Killing the Patient

by Andrew Stuttaford

There is a long, and as you would expect, intriguing piece in the FT today by Niall Ferguson and Nouriel Roubini with advice on how to save the euro-zone.

It’s  well worth reading in full (but behind a pay wall), but this is one key paragraph that gives the flavor:

Germans must understand that bank recapitalisation, European deposit insurance and debt mutualisation are not optional; they are essential to avoid an irreversible disintegration of Europe’s monetary union. If they are still not convinced, they must understand that the costs of a eurozone break-up would be astronomically high – for themselves as much as anyone.

All those contentions, other than the first, are debatable (which is not necessarily to say that they might not be true), but let that pass for now and turn back to this:

We find it extraordinary that it should be Germany, of all countries, that is failing to learn from history. Fixated on the non-threat of inflation, today’s Germans appear to attach more importance to 1923 (the year of hyperinflation) than to 1933 (the year democracy died). They would do well to remember how a European banking crisis two years before 1933 contributed directly to the breakdown of democracy not just in their own country but right across the European continent.

The problem is that you do not preserve democracy by melting it down. Even if we ignore the damage that the EU project has already done to democracy within its nation states (and we shouldn’t), and even if we ignore the fact (which we shouldn’t) that the shoddily-constructed and highly speculative euro was imposed on the German people by deceit and without the genuine popular consent essential to the establishment of any new monetary order, I am at a loss to understand how heaping a massive, permanent (and it will be) burden upon German taxpayers over their overwhelming opposition can be reconciled with basic democratic principles. And, remember, once these mechanisms are set up they will, for all practical purposes, be irreversible. They will have slipped free from any meaningful democratic control.

I would not underestimate for a moment the seriousness of the current crisis, its dangers or its unpredictability, but those who believe (even with the best intentions) that the only response to these problems is to take Europe even deeper into what is, in reality, a post-democratic system, should have the honesty to admit that appalling fact to themselves—and to others.