Sunday 18 February 2018

Kevin Myers: We have created a dysfunctional leviathan of a welfare state

Kevin Myers

We are living in epochal times, as both the US and half of Europe dance upon the brink of "default", a voodoo term that is understood only by economist inhabitants of a Swiss lunatic asylum. In Europe, we have seen a chasm re-open that was first drawn in the 17th Century, between the Protestant and Catholic states. The former, led by Germany, are the creditors whose houses are in order: the latter, the debtors, find themselves in a fiscal slum that was made not by bad housekeeping, but by bad-housekeeping philosophies.

The Protestant tradition is that consequence is a certainty in life: those who do not work go hungry or they drown or they freeze. It is the Baltic culture of the Hanseatics. Whereas Catholic thinking is, at bottom, based on the concept of forgiveness: that somehow, consequence can be kept at bay, by acts of contrition, redemption and absolution. This attitude is best represented by the initial PIGS players in political delinquency: Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. These were most emphatically joined by a bankrupt Ireland three years ago, to make the I-PIGS player, running from the Aegean to Malin Head.

The basic Euro-division follows geopolitical and religious lines that were drawn during the 30-year war, nearly four centuries ago. Though to be sure, this is not simply a matter of practised religion. Despite being nominally Catholic, France is culturally Protestant, because of the secular reformation that followed the Revolution, with its studied rejection of political Catholicism. Even Catholic Holland is Protestant in culture, as one tends to be if the word "consequence" is invariably spelt N-O-R-T-H S-E-A.

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