Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Left and right should back the Euro

Escapists chase very different utopias and still end up in hell.
Extreme left and extreme right voices in Europe imagine relief by imagining that the European market—and its cornerstone, the Euro—was misconceived. It’s seen as a straight jacket by the so-called Keynesian left and as a helicopter parent by neo-conservatives.
Nationalist contempt for big federations is logical. Chauvinists exist in provinces, states, and national capitals on both sides of the Atlantic. What they want and what they’ve championed over the last century, fortunately, are understood as well.
In the clutch, the left can be counted on to oppose what the nationalists want. The left believes in the welfare state and activist government but is not na├»ve about borders or trade barriers per se. Nationalism, they know, invariably rewards privilege and is paid for by the less powerful.  
The muffled amusement of neo-conservatives toward the perilous state of the Euro-zone, however, is logically indefensible. Their renewal of the case for market liberalism has been vital in breaking down economic barriers globally and has supplied much of the policy agenda of the European Union and its moderate left and conservative member states.
All too readily, however, they fall back on a uniquely Anglo skepticism toward federations. They too readily see federal systems as incompetent rather than irreplaceable guardians of open markets. Andrew Coyne of the National Post is uncompromising about the flawed Euro-zone:
“There is little doubt that, as currently constituted, it has proved a disaster, making half of Europe uncompetitive and forcing the other half to bail it out. It was an attempt, as we can now see, to stretch a single currency over countries with very different economies and, more important, very different political cultures. That would have been a problem even if the common monetary authority had been backed by a common fiscal authority, as elementary theory would suggest it should have been. But with every country off borrowing as much as it liked, in defiance of their obligations under the Maastricht treaty, the project was ripe for catastrophe long before the crisis exposed its weakness.
Setting aside nearly 240 years in the US and 142 years in Canada of regularly falling short of “elementary theory,” our North American federations have operated rather well with two rather over-reaching currencies and often reckless state and national governments.
Texans haven’t asked specifically to bail out Californians or vice a versa. Rednecks in Alberta haven’t been asked to subsidize French Canadians or Tory snobs in Halifax. However, all of them have been electing national governments that cushion hardship in other communities, and ameliorate economic shocks and foolish mistakes half a continent away.
The proposition that the Europe Union is just too divided economically and culturally isn’t reasonable, either. Americans are at least as divided as Europeans on hot button issues. Until this week, in fact, polarization and gridlock were seen as unique and fascinating American vices.
Furthermore, as a basic measure of economic disparity—income inequality—these two great federations are almost the same. After reviewing personal income and national data, Jim Manzi points out in the National Review:
It turns out that America and Europe as a whole have extremely similar levels of economic inequality—Europe’s is just chunked by country.”
Europe should ultimately be able to make its common currency work. If it needs more time to regain its confidence, however, its neo-cons should at least make the case that the alternatives—the economic nationalisms of the past—were truly disastrous.

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