changes in order to reintroduce any sense to it. I lost my temper when I saw such a manipulation together with mispelling my, rather common, Polish surname, that only supports my argument that Britons are arrogant and with no ability to even spell a typical Polish surname...

pricklypole said...

Helo,

substance, anybody? Here you are: lengthy, but worth reading. If you're impatient, skip to the near end - on libel suit...(of course the letter to the editor will be much shorter.)


The Trouble with Edward Lucas
Sir,
The survey of Poland by Mr Edward Lucas published in “The Economist” of May 13th with all certainty is not what it claims to be – its relation to reality is rather complex instead of being simply truthful. On the one hand, it is hard to shed the impression that it follows a pattern of writing about post-communist countries of successful transition:From the very beginning to the very end It is a continuous flow of an array of fallacies ranging from minor factual mistakes (Ruch/Relay;public transport) and ubiquitous banalities, through dubious assertions, false judgements, ungrounded insinuations, hear-say, innuendo, manipulation of facts to libel. Poor knowledge of facts, bad research and shallowness of thought are, however, not crimes and I would not be writing this letter if it were not for the two last categories. Even the superficiality along judgmental cocksureness of Mr Lucas would probably pass. As it is not the right place, I will refrain from elaborating on every failure of this text – it would have to be as long. I am prepared to do that, should anyone ask for it. However, one instance needs to be looked at more closely as it is an example of particularly outrageous manipulation.
In the chapter on politics “The accidental government” the following passages can be found:
“Law and Justice (…) delight in picking fights with gays, feminists, secularists, liberals, the media, ex-communists, uppity foreigners (…) and anyone else who crosses their path” – there are two levels on which this statement is questionable;
1.as far as its relation with reality is concerned – its an exact reversal of truth; anyone who has spent a week in Poland recently and seen a random pick of TV political news plus read any selection of press articles relating anything in connection with LaJ (PIS). That’s for media. As to other alleged Law and Justice’s ‘victims’; ex-communists and orthodox liberals – its equivalent of saying that Labour love to pick fights with Conservatists, making it an element of characteristic is beside the point, if the point were about providing information – it isn’t. Gays and feminists – please, give me ONE example of LaJ actually picking a fight with any of those groups…and, mind you, even if you came up with an example, which you cannot, because there isn’t any, it takes much more than one to say that they ‘delight’ in this. Secularists and uppity foreigners – beats the hell out of me what you had in mind…
2. secondly, the language – ‘delight’, ‘pick fights’ ‘anyone who crosses their path’ – this is vocabulary and phrasing of describing individual - not group relations, not to mention political. What the author is really imputing is: J&L.Kaczynski (…) delight in picking fights (…)and the LaJ(PIS)is really nothing more than a conveyor belt of their angry frustrations – (such interpretation is suggested earlier, for example in repeated adjectives ‘eccentric’, ‘backwardness’, ‘weird’ and further augmented later, by a comparison between ‘tetchy and prickly with their grotty wives and in grotty cars vs. mistresses, benzes and the like of others – it doesn’t matter what specific context they appear in – in the end, a reader will not remember it, but the overall tone of depiction)
This kind of extraverbal manipulation alongside specific vocabulary with absolute lack of substance or evidence other than anonymous sources providing gossip and figurative descriptions instead of facts is the methodological principle of this text; its aim, or at least result – to avoid futile discussion of intention – is that no valuable/verifiable information is left once this strange brew is boiled away. The whole effort seems to have gone on suggesting rather than informing; hints feeding on hear-say rather than well grounded analysis. Let us look further at the next passage of this make-belief characteristic. “the party chief” of the first sentence is Jaroslaw Kaczynski – another subtle indication to the imputed neo-fascism. And one more thing, before I move on to the nitty-gritty – nobody I asked, including declared opponents of PIS and J.K personally, could figure out what could have possibly been the real foundation of the “vehement and frequent interventions in the media” – even the most fanatic haters of the man concede that he is conspicuously absent in media (directlyas a conscious participant, that is – being filmed is hardly “making an appearance”)as for the leader of the parliamentary majority – that, however, as the rest of queer operations performed on facts, remains beyond the knowledge of, say, a reader from Minnesota or Hong Kong. The account of events beneath is therefore likely to be absorbed easily as well :
“The party chief makes frequent, vehement interventions in both parliament and the media. He has denounced the head of the central bank, Leszek Balcerowicz, demanding an investigation into his record, and is setting up a powerful new body to oversee the banking system. That has shocked those who see Mr Balcerowicz as a heroic figure in the country's recent economic history. As finance minister in the early 1990s, he pioneered the monetary stringency and free prices that, his fans say, kick-started Polish capitalism. The central bank is a bastion of economic orthodoxy and has run a tight monetary policy to make up for what it sees as the spendthrift habits of the politicians.”
Of course, a statistical reader of “The Economist” IS Mr Balcerowicz’s fan (provided that he/she knows anything at all about Poland) and he/she DOES see him as a hero (just check comments on Mr. Lucas’ blog – for well over a 100 there is just one critical of him and ridiculous at that), whereas probability of him/her knowing who Mrs. Kaczynski are, apart from the precious information obtained from the survey, is rather low; and in vain might one look for it – it is nowhere to be found, not even half the space devoted by Mr. Lucas to the rite of rubbing the lamp to summon the gin of Mr Balcerowicz. Just indifferent phrases like those already mentioned plus comparison to Lukashenka (quoted, but not dismissed), reference to their alleged authoritarian strife, quarrelsome nature, backward views, notion of foreign policy dangling between ‘loathing’ and ‘sentimental attachment’. They are also tetchy, prickly, righteous (!) and unpredictable at the same time (property comparable only to that of the Heisenberg’s particle). Just for those who do not know: K. bros have been for fifteen years in official politics and about the same in anti-communist opposition, were key figures in the KOR (the Comitee for Workers’ Defence), then in the leadership of Solidarity, heading sections on trade unions at the Round Table, J. was the head of the National Security Council, his brother – the head of the Supreme Chamber of Control, minister of justice and attorney general (he is a professor of law), mayor of Warsaw (in general elections – unlike his predecessors). Hardly unpredictable and not very different (not in a sense imputed in the survey, anyway). Now, let us present the whole story, or rather three different stories that were so creatively amalgamated by Mr. Lucas:
1. perhaps it is best to start with the case of UniCredito. The Italian bank entered into conflict with the Polish government over the Italians’ plans to expand in breach of the previously signed privatisation deals, which had obliged UniCredito to refrain from further acquisitions for a certain amount of time. Details are unimportant; it was the kind of case that from time to time pops up in every (not absolutely) free market economy –nothing unusual. Eventually, agreement was outlined – all legally and in civilized manner. The credit for it goes to the Polish government, by the way – of course no mention of it in the survey – otherwise Italians would become monopolist. What is important is that
a.) Mr. Balcerowicz is NOT an element of the real conflict, not even a crucial factor
b.) none of the above is present in the survey;
b.) the actual conflict in every aspect transgresses personal level imputed in the survey;
- its time span begins way before it could have been used for any personal ends
- its subject matter was in the national interest and was constitutionally handled by the democratically elected representatives.
c.) K. brothers were NOT involved IN ANY OTHER WAY than legitimate: – one as the HEAD OF STATE, the other as the LEADER OF THE BIGGEST PARTY – NOT AS INDIVIDUALS driven by grudge or angry dolls out the black box, as playfully suggested by Mr Lucas.
These are the facts versus fanciful surmises of behind-the scenes workings worthy of a provincial barber shop.
2. second sequence of facts visible in the Economist’s version in the form of the phrase “the powerful body to oversee the banking system”. “The body” was as a concept and is in fact a PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION to REVIEW – NOT OVERSEE - the situation in the banking sector: therefore, IT WAS DEMOCRATIC AND WITHIN THE CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK. Further; it has been a part of the LaJ program from the start and got unfortunately contextualised to the Unicredito row - maybe a mistake from the PR point of view. However, at no point was it even close to getting out of the legal system. And one more thing: IT HAD NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO PERSONALLY WITH Mr Balcerowicz !
The cause-and-effect sequence into which elements of the above have been forged cannot be accounted for other then with the slanderous and malevolent intention and defies comment. But it demands a libel case. For now, however, let us get back to the third act of the actual events. Enter Mr. Balcerowicz. Things get unexpectedly farcical:
3. the governor of the central bank has staged the following self-designed appearance: as the chairman of the Commission for Banking Supervision – the true “powerful body overseeing the banking system”as its responsibilities are rather vague and influence on the banking sector is potentially great (its head is the governor of the central bank so in practice Mr Balcerowicz is reporting to himself and only then to the parliament while its relations with the government are ambiguous – formally independent, the governor of the central bank is obliged to report his activities to the council of ministers who in a vote may reject it not to mention the obligation to support the governments economic policy “while pursuing its statutory goals”) – during the examination of the Unicredito case, Mr. Balcerowicz literally threw outdoors one of this body’s legitimate members – a government representative, deputy finance minister Mr. Mech – claiming he had not been objective. At the same time, he had no qualms to keep Mr. Kwasniak in, - his wife actually WORKED for the UniCredito.
Only THEN, he was CASUALLY criticised by mr J.Kaczynski, although nobody’s record was ever to be investigated in terms of reprisal – the only context, in which I can imagine the word ‘record’ pronounced in reference to Mr. B is that J.K might have wondered if Mr.B ‘s odd behaviour had nothing too with the charming powers of Unicredito – as indeed, explanations given by Mr.B for his fit were rather weak. Whatever propelled him, it must be once again said that his heroic figure had little to do either with projects of parliamentary banking commission or directly in the Unicredito case; simply for this reason he is just one of many ministers of finance since 1989 and one of three Central Bank governors, not to mention the rest of the crowd of potential witnesses. Anyway, HE WOULD NOT HAVE FEATURED IN THIS DRAMA AT ALL AT THIS STAGE, HAD HE NOT CHOSEN TO THROW HIMSELF INTO THE SPOTLIGHT, rather grotesquely at that.



As a post scriptum let me add that I have contacted lawyers in the UK via e-mail (their identity shall remain undisclosed at this stage) and presented the case for their evaluation as to the possible liability to litigation under the libel laws – as your periodical is published in the UK, it remains within the Crown’s jurisdiction. In return, I have obtained their statement of readiness to undertake it, provided of course the will in this respect of the compliant Mr. J.Kaczynski

As a food for thought, let me quote some basic definitions and directions courtesy of the BBC:

A person is libelled if a publication:
• Exposes them to hatred, ridicule or contempt
• Causes them to be shunned or avoided
• Discredits them in their trade, business or profession
• Generally lowers them in the eyes of right thinking members of society

________________________________________

2. Get your facts right

The most important point is to make absolutely sure that what you are printing or writing is true. Do not make claims or accusations that you cannot prove. Even if you think you can do this, be cautious. Proving things in court can be very difficult.

And the test of what the words mean is what a reasonable reader is likely to take as their natural and ordinary meaning, in their full context - what you intended as the author or publisher is irrelevant.

If you write something that cannot be substantiated the credibility of your site, organisation or cause may be questioned. It can also land you with an expensive lawsuit and there is no legal aid for libel cases.

The burden of proof lies with the defendant
Almost uniquely in English law, in libel cases the burden of proof lies with the author / publisher and not the complainant. In other words, you have to prove that what you write is true. The person you’ve targeted does not have to prove that you’re wrong.

Don’t rely on the literal meaning
You cannot solely rely on proving that your statements were literally true if, when they’re taken as a whole, they have an extended, more damaging meaning. Also, for example, if somebody was guilty of fraud once, calling him a fraudster in a way which might suggest he’s still doing the same may well give rise to a libel which can’t be defended. Be especially wary when referring to events in the past.
Don’t exaggerate in your claims or language
For example, a company may run a factory which produces certain chemicals. For you to suggest that babies will be born deformed as a result may get you into libel trouble.

Innuendo can catch you out
Your comments may not appear particularly defamatory taken at face value, but greater knowledge of a person or situation may make it problematic because of the innuendo. To say Mr Jones doesn’t recycle his waste paper may sound harmless enough. But to people who know that Mr Jones is a Green Party activist, the innuendo of the statement is that he is hypocritical in his politics.
Repeating rumours
It is inadvisable to repeat a defamatory rumour unless you are in a position to prove it’s true. Even if you are contradicting the rumour you should not repeat it. And adding ‘allegedly’ is not enough to get you out of libel difficulties.

Quoting others
If you publish defamatory remarks about people or organisations made by other people you will be just as liable to be sued as they are. So if you can’t prove the truth of their statements, don’t repeat them.

Drawing unprovable conclusions
It is a common mistake to draw unverifiable conclusions from the basic facts. For example, if Mr Brown is seen going into a hotel room with a call-girl, this does not necessarily mean he enjoyed a ‘night of passion’, and will certainly not prove that he did.

Irresponsible adjectives
Be very careful about the adjectives you use. A misplaced word can result in costly action.

Yours sincerely,
Jakub Chmielewski.

________________________________________

pricklypole said...

Helo again,
posting my lenghthy mail, I did not know about The Kagan-affair! That bloke is something else! haha! ...
as to your vote- I, as your critic, must say this clearly and loudly: Your conduct within the hospitable frames of this blog was impeccable, full stop. I have nothing but admiration for your patience in handling that basket case, too! I also share your suspicion as to his fiendish nature all the more that his litigation threat - absurd as it is - comes almost simultaneously with my request for your (re-)consideration of matters of rather graver nature, which I am truely sad to have delivered above and even sadder to sustain them as they are...in waiting for your reaction.
best regards,
Jakub Chmielewski

Edward Lucas said...

Dear Mr Chmielewski

Thank you for your posting. I still think you have misunderstood my point about PiS and the Kaczynskis. Much of what you are referring to is cast as the view of "the critics". Then I ask, rhetorically, whether the critics have got it right, and go on to say that in large measure the criticism is unjust. I am no big fan of either J or L Kaczynski, but I think my survey treats them pretty fairly. Incidentally, Adam Bielan, who is very close to both of them, was a guest panellist at the launch of the survey and was most complimentary about it, saying that it was "balanced" and "objective". So I would be cautious about assuming that the Kaczynskis are ready to join in your libel suit against the Economist.

Thank you for your kind comments about the short-tempered Mr Kagan. Several people have written to me saying that they believe he does not in fact exist, and is a "troll". This is apparently internet slang for someone who assumes an identity in order to post abusive comments. This seems to me to be more plausible than the idea that he is really an economics professor at an American university in Cyprus! However I have not ruled out the hypothesis that he is actually the creation of my colleagues, who are playing an elaborate practical joke on me!

regards

Edward

pricklypole said...

Helo,
legal implications do appear and even a squad of Adam Bielan's cannot change that fact. His positive reaction is probably born somewhere between his politeness, ignorance and bliss he must have felt reading ANYTHING that sounds like a balanced opinion after the avalanches of mistreatment in Polish media. It does not surprise me - the entourage of K. bros. is their big handicap and it deserves lot of criticism, which unfortunately is totally misfired in your case. I knew you would claim that it was 'the criticis' way of seeing things and in my first post, I think I even tried to forestall this argument from being used, because it doesn't matter in view of my primary and in fact only objection: it isn't about being a fan or not, its not about liking. Its politics. Politics can be criticised through facts - countable, measurable etc. Facts are absent in your survey. I am not criticising you personally - I do not know you and only analyse your product and I find it faulty not because I like this or that politician, but because I see you have not touched any important issues that may be, and for the benefit of this country, should be tackled. Instead, there is reproduction of a smear campaign along the lines of col.Lesiak, anonymous sources, half-truths and worse. You are obviously an inteligent man and yet almost no independent analytical effort is visible. One big big issue you overlooked, just by way of example, is the phenomenon, now tragically wasted, of young urban people who started to rediscover their country's history and develop the ability to derive pride thereof. The anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising two years ago saw hundreds of thousands of people younger than me (I'm 33), there were even rap groups rhyming about that time's events - the museum is graetly popular to this day and is totally different from the latter day museums. I saw in it the real bud of the IV RP and because L. Kaczynski was to the large extent inspiring this, that new group voted for PIS and now sees this potential thawing away for many reasons - presidential performance being one of them. This fresh and vulnerable identity of the generation which is neither backwardly catholic with a sense of loss nor considers history of its nation "water under the bridge" is badly hit by that kind of ridicule or pressure you embedded in your conclusion and I am not exagerrating. This phenomenon is moreover not at all Euro-sceptic. It is in my view, the only prospect of this continent to unite as the administrative imposing of some premeditated creation called into being against the very notion of national state came apart like a tattered rag. In this context, you might have chosen to mention to the President's credit, the debate on foreign policy and future of Europe triggered in "Dziennik"; Presidential statement in it was about the notion of solidarity as the most important binding factor of the uniting Europe. It was a very well designed and apt thing to write and defies your words on sentimental pro Americanism and loathing for Germany - You might have - instead you chose to spread gossip about Kohl from some anonymous source, which even if true is ages old and then you write about the french journalist and the despect he suffered from the President of 40 million of Europeans topping it off with conclusion that it proves that not much has changed. Examples may go on. If you would ever be interested in hearing what a humble 33year old koleżka has to suggest, I'd be honoured to share it with you, as unlike Kagan (if he's real - spooky that thing is, ooh!) i have been keen and devoted reader of your periodical and hence my exasperation. As to libel; it is you who should be cautious! I didn't expect your reaction to be so, forgive me, childish - I was not threatening you as I tried to emphasise, i counted on your reconsideration; the fact is indisputable - it is libel crystal clear and I could tell you that convincing complainant might not be that hard for me as you think; I could present this personaly to Mr. J. Kaczynski as a brilliant idea for the PR counteroffensive (or counterdefensive - isn't it some thought?) with an international bang; just think - the case is a 100% winnable; it doesn't take a sophisticated lawyer to see that. Now, winning the case off libel with "The Sun" would be nothing, but "The Economist is quite another story and could hardly go unnoticed. How many libel suits your magazine has had over the last 50 years? what would people think? If The E. lied, everybody else lied at least twice as bad... it would disarm the whole lot of media mud because the example I dissect is only one and you were prolific enough to reproduce many more. Prolific but not cautious...well that is is not the point however - I say this only so that you have that awareness. I was hoping that making you aware of this will have positive outcome in the future. Cheer up!
Jakub Chmielewski

Kagan said...

To Jakub Chmielewski (pricklypole)
Although I generally agree with you (with few, rather minor exceptions), I was simply lost reading your very long essay. Could you provide here an executive brief, bo longer than, say, a half of standard A4 page (Times New Roman, 11-12 points) please?
Kagan

Kagan said...

And closing my argument: I have sent several letters to the editor of THE ECONOMIST, every one shorter and more temperate. But he (or Mr. Lucas, or both) selected the first, rough (draft) version of my letter, and changed ("edited") it in a very peculiar way, so that I'd be looking as an idiot in the eyes of the readers. You know well, that it takes only to change few words (3-4% maximum) to totally change the sense (meaning) of a given text. I know it well, as in secondary school we played such silly games with classics of Polish and world literature (of course, in translation to the Polish language in the latter case). Also the editor has misspelled my very simple surname (KrawZCyk instead of KrawCZyk). That has substantiated my arguments about not only inability of the Britons to properly learn any foreign language, but also about inherent racism of the Britons, caused by decades of British rule over numerous colonies and (as a result) their contempt for any one who is of non-British stock (the editor should simply "cut and paste" foreign names to avoid such silly and offensive mistakes). All than "kagan affair" only strengthened my general negative opinion I already had on the British...

Kagan said...

Actually he mispelled it TWICE as "Krawcyzk". Mea culpa!
Lech KRAWCZYK (Kagan)

Kagan said...

Brief summary of 'Kagan affair'. Editors and journalists from THE ECONOMIST wanted to make an idiot from me, because I represent a total different point of view than THE ECONOMIST. Thus they edited my letters in sch a way, that it would be clear that a person who wrote them was rather stupid, with extremist views and poor command of English. They created a man of straw, rougly resembling me, and then tried to demolish him by trying to publish a letter, that would clearly prove my general stupidity. When I asked them to re-edit this letter, they flatly refused, citing as a pretext my strong indignation because of misspeling of my name...

Edward Lucas said...

If The Economist, or I, were trying to stitch Kagan up, why would we bother to send him the edited draft of his letter for approval?

I am sorry that our letters editor misspelled his name but I should say that people with English names like Feathestonehaugh have on occasion found that not every Pole gets it right first time. I'm not defending ignorance or carelessness, but it seems to me that a very minor and unpublished error doesn't merit Kagan's furious reaction. All he had to do was to say "No I don't like this edited draft, please do it this way". And then he would have had the great pleasure of seeing his name and his views in The Economist.

To Pricklypole: I am sorry that I didn't include the "modern-patriotic" revival among Poles of his generation which is indeed an interesting phenonomenon. I agree that LK is becoming more statesmanlike as the months go by and his recent international meetings seem to have gone quite well.

I am surprised that you don't agree with me about gays, feminists, secularists and uppity foreigners. By the latter, for example, I mean the European Commission, about which both LK and JK have spoken publicly and critically.

You seem to be arguing that my survey is a lapse, "fact free" and so forth. Could I ask you to compare my survey with any other one written by the Economist (for example, the recent one about Italy). Tell me if you really see a big difference.

Finally, I must apologise to Kagan for saying (albeit tongue-in-cheek) that he might be a fictional creation. Several people have written to me with internet links showing that he is indeed a real person. It is still a mystery to me that someone of such obvious intelligence and education should find it necessary to express himself in such an undignified way.

Edward Lucas said...

just a coda to this story

I wrote to Mr Keller on Saturday asking him to resubmit, by Monday, a short letter which I would try to have published.

So far, no reply

E

pricklypole said...

Helo, do you think it would be possible to publish the letter below?...
Sir,
I would like to express my utter criticism in relation to the survey of Poland. As a keen reader of The Economist I am sorry to see this periodical allow itself to descend so low. Superficiality of analysis which does not go any deeper than stating that economy is good and government bad and poor research are there enhanced by the authoritative voice expressing assertions colourful in phrasing but of black and white content, banalities (private sector is better than the public one)and shaky conclusions (Poland's media are said to be by far the best in the region...bacause there are three heavyweight dailies, two newsweeklies and a robust tabloid). The political reality of a country, regardless of one's views, cannot be defined by means of quoting slander and unfounded gossip from anonymous sources. In his survey, Mr. E.Lucas fails to provide a single piece of substantial evidence to support any of the 'black image' claims he refers to the current Polish administration - as far as informative value is concerned it is at least pointless. The language Mr. Lucas employs in his survey is reducing social and political phenomena to the level of individual quarrels: "loathing", "seething","visceral", "sentimental", "delight", "pick fights" much in the manner of reflection common for provincial barber shop rather than prestigious weekly. Worse still, his account of events betrays outright manipulation amounting to libel under British law (see the passage on "the powerful body to oversee the banking system" and my analysis of it on Mr. Lucas' blogsite http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=24528000&postID=114737131728727586).
Sicerely,
Jakub Chmielewski.
ul. Chełmońskiego 9m102/o2-495/Warsaw/Poland.

Edward Lucas said...

Dear Mr Chmielewski

Sadly your letter arrived too late for publication--the deadline was really last week, with Monday morning the very latest.

A selection of letters about the survey will be in this evening's edition of The Economist.

Regards

Edward Lucas

FlyingOko said...

I'd be interested to know what response Jakub got to his letter to British lawyers...

[pricklypole wrote: I have contacted lawyers in the UK via e-mail ... and presented the case for their evaluation as to the possible liability to litigation under the libel laws ]

Did he hear, I wonder, about former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's action against the Mail on Sunday being thrown out of court in the space of 30 seconds?

Kagan said...

This is a copy of email sent by me to Mr. Lucas:
Mr. Lucas,
I am afraid that I have nothing to apologise for. It was Mr. Doyle, who should send me apologies for his racist attitude, bad temper and lack of linguistic skills. Unfortunately, "The Economist" is not much more than a propaganda medium for British upper classes and big business, so I was rather silly expecting from such a propaganda medium to be objective and accurate. Your unfair treatment of persons with other opinions is just a consequence of your strong political and ideological bias. I regret time wasted on correspondence with such unreliable and plainly dishonest people like you and Mr. Doyle.
Lech Krawczyk

Kagan said...

I am afraid that I have not much more to add. You prefer to not notice that it was not only misspelling of my name (which could be easily avoided by using simple CUT & PASTE technique), but what editors of THE ECONOMIST did with my text. It was highly unprofessional and based on your racist prejudices. I think that I have very good grounds to launch legal action against you and your colleagues for unfair, racially based treatment of my person. However, at this stage I will accept an official apology printed in the "letters" part of THE ECONOMIST.
Lech Krawczyk

Edward Lucas said...

what does everyone else think? Should I be apologising to Mr Keller, or vice versa?

Kagan said...

I do not follow your twisted logic. I accused you for racism not because you did not publish my letter, but because what you did to it. You tried to make me look as an idiot, and this is my main argument...

Kagan said...

I am sorry, but I must say again that If you published the 'edited' (i.e. distorted') text without consulting me, you would be providing me with an evidence of your race and class based prejudices. Anyway, I have never experienced such a case: many of my letters to various editors were edited, but never in such a way as THE ECONOMIST did, i.e. to make me look as an idiot. And please understand that it is sufficient to change less than 5% of a given text to completely distort its meaning. And only publishing of critical letters make sense - otherwise it looks like you are just printing crypto-advertisements. And finally, I dare say that over 90% of Britons are racists - look at the latest terrorist action by Scotland Yard (agents of British "Ministry of Love") in a Muslim district of London. Such heavy handed police brutality, and even state terror, would be unthinkable in an upper or even middle class suburb inhabited by the white Anglo-Saxons.
Anyway, I wait for the official apologies from the Editor of THE ECONOMIST.

Kagan said...

As I wrote before: your editing was below any civilised standards. It was the main reason I was so upset. And your reaction to criticism was paranoiac. I will never read THE ECONOMIST myself, and will discourage my students and friends from reading it. If this was what you want, you can congratulate themselves...

Edward Lucas said...

I am reluctant to post further. But here are my responses to Mr Keller. I doubt anybody is still reading, but if they are, I'd be grateful for their views.

If I was trying to make you an idiot, why would I send you the text for review? And why did you make such minor changes to a text that was supposedly making you an idiot. And why did you not take up my offer to write a new text?
I can assure you that no other journalist on the Economist would dream of making this effort to secure publication of a critical letter. My colleagues think I am completely mad for even bothering to debate with you. I may be eccentric. But I am not racist. And I am not unfair. It seems to me that this is what annoys you most


I admit to mistakes everywhere. There were factual errors in my survey, and I am glad to have them corrected. There are many different interpretations of Polish politics and history, and I am certainly not claiming that mine is the only correct one. I will happily admit that my editing of your letter was not a perfect reflection of your thoughts.

But that is why I had it sent to you for comments.

The difference is that I admit my fallibility and seek to correct it. Do you?

Kagan said...

I hope that this will be my last post here: I am sorry, but I must say again that if you published the 'edited' (i.e. distorted') text without consulting me, you would be providing me with an evidence of your race and class based prejudices. Anyway, I have never experienced such a case: many of my letters to various editors were edited, but never in such a way as THE ECONOMIST did, i.e. to make me look as an idiot. And please understand that it is sufficient to change less than 5% of a given text to completely distort its meaning. And only publishing of critical letters make sense - otherwise it looks like you are just printing crypto-advertisements. And finally, I dare say that over 90% of Britons are racists - look at the latest terrorist action by Scotland Yard (agents of British "Ministry of Love") in a Muslim district of London. Such heavy handed police brutality, and even state terror, would be unthinkable in an upper or even middle class suburb inhabited by the white Anglo-Saxons.
Anyway, I wait for the official apologies from the Editor of THE ECONOMIST.

pricklypole said...

hi, FlyingOko!? 'you there?
I know we're in the archives now, but I couldn't let your questions remain unanswered. I also posted this in the latest comments 'on the surface', cause I was not sure if anybody comes in here any more. You were curious about the response from lawyers in reference to the possibility of a libel suit and if I heard of Schroeder's lawsuit having been dismissed in blitz 30sec. (wow!). Well, lady, or whoever you are, I don't know what fuels your defensive zeal but it certainly has a sideeffect of making you skip large portions of text you venture to question; the answer was right below the fragment you were kind enough to paste in your post and especially, just for you, here it is again: "In return, I have obtained their statement of readiness to undertake it, provided of course the will in this respect of the possible complainant Mr. J.Kaczynski".
As to the second question: No, I haven't. Now, let me ask you mine: So what? - that and, please, the second, so that we are even: Have you taken your time reading my post (I admit it was lengthy)? ...well, please do with special attention on the part devoted to Mr.Lucas' account of the Balcerowicz/banking commission events and the last part with the BBC guidelines for avoiding libel suits. Then we can go on.
Jakub Chmielewski

5:12 PM

Edward Lucas said...

just to say that yes I am still monitoring this amazing discussion. Mr Keller-Krawczyk wants to take me to the Commission for Racial Equality for anti-Polish prejudice. If at the end of this I am fired by the Economist, it will show what I always suspected, that there is much downside, and little upside, to this blogging business.

pricklypole said...

It is unimaginable absurd that you ponder consequences of being fired as a result of actions of a maniac and a clown while remaining unselfconsciously cool with the fact that your journalistic practice, at least in the survey of Poland, is manipulation, distortion and disinformation and strict libel and I am not talking about a mistake here or an error there but deliberately proliferated slander concerning politicians governing one of the bigger countries on this continent and you feed your mood about it not refuting arguments I have put forward but with quoting ignorant individuals praising your 'objectivity' or with comparing yourself to worse cases. It is still unbelievable to me that I have really obtained such answers as I have from you - the correspondent of a prestigious international magazine: 'I think that the ex-commie govt was quite strong under Miller. But it was bad.' -no comment
'I would not say that I mindlessly copy the PiS opponents' charges. Compared to any other foreign journalists, I think I have been remarkably fair-minded, perhaps too much so.
'(...) it is a fact that they [ec-commies] were technically very competent at foreign policy. Look at the way Belka nearly became sec gen of the OECD, and Kwasniewski was in the running at the UN. I don't like them but I have to concede they were good at this bit of their job.' - your notion of foreign policy is clearly looking after one's carrier in the international organisations,mhm. its patehtic to me, given the fact that in no place of your survey do you reach any further than sentimental pro-Americanism and visceral loathing of R. and G.
and the most bizzare:'Most journalists are not great experts in the subjects they write about. Even on the countries they survey. It may be a pity, but it's true' you say but elsewhere you have no qualms stating that it is your "job to make judgements and characterisations'. Well, I sincerely think that if you don't find it inappropriate to go on passing judgements in writing on things about which you know next to nothing, you most definitely should be fired if The Economiast likes to be considered seriously.

Kagan said...

And now I was called on this blog "maniac and a clown". Why not go for "full Monthy" and call me "bloody Polish idiot"? Or even better (sorry, but for well know reasons I cannot post here any stronger statement).
Kagan

Kagan said...

And now I was called on this blog "maniac and a clown". Why not go for "full Monthy" and call me "bloody Polish idiot"? Or even better (sorry, but for well know reasons I cannot post here any stronger statement).
Kagan

Edward Lucas said...

Dear Mr Chmielewski

Please don't call Kagan a maniac and a clown. He only called you verbose, which doesn't deserve such a vitriolic reply.

As far as I can see, you are arguing that the international media should just give up, as necessarily most of the articles cannot be written by experts on the subjects involved.

I also fail to understand why you take such exception to my remarks. I think that the last ex-commie govt was quite good at foreign policy. Kwasniewski did well in Ukraine. I may not like them as people, but even their harshest critics admit that they got things done.

Where on earth do you get the idea that I have a visceral loathing of Germany? (or for that matter Russia)? I speak German like a native, lived there for years, married a German, go there on holiday, read German literature. I also like Russia very much, especially literature, painting, poetry, music, although my Russian is not as good as my German.

Please try to be a) polite and b) rational in your postings.

EL

pricklypole said...

1. What is the right word for someone who thinks Cuba is prosperous under Castro, Mrs Thatcher should be tried for manslaughter of innocent people ran over by malfunctioning privatised railway and takes legal action under the banner of anti-racism because his name was misspellt? Please, tell me - I'll start using it. Meanwile, I'll stick by the m. and c. words. By the way, I am no longer 4 so it really does not matter that he called me verbose (I was not even aware that he did) - I call what I see
2. There has been a misunderstanding - Visceral loathing was a quotation from your survey where it pertained K. bros. Ok. Ukraine is a better example than running for a UN post, but then again - why did you not put it in your answer in the first place! I wouldn't have picked on you for that - as simple as that!

pricklypole said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pricklypole said...

To clarify – and par example:

- the phrase "visceral loathing for Germany and Russia" is verbatim from your survey where it is a pole of a ‘binary’ label you gave the K. brothers' foreign policy – the other pole would be their “ardent pro- American views” (elsewhere also referred to as “sentimental pro- Americanism”).
Given Poland's geopolitics and history, it is a rather serious charge.
To support it, you quote two anecdotes:

- one is about the German Chancellor’s Kohl having once thrown J.K outdoors in exasperation at an unspecified ‘anti-German’ utterance of the latter. It is roughly 15 years old.
Then, you go on to prove that "things haven't changed much" with another spicy gossip:
- it is a story about L.K., the Polish President, on his official visit to France a showcase of his arrogance – he has kept a French journalist seeking to interview him waiting for 4 hrs and then spolit the party by staring at the man’s feet (sic!) - and ridiculous pomposity - during the interview the President's decided to call it a day in reaction to the famous journalist’s 'snapping at his [the President's] aide who was hasting the interview forward!
Here, for that matter, it is perhaps relevant to mention that the ‘aide’ was in fact the presidential Chief of Protocol, whose very responsibility is to make sure everything is on time during official visits – the fact you must have known.

And that is all there is to support your assessment that "the Kaczynski brothers share visceral loathing for both Germany and Russia"! ...
There is NOT:
- a single reference to any specific foreign policy move;
- nor any published text of any sort by either of them;
- or either's any public utterance, argument or opinion;
- no one with authority in the field or at least a name is quoted in support thereof!
All your sources are, of course , anonymous.
In fact, , there is only one reference in the whole text to a fact of importance in the area of recent Polish foreign policy - to 'energy-NATO' –
…you needed no more than a sentence to cover that. Other than that, there are more anonymous anecdote sources.

1. Do you really mean to tell me that you don't know what gravity resides in this (and other - as poorly documented) assertions?

2. Do you really wish to maintain that it is enough to support it with two anecdotes: one out of date and the other clearly irrelevant(regardless of anything else)?...

3. Where on earth did you get the idea that they loath G. or R. viscerally?

or otherwise:

Please, stop pretending that you don't know what is wrong in your practice - it is absolutely impossible that you are unaware of implications of what you write and I doubt if there is anyone as naive as to believe that you are...

Edward Lucas said...

yes but don't forget that I talked to dozens of diplomats (polish and foreign), wonks, and other foreign-policy observers. The Economist, unlike say the NYT, doesn't provide a sourced quote or fact for every observation. The reader just has to take it on trust. And everyone I spoke to about the Kaczynskis agree that they are pro-American and anti-Russian/German in their "gut" orientation. So I put that in. Of the hundreds of letters I have had in response to the survey, this is one observation that nobody apart from you has queried.

Incidentally, the Lech Kaczynski roadshow remains as chaotic as ever. He has just cancelled, at very short notice and in a very abrupt way, his speech at Chatham House, which is the main foreign-policy institute here in London. And I believe he has cancelled his whole visit too. That is very unusual behaviour, to put it mildly.

The anecdotes you object to seem to me to be quite revealing. JK doesn't realise, even 15 years later, that his behaviour at Kohl's office was odd. And LK didn't realise that doing a television interview while staring at your shoes is unlikely to come across well!

pricklypole said...

Isn’t this ironic..as it turns out, it’s the British that called off the whole thing and L.K who has (out-of-the-ordinarily) not been invited to the Queen's birthday celebrations. This, to top it off, has with no delay been trumpeted by the opposition (R.Kalisz) as a national affront – whatever twisted motives may have driven them.
The irony of that – as I see it - lies in the fact that it illustrates quite well what I suspect is your underlying problem – if I may (not too seriously). You’re a flash addict! You are after the effect and seem to me to be just too hasty in your approach to facts. It is as if you were just too impatient to allow them to subside, so that they can be analysed without their momentary context and you do that in pursuit of the glitter of a witty conclusion, bon mote, a pun. Forgive my daring – I only write this with a smile as a sort of a friendly teaser; after all, who am I to say such things – I do not know you personally, neither am I a native speaker nor a journalist. The only excuse for me is that you have (although, perhaps, rather rhetorically) invited this venture with your desperate questions (It has crossed my mind that if this had been possible, you would have had me kept at a gunshot – Kohl-style…- I am joking, of course). Another thing that I am asking you to take note of is that I do not consider this bad in itself, although it may be deleterious in the kind of writing you do at The Economist. It seems to me that you have a temperament of a reporter and your gift of being light with words would be a blessing if you were to relate things as they happen before your eyes. The base for the 'survey-kind' of writing, however, is analytical input and a constant critical distance towards anything that has not been dissected and put back together again in your mind. That quality would make you want to question anything people tell you and only allow you to agree once you yourself have processed it and certified. This has a nasty side-effect of people getting tired of you conspicuously quickly. In my humble opinion, a survey (of Poland or Trinidad and Tobago) - benefits from such criticism and prevents one form traps, which you seem to have let yourself get caught in, like labelling, seeing revelations where there is only petty gossip and turning a blind eye on things important; your astounding adherence to the logic of a the binary and the linear; constant reduction to the level of conflicts between individuals betraying its roots in a historical fallacy of “heroes” and “great men” – influential personages propelling history forward - tight focussing on the personae dramatis is a result thereof as well as of your proneness to see the reality as an unfolding plot, a series of re-occuring instantiations of a myth-like structure with one beginning and a guessable end; furthermore, your failure to discriminate between shades in your judgements and apparent lack of the ability to define processes in statu nascendi which is most valuable when it comes to describing the living reality of a such complex nature as that of a human society.
That is what – as I see it - may be underlying what I see as your failures: not any prejudice (not any that you might be aware, although that reproduced – very much so), or malice or any other emotional factor.
To put it shortly; your order of operation is rather identification than cognition.
As one of the characters in “Rejs” (a film you must know, if you are so well acquainted with the Polish reality), an engineer by the name of Mamoń, once said when asked if he liked the song he had just heard for the first time: “…I regret from the bottom of my heart, but I just cannot say - I only like the tunes I heard before.”

I will later post the second part following the 'constructive' part of your proposition.

FlyingOko said...

L.K. was not at the Queen's Birthday Celebrations... but he did address a meeting of foreign investors organised (strangely) for the very same evening. Who was snubbing whom?

FlyingOko said...

Question for PricklyPole:

You seem very defensive of the current government. Can you summarise what it stands for? I can't see an overarching ethos behind it all. What's it about? What's it leading to? So unlike the Thatcher revolution, or what's happening in China, or even Ireland or Estonia.

The Kaczynski brothers (rightly) don't like communists. Rightly they want to stamp out corruption. But other than that - what are they about?

Poland needs to change dramatically. Attitudes need to change. Trust needs to be be built in Polish society. Communism effectively destroyed any sense of trust between human beings. It's not being rebuilt. Barriers between urzednicy and citizens persist. Young Poles are fleeing in their droves. Yesterday's reportage in Gazeta Wyborcza's magazine section about the Brit who's had enough after 13 years in Poland had many telling observations.

My fear about this government is that time is flying and reform isn't happening. Zyta Gilowska's departure is symptomatic of the sick state we're in.

pricklypole said...

I have just come across your question, FlyingOko, which probably has been hanging in the air for a while as I took a break out of civilisation. Risking that you won't come by any more, I'll nevertheless answer:
- I was not defensive of the Marcinkiewicz cabinet. My stance was against the character of argumentation used here against it; instead of substantial, serious inquiry into the policies of the government, I found tabloid-like personifications and distorted facts - seriously distorted and potentially dangerous to Poland as a whole: imagine an investor who hears about weird twins delighting in picking fights and tormenting Balcerowicz with "powerful body to oversee the banking system" for the sake of it. period...
As to your doubts as to the current administrations overarching ethos - it is a little early for a raelity-check of this particular aspect, but even so - you are the first critic that charges Pis with the lack of ethos, of all things...