What a banjaxed Europe needs . . . an Italian comedian calling the shots
WELL, this euro-project is going pretty well, isn't it? Now Italy has passed from the realm of being an adult state governed by adults, to being an absurdity governed by a clown. At least Italy makes things, like Fiats and Delonghi coffee-machines. Greece and Spain barely make more than wine and sunshine any more. Unemployment in all three countries is probably higher than it was during the Great Recession 80 years ago. Repossessions have caused unprecedented levels of homelessness, and millions of people in their 20s have never had a single job. The last time such an economic catastrophe visited the Mediterranean, Spain erupted in civil war, and Italy invaded France and Greece.
History never repeats itself, but human patterns recur. When the centre of power falls apart, chaos usually ensues. Where does the real decision-making centre for any European country now reside? Its national parliament? Brussels? Berlin? The European Central Bank in Frankfurt? Anywhere but with its electorate. Since the euro was formed 11 years ago, the entire periphery of the euro-project has passed from prosperity underwritten by indigenous (though often eccentric) national politics into proto-unity and catastrophe.
The euro is based on the dogmas of hope, not the concrete of realism, and thus it resembles any great communist project. The Soviet Union's First Five Year Plan, the building of huge tractor plants and the collectivisation of farms, ended in famine, millions of deaths and no tractors. Mao's Great Leap Forward required the eradication of pests from the Chinese countryside, as peasants with firecrackers scared birds into flight every time they settled until they fell exhausted to the ground, where they were beaten to death. This was followed by an insect plague that destroyed all crops, to be followed by millions of dead Chinese. Throughout those calamities, the minstrels of communist ideology continued to extol the boundless virtues of the projects responsible.
And equally, since the onset of the euro crisis, the ideologues running our affairs have been warbling comparably winsome ditties. In November, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy told a news conference he was "totally and absolutely convinced that the worst of the euro crisis is over".
In December, Olli Rehn, the vice-president of the European Commission, and the Apparatchik of Apparatchiks of Project Euro, said "the Cassandras have been proved wrong" over Greece. In January, the now-ex-Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti proclaimed: "We have seen the worst of the euro-area crisis." Last week, the EU Agricultural Commissioner, strumming upon his euro-harp, announced that the sparrow population was down, the tractor population up, and unemployment non-existent across the EU. (No, not really.)
Like all such ideological entities, the rulers of the EU inhabit a reality that is parallel with that of the very citizens whom they exhort to strive harder, for less pay, and without complaint. Meanwhile, the rulers' loyalty to dogma is reinforced by reward. The peasants in communist societies might have been starving, but Mao and Stalin ensured the ruling castes still lived well. And so it is for the EU's leaders, with the regular and astoundingly lavish state banquets that reassure one another, and the local apparatchiks, that all is well; as indeed it is for them.
So enter Italy's Beppe Grillo, whose surname means "cricket", backed by an internet mob of bloggers and tweeters. His Five Star Movement's platform consists of the usual populist folderol: more money on health and green projects, such as, oh, I imagine, underground wind-farms, Alpine pastures irrigated by uphill canals, and jetliners powered by sail – all to be financed on borrowings.
The finer details of this silliness really don't matter. The irrationality of the euro project has adduced an equally irrational popular reaction; and whereas The Great Leap Forward was destroyed by a plague of locusts, Italian participation in the euro might well end with an army of tweeting thumbs, led by a cricket.
Our leaders have led by corrupting language, as the terms "referendum" or "plebiscite" were replaced by that sinisterly totalitarian instruction, "ratification". Private pension-funds are raided, and private pensions capped, while the uncapped pensions of the euro-elites are paid out of current account. Air-fares are hit by green-taxes, while the air-fares of our euro-mandarins are footed by the taxpayer.
Whenever challenged, the elites grimace with priestly piety into the shag of their deep-pile carpets, and simper: "The Holocaust: Never Again"; though it is their policies that are feeding the despairing hysteria of the mob. In the entire history of democracy, never have so many hundreds of millions of free citizens been lured from the green and safe oasis of national sovereignty into such a barren and pitiless desert, with that nice Mr Rehn apparently as our Moses. Ah yes: another fine mess you got us into, Olli.