Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Cure

Here is a story I recently read in the Chronique de Troyes, by the 13th century Cistercian monk Anselme Fratertini.

A man in Orleans fell ill and called a doctor. The doctor examined him and concluded the patient was gravely ill. For a cure he decided to bleed him, with leeches.

The following day the doctor returned. The patient was clearly worse. So he bled him some more and gave him a mixture of laurel leaves and mare’s urine to drink.

On the third day, the patient could not even talk anymore and looked paler than the sheets he was wrapped in. So the doctor administered an extra heavy bleeding, by opening up the veins.

Next day the patient was dead. ‘Doctor, what happened?’ wailed the grief-struck widow. ‘How come my husband was not cured?’

‘It was my fault,’ the doctor answered. ‘I did not bleed him enough.’ 

Do you buy this, reader?

What? You don’t? How weird!

Now, you are of course perfectly right to shake your head at this line of reasoning. But if the fallacy of it is so very clear, then answer me this: why is it that so many people all over Europe do accept the equally idiotic cure that the Abominable Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund is applying to Spain and other countries in trouble?

Draconian budget cuts are demanded from national governments in exchange for a potion of laurel leaves and horse piss. This makes the illness worse, by gutting the economy. Therefore more draconian budget cuts are demanded, with the doctor’s guarantee that this time it WILL work. And again. And again. Ad Finitum.

Last week the Spanish government announced a stunning 65 billion budget cut on the poor and the middle classes. Yesterday the go-ahead was given for a first tranche of 30 billlion €uros bail-out money for the Spanish banks from the European partners. Therefore Spain and the €uro ought to have been saved, because this line of action promised to restore the Confidence Of The Financial Markets. Instead, the country’s stock market dropped 5 %, the interest rate on Spanish bonds rose to 7.25 % and the differential with German interest to 625, both the highest level ever, while the Divine €uro dropped against the dollar to the lowest value in its history: 1.21 U$.

Why is this? Why are the Financial Markets not more confident? Might it be, perhaps, that they do understand that bleeding a patient again and again is not the recipe to cure him, but to kill him? And that they do not wish to lend money to a moribund man in the hands of deluded doctors?

Meanwhile, we can wait for the miracle cure which the Abominable Troika will prescribe for Spain next week: more austerity in exchange for a broader bail-out. This time, they will assure us, it WILL WORK! Guaranteed!

There have been major riots all over Spain the last few days. In some of them, policemen, while still doing their duty, expressed their sympathy for the demonstrators. We are living in interesting times. Unfortunately…


  1. Tragic - that's the only way to describe this kind of logic, or lack thereof.

  2. Indeed! And more of it to come. I accept wagers on the end of the Euro. I say November.

  3. Mr Mittington,
    So confident am I on Spain leaving the Euro that I will wager 100 new pesetas (or half a New Euro)on it happening in October. Spain's National Day is the 12th October which happens to fall on a Friday this year and everyone knows you need a Bank Holiday weekend to stamp Euro notes with "New Pesetas."


  4. Dear David,

    The bet is on, but I prefer to wager a nice bottle of wine or a Christmas Turkey or some such tangible commodity. After all: we don't know what these new currencies will be worth when they come out. I might be betting my entire pension of the next three years, and you the remaining worth of your apartment! So let us be sensible, I say. We want to make each other happy. Not add our dime to the misery that Brussels is cooking up for us.

    Would they dare take such a step on the Dia de la Hispanidad? When good old Columbus discovered new horizons?? Even they can not be so cynical, can they??

    Yours, Alfred.