Holidaying in a Tragedy

With the misery index in Greece moving ever upward, it feels odd to be going there on holiday. And with the elections looming there, the time is right to revisit what was written on this blog on Armistice Day 2011 – nothing has changed since then, other than the issues being visible in sharper focus:

They that can give up essential liberty
to obtain a little temporary safety
deserve neither liberty nor safety

Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)

So the most revealing week of the Eurozone crisis ends, on Armistice Day of all days.

The ‘Greater Europe’ project is as old as the hills. Ironically it was the Greeks who had the first proper go, followed by the Italians (aka Romans) and then a Belgian (Charlemagne, was born near modern day Liege).

Hitler was an Austrian opportunist who took advantage of fertile ground in post-Weimar Germany to pursue his personal and well supported Greater Europe project – which latterly became inseparable from his toxic anti-Semitism and general insanity.

Whatever the original motives of the current European Union, it has in the last few weeks become (whether by accident or design) the Greater Europe project of our time. The way in which a Eurocrat (albeit a ‘Greek’) has been installed in Athens by Brussels has stirred memories of Herod and Quisling. There is a similar process underway in Italy, where like in Greece there is absolute intolerance of any suggestion that the electorate might be consulted.

If a Greater Europe is to be finally established, where European countries are managed by a federal government operated out of Brussels (instead of Athens, Rome, The Vatican or Berlin), then Brussels needs German financial firepower.

Britain, along with the rest of the world, is encouraging the Germans – with their stacks of cash – to cough up and give Brussels what it wants. From the perspective of the economic realist, simply take the Euro to its inevitable and logical conclusion. And as one investing into a distress situation, write your own terms. What’s not to like?

Doing this is, say the markets, the mother and father of all no-brainers. It is demonstrably in the best economic interests of everyone – be you a creditor nation within the Eurozone, or a trading partner reliant on Eurozone economic health (and debt repayment). Most of all, it is in the best economic interests of Germans. By saving the Euro, you prop up the value of the money that you are owed, you prevent your own currency from appreciating and so leaving you uncompetitive, and you prevent meltdown in the economies of your key trading partners.

And yet, obstinately, the Germans hold out. Why?

As the only nation within the Eurozone with the firepower to save it, the Germans have a stark choice – cough up or leave.
Coughing up would be to give immense power to Brussels. It goes against all the anti-authoritarian, pacifist, democratic instincts that characterise their magnificent response to the national nervous breakdown of 1945. To do what is demanded would be to collaborate with everything that they now stand against.

But the alternative is to exit the Euro. Were they to choose this alternative, they would sacrifice their killer economic hand and exchange it for bad debts and an appreciated currency in an economic train smash. They would be cutting off their own nose.

Yet in doing so they might, just might, take power directly away from an emerging authoritarianism, and in the same move they may return it directly to the voters of Eurozone countries. Such an option could leave the Brussels emperor with no clothes.

Today, on 11.11.11, could it be Angela Merkel and her discussions in Berlin that stand alone against a global consensus that would sacrifice “essential liberty to obtain a little safety”.

In Britain, today, we took a minutes silence to remember those who gave their lives to stand against the forces of tyranny both in 1914-18 and 1939-45. Perhaps it was a minute for us to consider the way in which the great wheel of history turns.

  1. 26th May 2012

    Its striking that since the original armistice post of 11.11.11 (double nelson?) almost nothing has changed. The German’s feel frustrated at being outmanoevered by the incompetance of Brussels yet haven’t got an answer. If they had their time again I suspect that they would have bailed out the Greeks lock stock and barrel at the first time of asking. They could then have concentrated their efforts at persuading the Italians and Spanish to put their houses in order with the promise of Eurobonds if they behaved themselves.

    In the broader context of European history this spasmodic episode may be seen as the early contractions of the arrival of Delors’ Eurobaby. Then again perhaps the end game won’t be a single Europe but something more global. Why shouldn’t the middle east and China be more closely involved? The Euro’s umbillical cord leads to Beijing rather than Berlin. Do they care about labour movement? Do they care about equal rights for workers? Not much. However they may well care about their debtors getting their fiscal house in order and paying back the billions they’ve borrowed. Perhaps the Eurocrat in Rome is pre-cursor to a Sinocrat in Brussels.

    Finally, do you have a hedge in place for your Greek holiday bet?

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