15 January 2011

Europe's crisis: the people will be heard

If you want to understand the economic crisis in the European Union and the increasing controversy surrounding the euro common currency which most EU member states use, a good place to start is this article by Paul Krugman, which gives a history of the EU project and an overview of what's going on now. Be wary, however, of Krugman's enthusiasm for solving the problem by deeper integration of the EU -- an idea popular with EU political elites but rejected by European peoples, who have never wanted to sacrifice the sovereignty of their individual countries to a pan-European super-state.

Germany, the ever-more-dominant power within the EU, has rejected further economic integration, as Krugman's own article notes. Whatever Chancellor Angela Merkel may personally want, German voters are furious at the costs already imposed on them to shore up weaker EU countries, and will tolerate no more of the same. (The Greek bail-out was followed by a crushing defeat for Merkel's party in an election in Germany's biggest state.) A large majority of Germans now wish the euro had never been adopted in place of the mark.

European unification was always something of a secret conspiracy by the elites, as this article in the pro-EU Der Spiegel bluntly acknowledges:

[Jean] Monnet, who is considered a "father of Europe," wanted to guide European countries into a super-state "without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose." Apparently the fathers of the euro acted in accordance with the same philosophy later on. The new currency became a vehicle for further integration, and the EU became a monetary union -- but not an economic, let alone a political, union.

It won't work any more. Europeans now do understand what is happening. Not only do Germans reject further integration, but from Greece to Spain to Ireland, there have been mass protests -- sometimes fearfully violent -- against the madness of austerity programs imposed by EU central authorities on countries already mired in high unemployment. It's increasingly clear that the euro is part of the problem; Britain, the one large EU country which did not adopt it, retains a flexibility and autonomy in dealing with its problems which the euro-zone countries can only envy.

But the pundits are right about one thing -- a common currency among a collection of independent countries with such disparate economies is unsustainable. Either the euro-zone countries will be forced into a political and economic union which their peoples do not want, or the euro currency will fall. I'm betting on the latter. The once-quiescent masses are angry and aroused. This is not the Europe of Monnet's time any more.


Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

I confess I know so little about European politics. I only know that they have a government sponsored health care system and I would love that to happen here. But my wife reminds me that whenever I covet what other people have in their lives, I have to accept all of the other things as well, including the negative aspects.

16 January, 2011 13:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Luckily those things don't have to go together. As far as I know, all developed countries except one have universal health coverage, but the un-democratic multi-national super-state is a uniquely European project (and some successful European countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, don't belong to it).

The EU also eats up a lot of money while producing nothing of value. If anything, it diverts resources that could be spent on the social safety net in individual countries.

17 January, 2011 04:27  

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