Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Errors at the Heart of the EU?

Essentially what we are seeing in Europe now, is a retesting of three contentious ideas which are at the core of the Euro zone project. The first of these philosophical underpinnings is the idea (from Hegel) that the ultimate reality of an individual can be supplanted by the state. The second is that the primary motive behind an individual’s behaviour (Marx) is economic. The third is that the state and political policy can, and should, be used to alter culture. The latter idea is at the heart of much of Neo-conservative thinking. You set a raft of metrics (deficit ratios, debt/GDP etc) and suddenly the Greeks becoming inflation avoiding, fiscally responsible, austerity accepting Germans.  

In other words putting, these three ideas together, monetary and fiscal union are seen as possible because individuals and countries interests can be subsumed to a ‘European’ super state. Furthermore, since the salient motivations are economic, any issues can be resolved by monetary support. These ideas are particularly attractive because they are imbued in the scientific rationalist tradition of European enlightenment thought. In addition, they allow a continent that had been at war for centuries to pretend that cultural or military conflicts can be easily resolved by closer political integration.

Unfortunately, these ideas have largely been proved not to work over the last century or so. The irony of the creation of the Euro just as the Soviet Union was breaking up into its regional constituencies should not be lost.  Nor indeed, should criticism be limited to the EU. In the UK, the central Government takes revenues from London/South East and creates a weird kind of ‘dependency culture’ by distributing it elsewhere in the UK. This unproductive and damaging (to all) type of Government only works as long as there is enough social and cultural cohesion to keep it going.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t this type of cohesion between the average Greek and German. The EU ‘state’ has certainly not supplanted the ultimate reality or cultural perspective of these respective populations. Nor has the transfer of economic wealth proved particularly productive in changing population’s primary motives. Greeks still think of themselves as, err, Greeks and Germans as Germans. Lastly, since when did adherence to ‘scientific’ EU metrics on deficit reduction and debt/GDP ratios change the political framework of Europe.

It strikes me that political unions are usually made organically or through violence, rather than through the application of discredited philosophy. If we get fiscal union with the creation of a 'Eurobond', than I suspect the campaign for the Deutschmark will follow in a few years.