Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context.
21 May 2014
The much-hyped non-event of the European Parliament elections is upon us again – yawn, yawn – and has stirred up the customary apathy.
Between tomorrow 22 May and Sunday 25 May those voters who can be bothered to turn out in the 28 states that make up the European Union (EU) will go to the urns to choose the 751 members of parliament that are supposed to represent them politically for the next five years.
We ourselves have written so much about the pointlessness of voting in so-called western democracies that we think it might be an idea to hand over the task to someone else.
And who better than Larry Elliott, a senior economics columnist on the London Guardian newspaper.
Telling it like it is in a cut-through-the-garbage article on Monday 19 May Elliott told his readers:
“It would be a mistake…to imagine that much, or indeed anything, will change as a result of the elections to the European Parliament. There will be a lot of talk about how Europe needs to deliver for its people, and that will be it. Mainstream parties with their mainstream thinking will still be in charge and life will go on as before.
It’s a text book case of “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.
“As a result,” Elliott goes on, “Europe will condemn itself to an even longer period of economic stagnation, mass unemployment and austerity. Extremism will flourish.”
And so say all of us.
Elliott singles out the EU’s single currency – the notorious euro which supplanted the national currencies of 18 EU member states after it was introduced between 1999 and 2002 – as the union’s key policy failure.
“The euro has indeed been the economic disaster that some predicted when it was created at the end of the 1990s. There were warnings at the time that the single currency would prove to be a job-destroying machine. There were warnings too that many of the countries being yoked together were not ready for a one-size-fits-all monetary policy.
“It seemed glaringly obvious that…countries stripped of the power to conduct their own monetary policy would have to resort to austerity if they became uncompetitive. All this went unheeded. The euro, it was confidently predicted, would make Europe more prosperous and by doing so would create the conditions for ever closer [political] union.
“The reality has been slow growth, high unemployment, botched structural reform, drift and growing discontent. Problems have arisen not just on the periphery but at the core, where economic performance has deteriorated markedly since the creation of the single currency.”
He concludes: “Europe’s leaders consider the euro too big to fail. They are wrong. It is already failing. It is failing to deliver the promised economic prosperity and it is failing to bring Europe together politically. The euro is like the gold standard, but worse…”
Throughout this blog we have hammered home the point that the alternation in power of different political parties in so-called western democracies virtually never involves significant changes in policy since the nominally distinct parties have long abandoned any pretence that they are singing from different hymn-sheets.
In our Mission Statement at the start of the blog two and a half years ago, we said:
“The status quo will continue…the virtually invariable alternation in power of two parties with virtually identical policies means that no significant political change is possible in western societies. The political system has been deliberately designed to eliminate the possibility of change – while at the same time using spin doctors and advertising to give the totally fallacious impression that the alternation in power of differently named political parties does in fact represent change. As we have said…, ‘if voting changed anything, it wouldn’t be allowed’.
And so, alas, it will be with the European Union elections this weekend.
As to the catastrophic introduction of the euro, we have long argued in favour of the adjustment of local interest rates and, where necessary, the devaluation of local currencies in countries – such as Greece, Ireland or Spain, to give current examples – which have lost their competititiveness. However, the fixed interest and exchange rates in the single currency euro-zone have removed these classic macroeconomic tools. The inevitable alternative has been the “internal devaluation” represented by crippling economic austerity.
Readers who want to consider these themes further might like to check out our blog on “Partitocracy v. Democracy” (see item 2 below) and have a look at our voluminous Europe archive at the side of this column.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
- Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.