The EU – Better Than No Europe At All?

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Political musings
Tags: , , , , , , ,

An old friend of mine from the UK emails me with a rant against the idiocies of the European Union. Unusually, I find myself agreeing with much of what he writes, and sympathising with his rage at paying extra taxes to support Greek taxi drivers who, well, er … don’t.

Civilian casualties in WWII

Since 1939, civilian dead have outnumbered combatant dead in conflicts by more than 10-to-one

As a liberal of some forty years conviction, friends will not be in the least surprised to discover that I am “pro” European integration. However, I have always been a sceptical pro-European, because I don’t think the pro-Europe cause is helped by blinding ourselves to the EU’s obvious failings.

The bureacracy IS bloated, expensive, top heavy, and petty. The compliance regime IS ludicrous. The Euro DOES distort markets – I mean, after all, it’s supposed to.

However, I am old enough to remember the effects of World War Two. My Dad, having served for six years, died of too much stress, two many fags and two many drinks at 47. He was a cheerful man, but broken. And he got off lightly.

For many of us, European Union is the best (and most successful) solution to the eternal problem of too many competing powers crammed into a very small space.

The murderous collapse in the former Yugoslavia revealed the result of NOT enforcing political union. And the United States is built on the same principle, even though they fought a nasty civil war to bed it down.

That’s why political union has always been a goal of mine, and it inevitably leads to some sort of economic union, messy, unwieldly and occasionally downright chaotic as it is. In my opinion, the pro-Europe lobby has for far too long been afraid of admitting it is wholeheartedly in favour of political integration – gutless lack of leadership – and the core of the argument has got lost in the mists of time because of it.

Well, I stand with my head proudly above the parapet, knowing that most Brits would gladly shoot it off right now. A disfunctional European Union is a better option that a disfunctional Europe. Just ask my Dad.

Comments
  1. simon ondaatje says:

    Yolly, while i love the fact that you have an opinion and love even more that you voice it….the image of dead children does nothing to support your arguement….it just makes it impossible to look at it

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  2. Richard Ember says:

    Yolly, I take your point wholeheartedly about stopping conflict in Europe. Dennis Healey and Ted Heath were not natural political bedfellows but (i) were great personal friends and (ii) shared a view, having both served in WWII (I think Healey was Beach Master or something like that during the D Day landings, so was pretty much at the sharp end) that the Eu was the one key to a peaceful Europe. And they were both adament that, despite the great cost (and they meant more than just money) it was right that Nazi Germany was stopped and the Eu come out of it.

    Wind the clock on 66 short years. Less than a lifetime and indeed a time that Dennis Healey and a great many of his brothers-in-arms are still alive.

    The Plan is now, ‘If you want to own someone, put them in your debt’. Enslave them. Own their labour and you own them.

    In a year where a mad man went on the rampage at what he saw was an ever encroaching threat to his way of life, I was simply stunned (although not altogether surprised) to read this quote from Wolfgang Schauble, the German Finance Minister. “A state with problems, that receives help, must be willing to give some of its sovereign rights to the EU.” And you kinda get his drift.

    Already, the citizens of Portugal, Ireland and Greece are beholden to external, unelected powers in the form of bankers and the European Central Bank. They MUST form political policies as dictated by the holders of their debt or face ruin. And now, the Minister of the country currently robbing its own citizens to buy up the debt of other countries is indicating that yet more power should be ceded to the creature that created the mess in the first place. yes, the bloody Eu.

    What couldn’t be achieved through war, will be achieved through debt slavery. Not hyperbole. Not scaremongering. But part of the “plan” for European Union. So simple, makes you wonder why Adolf never thought of it.

    A few weeks ago, Anders Breviek (the Norwegian Mass Murderer) stated through his lawyer that in 60 years time, the people would thank him. I really, really hope he isn’t correct.

    Me? I’m off. I am cashing in my chips and buying some silver and gold and getting out of deluded Britain and going somewhere where I can buy a couple of acres of land and grow a few crops and keep livestock. Our parents (I am talking about people of our age, Yolly) and grandparents knew what was important – to be able to have a roof over your head, warmth and food. And when this rotten system collapses, my wife and I will be as near to self-sufficient as we can be and will wait for the new world order to emerge whilst cooking fresh-caught deer over a musquite fire.

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  3. I sincerely hope your catclysmic view of the future is an exaggeration, Richard, but your points deserve serious debate.

    I would ask you, though. How is the political authority demanded by the paymasters of Europe different, in effect, to the economic strictures imposed by the World Bank on any number of third world countries in return for aid? Or the IMF to Wilson/Callaghan era Labour? Isn’t it as simple as saying “He who pays the piper (always) calls the tune”?

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  4. Richard Ember says:

    Again, you are right insofar as the IMF did put Chancellor Healey (that man again) under a fairly tight rein – thank God they did. Wasn’t it then when Wilson, somewhat unfairly some would argue, coined the term ‘the Gnomes of Zurich’?

    The difference between then and now (and I think that is the entire key to this thread, btw – aims and objectives are different in the Eu now than they were back around Trty of Rome times) is that the IMF had no brief beyond getting its money back. Not so with the Eu whose intergrationist ideals will see reins, once picked up, not handed back. Maybe a possible cause of future war in Europe?

    I agree with ‘he who pays the piper….’. If I leant somebody a lot of money because they were in a hole, I would kinda expect them not to be in bars and on holiday whilst I was sitting indoors. So if Germany wants to say, ‘here is a few billion euros – until you pay us back we want you to…..’ then fair enough.

    But I am not sure it is like that. Not sure at all, in fact. And I don’t necessarily blame Germany, who must be pretty pissed off by now, having born the cost of bringing E Germany into C21 over the last 20 yrs now have to pick up the tab for Southern Europe. Not sure it makes their stance right, though.

    It is only when you consider that Greece owes MORE now than at the time of the first bail out, you begin to understand the entire system in rotten to the core.

    Now go to bed, Stephen. I have work to do. xx

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  5. Richard Ember says:

    *And when I say Germany has to pick up the tab, I mean its citizens, as greedy politicians put their hands in peoples pockets once again and take yet more money. You want an economic recovery through spending? Then leave the money where it should be in the first place – in the pockets of those who earn it. Yes, we need roads, schools, police etc etc etc but beyond that, stop building YOUR dreams with MY money. And I bet there are a few Germans saying that now.

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  6. Thanks for the feedback, Hotshot, please feel free to tell your friends about the blog 🙂

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  7. I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. This issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this.

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  8. Richard Ember says:

    What a surprise that our glorious leaders have decided to “invest” money we haven’t even earned yet on a vanity high speed rail project costing up to £32B (yeah, and the rest) so that they can get their photo on the telly cutting the red ribbon and “being seen” to “advance the nation”.

    A high speed rail link actually makes sense, the Germans have been been building them next to their already high speed road networks for years and if you consider that ex Eurostar rolling stock can actually travel on our normal network, it would make sense to run it from Glasgow to London with the last bit from Manchester or Leeds to London being run using existing Eurostar stock at 200 mph, speeding up national routes and taking traffic of the West Cost mainline to run on the much faster HS2. So why is the taxpayer being asked to cover the bill?

    I’ve been digging around, trying to find out why private investors, the ones who built the canals and the original railways have decided they won’t touch HS2 with a bargepole. Forget the endless complaints of NIMBYS who want to hug trees in the Chilterns, frankly, we’re mad not to build the damn thing next to the M1 / M6 like our neighbours have done. Forget the fact that they will bribe and corrupt our politicians anyway for the lucrative construction projects that will see £1000 a day HSE jobs for the employees of Party Political Donor companies and Knighthoods and Peerages for the bosses, why is the State so keen to build the damn thing?

    Ah, BINGO. The Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency (TEN-T EA). The European Commission. This is nothing to do with the Tories wishing to get businessmen in or out of Birmingham with an extra 20 minutes to spare, it’s a DIRECTIVE from our masters in Europe. Project 26 in the top 30 “priority” projects of a quango in Brussels designed to ensure that all roads (and rail) lead straight back to the heart of the Union.

    And I quote:

    “The Priority Projects were chosen both according to their European added-value and their contribution to the sustainable development of transport. Their completion – planned for 2020 – will improve the economic efficiency of the European transport system and provide direct benefits for European citizens.”

    So don’t be fooled when our mealy mouthed Politicians spout the usual bollocks about improving infrastructure for the nation and the working man, they are simply doing as they are told by Brussels, using OUR money to promote the “European Dream”, ensuring that member states ( and I quote again):

    “There has been a firm commitment on behalf of the Member States and European Institutions to deliver these key Priority Projects and they have been at the centre of Union efforts – both financially and in terms of coordination. The European Commission has in particular designated a group of ten eminent European Coordinators to evaluate the progress of certain TEN-T Priority Projects, to make recommendations for the effective implementation of these projects and to play a major role in advancing the works.”

    This horrendously expensive project that no one in the UK has actually asked for is just one tiny cog in the mighty machine of the ever growing European Union Federalist Machine. Conceived, designed, coordinated and imposed by our masters in Brussels, whether we like it or not. Dig deep citizens, it’s your money they’re spending. See how it works yet, Comrades?

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    • All well and good, and a nice rant, but I am not really sure what your point is here, Dickie. Are you for or against the project? You seem in favour of the project, but miffed that it is part of a push for better transport throughout the EU. Does it really matter where a good idea comes from? And isn’t the whole point of the EU to facilitate the closer economic co-operation of the member states, to improve effiency and create great wealth for all?

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  9. Richard Ember says:

    My point is this, which maybe did get lost in froth and rhetoric. When this country in particular was ‘opened up’, the major civil engineering projects (such as railways, canals etc) were undertaken by and paid for by private companies or individuals. A demand was indentified and an investment made. If the people had called it right, they made a handsome profit. If not, they lost the lot.

    Now, what we have here is something being identified that ‘everybody’ will want. Only I am not sure that many people will give a stuff whether they get from London to Birmingham 20 minutes quicker or not. We live in an age of digital communications and business people can sit on a train with their phone and laptop and work just as efficiently as they can in an office. They are not out of touch whilst on a train – something I know to my bitter cost. So is it worth £32Bn to get them there 20 mins quicker or not?

    Well, in the old days, somebody would have made that call and backed it with their money. Today, some jumped-up politician makes the call. Sadly, we (UK PLC) don’t have £32Bn sloshing about so we will have to borrow it. Money is the crystalisation of labour. If you borrow money to buy something, that is slavery. You are committing future generations to further debt for our own mismanagement and vanity. Even worse, we are committing future generations to slavery for the wet dream of a European Socialist.

    Yolly – you have met some of the politicans over here. Let’s take Denham and Whitehead, the two Southampton guys. Would you seriously trust them to make decisions on Billions of pounds? Frankly, I would not want them in charge of my current account, let alone the nation’s.

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  10. Richard Ember says:

    And so it rumbles on.

    Perhaps it’s time to take a better look at what, exactly, the hell is going on in Greece. Much to my surprise, a disorderly default has not yet been declared as deadlines and meetings have been constantly shifted throughout this week to try and find that last lucky roll of the dice that will save the gambler from being thrown from the casino by burly bouncers.

    Greece needs €145 BILLION by March 20th or it will simply run out money. It won’t be able to pay the banks it borrowed so heavily from, it won’t be able to cover the wages of the enormous public sector it built with other peoples money, honour the bonds it issued and it will officially be bankrupt. Unemployment figures now show 20% of the population out of work (or at least not declaring an income) and half the youth is unemployed. That’s roughly the same as the great depression in the 1930’s. If Greece goes, you can certainly expect Portugal to roll over and all hell to break loose in Spain and Italy whilst French banks (who loaned them the money) will probably end up nationalised and supported by the French taxpayer.

    Whatever desperate deals are done to save the vanity of EU politicians, you can expect any other country in dire straights to demand the same terms from Brussels. After all, it was the EU that promised that any member who joined the exclusive club could expect the same standard of living as a hard working, well educated and industrious German – via that great instrument of the State – subsidies.

    Subsidies are what are created when logic fails. It is what distorts the market, corrupts finances and allows financial zombies to roam unhindered. It is the heroin that keeps the hopelessly addicted failures alive and kicking.It is the fuel that keeps Politicians in power by rewarding the unsustainable and throttling the successful. Whether it be paying the Queen money not to grow crops on her farm estates or keeping the price of food high by blocking free trade with Africa, it only ever suits those in power – to the cost of the poor.

    Let’s look at what happened to Greece. Greece’s main industries are tourism, shipping, industrial products, food and tobacco processing, textiles, chemicals, metal products, mining and petroleum. Well, they were – until it joined the EU and the new industry became grabbing subsidies from Brussels. The standard of living boomed, the good times rolled, palms were greased and Greece is now the second most corrupt EU nation. All on the back of cheap credit and unearned subsidies facilitated by EU politicians desperate to build their glorious Fourth Reich.

    Greece now has no manufacturing base. Instead, like a once decent hard working farmer who has hit the bottle, it lives from hand out to hand out, unable to support the citizens in the style to which it demanded they become rapidly accustomed (for the sake of EU integration, of course). It is lingering around cash converters desperate to hock whatever it can in return for, yes, more of the same.

    I don’t know what the future for Greece holds. It has defaulted before – often – and seems set once again to return to the Drachma, donkeys and subsistence farming, the traditional role of Greece. The damage that will cause will mostly be confined to a generation of Greeks who lived way beyond their means on credit for a while and the political ambitions of Politicians in Germany who really should know better by now. From clogs to clogs in a mere two decades takes political incompetence on a truly European scale.

    Greek Economic Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis argues that EU subsidies have contributed to Greece’s economic downturn, claiming that “over two decades, we have eroded our manufacturing basis, our industry and thereby our export capabilities…While we were taking EU money with one hand, we were allowed to borrow money for low interest rates, which we have also done excessively.”

    Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    Meanwhile, on planet UK, the Bank of England has just subsidised the banking sector with another £50 BILLION of made up money and our politicians look set to keep subsidising renewable energy with billions stolen from our children. Me? I’m investing in a donkey farm – I predict an unprecedented demand in the long term. Now, if I can just get an EU subsidy…

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  11. Richard Ember says:

    Yes, they have, Yolly. Now they’ve really gone and done it.

    Pictures are splashed all over the web of Greece in flames, the citizens of the very birthplace of democracy rioting because their dumb ass Politicians refuse to listen to them when they say “we’ve had enough”. Bullying MPs, desperate to save their own careers, quite happily signing the citizens they are supposed to represent into virtual slavery to keep the dream alive.

    Except of course, it won’t. Slashing pensions, scalping the minimum wage and firing 150,000 public sector workers is not going to save a people who have lived beyond their means for a decade. Entry to the EU was only granted on fiddled figures and despite a second bailout equalling a total of €300 billion, the Greeks will not see a penny of it. It will just be shifted from the Eurozone taxpayer to the bond holding banks that encouraged the debt in the first place.

    Rumours are rife that Greece will default in June anyway, unable to produce any growth or tax revenues and with the minimum wage now set at €400 a month and a coffee the same price as in Mercedes laden Munich, I don’t expect those flames in Athens to dampen down anytime soon.

    So where did it all go wrong? It started with a sense of entitlement from those in the US who believed that “change” could see everyone owning a property. Monies were lent to those who could not and would never repay in the misguided belief that interfering in the market could cure all the ails of an “unjust society”. Yes, Obama, I’m talking to you too because even after all of this you seem to STILL believe in this shite. You believed Capitalism could be twisted to be all inclusive, making everybody rich and ensuring poverty was wiped out. As usual, when Government decides it can dictate, the exact opposite has occurred. You can now pick up houses in the very neighbourhoods you destroyed by seeking to save for $1000 on Ebay. Banks that should’ve known better not to listen to you, demanded you bail them out when your dream turned sour – and you complied, destroying any last vestige of true Capitalism along with it. Still, shouldn’t complain. I picked up a nice little 3 bedder for £17.5K. Cheers Obama.

    What killed Greece, and in turn democracy in Greece was the simple and complete arrogance of Politicians to accept that they do not control Capitalism. I can buy a house 10 miles from the Greek Border in Bulgaria for £3000, where the average monthly salary is around £300 – the same as the very minimum a Greek may earn by law. Cross the border into Greece and you won’t find a property for less than £100,000. Hugely inflated and subsidised prices, not dictated by the natural market, but by the arrogance of Greek politicians who insisted the Emperors New Clothes were made of the finest silk after all.

    With elections in April, and no fall back plan of borrowing more money to bribe the electorate like last time, I expect the Political landscape of Greece to change dramatically. The hard left will continue announcing that tractor production and turnip harvests will save the country and the hard right will assume that waving flags and closing the borders will restore prosperity. It won’t. Greece, now in it’s sixth year of recession is naturally undoing what it did wrong. It is returning the designer handbags and expensive suits to the shop and pulling the old dungarees out of the wardrobe once again. Now which Greek politician has the guts to tell their German masters that they won’t be ordering any more BMW’s on cheap French credit for a while? The sooner someone in Greece or the Eurozone makes it clear that the Euro was a luxury a simple melon farmer could never have afforded in the first place, the sooner Greeks will stop adding to the ruins in Athens.

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    • I don’t agree with your criticism that it was Obama who started or connived in the artificially over=heated housing boom in America – that was largely led by private capital looking to make a quick buck that didn’t realise (or chose not to see) that the economy could not afford an endless expansion of consumer credit, aided and abbetted by laws that allowed people to get into debt and then walk away from it. At the same time, greedy capitalists were ALLOWED to sell on bundles of sick, useless debt overseas to equally conniving and geedy and foolish investors, many of them institutional.

      The buck finally stopped. I don’t think you can blame Obama, he didn’t start it running.

      I think your analysis of the depth of the problem facing Greece is absolutely correct, and the situation primarily occured because of their pathetic inability and lack of determination to collect taxes, and buying off voters with ridiculously generous social welfare benefits.

      What I do not see in your comment is any solution, beyond what I think you’re saying, which is “let them fail”. The consensus opinion I see is that the result would be even worse social distruption than the current round of austerity measures will bring …

      I simply do not believe capitalism works, in a society which is called, by any measurement I would understand “civilised”, without regulation. Tome the debate is, more rationally, what regulation, by whom, and how decided?

      The problem with the libetarian trend which you espouse – which I also find superficially attractive as a liberal, rather than a socialist – is it takes no account of the possibility of severe social disruption leading to revolution/fascism/ collapse of civil society if sick economies are not massaged out of their illness.

      And meanwhile, it’s the poor what gets the blame. Ain’t it always so?

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  12. Richard Ember says:

    Yes, I think we all know where the Genesis of the problem was. I am talking about where it is now. We have to deal with where it is now and what is causing it to run and run.

    Yes, Greece should be allowed to fail and withdraw. You cannot make a load of Melon and Olive Growers, together with a load of Goat Herders, BMW driving equals with their hard-working northern-European neighbours. This equality stuff is just a fabian’s wet dream and cannot work. Back to the drachma, Greece, and I for one shall look forward to going there when you can once again get a cup of coffee that is not priced the same as the one at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

    Go to Bulgaria – just across Greece’s border. You can get a house for £30k whilst in Greece, thanks to equality, you cannot buy one for less than £100k. A coffee is a handful of shrapnel – in Greece, it is several Euros.

    The great European Dream is over, Yolly. Puff all you like – the death rattle is loud and clear.

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    • But you ignore my question, Richard. What if the price of a messy Greek default is revolution, civil war … It hasn’t been that long since the country was run by a brutal and incompetent military dictatorship … What price are you prepared toboay for NOT intervening? Any price?

      And I have hardly puffed at all, K merely provide a tone of sweet reason to your Little Englander rants. 🙂

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  13. Richard Ember says:

    Civil War? I don’t think so. More likely to get that with Politicians trampling over the Greek people by trying to stay in the Euro for egotistical reasons; I firmly belive that there is a GREATER risk of civil conflict if they remain in – and it perculating to other southern European states.

    The other alternative is a two-speed Euro where countries such as Germany, France, Netherlands etc are kept distinct from the southern European basket cases such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy. Not current on the Irish situation – they hit it hard and early and may be digging themselves quietly out of it. However, I think that would be a nightmare to administer and if you go that far, you may as well go back to your own currency.

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    • Which I suppose leads us to a discussion of what the Euro was all about anyway – which was, apart from making it easier for holidaymakers to move around, as I understand it anyway, ti impose fiscal discipline on a basket of currencies to reduce currency fluctuations. In that, it is the ultimate market-adjusting exercise, and is antithetical to the principle of free trade. I freely admit that I am uncertain of what my attitude to all this is: on the one hand, I find the thought of unfettered collapses in the value of a country’s currency very troubling – remember what led to the rise of the Nazis? – on the other hand, I don’t see why one country should subsidise the idiocy of another, refusing to collect taxes and have sensible levels of pensions, etc.

      I think the answer might be that there is no perfect answer, only more perfect and less perfect “realpolitik” answers, and the sensible thing for me to do in the face of such confusion is to either turn Peer Gynt up and think up a blog, or go to the beach. Hmmm.

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  14. Richard Ember says:

    “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools” – Herbert Spencer

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  15. Richard Ember says:

    The longer that something false is contained and kept alive, the louder the bang will be when it inevitably ‘goes off’. I honestly believe that there will be a greater risk of conflict in Greece if they try and stay in the Euro.

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