Europe and Failures of Imagination
One thing that I have noticed in all the commentary in the ongoing discussion and coverage of the Euromess is a lack of real creative juice applied to just how bad things could get. Yes, there’s chaos and default and whatever. But what about real gory scenarios? I’m thinking a genuine old-timey, 25% unemployement, Depression with total bank failure and wholesale nationalization of the financial system across Europe.
That’s not even close to the worst scenario you can imagine…when economies turn that bad, I think it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t exactly tend to produce a healthy politics. The process of such a collapse would, I think its fair to say, draw some real lines of divisions between blocs of European nations with differing interests. Creditors v. debtors is the obvious one, but not the only possible one. Most likely total economic collapse will lead to the fall of many political regimes and the replacement of Center Left w/ Far Right, and Center Right w/ Far Left. In such a world, some good-old-fashioned ideological conflict isn’t so hard to imagine, most likely within but perhaps between states.
What this all goes to show is that to some extent, the European Project has basically worked. People have an extremely hard time imagining things getting real. Perhaps that means that leaders will be sufficiently devoted to “Europe” as to have the courage to make the hard choices required to preserve it (namely, who foots the bill). On the other hand, “Europe” is a new experiment in human history, and perhaps people just have a hard time getting creative about how south it could really go.
Side note: At a time when Big Important Things are happening, horse race journalism annoys me to no end. This Time piece about “5 Things to Watch for at Tonight’s Republican Debate” neglects to mention the only thing that matters: Do any of the candidates exhibit a basic understanding of what will drive the US economy over the next week/month/year? I think Mitt has it, but I doubt we’ll get to see it.