Mr. Sarkozy thinks EU should drop the VAT for oil. For oil in general? No way, that would be an encouragement for the European to consume it as if nothing happened. But dropping VAT for oil used in transportation of merchandise and in some industries seems reasonable.
Then he says the VAT should be diminished for the audio-visual, to the level of VAT for the books. What? So that the audio-visual can make more profit by ramming more advertisement down our throats? The audio-visual deserves an increase of VAT, to discourage bulshitters. Books deserve a lowering of VAT because, in most cases, they mainly contain text. The Text moves your mind, makes your imagination take off, the Image (esp. the moving image) dulls the mind and kills the imagination.
Got that? (quoted from Life is worth losing, by George Carlin.)
How much should an artist get paid for its work? Can't settle that, ok, what is an art item then? A unique, or an almost impossible to repeat, happening; a singularity; then, yes, it's possible to copy it but not make it happen as it happened. Not even the artist itself can't have the same revelation twice, only recoils or follow-ups.
Then one cannot institutionalize artist payment (well-define a price for an art item), that's forcing the artist to transform in a production line. That's how most of the art is now: a production line, well, producing mostly profits for those having nothing to do with arts. Sometimes an artist got richer than Boltzmann; and that makes me wonder also. When that happened, in my view, an artist became a little wheel in a bullshit-selling industry; nothing to do with art anymore.
An art item cannot be verified if it's art or not, a science/engineering item can, it's almost its definition, it's verifiable. I believe that one can establish/institutionalize a price for what is verifiable, which means repeatable, which means socially meaningful, which means significant to any human. For an art item, the price can be established by a group of humans who consider it significant but that price remains valid only for that group, at the society's scale, the real price of art scales to zero.
The verifiability is the only basis for building trust in the humanist society. It follows that a humanist society should not be concerned at the institutional level with the artist's condition. That's a condition in which any human can happen at times nothing can anticipate, or maybe, for some, it never happens, without degrading their human status. In a humanist society, an artist is somebody who happens to create something beside the verifiable things one has to do in a society. That's a human's individual need anyway: the need to express, to symbolize, to enrich or twist or recheck the verifiable reality or announce a newly discovered but unverifiable reality. That (the artist's condition) comes with being a human, not with a payment established by the society as a whole.
The artist's condition, being unverifiable by definition, cannot be trusted socially, although various groups can always appreciate or have an intuition of it and pay for that, then promote it and sell it for profit. The usual notion of art in the current society is just a convoluted way for tapping into the public money: when an art item becomes so expensive no one hopes to resell it, guess what, a museum buys it with public money so you're doomed to repay it one last time; in the process, some people made their living off your (ancestor's) back. Over time one gets to learn about them in the school manuals and call it culture. I'm pretty sure the real heroes remained anonymous, perhaps Internet will change that.
The copyright for artwork is as meaningless as the copyright for work paid by the public. Copyright is nothing more than a tool in some profit making industry, and, as long as this concept exists, there should also be a copyleft one can use to protect oneself from it (Creative commons is a more refined approach) .
If you're using your copyright to buy an SUV from your book's selling, that's a guarantee you're dimming yourself to the point of extinction from humanity's memory. Anyway, if you were doing that, I'm pretty sure you were not doing it for the humanity's memory ;).
I'm Romanian, so that makes me a byzantine European, that is, inclined to chit chat at the street corner. Here's my 2 cents:
I lived and worked in Pittsburgh, PA, United States, between 1999 and 2002. In less than six months I had a strong feeling I don't belong to this culture. This feeling is standardly wrapped and softened in concepts like "cultural shock", implying that any culture is fine, but I disagree with this implication: any culture has something to fix in order to preserve humanism (the human as a naturally social creature).
My clear picture about US, in 2002, was that the low-density of people, the car and the big-capital freedom, biased everything: once you put a car under everybody's ass, small businesses from the city die in favor of big-businesses outside the city, because it's cumbersome to store a high-density of cars in the city, people migrate outside it, in driving distance from the new big stores or groceries, that means they spend a lot more time in their cars, which means they spend more time isolated and brainwashed by the radio stations financed by about 10 big media companies. I was surprised then to find out a more uniform opinion about everything than in Ceausescu's Romania (Ceausescu was a petty dictator in my country, before 1989). This uniformity was tested when the war with Afghanistan started, then with Iraq. Living far away from each other didn't help at getting feedback, like neighboring people in a bus/train can get, it also didn't help with the food quality, the only practical solution being to buy sacks of food on the week-end, to eat it over the next week. That implies plenty of preservatives, which implies plenty of allergies and new diseases, which is good for the health business or making-profit-from-disease business. This also erased the sidewalks so one can't walk from one corner of the city to another. This is the suburban concept: collect coupons for the week-end, go buy whatever the TV tells you it's fancy, sit and watch your boring dream surrounding you with cars rolling and overweight people running on the alley in front of your lawn. It was clear to me that these people where living for a few others, the rich ones, who had no problem moving their money overseas when the natives had too high (read normal) expectations from their work. The money got exported, and the debt remained with the optimist suburbanite, who still thinks that evil people envy him. But the oil resource is thinning and the North-American way of life has to change. Indeed, good signs appeared, in Pittsburgh, at least: in 2008 organic food and bike stores became more visible, although the groceries did not come back: Oakland, a place with two university campuses and a big hospital, has yet no real grocery. Somebody from Pittsburgh Post-gazette asked me if I have any opinion on the current political issues, given the context of presidential elections, I declined as a recently landed here, but I still have an opinion, as an European: I would vote for president the one that promises to replace most of the highways with trains, subways and an efficient Berlin-like or Vienna-like public transportation; the one who would fund research in electrical vehicles, electrical energy storage and production; the one who currently stays connected to the Internet at least 4 hours a day and spends less than a half-hour per day in a car.
Anyway, not all is that bad as it sounds from the previous paragraph: a recession is starting, meaning that rich people from everywhere are upset, meaning that people living on credit are forced to rethink their dreams, meaning that wars are less probable, unless religious. Beside peanut butter, the next-best thing in US is the popular no-bullshitting attitude, and this is no cheap thing when I think of Europe.
I lived 3 years in Berlin and 1 year in Vienna, the rest (37) in Romania. The Germanic part of Europe seemed much more attentive and eager to discuss about what's to be fixed. I felt them as healthy societies albeit the weather must affect their overall well-being. Peanut butter is not so good in Europe, unless imported from US, but public transportation, groceries and cafes allow people to socialize, to mature as humans. The high-density of people in Europe pushes many of them to fight to create a necessity and occupy a job to resolve it, meaning there are layers upon layers of people in unnecessary positions. This helps one mature, in general, through the brushing-with-each-other phenomenon, but also drives one to cynicism: non-manufacturing people start manufacturing interferences, smoke and mirrors. High-density population generates plenty of bullshit in Europe. In the background, Europe tries to copy all the free-capital based mistaken optimism, and it will fail similarly, with a variation: it did not assume that oil is forever; otherwise, the same wrong assumption that a higher number of people means a larger market and that this is supposed to solve all the problems.
Because of the bullshitters in Europe, I couldn't get a research grant related to public digital libraries for four tries (one a year) in a row, and that in the context of the "knowledge-based society". Knowledge-based society my foot. The bullshitters need ignorants to work for them, not documented and inventive neighbors. European bullshitters think Europe can exist as an entity and work for them because it is or becomes a unified market. My hope is that a common language can save the European Union from committing the same basic mistakes as the US.
So I agreed to leave to US again (with no right to work), meanwhile getting old and tempted to become cynical about some of my fellow Europeans.
I think, the most fundamental problem of the US-Europe world is the copyright, or "intellectual property", an unjustified extension from potatoes to ideas or, rather, fake ideas. If the copyright is supposed to last a life and then some, then we should also pay rent to the potato grower: for each potato which we ate, we should pay a rent to him, pay it as a "service", for life and 70 years of his inheritors; each time we walk on a bridge or look at it, we should pay a fee to the engineer that built it.
The existence of copyright is the signal that the density of bullshitters reached a critical level, it also degrades the intellectuals into plain door-to-door sellers of fake things.
I was reasoning on the necessity of a common language for EU, earlier on. I dropped too easily Esperanto as a choice, opting for Spanish instead: I feared that a constructed language wouldn't stand a chance near a historical one.
I'll try to make it here clear why, in a concise form.
His argument, in my understanding, is that the currently used languages preclude intercultural communication because of their naturally different histories.
So, at least the following issues appear in an intercultural communication:
irreducibly different semantic resolutions (e.g. in chinese, it seems, you have to specify which grandmother are you talking about, your father's mother or your mother's; if you have to translate from English to Chinese, then you have to do some research beyond the written text to get it accurate);
truncated communication (let's be clear, you have to live and socialize a couple of years in a foreign country to claim you know the language, and then you only get to know a small part of the native linguistic reflexes: any naturally grown language is continuously enriched with logically inconsistent native reflexes from the street speech, so a foreigner will end up learning the grammar in a few months and then he'll have to cover the exceptions in a decade or more);
EU expenses on translation are large, with no benefit in sight; to provide an image about this effort, Mr. Piron says that translation costs 100 euro per A4 page, and 750 euro fee per translator per day; he also says the translation related costs for the EU institutions amount to 3 euro/year/european; although it seems little, I'd like to know the amount of indirect costs related to translation (electronics, software, maintenance, housing and travel for the translators etc.), and I'd also like to know how this amount compares with the scientific research EU funding.
Briefly, to master a language, and its accurate translation into a second language, you have to grow somehow with both.
Here comes the advantage of a constructed language: the rules are minimal and provide for consistency, so one can build naturally on it with the result being portable interculturally.
Practically, what should EU do about this state of affairs?
Obviously, for the official EU documents, Esperanto should be made mandatory and all the other EU languages optional. This will not only avoid the translation expenses, but also the the expenses with the armies of lawyers which will get involved in reinterpreting a semantically sloppy historical language in the face of law. In schools at the national level, Esperanto should be mandated as the second language as an instrument for communicating with foreigners, EU or non-EU, anything else should be optional.
TV subtitles in Esperanto should be made obligatory, or available, at least, for any TV presentation in the EU countries;
Try setting up an international cooperation with non-EU countries for an Esperanto-based communication.
If the EU administration doesn't decide anything in the direction of a common EU language, in, say, a year or so, those interested in this issue (I hope, all the Europeans) should start organizing themselves online for a way to push this on the EU legislative table.
Briefly, what I want to say here is that it would be ideal for any European to know at least spanish and mathematics, and at least an external language (english, chinese), beyond the native language.
I'm saying that the multilingualism in EU is a problem rather than a feature worth supporting, as long as we talk about more than 20 languages. I hope it's obvious for any European that one cannot handle so many languages in a human lifetime.
I think that no more than two common languages are necessary for optimal communication inside EU: mathematics and a common natural language. With the mother tongue, the 3-rd, you grow naturally, so it isn't EU's concern, it's a local issue. So we count 3 languages by now. Obviously you should have the freedom to learn as many languages you like, but that's not EU's issue.
The mathematics and the common language of choice are needed for formal and informal communication, they provide the opening to universality. Quoting Van Cauwelaert in Un aller simple:
Alors le bonheur, c’est quand je suis allé à l’ecole. Le bonheur, c’etait d’apprendre. Je m’inventais unde autre famille, rien qu’à moi, avec les mots et les chiffres que je le pouvais changer d’ordre comme je voulais, additioner, conjuguer, soustraire, et tout le monde me comprenait.
The mobility of labor inside EU doesn't need more than these 3 languages: the mathematics, the common language and the native language.
There is also the economic language: the money, but there's no reason of concern here, it's the Euro and it's not a multilingualism issue.
The later we recognize the necessity of a common EU language, the later we'll understand us through EU (each bigger country will continue to hope that its own native language will predominate, each immigrant moved to, say, Spain, will forget his native language for practical reasons and still won't grasp what his german neighbor is saying, the cultural communication between the EU citizens from different countries will be almost null, as it is today, and this will keep us prey to nationalisms or blanket globalization).
Check the blogs' logs and see if some EU country's blogs are visited by EU neighbor netizens with a comparable frequency with that of the local netizens. Seriously, this says a lot, beyond the natural wish of the translators and publishers to secure a job.
What I understand by mathematics as a common language: that each EU citizen must receive a minimal education allowing him/her to formulate, model and solve problems. The ones with higher studies should graduate, above the high-school level, 1 year of mathematics equivalent with what is taught in technical universities today. My experience makes me suspect that a lot of the graduates of non-technical higher-level schools lack basic discernment, and the basic tools to build it. There is an inflation, which I feel clearly here in Europe, with graduates of "information and communication" "science" who can only mess-up communication and generate noise baptizing it information.
I already wrote my thoughts related to the common natural language (informal) elsewhere on this blog: ideally we should choose Spanish. Briefly, that would allow us to have also numerous external partners in communication (the south-americans) belonging to a "warmer" culture than the current anglo-saxon one.