Ed Driscoll

Watching Euro-Pangaea Break Up

Pangaea is the scientists’ name for the position of the continents hundreds of millions of years ago, when they effectively formed one giant combined landmass. In the last few centuries, transforming Europe into one giant, boundary-free landmass has long been the goal of European elites, from Napoleon to Hitler to the bureaucrats who created the EU.  It just never seems to work out well in the end, though —  “unexpectedly,” as a Bloomberg.com economist might say.

Which brings us to Real Clear Politics, where George Friedman explores “The Futility of European Elections:”

It is not the policymakers that are divided. Rather, the electorate is driving apart policymakers. The German solution to the problem is so unpalatable to the rest of Europe that traditional elite politicians supporting Germany’s plan, such as Sarkozy and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, are being replaced. Their replacements tend to reject the German position.

Indeed, political reality has constrained the actions of European lawmakers. Until about five years ago, a broad consensus governed Europe when it came to EU matters, and politicians were free to align themselves with Europe. This is no longer the case — the solution for maintaining Europe has diverged. Most important, Germany has become the problem in the eurozone where once it was the solution.

Structural issues, such as German dependence on exports to the European Union, only partly explain the change in Germany’s public perception. More accurately, German methods for managing the crisis increasingly are seen by other countries as significant threats to their well being — there is not one anti-German coalition. Germany wants to find accommodation with France. The problem rests in how the French and German views are reconciled. France is not yet leading a coalition against Germany, but it is difficult to imagine a different scenario.

The more elections are held, the more the public will force their leaders in various directions. More often than not, this direction will eschew austerity and Germany. Over time this will solidify into a new map. While this has yet to happen, the recent elections at the least are not solving Europe’s problem. In fact, they may be further dividing the Continent. And there are many elections to go.

But in the EU, elections were always designed to futile — the EUrocrats considered that a feature, not a bug, as Mark Steyn wrote in America Alone back in 2006:

You could avoid some of the bloodshed if European leaders were more responsive. Instead, they’ve spent so long peddling Eutopian illusions most of the political class is determined to stick with them come what may. The construction of a pan-continental Eutopia was meant to ensure that Europe would never again succumb to militant nationalism of one form or another. Instead, the European Union’s governing class has become as obnoxiously post-nationalist as it was once nationalist: its post-nationalism has become merely the latest and most militant form of militant nationalism—which, aside from anything else, makes America, as the leading “nation state” in the traditional sense, the prime target of European ire.

It’s true that there are many European populations reluctant to go happily into the long Eurabian night. But, alas for them, modern Europe is constructed so as to insulate almost entirely the political class from populist pressures. As the computer types say, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature: the European Union is a 1970s solution to a 1940s problem, and one of the problems it was designed to solve is that fellows like Hitler and Mussolini were way too popular with the masses. Just as the House of Saud, Mubarak, and the other Arab autocracies sell themselves to the West as necessary brakes on the baser urges of their peoples, so the European leadership deludes itself on the same basis: why, without the EU, we’d be back to Auschwitz. Thus, on the eve of the 2005 referendum on the European “constitution,” the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, warned his people where things would be headed if they were reactionary enough to vote no. “I’ve been in Auschwitz and Yad Vashem,” he said. “The images haunt me every day. It is supremely important for us to avoid such things in Europe.”

Golly. So the choice for voters on the Euro-ballot was apparently: yes to the European Constitution or yes to a new Holocaust. If there was a neither-of-the-above box, the EU’s rulers were keeping quiet about it. The notion that the Continent’s peoples are basically a bunch of genocidal wackos champing at the bit for a new bloodbath is one I’m not unsympathetic to. But it’s a curious rationale to pitch to one’s electorate: vote for us; we’re the straitjacket on your own worst instincts. In the end, the French and Dutch electorates voted no to the new constitution. One recalls the T-shirt slogan popular among American feminists: “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?” In the chancelleries of Europe, pretty much every part. At the time of the constitution referenda, the rotating European “presidency” was held by Luxembourg, a country slightly larger than your rec room. Jean-Claude Juncker, its rhetorically deranged prime minister and European “president,” staggered around like a collegiate date-rape defendant, insisting that all reasonable persons understand that “Non” really means “Oui.” As he put it before the big vote: “If it’s a yes, we will say ‘on we go,’ and if it’s a no we will say ‘we continue.’”

And if it’s a neither of the above, he will say “we move forward.” You get the idea. Confronted by the voice of the people, “President” Juncker covers his ears and says, “Nya, nya, nya, can’t hear you!”

As Mark wrote, “Only in totalitarian dictatorships does the ballot come with a preordained correct answer.” That was also the goal in early 2009 in America; both continents are currently seeing how well that notion plays itself out.

How will it end? Not well. “Dithering Europe is heading for the democratic dark ages,” London’s mayor recently wrote in his hometown newspaper, the Telegraph. And in his latest Bleat today, James Lileks adds:

Like many of you, I look at Europe, and think: this cannot end well. I can imagine civil order breaking down in Greece, riots, political paralysis, and a coup. Is it absurd to imagine Italy splitting? A German co-prosperity sphere with Euro-rule transferred from Brussels to Berlin? Perhaps I’ve been watching too many WW2 documentaries lately, but they have a necessary reminder: things fail. And another: tribalism is bred in the marrow. Everything modern about Europe is transnational – the architecture, the politics, the thin smear of high culture that passes for art, it has a brash modern style divorced from national identities. Divorced from Europe’s sullen husband, History.

People don’t want to be cut off from national identity; the more you suppress it, the nastier it gets when it’s let out of the hole. I think the idea of war in Europe is ridiculous – the question of “over what” is matched only by “with what,” but it just seems as if some Great Shuddering is due.

After that, I’m optimistic. I’m oddly optimistic in the long run. The bigger the bad idea, the more horrid the process of discrediting it – but once it’s done, the lesson has a better chance to stick.

I’m not sure I agree with that — some goals are so ingrained in elites’ minds that they’re impossible to stop reoccurring, no matter how much evidence is presented that they won’t work. (QED.) Besides, giving people their freedom reduces the possibility of government sanctioned graft.

Related: “Larry Summers Can’t Imagine How to Solve Europe,” J.D. Foster writes at the Corner:

Larry Summers, the former Clinton treasury secretary and more recently a top economic adviser to President Obama, has demonstrated two exceptional abilities. The first is an insightful review of conditions in the European crisis and why political solutions are so hard to come by. The second is he managed to get the same column into two of the world’s leading newspapers simultaneously. It was printed in the Financial Times (“Listen to the private sector and plan for the worst”) and the Washington Post on the same day. To quote Darth Vader: “impressive.”

However, the greater story is that after discussing conditions and issues, Summers observes darkly, “Not all problems can be solved.” And then to underscore that critical observation, he concludes with a wispy triplet of minimalist proposals, none of which bear any resemblance to the empty bailout proposals announced at the G20 summit. The real conclusion from Dr. Summers, the proverbial bottom line, is that Europe is about out of options for avoiding the wretched harvest planted a decade ago with an ill-conceived monetary union. Not all problems will be solved? Very few, if any, problems will be solved by Europe’s leaders to their or the market’s satisfaction for they have no solutions.

I blame epistemic closure; likely more on the part of the Europeans than Summers, though. In the meantime, “America Should Bet on Berlin, Not the Basket Cases.” David Goldman, whose Spengler imprimatur seems particularly appropriate on this topic writes. “Why should the U.S. prop up the fictitious wealth of Spain by making Germany poorer?”

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage based by Shutterstock.com.)