Rise of the technocrats

27 11 2011

‘Plan A’ didn’t work in the eurozone. When the interest rates on Greek, Portuguese and Irish debt reached an unsustainable level, bailouts and tough new rules were imposed. These unruly junior members of the euro project would be taught lessons in fiscal management. The official prediction was that austerity and reform of these economies would bring interest rates down and growth, eventually.

The aim was also to stop the rot, the small countries could be bailed out, if Italy or Spain needed the same treatment the Euro would find itself on a slippery slope. Greece was the first to fail, massive cuts in public spending meant the economy followed the course of economic law rather than the prayers of the men at the European Central Bank.

The bailouts failed again and again leaving Greece staring into the abyss of default. It was said there could never be a ‘Plan B’, but then Greece defaulted on half of its debt. Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government agreed to a new set of measures to deal with the other half, but this time he announced he would go to the people and get their approval in a referendum.

This was too much, for those at the top of Europe do not believe the people have the capacity to choose their own future. Papandreou was forced out and former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos imposed on the Greeks as a better alternative.

George Papandreou sealed his own fate when he insisted the Greek people should have a say the future direction of their nation.

Then the Italian’s found they couldn’t force through their new austerity drive alongside the theatre spectacle that is Silvio Berlusconi. Europe needed someone who could bring this to Italy, former European commissioner Mario Monti was chosen as a man who could get the job done.

From their lofty offices in Frankfurt and Brussels, the captains of the European project simply don’t believe the people have the ability to make rational decisions. This is not a new development, democracy has long been an obstacle in Europe.

Ireland has a constitution that is the odd one out in Europe. Drafted in 1937 without any idea that the country would be part of a continental block, it requires any international treaty to be ratified by the people.

Twice this has been a problem. In 2001 the Irish rejected the Nice treaty, Brussels said try again, a year later they got the right result. Then in 2005 the French and Dutch rejected a European constitution, undeterred the bureaucrats made a few cosmetic changes and rebranded it a treaty. This time only the Irish electorate stood in the way. Again they rejected it in 2008, so again they were told to go back to the people until they got the right answer.

Campaign posters from the Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland.

This is no way to run a ‘democracy’, for a while it can be expected that people will apathetically accept the technocrats thinly veiled claim that only they know best. However, this time their big idea is austerity. When that doesn’t work they say we need more austerity, when it still doesn’t work they say we need austerity for 10 or 20 years.

Eventually the people will realise these people have no clue about how to solve this crisis, only delusions. They created the time bomb of the eurozone, dreamt up a totally inadequate response to the inevitable implosion and then scratched their heads in utter astonishment when their remedies didn’t work.

The problem is that this disillusionment with mainstream politics can manifest itself in ugly ways. Brussels can impose as many technocrats as it wants but at some point elections will have to be held. In the vacuum that is created, nationalism can take over. They once said Greece could never default on it’s debts, now they say it’s inconceivable that the eurozone could end, until it does.

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