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Europe’s Crisis of Democracy

The euro crisis hasn’t gone away; it has metastasized. A cancer of the monetary system has spread to other vital organs throughout the body of the patient. Economies are collapsing across the zone, as people face year after year of recession, contraction, and unemployment. Policymakers offer no plans when confronted with what is entirely a man-made catastrophe, the result of inept planning and stupid thinking by an elite that insists the only possible exit is that people trust it more, accept more pain at its hands, and obey its every demand. This FT news analysis piece from yesterday is an exasperating read:

We avoided the end of the world, EU leaders seem to be saying, rejoice that we only have the worst recession since the second world war.

The numbers in Greece remain so staggering that they bear repeating over and again: an economy that has shrunk by a quarter since 2008 and with more than a quarter of the workforce out of a job. As Panos Tsakloglou, head of the Greek finance ministry’s council of economic advisers, put it, only Great Depression-era America and Weimar Germany are comparable.

Greece has always been something of a eurozone outlier, but increasingly others are catching up. Spanish unemployment rates are almost identical and Italian contraction, though mild by Greek standards, will be much deeper this year than forecasters believed just three months ago. France, whose economy has come to a complete stop, could see unemployment touch 11 per cent.

Fewer and fewer voters want austerity policies (wisely or not), but no matter who they vote for, the European elite insists that the new politicians follow the same script as the ones who just lost the election. This turns democracy into a joke, which helps explains why the Italians voted for clowns. Who better to serve in office when office has become a mockery and democracy has no more power?

The elite looks at this landscape and thinks it is winning, that the patient is getting better. That cluelessness, that inability to distinguish between success and failure, is a further manifestation of the intellectual and cultural failings that led the European political elite into this quagmire in the first place. Europe boasted of being the world’s first truly post-historical society, but in many ways it has achieved something else: the world’s first “post-reality” elite, an elite which makes policy disconnected from the real world.

When a skin cancer spreads to the liver, that is not a sign that the patient is improving.

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