The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The End of the Euro and the Tragedy of the Transnational Dream

For the first time Gallup finds a statistical tie for leaving the Euro in both Greece and Italy.

This has been a long time coming, and a great deal of suffering has happened because people are so slow to adjust to reality. The Euro was never a good idea for either Greece or Italy, and staying in it has cost them a great number of lives, ruined lives, and unhappiness.

It is unclear to me that the Euro is a good idea for any nation in Europe except the Germans. It is too tedious to go into the details; if you’ve been paying attention at all, you know that nations need the ability to use their currency to devalue, and that the Euro is lower than the German Mark would be, giving Germany a large export advantage.

The Euro would only make sense if Europe were going to genuinely amalgamate. If Paris, and Berlin, and so on were reduced to the status of American states.

Meanwhile we are watching the end of the Schengen system. White women have been raped in Germany, and that’s going to be the end of Merkel’s strong support for letting refugees in. Internal borders have been going up all over Europe, and that’s going to continue. This, one notes, fucks the southern European nations of, oh, Greece and Italy.  When the borders are closed they’re going to be stuck with almost all the refugees without the capacity to deal with them.

Why are they still in the Euro? Why are they still in the EU?

Polls still show very strong support for staying in the EU, but I wonder if the benefits still outweigh the advantages. If Europe can’t even fairly divide up refugees according to each member’s ability to handle them, what serious crisis could Europe handle? And remember, the refugee crisis in Europe is nothing compared to what Lebanon or Turkey have had to handle.

The EU was created so there wouldn’t be another general European war. Maybe it should have stuck to that mandate rather than charging ahead with a level of integration it could not support, with a design that ensured that most countries could not hold referendums if support existed.

The EU did a great deal of good, I won’t deny it. It is understandable that it still has a high level of support in certain nations (like Poland). But it has become an anti-democratic stronghold whose policies are clearly damaging the economies of many of its members. I’m not even sure one can make the case that France wouldn’t be better off out of the Euro.

A world of little states is problematic. So many of our problems can only be solved trans-nationally. But the trans-national bodies we have created have been disasters. The WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF have all done more harm than good–in essence because they were designed to maintain the post-WWII status quo (over Keynes objections, I might add).

Until we understand what should be done locally, and what should be done internationally, and until we decide upon the source of our ultimate legitimacy (the EU, IMF, WTO, and World Bank all do not agree it is the “people”), then we are going to continue to have these problems.

That would be fine if we weren’t currently engaged in activities which are likely to see one or two billion  people die, and which, on the outside, risk wiping out the human race.

We need to make internationalism work. The first step towards that would be understanding that internationalism must be designed  to work for everyone, and that there is infrastructure is in place to genuinely care for those who lose out (there are always some).

Until then, joining projects like the WTO or Euro remains political malfeasance.

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  1. ddv

    The E.U. made sense if it was eventually going to act as a geo-political counterweight to Washington. That was the tacit presumption though the Cold Wars years, and increasingly bold steps were taken in that direction through the 1990s. But America from Bush II onwards is quite clear on not tolerating any rivals, making Brussels, in Washington’s view, just a superfluous political gee-gaw sitting between Europe and Washington.

  2. ddv

    So in retrospect it all looks like something of a mug’s game–build up Western Europe for several decades as a bulwark against the U.S.S.R., and sell it on the idea that someday it would be able to pull its own weight in world affairs provided it got its act together, then–when that outcome actually threatens to happen–pull out all the stops and spend two decades putting Europe back in its place, using the political machinery ostensibly created for Europe to govern itself to rule over Europe instead. And if Europe’s nations try to break away from Brussels, they’ll be right back to being a bunch of petty states each too small to oppose to U.S. on its own.

    So whatever Brussels’ eventual fate, Washington wins either way now, it would seem.

  3. The EU did a great deal of good, I won’t deny it. It is understandable that it still has a high level of support in certain nations (like Poland).

    Interesting considering that Poland is going even more right-wing. At least the government is. They haven’t taken in very many refugees, have they?

  4. S Brennan

    I agree with the whole post but with an exclamation point for this:

    “…the trans-national bodies we have created have been disasters. The WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF have all done more harm than good–in essence because they were designed to maintain the post-WWII status quo (over Keynes objections, I might add).”

    Let me add, that 17 ships produce as much pollution as all the worlds vehicles…”FREE Trade” isn’t free.

  5. MojaveWolf

    I hate to pick on one throwaway line, because I realize it is just one line and there are other ways you could have meant it than the train of associations & connotations I took from it, but this bit really bothered me and reminds me of a strain of thought in contemporary leftism that I am increasingly disturbed by:

    White women have been raped in Germany, and that’s going to be the end of Merkel’s strong support for letting refugees in.


    That could be taken as, among other things, trivializing the importance of rape or trivializing the rape of white women in particular. That is my biggest problem with it.

    It could also be seen as ignoring real and genuine issues about the problems of assimilating way too many people from one culture into another when they have fundamentally hostile values and assuming this entire thing was about race, which I think is garbage. Since many people would say I shouldn’t speak on this issue because of being a white male (I think those people are all full of it, but I realize they are there and some may be in this commentariat, and I do want to persuade) so let me just quote someone else who is an Egyptian Muslim woman living in the US:

    Mona Eltahawy @monaeltahawy
    I don’t give a flying fuck what race/ethnicity/religion you are: if you sexually assault women, you are my enemy.
    Mona Eltahawy @monaeltahawy
    I will NOT defend any man who sexually assaults women. Not an asylum seeker/refugee/white privileged guy: fuck all of you.

    I really don’t get why so many on the left seem to think Muslim=nonwhite (not always), or Muslim/nonwhite can’t be evil, and most of all, why so many on the left think evil Islamic sacks of shit should be ignored or hugged or something, for doing exactly the same evil shit that they hate hate hate hate hate if a Christian or American atheist or Jew were doing it. For damn sure those groups deserve hate/anger/rage/pick your preferred negative emotion or state of opprobrium if they rape or oppress women, but so do Muslims. Really. I wish The Apostate (Pakistani born, Saudi Arabian raised American atheist feminist socialist blogger) was still around. She was very, very impatient with Western leftists (or westerners of any persuasion, but almost always leftist) who did this, or who pretended all cultures were equal, or that it was as bad for women in western cultures as it was in Islamic fundie ones.

    The whole refugee/immigration issue becomes much more complex when letting in such huge #s of people, even aside from problems in figuring out who is a refugee and who just wants better economic opportunity, or cultural issues, or a vast disparity in male/female refugees. There’s the nonexistent possibility of finding jobs for everyone. There’s the downward pressure on wages from the giant influx of new workers. Not all the resentment towards immigrants before this was about hostility towards race or religion, nor is it now. But you do want to help the genuine refugees as best you are able. None of this is simple.

  6. Ian Welsh

    Brown men raping white women is always used as the reason for fearing others.

    The latest batch of immigrants may be worse than the previous bunch, but at least one retrospective study didn’t find that refugees were raping women at a higher rate than Germans.

    The rest of the stuff comes mostly down “we insist on austerity”.

    Ok. If you insist on austerity than immigrants are negative. If, on the other hand, you organize your economy to do more work, they become a positive.

    It really is a social choice in rich nations.

    We refuse to do good policy, then we pretend we can’t do good policy because we don’t, then we say we can’t help people because there are negative affects we could, if we chose, mitigate.

    So, no, it isn’t very complicated. We could do better, we choose not to.

    Oh, and if every rape matters, how likely are both men and women to be raped in a war zone like Syria compared to in Germany?

    I don’t much care what is done, tbqh. Go ahead and lock the borders. But I dislike the pretense that the economic constraints of neoliberal capitalism are true constraints. You have shitty jobs and not enough because that is what your lords and masters want (and yeah, you did elect them), not because of some law of nature.

    And I dislike the pretense it’s about a universal distaste of rape, which are all equally bad. It’s not. It’s about white women being raped being worse than Syrians and other people in war-torn countries being raped, because rape is far more common in war zones. If rape is your concern, you should be all for getting as many refugees into safe countries as possible.

    So. First — are refugees raping at a higher rate than Germans? Second, be honest, if they are , the rape level is still lower than in war zones. So the argument is “don’t rape our women”. I’m fine with that argument. It’s honest, and we can make a case that we owe more to our people than to refugees.

    But that’s the case. It’s not “all rapes are equally bad”.

  7. Peter

    The EU was created so there wouldn’t be another general European war.

    Yes, but that “general war” was imagined as likely to have its origin in local, ancient national and cultural feuds. The dream of European unity as an antidote to incessant war among small states and sub-states long pre-dates the EU. There are elements of that thinking in the inspirations of Christendom, revolutionary France, Napoleon, socialism, Marxism and even Hitler, who enjoyed much more popularity in pre-war Central Europe than history likes to record. One element of the continuing popular support for the EU in places like Greece despite the painful flaws is the historical memory of the bloody instability of the pre-EU years.

    The tragedy is that, when these dreams run aground, there doesn’t seem to be the kind of empirical resilience that enables them to pause, adjust, re-structure or amend in response to unforeseen realities. The choices are either to blow it all up or press full steam ahead. The dreams are born out of violence and eventually die in violence. They morph into an almost Manichean division between the hope of the future and an oppressive near-serfdom. Look how quickly the Greek crisis descended into rhetoric about punishing or even kicking out Greece, to which the Greeks responded with 19th century, near-martial defiance, as if they were still trying to expel the Turks. It’s hard not to conclude that the fatal flaw in the EU, like past dreams of European unity, is not structural or ideological, it’s that they simply dislike one another too much.

  8. A couple of references for you here : and

    Brexit is now looking increasingly likely, which will add another push towards EU collapse. In the meantime the fanatics in Brussels are working towards a new Treaty for even greater political union amongst the eurozone countries, relegating the others to lower status and influence (not that we have much anyway!)

  9. BlizzardOfOz

    A race is nothing more than an extended family. No one should ever apologize for loving a brother more than a stranger, or for loving a co-ethnic more than an unknown person on the other side of the world. Utilitarianism is a utopian, inhuman morality. Especially when the people in question have invaded your homeland and are systematically raping your women.

    It’s infuriating how leftists who go apoplectic about fabricated rapes by white men suddenly turn into rape apologists when their ideological proxies “brown” men commit actual rapes.

  10. capelin

    there is no sexual assault apology happening here. ian is commenting on how specific situations are perceived, spun, and used.

    birth of a nation, the founding film of the kkk, used exactly this scenario.

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