Sunday, May 20, 2012

Europe's New Normal

This article begins, “The eurozone's troubles no longer qualify as a crisis, an unstable situation that could either quickly improve or take a dramatic turn for the worse. They are, instead, a new normal -- a painful situation, to be sure, but one that will last for years to come. Citizens, investors, and policymakers should let go of the idea that there is some magic bullet that could quickly kill off Europe's ailments. By the same token, despite the real possibility of Greek exit, the eurozone is not on the brink of collapse. The European Union and its common currency will hold together, but the road to recovery will be long.”

The underlying assumption for this article is that “economics” trumps all other concerns. It doesn’t specifically address my concern but if it did the author might invoke Fukuyama and argue that we are at the end of history. There is nothing for any of us except Liberal Democracy and Germany is in it with the rest of us; so they are just going to have to learn to live with its inequities.

As it happens I am reading several books about the American Civil War and notice a parallel between the American and European States. Eighty years previously the 13 colonies divorced themselves from the British Monarchy: “if only we can be free from British control we shall be at the end of history as we know it” [my paraphrase], but in the interim between this obtained freedom and say the 1850s something reminiscent of the above article occurred. That is, some states didn’t want a central government telling them what to do. Other states believed that a central government was necessary.

It took a long time for this stress to create a crack but that crack occurred in December of 1860 when South Carolina seceded from the Union. They weren’t doing anything illegal. Nothing was in the constitution that said they couldn’t do that but after several other states followed suit, President Lincoln by executive order declared such secessions illegal. And so the two sides went to war. Both sides believed in the 1861 version of Liberal Democracy but they went to war anyway.

To argue that this sort of thing can’t happen in Europe in 2012 is one most Europeans would agree with, but most Americans in 1850 would have argued that the American States could never go to war with each other, and yet in 1861 they did. Both sides believed in the same things more or less but one side didn’t want a central government telling them what to do.

[By the way, slavery wasn’t initially a major issue. Lincoln didn’t go to war because of slavery. The war officially began April 12, 1861 when Fort Sumter was attacked by Confederate Forces. The Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves was declared January 1st, 1863 and the historians I’ve read suggest that the primary reason for it to have been declared was to keep Britain from providing support to the Confederacy. Slavery was illegal in Britain but as long as it was legal in both the American North and South Britain could continue to favor the South; after the Emancipation Proclamation that was no longer politically possible.]

No comments: