Belmont Club

The End of the End of History

“Nobody should take for granted another 50 years of peace and prosperity in Europe. They are not for granted. That’s why I say: If the euro fails, Europe fails,” Merkel said, followed by a long applause from all political groups.

“We have a historical obligation: To protect by all means Europe’s unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and blood spill. None of us can foresee what the consequences would be if we were to fail.” …

“But debt restructuring alone does not solve the problem. Painful structural reforms have to be made, otherwise even after debt restructuring we’re back to where we are today … It’s not enough that the troika comes and goes every three months. It would be desirable to have a permanent supervision in Greece.”
Angela Merkel

Does Merkel have a choice? Or is she acting out the inevitable consequences of a policy that could have led only to one possible road — the one she finds herself on?

That goal was the creation of a single and powerful state encompassing all of Western and parts of Eastern Europe. The endeavor was begun on the assumption that would guarantee peace and growing prosperity into the indefinite future. Instead it finds itself in a crisis. The EU can neither guarantee its own existence (or solvency) nor say with certainty what may follow in the wake of its failure.

What went wrong? One line of thinking is that the project itself created the crisis. By growing like a tumor the European superstate stifled growth. It malinvested in “social programs” which produced no return, only sullen dependencies like Greece and whole classes of people who felt entitled to guaranteed incomes in both old age and early youth. According to this analysis, the EU is dying like the dinosaurs, of gigantism. Richard Epstein of New York University does his best to convince NPR that ordinary life holds up the world in despite of the best efforts by planners to enlist its fruits in the Great Projects.

The other line of thought maintains that the only reason projects like the EU have not succeeded is because they haven’t gone far enough. In that view the current economic crisis has been caused by a “crisis in capitalism”. The poverty and inequality that has apparently been returning over the last decade is final evidence that its early promise to the contrary, the market is no way to apportion and control production or consumption.

What is needed, according those lights, is to solve the problems of the world with the ‘wisdom and humor’ that is often found in idealistic youth and sometimes in older men like Bill Ayers, as Bill Ayers would himself humbly admit. It cannot at all events be left to mere shopkeepers and mall security guards or the army of men who are self avowedly ordinary. They have not the knowledge, sensitivity or perspicacity to set things to rights, nor mount on wings of foresight to lofty peaks. In the video below Ayers presents his point of view to Occupy protesters.

Two thousand and twelve promises to be a special year; not in the sense that it will bring a solution to the problems that have been brewing since September 11, 2001 and were further sharpened through the end of 2008, but in that it may clarify where things stand. By this time next year it may be clearer whether things are coming to an end or starting at a new beginning; whether the world is embarking on a crisis or had just passed one.

The play will not yet have begun, but with any luck everyone will have the program of entertainment, a bag of popcorn and a dixie cup of Dr. Pepper well in hand. And then the overture may begin to play. For it is sometime difficult to tell whether one is in the eye of the storm or leaving it behind. Those distinctions are best made — and are perhaps only possible — after the fact.

Dickens observed that revolutions were very much like every other time, except more obviously so. How the play turns out, not even the players can fully know.  But in Dicken’s stories, when the great and the ghastly fades then ordinary life returns at last, the happiest ending of all.

They said of him, about the city that night, that it was the peacefullest man’s face ever beheld there. … If he had given any utterance … they would have been these:

“I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.

“I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace. I see the good old man, so long their friend, in ten years’ time enriching them with all he has, and passing tranquilly to his reward.

“I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. I see her, an old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this day. I see her and her husband, their course done, lying side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each was not more honored and held sacred in the other’s soul, than I was in the souls of both.

“I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away. I see him, fore-most of just judges and honored men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this place–then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this day’s disfigurement–and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and a faltering voice.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $3.99, print $9.99
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