Dithering Europe is heading for the democratic dark ages

It took hundreds of years before the population was restored to Roman levels. If we think that no such disaster could happen again, we are not just arrogant but forgetful of the lessons of the very recent past. Never mind the empty temples of the Aztecs or the Incas or the reproachful beehive structures of the lost civilisation of Great Zimbabwe. Look at our own era: the fate of European Jewry, massacred in the lifetimes of our parents and grandparents, on the deranged orders of an elected government in what had been one of the most civilised countries on earth; or look at the skyline of modern German cities, and mourn those medieval buildings blown to smithereens in an uncontrollable cycle of revenge. Yes, when things go backwards, they can go backwards fast. Technology, liberty, democracy, comfort – they can all go out of the window. However complacent we may be, in the words of the poet Geoffrey Hill, “Tragedy has us under regard”. Nowhere is that clearer than in Greece today.

Every day we read of fresh horrors: of once proud bourgeois families queuing for bread, of people in agony because the government has run out of money to pay for cancer drugs. Pensions are being cut, living standards are falling, unemployment is rising, and the suicide rate is now the highest in the EU – having been one of the lowest.

By any standards we are seeing a whole nation undergo a protracted economic and political humiliation; and whatever the result of yesterday’s election, we seem determined to make matters worse. There is no plan for Greece to leave the euro, or none that I can discover. No European leader dares suggest that this might be possible, since that would be to profane the religion of Ever Closer Union. Instead we are all meant to be conniving in a plan to create a fiscal union which (if it were to mean anything) would mean undermining the fundamentals of Western democracy.

This forward-marching concept of history – the idea of inexorable political and economic progress – is really a modern one. In ancient times, it was common to speak of lost golden ages or forgotten republican virtues or prelapsarian idylls. It is only in the past few hundred years that people have switched to the “Whig” interpretation, and on the face of it one can forgive them for their optimism. We have seen the emancipation of women, the extension of the franchise to all adult human beings, the acceptance that there should be no taxation without representation and the general understanding that people should be democratically entitled to determine their own fates.

And now look at what is being proposed in Greece. For the sake of bubble-gumming the euro together, we are willing to slaughter democracy in the very place where it was born. What is the point of a Greek elector voting for an economic programme, if that programme is decided in Brussels or – in reality – in Germany? What is the meaning of Greek freedom, the freedom Byron fought for, if Greece is returned to a kind of Ottoman dependency, but with the Sublime Porte now based in Berlin?

It won’t work. If things go on as they are, we will see more misery, more resentment, and an ever greater chance that the whole damn kebab van will go up in flames. Greece will one day be free again – in the sense that I still think it marginally more likely than not that whoever takes charge in Athens will eventually find a way to restore competitiveness through devaluation and leaving the euro – for this simple reason: that market confidence in Greek membership is like a burst paper bag of rice – hard to restore.

Without a resolution, without clarity, I am afraid the suffering will go on. The best way forward would be an orderly bisection into an old eurozone and a New Eurozone for the periphery. With every month of dither, we delay the prospect of a global recovery; while the approved solution – fiscal and political union – will consign the continent to a democratic dark ages.

4 thoughts on “Dithering Europe is heading for the democratic dark ages”

  1. the problem is debt, personal corporate and sovereign, there has been a 30 year bender of borrowing. the challenge will be to ensure civil order and perceived social justice in a zero-growth (green and sustainable) world The only hope is a reinvigorated democracy which transcends class based parties. the danger is extremism – even if the trains would run on time

  2. I am confused by both the Euro football and the Euro crisis. Perhaps it would be easier for all of us if the media swapped TV pundits for financial pundits.

    This would make no difference to the outcomes or our understanding, but it would at least provide more entertainment than the respective main events.

    Alan Hansen would be proven to know more about economics than he does about football (“You win nothing with kids” – but I get a jaw-dropping salary!). And Robert Peston could demand of Sepp Blatter why, despite the stunning wealth of FIFA, they cannot rig up a simple TV camera to show whether or not a ball crosses a line.

    The Greeks would still be bust, the football would still be dull, but we’d at least get final proof that no-one knows less about anything than an expert. Especially the experts called economists.

  3. At the end of the day the euro zone is the worst zone we could possibly be part of.

    It not only drains the higher earning countries in the zone but keeps the lowest earning countries bound to the zone as if caught in some sort of addiction.

    The euro zone is most possibly the worst deal we have entered into not only as a country but as a people. The demands of the European union are so high it leaves many countries in debt. We simply have no way to get out. We ask for a referendum on the EU but unfortunateley it is no where to be seen and why is this?

    It is because the mp’s involved are being paid so much by the EU that they dare not leave they’re loving caring hands.

    the EU is nothing but a drain on economy and we should get out as soon as we can!

  4. The logic of the Eurozone is amazing; whilst the whole world watches in horror as economy after economy collapses, the guys in charge offer – Fiscalpakt! Which translates as, ‘ We’re in a hole – Dig Deeper! Dig Faster’

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