Saturday 29 June 2013

Of Pygmies and Politicians, or why Europe Fails

I read with great amusement of the latest “spat” between French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq and European Commission President Manuel Barroso. According to the Financial Times, Madame Bricq is quoted as saying that Mr. Barroso had “done nothing during his term”.
Mr. Barroso, a modest man with much to be modest about, responded in a press conference that:

“There are some comments that deserve no comment, ... While some people were making comments I was working with every [EU] head of government to deliver growth and jobs.”

With people like this in charge, it is not surprising that Europe is in a terrible mess.

According to her Wikipedia profile, Ms. Bricq earned a second-rate law degree in France, and is a career politician who became First Secretary in the Federation of Paris of the French Socialist Party in early 1980s. Her entire career has been a rotation of technical appointments, as well as election to Parliament in 1997.

While she certainly has a strong grasp of how the French Socialist Party works, I doubt she has ever struggled to make payroll or bid to win an export contract in her life. She has been feeding at the public trough for the past 33 years, which is an extremely lucrative profession in France. What professional qualification or practical experience she has in trade or commerce is unknown.

The similarities with Mr. Barroso are astounding. He earned a law degree, and later an economics degree. He was a Maoist in the late 1970s, then a Communist, then a Socialist. One difference with Ms. Bricq is that he became Prime Minister of his country. Another is that he was an assistant professor of law in a state university, a sinecure from which socialism is easy.  

In the typical lowest-common-denominator politically-correct selection that dominates the European Union, he was elected President of the European Commission.

Like Minister Bricq, in other words, he has spent his entire life feasting at the public trough. He has never delivered growth and jobs in his life, except by spending other people’s money. He has never managed a small enterprise, never sold a product or service, never stayed up at night unable to sleep because of how his company is doing.

He has apparently never even practised law – the profession he studied and later taught.

It should come as absolutely no surprise, then, that Europe finds itself in a grinding economic, demographic and social crisis.

Economic, because it has promised cradle-to-grave welfare which originated in post-Word War II boom, but which has not been financially sustainable for the past 20 years in light of globalisation and competition.

Demographic, because birthrates and populations are falling in nearly all countries, or are marginally positive due to immigrant populations which have been expensive or impossible to integrate. At current demographic trends, most European social security systems are no longer self-sustaining without extra budgetary contributions, while the ratio of employed workers to pensioners was below 4 in 2010, and is forecast below 2 in 2050.

Social, because since the end of the Cold War, Europe has failed to provide any sort of vision for the future capable of capturing the imagination and commitment of its population, and particularly its legions of disaffected youth. It is precisely this youth who in its majority today faces a basic choice between a lifetime of starvation wages followed by a starvation pension, or emigration. They have almost nothing invested in a European future. Most cannot afford to live a reasonable existence in their respective capital cities—and most will never be able to.  

Having attended any number of conferences in Brussels, one of the first things that strikes me is the presence of the same type of people—lifetime public sector workers, typically academics or employees of some ministry or quango—all speaking in politically-correct code.

These are people who preach innovation without every having developed anything innovative in their lives. They talk about employment, but have never had to deal with the reality of making payroll, hiring or firing. They pontificate about enterprises and competitiveness, but have no idea of what this means.

Somewhere along the way, the political class in Europe has become entirely divorced from reality. Voters have become tranquilised by empty promises and hollow ideology, but as the economic tide runs out, find themselves wondering why they can no longer pay the rent. And the media, sadly, has chosen to accept the political classes’ bromides, rather than asking the difficult questions and challenging the absolutely useless assumptions and forecasts put out by Brussels and most national governments.

Moreover, the characteristics necessary to succeed in the political system are now totally inadequate to the task of succeeding in the real world. A career politician must have longevity, must toe the party line, must pay his dues at hundreds of party conferences, make hundreds of pointless speeches which deliver nothing of practical value. He may lie at will, spinning and smearing—without consequence for the cold light of day. It is difficult to imagine a more useless profession. I would not accept most politicians in my home.

The result is what we see today: massive youth unemployment, growing structural unemployment, impoverished people working at minimum wage or “mini jobs”, embedded welfare system dependence, tangled and pointless bureaucracy, a total lack of work ethic or accountability, legions of university graduates without any real skills. Growing disaffection and disengagement at every level of society.

One natural reaction to this anomy has been the rise of the far right or the far left. The far right peddles the ideology of vapid nationalism and division, which is pointless in the integrated, globalised world we have become. The far left peddles a saccharine utopia which can never be paid for, and will lead to economic ruin. And the centre simply has no solutions to offer.

At which point will European voters realise that the political system which gives rise to this class is no longer suitable or sustainable?

At which point will the media begin playing their proper role as the fourth estate and begin challenging the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of this kind of politics? Why has the coverage of so many elections, and so many events such as this ridiculous Bricq-Barroso spat been so anodyne?

How long will it take for voters and their elected representatives to understand that Europe is rapidly becoming comically and unaffordably irrelevant?

Minister Bricq accuses President Barroso of having done nothing during his term. Has she?

© Philip Ammerman, 2013

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