Here’s a typical headline from the Associated Press today:
Yikes. Yesterday it was Greece: they’re in debt to the tune of $175 billion. Now that may seem like small potatoes in the age of Barack “the sky’s the limit” Obama. But keep in mind that there are only about 11 million Greeks.
175,000,000,000 / 11,000,000 = 15,000
In other words, every little Zeus and Hera starts out owing more than $15,000. [I had a few extra zeros here: thanks to whatever PJM editor fixed this–and thanks, too, to the cavalcade of readers who pointed out the error!]
Of course, Greece will never pay back this money. In the time-honored custom of Third World nations across the globe, it will default.
But now it looks like the habit may be catching. Yesterday it was Greece, today it is Ireland — remember the “Irish tiger”? Turns out it was an inflatable pussy cat: pumped full of gas by artificially low interest rates underwritten by the EU.
And tomorrow? Well, Portugal is choking under debt that is 325 percent of its GDP. Of course, Portuguese officials say they won’t be seeking a bailout. But that was what Ireland said a couple of weeks ago, too. Let’s see.
And what about the day after tomorrow? “Analysts,” quoth that AP story, “say markets need more reassurance from EU leaders that the rot can be stopped in Portugal before spreading to Spain, the continent’s fourth-largest economy — a scenario that would threaten the 16-nation euro currency itself.”
Want to open a book on that?
Now, the money situation is bad, very bad. But worse news concerns politics, in particular the fate of freedom and democracy in Europe.
The European project has always been a game played by unelected political elites and foisted on the people. When EU leaders couldn’t get the Lisbon Treaty, a.k.a. the European Constitution, ratified by a popular vote, they did what any sensible totalitarian would do: they circumvented the people and declared the treaty passed.
Enter Nigel Farage. Who is Nigel Farage? He is a former Conservative British politician who left the party in 1992 when John Major’s government signed on to the Maastricht Treaty, thereby selling out a large measure of British sovereignty. Mr. Farage is now leader of UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, as well as a member of the European Parliament for South East England.
I had not known about Mr. Farage until a friend sent me a link to an extraordinary speech he gave yesterday at a meeting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Partly an economic fire alarm, the deeper message of Mr. Farage’s speech concerns the way EU politicians are deliberately subverting democracy — removing, in Mr. Farage’s words, “any remaining traces of democracy form the system” — in order to keep the dream of a European superstate alive.
Looking around at the faces of his fellow ministers, he saw fear and anger: the whole European project seemed to be unraveling. Their response? Double down. Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian one-worlder who is the first long-term president of the European Council, i.e., the EU, came to power last December asserting that the idea of national sovereignty is otiose, a bad holdover from a discredited past.
The problem is, Mr. Farage pointed out, that people all over Europe are waking up and saying “we don’t want this, we don’t want [the EU] flag, we don’t want the anthem, we don’t this political class, we want the whole thing consigned to the dust bin of history.”
And the response by the EU bureaucrats who run things? Well, Ireland was told that it would be inappropriate from them to have a general election; they had to agree on a budget first. Mr. Farage had the perfect response to this effrontery: “Just who the hell do you think you people are? You are very, very dangerous people indeed. Your obsession with creating this Euro state means that you are happy to destroy democracy.”
Mr. Farage got it in right: the political crisis facing Europe may be exacerbated by the domino-like collapse of the economies of the member states. But the critical issue is the future of democracy, i.e., the future of freedom. It is “more serious than economics,” Mr. Farage argued, “because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the Euro project is destroyed by the markets before that really happens.”
Europe is very, very lucky to have politicians like Nigel Farage. (Daniel Hannan is another such.) The question is: are they too late?