Sunday, May 20, 2012

I’m back and still predicting doom, gloom and misery. And a short break in Spain was very welcome

After something of a hiatus, I'm back. Just as many opinions and just as much bullshit will be on offer, but I should tell you that one of my few principles - dangerous things principles, but I do risk it once in a while - is 'bullshit for fun, never seriously'. There is too much of it around and I don't want to add to the sum total in this world. I stopped posting for a while because I suspected I was beginning to take myself a little too seriously, so I wanted to knock that on the head as soon as possible. So no posts for a while.

. . . .

Nothing much has changed out there, as you will have noticed from the news. Greece, and now Spain, are still going to the dogs, though Greece is doing so rather faster than our Iberian cousins, and everyone, but everyone knows the outcome: Greece will leave the euro and resurrect the drachma, in time the euro will collapse and the whole rasion d'etre of the European Union will be up for question. Why, countries will ask themselves are we members if, in the long run, we aren't assured the prosperity we were hoping for. That's not so say that they aren't, just that the outcome they all so fervently hoped for is simply not as achievable as they thought it was. The trouble is that people are apt to remember bad times rather longer than good times, and they will see what is happening in Greece, Portugal and Ireland and wonder whether that might not happen to them, too.

One glaring mismatch between the EU and those who have recently joined or still hope to join is that whereas the apparent guiding princple of the EU, one fondly encouraged by those running it - superannuated to-the-left former Sixties politico hippies - was a kind of brotherhood of man, a vaguely capitalistic socialism in which everything is done for the common weal is hugely at odds with the motivation of new and aspiring members, namely self-interest.

Self-interest most certainly wasn't behind the idealistic thinking of the original Iron, Coal and Steel Community members, who later became the 12 before insanity took over and the 'European Community' became the horribly unwieldy 27 member states, but that is what now drives most members forward. In the early days, the motivation was quite simple and delightfully admirable: to ensure that a merciless war such as World War II would be a thing of the past. But now look where we are. Germany is once again being blamed for everything. Admittedly, it only has itself to blame in as far as Berlin obviously cannot understand how others might not share its values, but to my dying day I shall defend Germany against the charge that it is 'trying to dominate Europe'. Germany is, at worst, guilty of appalling political naivety and incompetence, but if that were a capital offence, there would few far fewer politicians round. Sarkozy would have been one of the first to have last his head.

I think the real problem is that the EU all too soon lost sight of its fundamental objective: to unite Europe through trade by bringing down barriers to trade, spreading prosperity and ensuring that we all had too much to lose by going to war. But when things were going well, as most certainly they were for many years, it all went to their heads and the idealists committed the cardinal sin of believing their own bullshit. The rather more down-to-earth Brits were labelled troublemakers for urging caution and refusing to join in an increasingly silly game, but mainland Europeans went ahead. They did not understand that most people are still intrinsically local, that loyalties are still local and all this bull about a political union was simply not welcome or, at least, way ahead of its time.

But now we have the mess. Launching a common currency would only have been a good idea within a political union, but as such as union was still decades off, the euro was far too premature. And now we have the mess, a mess which will not only bring misery to Europe but North America, China and Asia. The only part of the world which will be spared a great deal of misery is South America. Am I too much of a doom monger? No, I really don't think I am..

. . . .

I have just returned from a very pleasant and relaxing seven days in Spain. I wasn't, thank goodness, on the Costas rubbing shoulders with Brits complaining that you can't get a decent cup of tea for love or money, but in the back of beyond about 70 miles north of Valencia between a one-horse town called Els Ibarsos and a rather bigger places (a three-horse town?) called Albocasser. I was visiting a friend of my stepmother's who I knew vaguely before I went and who was very good company. He is a potter, and the son of one of Brtain's famous potters with wide interests. More about that, perhaps, another time when I am not at work and pretending to be beavering away on something, anything, which isn't personal. I took quite a few piccies and shall post some of those, too. Pip, pip!

. . .

Well, there has been movement of a kind on the Eurozone front as various EU state finance ministers prepare for the next in a long, long, long series of ‘make or break’ summits, so having regained my verve for adding my two ha’porth, I thought I might add a word or two to the above.


It does strike me that were one to set out to create a messy situation which would be farcical were its implications not so tragic, then you would be hard-pushed to do better than the current cock-up with the euro. Quite simply, there is now no longer and acceptable outcome. Whatever happens will be unpleasant for everyone, not just those of us living in Europe, but for the American and Asian economies. South American economies might be spared as long as they don’t rely too heavily on exporting to the rest of the world. But we should all be clear: the shit is going to hit the fan soon, whatever clever ruses the EU finance ministers come up with on Wednesday.

The talk is that France now has the upper hand over Germany in as far as there is widespread support among member states for the creation of so-called Eurobonds. These are the same as national sovereign bonds but imply that the EU is one fiscal unit, with every member of the Eurozone being equally responsible for every other member’s debts. Well, I can’t see the good and thrifty folk of Germany settling for that. Furthermore, the Eurozone is not a fiscal unit and the chances of it becoming one any time soon are rather smaller than me getting a romp in the hay with Holly Willoughby. Germany is against such Eurobonds, though not for sensible reasons: it wants to carry on with austerity.

This is all a supremely good recipe for the mainstream democratic parties in the EU to lose ground to the various crackpot groups on the left and right. Hungary already has one in power. For a venture which was designed to ensure peace in Europe for ever and a day, it is all pretty poor going.

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