Tuesday, January 10, 2017

EU cascade failure in 2017?

I've made no secret of my desire for the dissolution of the EU and the eurozone, but I'm not willing to go so far as to predict that the EU will collapse this very year. This article over at L'ombre de l'olivier ("shade of the olive tree"), however, goes there.* The article concludes:

All in all the EU is likely to find a lot of politicians who find it a good thing to kick and very few who see any reason to protect it. This is a problem because the EU has utterly failed to endear itself to its citizens over the last 40 years. True people quite like the free trade and free movement bits but the rest of it fails to inspire. Moreover voters aren’t total idiots. If the Brexit talks stall, which they probably will, voters in the rest of Europe are likely to correctly perceive that the reason for this is that the EU wants to make countries that leave suffer. In Eastern Europe that’s going to remind them of the Soviet Union and the iron curtain.

All of this ought to be obvious to the EU Federasts but I’m fairly sure they still believe a combination of threats, blackmail and menaces will keep their restive populations in line because this has worked in all previous cases. The problem is that Brexit just showed that this is not the case.

I don't agree that the EU has "utterly failed to endear itself to its citizens." This may be true for millions of Europeans, but it's also true, especially among millions of younger Europeans, that a "European first" identity has emerged and continues to burgeon. Knowing quite a few Europeans, I've seen this up close: many consider themselves European above all else. While I don't believe that Brexit, Frexit, or any other potential "-exit" should be framed as an old-versus-young problem, I do think the specific question of being pro-EU or Euroskeptical falls at least roughly along generational lines.**

I also doubt an imminent EU cascade failure. Such a collapse might indeed happen if, as the article suggests, France elects Le Pen and goes through with its Frexit. But my understanding about la présidentielle this year is that François Fillon is currently ahead of Marine Le Pen, assuming the polls are accurate (which we have no reason to assume). Fillon is more moderate than Le Pen; much depends on how cautious the French are feeling. With Hollande in the command chair, the French have had a full dose of socialist policy, which has turned out badly (see also: Venezuela and other centrally planned economies, although admittedly, France hasn't fallen that low), so perhaps the French are set to swing fully toward the free market. I just don't imagine that that's going to happen, though: old habits die hard, and the French love their short work weeks, their long breaks and holidays, their habit of striking whenever things get slightly onerous, and their "free" government-sponsored "services."

*The article's title, "Wither the EU," may or may not be a mistake. The opposite of "whence" is spelled "whither," with a "wh-," but perhaps the title is meant to suggest the EU's withering, as with a dying plant. Hard to say. I'm leaning toward "spelling gaffe" myself.

**This is tough to untangle. I can hear you replying, "But wasn't the Brexit motivated by Euroskepticism? If it was, and if you're saying at the same time that Euroskepticism may be more of a generational thing than the Brexit, isn't your stance self-contradictory?" The situation in Europe is complex and not easily summed up. I think it was wrong for the anti-Brexit "Remain" crowd to portray the situation as a fight between the old and the young; part of the reason for this is that a healthy fraction of young people ended up in the "Leave" crowd (see here). But in terms of what a person thinks about his own citizenship, it tends to be the younger folks who say, "I'm European first." This only makes sense because the European-first idea is relatively new, so of course it would be picked up more easily by the young. I hope this makes sense. While there is, no doubt, some overlap between the Leave/Remain conflict and the pro-EU/anti-EU conflict, I don't think these are the same animal.


TheBigHenry said...

Whether "wither" or "whither" was intended might depend on the weather.

Kevin Kim said...

Well played.