Opinion: Economic crisis: Should the U.S. brace for European-style riots?
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The European Union is suffering on a scale much larger than just the crisis in Greece. Timothy Garton Ash, a contributing editor to Opinion, says it’s because the old political and emotional motivators of the EU have faded.
While Greece is urgently in need, anger is beginning to stir among those in other countries who are also bearing the brunt of irresponsible lending and leadership. There’s also panic about immigration from North Africa and frustration over underdeveloped military forces in Libya.
Ash suggests Angela Merkel’s leadership and the German economy are the key to recovery. Here’s an excerpt from today’s Op-Ed.
Those powerful driving forces included searing personal experiences of war, occupation, holocaust, fascist and communist dictatorships; the Soviet threat, catalyzing west European solidarity; generous, energetic American support for European unification; and a West Germany that was the mighty engine of European integration, with France on top as the driver. All these are now gone, or very much diminished. While there are intellectually convincing new rationales for the project, including the rise of non-Western giants such as China, rationales are no match for emotional motivators. The key to so much of this, especially on the economic side, is Germany. For much of its history, what has become the European Union pursued political ends by economic means. For [German Chancellor Helmut] Kohl and [French President Francois] Mitterrand, the euro was mainly a political project, not an economic one. Now the boot is on the other foot. To save a poorly designed and overextended monetary union, the political must ride to the rescue of the economic. […] For no one has more to lose from the disintegration of the Eurozone than the Continent’s central economic power. It may soon be too late.
On our discussion board, the conversation has spun off with readers examining the EU’s ideologies and comparing the EU’s situation to the economic crisis here.
There’s no unity in European Union
An economic union without a unified Federal Government is worse than a fool’s errand. Europeans do not view themselves as Europeans, and this sentiment is only getting stronger. Greeks are Greek; Germans are German; etc. And very few of these people see any reason to change. And just because you say ‘it’s better for them’ doesn’t make it so. The proof of your error is right in front of you: European culture is far more balkanized than even the Europeans thought. To bridle them to the same wagon makes less and less sense. The answer for Greece is a ‘temporary leave of absence’ from the Euro, as Feldstein wrote about. Ditto Portugal, Ireland, and possibly Italy or even Spain. No bailout will work at this point. The point spreads would be absurd. Anyone paying attention could see that Greece was doomed before the first bailout. Austerity is often the only way out, but even austerity has its limits. When you are as far gone as Greece was/is, then default is certain. Greece must float a new Drachma. And, btw, the USA is much closer to a Greek situation than people like to admit. Austerity will work here, still, but just. Much more debt, and we will be in a situation where no conceivable amount of economic growth - particularly given the Baby Boom demographics - could pull us out. -- RobM1981
American cities will soon see protests and riots too
The violence in the streets of Europe will be in American cities before the end of summer. None of this is an accident. The same groups calling for riots there are based here. Wake up. The hard left is trying to fundamentally transform America and many of us don’t like their new model. -- JamesAndrews
Greece is in danger of becoming the next Lebanon
The problems in Greece are a reflection of the structural problems with the EU. The EU has created a system where local elected leaders were no longer fully accountable to their people. Instead, all important decisions are made in Brussels by an army of technocrats. Local politicians are expected to rubber stamp and implement those decisions. Greece has overextended itself on credit because their politicians told the Greek people that they could have everything they wanted and wouldn’t have to pay for it. They tacitly assumed Brussels would fix it for them if they ever ran into financial problems. For 10 years, it worked wonderfully for the Greek political class and for the Greek workers who had a union or public-sector job, it sucked for everyone else in Greece. So now the situation is so extreme that Greece no longer is a sovereign state. Brussels is dictating to Greece and the Greek government are doing. Brussels priorities are first to protect banks who made bad loans. They don’t care about the Greek people. The danger is that the Greeks are being asked to ruin their lives and business and aren’t being offered any hope in return. Greece is in danger of becoming the next Lebanon. What the EU and Greece are doing is unsustainable. The EU needs to be abolished to fix this because it would force countries to reinstate democratic structures and accountability. -- bkmoore
The problems in Europe today just proves Margaret Thatcher’s observation... ‘The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.’ -- jjmart
Why does Obama want to model the U.S. after Europe?
Well, even though NATO is weak, and the military is running out of munitions due to its fight with the superpower called Libya, and the Eurozone is collapsing, at least you don’t have to worry about a blitzkrieg from Russia suddenly overrunning all of Western Europe. What man in his right mind would WANT to have Europe? On the plus side, Obama still wants to model the U.S. after Europe, so it goes to show that Europe does not have a monopoly on brain-dead politicians. --JohnDD
Actually, Europe has modeled itself after the U.S.
The problem in Europe is that it is being Americanized through tax-cut type transfers of wealth from the middle class and poor to the rich. That is why the people are indignant...the rich are doing just fine, but they are not bearing the debt. They are trying to solve the debt by cutting deeply into the social contract. They are proving that if you get half of the workers to resent the other half, the rich can get away with anything. I, for one, am glad to see that the European working class are not so easily led down the garden path. -- BillHarvey
*Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.
Protesters hurl stones at riot policemen in front of the Greek parliament building. Credit: Orestis Panagiotou / Ana-MPA
Find more photos at Framework.