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It’s not the economy…

In all the discussion about the Greek exit from the Euro I see a lot about wealth and poverty; about whether more damage would be done to the economies of Greece, Europe and the world by “austerity” within the Euro versus a default and a return to the drachma.

These are the questions of cost and benefit that it is respectable for world leaders to discuss. Discussion gets heated, I hear – voices are raised and cheeks flushed with anger. But the thing that really sends the blood rushing to a Prime Minister or a Chancellor’s cheek is pride, not money. Pride matters. Pride, shame and “face” in the oriental sense set billions of Euros coursing this way and that in a way that mere economics could never manage. Greek pride finds German diktats hard to bear – but not so unbearable as facing the fact that Greece did not join the Euro but rather was let in by condescending officials who turned a blind eye to obvious lies, like a university turning a blind eye to plagiarism in order to keep up the diversity quota. The Germans were proud of their Deutschmark, prouder still of their own nobility in giving it up for the greater good (with a little frisson of shame at the sinful pleasures of that export boom), and this is the thanks they get?

Bitterest of all is the wounded pride of the Eurocrats. Their sure touch was meant to gently shape history as the potter’s touch shapes the clay. Only the clay slid off-balance on the wheel and it has begun the trajectory that will end when it hits the wall with an almighty SPLAT.

Shapers of history really hate almighty splats. Hurts their pride, you see.

I really hate shapers of history.

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11 comments to It’s not the economy…

  • William H Stoddard

    That’s brilliantly put. I’m anticipating the similar SPLAT of the American retirement system with mingled dread (because I will be personally hurt by it) and Schadenfreude. . . .

    There’s a scene in Atlas Shrugged where Francisco d’Anconia is asked what’s going to happen to the United States, and he answers, “Just exactly what it deserves.” And when his interrogator reacts with horror, he answers, “Don’t you believe in the operation of the moral law?”

  • Regional

    Apart from the fact they’re stiwffe

  • “Molon labe” ain’t gonna cut it this time.

  • AKM

    Great post.

  • JohnB

    I really hate shapers of history.

    Yes. Hmmm. I don’t suppose I hate them but I certainly hate what they do. Especially with their propensity to spend several tens of millions of lives here or there in their grand designs.

    I still wonder why they do it. Status? Money? Is it all about pride?

    But, whatever. Experience has clearly indicated to me that there is more to all this than is allowed to meet the eye.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Good stuff Natalie.

    Much as I suspect the Greek people know they can’t live beyond their means for ever, I believe (hope) that in the end they will say NO we do NOT want the Germans telling us how to live – even if they’re right.

    Fingers firmly crossed; champagne remains on ice.

    Oh and btw: “like a university turning a blind eye to plagiarism in order to keep up the diversity quota” – gets my nomination as Samizdata simile of the week. Marvellous!

  • Alisa

    Status and money – but mostly control.

  • I think it’s mainly status.

    Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.

    — T.S. Eliot

  • Strongly agree with the above praise. Brilliantly put.

  • llamas

    You mean to tell me that European nationalistic pride(s) were more powerful than an artificially-created and undemocratically-imposed single currency?

    I’m shocked, shocked! to find that European nations have secretly been harbouring nationalistic feelings. I thought for sure that all those generations of French and German politicians singing Euro-Kumbaya together were being sincere and forthright, and that the terrible forces that have riven Europe North-to-South and East-to-West for the last 2000 years had been completely and effectively suppressed by the benificent impositions of the EU.

    Colour me amazed. No, really.

    Not.

    My Dear Old Dad (MHRIP) was a fierce Europhile, but he was also an engineer, and knew some history, and he predicted this as the logical outcome of the whole European experiment, almost 40 years ago. He’s been gone 25 years but I’m sure he’s spinning in his grave.

    This was broadcast in 1981 and, if anything, is even more true now than it was then.

    Hacker: Europe is a community of nations, dedicated towards one goal.

    Sir Humphrey: Oh, ha ha ha.

    Hacker: May we share the joke, Humphrey?

    Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister, let’s look at this objectively. It is a game played for national interests, and always was. Why do you suppose we went into it?

    Hacker: To strengthen the brotherhood of free Western nations.

    Sir Humphrey: Oh, really! We went in to screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans.

    Hacker: So why did the French go into it, then?

    Sir Humphrey: Well, to protect their inefficient farmers from commercial competition.

    Hacker: That certainly doesn’t apply to the Germans.

    Sir Humphrey: No, no. They went in to cleanse themselves of genocide and apply for readmission to the human race.

    Hacker: I never heard such appalling cynicism! At least the small nations didn’t go into it for selfish reasons.

    Sir Humphrey: Oh really? Luxembourg is in it for the perks; the capital of the EEC, all that foreign money pouring in.

    Hacker: Very sensible central location.

    Sir Humphrey: With the administration in Brussels and the Parliament in Strasbourg? Minister, it’s like having the House of Commons in Swindon and the Civil Service in Kettering!

    Not quite as funny now, it it? With your Greek brethren in the EU daubing swastika-laden graffiti on the walls of Athens, and Frau Merkel apparently resigned to the fact that the Euro is going away, because her voters are sick-and-tired of pouring their hard-earned Deutschmarks down a succession of quasi-Third World ratholes. Banks are emptying, and the nationalistic pressures will only pile atop the fiscal ones. It will only take a bank or two in Germany to refuse to honour Euros arriving from Greece for the whole house of cards to fall in – and as the fiscal house falls, so does the political one.

    llater,

    llamas

  • lucklucky

    “Austerity” is a keynesian word that is only employed when the Socialist Polítical Class can’t spend as it would like.
    In last decades the taxes have increased but no one in the media employed the word “Austerity” Why? People didn’t get less?
    Corolary: It show how much socialist is the journalist class: from The Telegraph to the Dailymail…
    When 7% of Governement deficit, which if we use the ballpark that Government is 50% of GDP, means 14% of budget is new debt…
    Austerity!?