on Sun Nov 13 19:36:17 2011, in response to Re: EUEUEUEUEU Putsch crushes national governments in EUEUEU, posted by Olog-hai on Sun Nov 13 19:20:45 2011.
There’s nothing new about this European folly
The governing class in Europe thinks it knows what is best — and once again, the people are being forced to accept it.
By Janet DaleyHave we learned nothing from the terrible century that finished just over a decade ago? Talk about generals fighting the last war: Europe seems determined to remain locked in the first flush of post-war peace, repeating over and over again, with ever more hysterical urgency, the formula that once seemed like a miraculous antidote to its own worst inclinations.
9:00PM GMT 12 Nov 2011
Even as the prescription — the permanent integration of those wicked old nation-states into one unified whole — proves damaging and dangerous, it cannot be abandoned, because it is, by now, the received definition of progressive thinking about the future.
But it is not about the future at all. Its remedies and pieties, as well as its anxieties and confusions, lie almost exclusively in the past. That is why it offers answers to questions, and solutions to problems, that are so discordant with life as it is actually lived. (So much so that elected governments must be displaced before its mechanisms can be put in place.) The plague of bellicose nationalism is no longer the preoccupying threat to modern European life, yet that is the demon which the EU is most dedicated to driving out. Germany’s fear of hyperinflation is out of touch with its present robust economic reality, yet that is what prevents the ECB from taking the obvious measures to save the Italian economy.
But the European project is an anachronism in a much more profound sense. Its institutions may have been developed as a consequence of (and an act of repentance for) the world wars, but its philosophical roots go back much further: this dream of a “modern” Europe is just the latest model of utopian ideology to leave wreckage in its path.
Its antecedents are the German and French systems of political theory which held that perfect methods of governing could be derived from first principles: that human behavior and social interaction could be predicted and controlled in ways that would maximize welfare and happiness. What you hear in the grandiose speeches of European leaders and the bumptious pronouncements of EU officials is precisely this: we have an ideal system which can guarantee infinite security and wellbeing, provided that everyone behaves in ways that are consistent with the rules of life as we describe them.
The great irony of the mess we are now in is that this concept of a totally rational, perfect society which must be imposed on actual people, each with his own distinct experience and perception of life, was the same delusion that wreaked havoc in Europe for generations. From one Terror to another, Robespierre to Stalin, the enforced experiments ran their course. And virtually every one required the “temporary” expunging of democracy.
Of all the disturbing aspects of the past few weeks, none has been more alarming than the frank contempt that has been expressed for public opinion and democratic accountability: the idea that these decisions are too important to be left to the people, with their inchoate resentments and their self-serving sentimentality. Somehow, while we were busy heading toward the progressive enlightened future, we ended up being forced to accept the most retrograde formula of the past. The governing class knows what is best, and the people must be made to accept it.
How did that happen? And what sort of tortuous logic made it seem acceptable? Answer: the economic imperatives that follow when the common-sense understanding of how people behave is abandoned in favor of ideological delusion. This was the 21st-century version of the experiment. Allow countries that have traditions of corrupt, chaotic governance to enter the domain of free money (easy credit and low interest rates) and see if they automatically turn into well-ordered, responsible nations. Now we know: they don’t. So instead of Greece and Italy having dodgy currencies (to match their dodgy governments) that could be devalued whenever necessary, they were locked into one that was supposed to be invincible and could not be devalued.
But instead of their national temperaments being remodeled and their populations propelled into the glorious discovery of probity and sound borrowing habits, they continued to be themselves. And the Germans, for all their official commitment to the grand theory, continue to be themselves as well. They have their memories and their inherited fears of inflation and the debauching of their currency to contend with. So here we are at the same old impasse: human beings are not perfectly rational and they will not behave as the beautiful system dictates. (It seems bizarre, in this light, that it is Euroskeptics who are described as “ideologues”.)
Perhaps it is not so surprising that we have made this mistake yet again: it seems to be a feature of the European intellectual tradition. But it is outrageous to compound it by pretending that it is unprecedented. Once we accept that the EU is not a pragmatic project at all — not a practical proposition designed to meet specific, actual needs, but a metaphysical system which relies on the reinvention of human nature — then it becomes much easier to understand why it is coming so spectacularly adrift.
Meanwhile, in Britain, we fight over the old 20th-century ideological ground, but there is no debate in any meaningful sense. There is an absurd argument going on about the evils of capitalism — only this time around, in the wake of Marxism’s inglorious collapse, there is not even a plausible alternative being proposed to replace it. So the attacks are nihilistic in the strict technical sense of the word, as well as being misguided.
However repugnant the present generation of capitalists may be, and however much personal disrepute they may incur, it is not capitalism that is about to destroy the prosperity of the populations of modern Europe. It is the folly of enforced uniformity — yet another dream of enlightened perfection — that will accomplish that.
What the architects of the dream, and even those of us who are caught in the backwash, will have to accept is that capitalism is probably incapable of producing enough wealth to cover the cost of limitless “social protection” programs as well as providing uniform levels of prosperity for all working and non-working citizens. Soon, we will have to make radical choices not just about the power of unelected officials, but between economic freedom and what those who run the EU call “social cohesion”. Or rather, they will have to make the choices. I doubt that we — or the peoples of Europe — will get any say in it at all.