Monday, October 24, 2011

Europe in Eclipse

I never thought that I would agree with Paul Krugman (the dour, ultra-liberal New York Times economist who also serves as the equally-pompous foil to George Will on ABC's "This Week"), but today, we actually stand on common ground.  In response to the European debt crisis, Krugman is calling for an end to the Eurozone and the use of a joint currency across national boundaries.

Let me be quick to point out that Krugman and I do not agree on the root reasons for placing the Euro on the historical scrap heap.  He believes that nations drowning in debt should be able to print unlimited amounts of their own currency to devalue the debt and "stimulate" the economy with boatloads of government spending and the resulting skyrocketing inflation.  That would be his answer for the US economic doldrums as well.  Tax the rich is in his plan too.  I, on the other hand, believe the Euro should go because it threatens to bring down industrious nations by tying their fates to, shall we say, less-industrious cultures. 

Increasingly, the Euro bailout plan falls more and more upon the shoulders of Germany--the Continent's largest economy.  And increasingly, the German people are getting more and more frustrated with their "partners".  You see, Germans don't get full retirement benefits from the government at 58 like the Greeks.  Their retirement age is 67--increased four years ago as economists saw they would not be able to support the rising costs of the program (HELLO CONGRESS--DID YOU HEAR THAT?!?!).  The German public train system doesn't cost five times as much to operate as it brings in in revenue like in Italy.  Gemerans don't take the month of August off of work to sit on the beach like they do in Spain.  And they don't take two hour lunch breaks to sit at the cafe,drink wine and discuss culture and society like they do in France.  The Huns get up every morning--go to work--and make high-quality products the rest of the world actually wants.

So why would the average German citizen--or politician--want their economic fate tied to the slackers on the rest of the continent? 

When it was first proposed by the Socialist leaders of Europe's major powers in the 1990's, the Euro promised convenience and unlimited economic growth potential.  The 21st Century was going to be the European Century--reclaiming the title of Economic Superpower from the US.  Some countries--like those in Scandanavia and Great Britain--were wise and said "thanks, but no thanks" and kept their own sovreign currencies.  But 17-others were more than happy to tie their boats together and head out to sea.

Now--like the treaties that allowed a small, regional skirmish in the Balkans to lead to World War One--the Euro threatens to sink the Continent into a morass that will likely require the US to come in and save everyone's bacon again.  Provided we don't let Socialist policies take us down the same rat hole as well.

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