Poland's government has passed a law, upheld by its constitutional court, "that significantly limits the rights of people whose property in Warsaw was seized during or after World War II, and their descendants, to apply for restitution," according to the New York Times. The law sets up hurdles virtually impossible to clear. Most important, the government has included a self-serving provision the denies the right of ex-owners to seek the return of property "used by the government." Anyone who did not file a timely claim under complicated and expensive procedures is deemed to "have agreed that the ownership of a given property should be passed onto the city of Warsaw." No Holocaust survivors whose buildings were confiscated by the Nazis or the Communists have been found who agreed to make such generous gifts of their buildings and other property to the city of Warsaw.
Venezuela's government, in the person of President Nicolas Maduro, has proclaimed a Spanish Marxist economics professor, Alfredo Serrano "the Jesus Christ of Economics … who's building new concepts for a new economy of the 21st century." Venezuela's food shortages, runaway inflation and currency collapse, says Serrano, can be explained by studying Karl Marx. They are due to speculative capitalism, the class war, and reforms that reduced the role of government. So Maduro has ordered the military to take over the distribution of food, which is so scarce that tens of thousands of Venezuelans storm supermarkets, raid delivery trucks, or trudge across the border to Colombia to avoid starvation. It seems that although Marxism might show "how to overcome the fragmentation of modern social thought…", as Columbia University history professor Mark Mazower recently wrote, it has little to offer the hungry proletariat, who are, literally, withering away while the state's military has access to whatever food is available.
The German government, led by the otherwise estimable chancellor Angela Merkel, says "We can do this", meaning absorb one million refugees, about one-third from Syria. The theory is that the hundreds of thousands of young refugees will join the work force and pay taxes to fund pensions and other features of the German welfare state, which has one of the oldest populations in the world (after Japan and Italy). Bayer, the pharmaceuticals group, says the refugees, who receive housing and a monthly stipend of €400 from the government, are willing to work but "they come from countries where science is barely taught…". Half of the 20 places on the company's advanced training course are unfilled. Official government statistics, reported in the Financial Times, say that 74 percent of the refugees seeking work have no vocational training, 25 percent do not have a school-leaving certificate, and few speak German. Fifty of the refugees, including many of the Syrians who have found jobs, are working for the postal system, and many of the others have found work as security guards. Yes, security guards.
The British government forced up the minimum wage for over-25-year-olds. But several office cleaners went on strike because their employer reduced their hours so as to leave take-home pay unchanged. "The twist?" asks Sarah O'Connor in the FT. "These workers clean toilets and empty bins in the offices of HM Revenue & Customs, the government department that enforces the minimum wage." That agency has chastised retailers and restaurants that reduced work hours for not following the "spirit of the law." "Fac quod dico, non quod facio" can now be added to "Dieu et mon droit" as part of the royal motto of England, emblazoned on the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
The Greek government has found the solution to its ongoing budget deficits. Andreas Georgiou, former head of the nation's national statistical office, was recruited from the International Monetary Fund to find and report Greece's actual budget deficit, rather than the understated one the government had reported to the EU when seeking a bail-out. He did. And is now being tried by the Greek government for favoring the nation's creditors, and faces ten years in prison if found guilty. This follows a similar move by the Argentine government of then-president Cristina Kirchner, which charged twelve economic consultants with violating the "commercial loyalty law" by contradicting the government's calculation of the inflation rate. Fortunately for the economists, the Argentine government is more forgiving than its Greek counterpart: it reportedly sought only fines of about $120,000 each from the alleged disloyal statisticians rather than jail sentences.
And here at home, our government swings into action when one of its own is threatened. It seems that Housing and Urban Development Secretary—yes, we do have a government department that is managing the development of downtown Baltimore and the Chicago shooting gallery— Julian Castro broke a federal law restricting partisan activities by government employees by praising Hillary Clinton and criticizing Donald Trump during an interview with Katie Couric. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel referred the matter to President Obama for action. Justice was meted out swiftly lest anyone think an Obama supporter who breaks the law receives preferential treatment. A White House spokeswoman immediately announced, "Secretary Castro has acknowledged the inadvertent error he made [and] has taken full responsibility for ensuring that such errors do not occur again." No need, then, for one of the hundreds of presidential pardons for felons that are emitted regularly from the Oval Office these days. Merely following the example of the president by apologizing, an Obama art form, will suffice.
Ronald Reagan famously said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" Those words are equally terrifying in other languages.