“Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion” – Richard John Neuhaus
There’s a rather humorous bit of irony going on in Europe right now. I won’t dwell on it too long – the point will be obvious.
The euro is in trouble. Debtor nations, like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, to name a “few” have borrowed more money than they could possibly pay back. They can’t just print their way out of it, because none of them individually controls the European Central Bank. (Search Mish for discussions on fiscal unions and monetary unions – and the lack of a successful example of one without the other.) So how do Greece, Spain, Italy & the like keep their countries a float as borrowing costs go through the roof and their budgets get more and more out of balance?
The short answer is “they don’t” – the long answer is “they need a bailout.” This is the rub. Who can bail them out? Well, the obvious answer, the one everyone has been pushing for, is Germany.
Get the irony now. Germany managed its costs well, drove down expenses, raised productivity, managed accounts very well in the good times and is now able to weather the storm in the bad times. Greece did not, Spain did not, Ireland did not, Portugal did not. And so we ask the people who have behaved responsibly to bail out those who have not.
Welcome to socialism on a nation-state level. The Germans, of course, should readily embrace the concept. They are, like all European nations, enthralled with the notion of socialism and entitlements. Somehow though they seem to be balking at the notion of paying for everybody else to throw a party.
We should feel for them in this time of tribulation. It is a very difficult thing when a philosophy you have lauded for a significant portion of your life turns out to be empty. No doubt the Germans are slowly wrestling with the painful realization that their hopes and dreams of socialist utopia have been dashed – that their governing and guiding philosophy is itself a failure.
(Before you balk that the Germans aren’t as socialist as that – they’re far more socialist than the crazy socialist lot we have over here, which is good enough in my book.)
Also quite interesting is just how the Germans, who this time represent the “fortunate ones” are getting pressured from all sides. It always plays out the same. Somebody finds that they are short on resources so they make all manner of emotional appeals; holding that the “fortunate ones” owe them something. The surrounding countries (or neighbors, as the case may be) join in at pressuring the “fortunate ones” into helping. All the while, the “fortunate ones” sit back with shock and frustration, screaming into the wind: “I’m not the fortunate one. I worked hard for what I have. I sacrificed. I made difficult decisions. I studied in college while you partied. I worked an extra job to save money, while you spent every cent you ever earned and then some. I got to where I am through hard work, diligence, perseverance – not fortune. AND I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING!”
Reap the whirlwind, Germany, reap the whirlwind. I hope you guys tell the rest of the EU to jump of a bridge. If not, well, then feel free to pay for everybody else to party while you continue to work.