The Euro is murdering the nations and economies of the EU quite literally. Since the fixed currency regime came into effect, replacing national currencies in transactions in 2002, the fixed exchange rate regime has devastated industry in the periphery states of the 19 Euro members while giving disproportionate benefit to Germany. The consequence has been a little-noted industrial contraction and lack of possibility to deal with resulting banking crises. The Euro is a monetarist disaster and the EU dissolution is now pre-programmed as just one consequence.
The ECB’s increasingly shrill mantra that it makes policy for the monetary union as a whole and not for its largest member (Germany) could well cause a black swan to appear — in the form of a German political shock this autumn. The Frankfurt-based officials have been ignoring the historical observation of Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Mundell that central banks of federal unions are intuitively alert to symptoms of monetary instability in their dominant economic member — for example: Ontario in Canada and New South Wales in Australia. (California, at around 13% of the US economy does not qualify as “dominant.”)
For leftist critics of the EU, reform looks unlikely — but aligning with right-wing Euroskeptics looks worse. Maybe there's a third option.
When European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg this past September, he told them the organization was facing an “existential crisis.” In part, he blamed “national governments so weakened by the forces of populism” that they were “paralyzed by the risk of defeat in the next election.”
We are accustomed to looking at Europe’s woes in a purely financial context. This is a mistake, because it misses the real reasons why the EU will fail and not survive the next financial crisis. We normally survive financial crises, thanks to the successful actions of central banks as lenders of last resort. However, the origins and construction of both the the euro and the EU itself could ensure the next financial crisis commences in the coming months, and will exceed the capabilities of the ECB to save the system.
Can the EU still unite a continent shattered by world wars, or is it little more than a vehicle for austerity capitalism? The European Union is one of the premier trade organizations on the planet, with a collective GDP that surpasses the world’s largest national economies.
But it’s far more than a trade group. It’s also a banker, a judicial system, a watchdog, a military alliance, and — increasingly — an enforcer of economic rules among its 28 members. “Larger now than the Roman Empire of two thousand years ago,” observes British historian Perry Anderson, “more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.”
In the wake of the Paris attacks, Europe is being pulled in two directions at once. On the one hand is the rise of localist nationalism in the form of border closings, border fences, and Euroskepticism. On the other hand is the rise of renewed militarism as the French state calls for even more aggressive foreign policy from its European allies in the name of security. In some ways, these two trends appear to be at odds, but they are really just different expressions of nationalism.
The costs and risks of maintaining the eurozone system are already immense and rising. So is an exit possible? Intuitively, the exit from the euro should be as easy as the entrance. Joining and leaving the club should be equally simple. Leaving is just undoing what was done before. Indeed, many popular articles discuss the prospects of an exit of countries such as Greece or Germany. However, other voices have rightly argued that there are important exit problems.
It is a truism to say that democracy began with the Greeks – less so to say that it originated in popular rebellion against debt and debt-bondage. Yet, with the Greek people ensnared once more in the vice-grip of rich debt-holders, it may be useful to recall that fact. For the only hope today of reclaiming democracy in Greece (and elsewhere) resides in the prospect of a mass uprising against modern debt-bondage that extends the rule of the people into the economic sphere.
Europe has always been a rather tenuous concept. A rump continent, Europe represented the barbarous hinterlands for the Greeks and Romans. The first use of the term "European" occurred in a chronicle describing the forces of Charles the Hammer that turned back the northward advance of Islam at the battle of Tours in 732. Long celebrated in Europe as a victory of civilization over barbarism, the Battle of Tours was, as historian David Levering Lewis reminds us in God's Crucible, actually the opposite: "the victory of Charles the Hammer must be seen as greatly contributing to the creation of an economically retarded, balkanized, fratricidal Europe that, in defining itself in opposition to Islam made virtues out of religious persecution, cultural particularism, and hereditary aristocracy."