And yet . . . it doesn’t seem so bad. At 9:30 p.m., the beautiful people are still wearing their Prada sunglasses at the Cerveceria Santa Ana, and not just to pose: There is still plenty of sun as the afternoon stretches out, impossibly long. They lounge under umbrellas at the tables on the square and at the sidewalk cafés, picking at Russian salads, smoking cigarettes, and sipping blond beer. A well-built young man wearing flip-flops and a pink tutu, and nothing else, dances artfully with a life-sized stuffed ape as a flamenco singer wails about the state of his corazón. A beautiful young woman joins a party in progress at one of the tables, fair and slender and a perfect explanation of why Europhilia persists in the United States and elsewhere. She is wearing a T-shirt that reads: “We Still Have Time Left. Let’s Make the Most of What We Have.” Still time, indeed — but how much? Parties end, and tabs must be settled. Even the seemingly endless Spanish afternoon does not last forever. Nightfall is coming.
What will the darkness bring? The two most likely possibilities are total economic collapse or total loss of economic sovereignty. It has long been remarked that a European monetary union without a European fiscal union is a guarantee of disaster, and now the disaster is upon us. If an anarchic meltdown of southern Europe is going to be averted, northern Europe, Germany above all, is going to have to put up the money. That idea is wildly unpopular in the north, but for Berlin, the real choice seems to be to take a hit up front and calm the waters or to let the storm rage and take a hit, possibly a more severe one, on the backside as its trading partners go under and the debt tsunami rolls over European finances. There is talk of the issuance of Europe-wide bonds or, short of that, Europe-wide short-term bills. It is not clear whether even that will be enough.