The Decline of Europe
While the US is the hegemonic state, and the sicknesses of the world largely emanate from it, Europe is falling apart as well, it is simply doing so more slowly–unless you are Greece, Portugal or Spain.
Europe has unquestionably swung right, and England in particular was entirely complicit in the great financial collapse. Neither were Germany, or France or pretty much everyone else not involved.
Germany’s behaviour since the financial collapse has been disgusting and cruel.
Nonetheless, the northern Europeans, overall, have done a better job than the US. They have made mistakes, one of which was playing along with Bush–there was an opportunity around 04 to put the boots to America, as Europe, to break America’s hegemonic power.
Europe was too scared to take the chance, and as a result America has rebounded and Europe has grown weaker–in large part because they also have refused to discipline their bankers, and because they have decided to cannibalize the weak sisters.
Everyone in the developed world, with the small and essentially irrelevant exception of Iceland, and perhaps the Scandinavians except Sweden, is going in the wrong direction. Apparent exceptions, like Germany, are only apparent.
Germany’s exports are reliant on the Euro being lower than it otherwise would be because of weak sister nations in the Euro. Germany is cannibalizing the South of Europe to stay prosperous, but it’s not a sustainable situation.
The Scandinavians, overall, are handling things best, with the Swedes the worst of the bunch. They have privatized a great deal, they have not been able to handle immigration well, and have developed an underclass.
England is completely dependent on the financial industry for its survival, having, under Thatcherism and the Labor governments which continued Thatcherism, completely destroyed its industrial base.
Ireland is a basket case, whose politicians repeatedly betrayed its citizens in the aftermath of the financial collapse in order to bail out banks at maximum cost to their own population.
France has been complicit in Germany’s crimes and seems not to understand that they can’t have their socialist policies in a Europe where everyone doesn’t break the rich.
The Greeks are victims, but they rolled over: they had a chance to vote for Syriza, but believed the Troika’s lies that if they just played along it wouldn’t be so bad. They failed to understand that to Germans and French, they aren’t actually Europeans and need not be treated as such.
Italy suffered a coup when Mario Monti was put in power without an election and imposed austerity. To be sure, his predecessor was a scumbag, but he was, y’know, elected.
Spain, again, made the mistake of bailing out banks.
You never borrow money from the Troika to bail out your bankers. All it does is add more unpayable debt and thus increase the depth of austerity.
Europe is on a downward trend. They started from a better place than the US (universal healthcare, decent welfare systems), but that does not alter the trajectory. Their fall is an odd mixture of an insistence on keeping the EU together, while refusing to actually make the EU a proper federal state and take care of everyone in it.
As it stands, the EU does not make sense: most countries, including Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, but not limited to them, would be better off leaving it. Or, frankly, the rest of the EU should kick Germany out, and erect tariffs against their goods.
England should be kicked out as well, for serial bad behaviour.
It is impossible, right now, to regulate the world economy in any way beneficial to ordinary citizens of the majority of states.
The doctrine of free trade, which is really about free financial flows and deregulation of labor, has made actual economic policy almost impossible unless a country finds a way to opt out of the neoliberal consensus (aka. China), or use its structure to their (temporary) advantage (aka. Germany.)
Everyone is going to have to learn that impoverishing other nations is not a sustainable path to wealth.
We are destroying countries at a ferocious rate: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Greece, Portugal, the Ukraine; with many others tottering and in clear decline (Spain and Italy, for example).
Europe is not immune to these trends; nor immune to the policies which cause them. In fact Europe has become a major force for idiot austerity and for destroying nations, as the core states sacrifice the South in hopes that the Gods of austerity will spare them.
By Ian Welsh