European Union

08 October 2008
Tariffs and Transport
Rob Fisher

On the one hand, we try to reduce the cost of transportation between England and America, or Canada and the United States, by developing faster and more efficient planes and ships, better roads and bridges, better locomotives and motor trucks.  On the other hand, we offset this investment in efficient transportation by a tariff that makes it commercially even more difficult to transport goods than it was before.  We make it a dollar cheaper to ship the sweaters, and then increase the tariff by two dollars to prevent the sweaters from being shipped.  By reducing the freight that can be profitably carried, we reduce the value of the investment in transport efficiency.

Henry Hazlitt in Economics in One Lesson.

18 July 2007
Third driving licence directive
Rob Fisher

This isn’t new news, but I don’t think it has been mentioned here before, and all kinds of things seem to go on at the EU without anyone asking for them or anyone knowing about them.

In the March 2007 issue of Bike Magazine (unfortunately not online), Rupert Paul writes:

What were you doing on December 13?  Working?  Shopping?  Cooking the dinner?  In Strasbourg on that particular Wednesday, the European Union was up to something more far-reaching:  achieving its 15-year dream of wrecking motorcycling.

This is a difficult subject for freedom-loving motorcyclists.  The EU is so stultifyingly boring that 98% of you have already turned the page.

According to a press release from March 2006 it looks as if the third directive on driving licences will be in effect by the end of 2012.  It consists of many changes intended to “harmonise” driving licences, but just so no right thinking MEP can object, lumped in are proposals to “improve road safety”.

Currently you can ride a 125CC bike at age 17, keep it for two years and then start riding a full sized bike.  Or at 21 you can take a direct access test and ride a full sized bike straight away.  The new rules increase the minimum age for a 125 to 18, add a second test to progress to a full sized bike, and increase the minimum age for direct access to 24.

Motorcycling advocacy organisation FEMA is not amused.  Rupert Paul continues:

Fewer riders means fewer customers, and harder times for manufacturers and dealers—which means higher prices for bikes, clothing, insurance, servicing, you name it.

Worse still, it’s an interference in our lives nobody asked for.  I mean, has anyone ever taken you aside and said: “Christ, Jack—I’m out of my mind with worry about the lack of harmonisation of European driving tests.”

The directive also contains provisions for changes to the weights of trailers that can be towed on various types of licence, increased licence renewal frequency, more communication between national authorities and various changes to HGV licences that I don’t understand.  Then there is this curious statement:  “Member States are allowed, if they so wish, to insert a microchip in the licence.” Given that it is unlikely that any previous directive prevented them, I wonder why this is mentioned at all.