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I think that people fail to understand that historic context is fundamental in all this mess.

Our grand-fathers had direct contact with the horrors of WWII, fascism and stalinism. That shapes a certain kind of individual.

Their mistake (and, it seems to me, the mistake of some here) was to forget that their descendants would be born in a completely (better) different world. Thus, a different kind of individual.

An individual breed in good times cannot easily foresee that it is shaping a path back to horror because (s)he does not know how such horror feels like.

I think a leader of the WWII generation would NEVER allow the current crisis to be shaped with a narrative of "nation versus nation" or "rich nations vs poor nations" or <put your national variant here>.

Sometimes the argument here seems to amount to "if we had the proper leaders, this would be alright". This is naive at best: (i) In a democracy we are bound to have, over time, leaders of different persuasions, it is not always the "old fashioned, historically sensitive, social democrat"; sometimes you get the "banker owned, ideology obsessed, short-sighted neo-liberal", this is NORMAL in a democracy. and (ii) we are having the generational leaders that know little about horrors.

This is why I think that the "European Dream" is turning into a "bloody nightmare": We Europeans designed (with good intention) a system that is too tight-coupled (think Portuguese bailout in the hands of Finnish parliament). We are too connected without sharing nothing resembling a "national identity". This is bound to be problematic in a time of crisis.

A more cautious approach would have serve us much better. It might not have been the utopia of a "united Europe", but would have avoided the problems that are coming (because they have not really started yet).

by cagatacos on Mon May 9th, 2011 at 08:17:22 AM EST
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Given that there were about 20 years between the end of WWI and the beginning of WWII, it's possible that Europe's Founders had a sense of urgency and that they believed that a "cautious" approach would not have worked.

On the other hand, the whole thing started with a very limited and, indeed, "cautious" European Coal and Steel Community. The single market itself was already "mission creep". The "Founders" set a ball rolling and hoped that further integration would be inevitable.

Economics is politics by other means

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 9th, 2011 at 09:06:46 AM EST
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The actual first attempt was of building a true common defence policy, which was truly ambitious and didn't happen as a result...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon May 9th, 2011 at 10:41:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder if the degree to which the wealthy arrange to skew the system in their favor depends in part on how close you get to social collapse. Massive banking failures in the USA in 1893 led to the federal reserve. Socialism the result of the great depression. European union after ww2. And conversely, 40 years of prosperity leads to a "let them eat cake" economic policy.

I hope this is not the case, because I would rather not have to cope with the social disruption it implies...

by asdf on Mon May 9th, 2011 at 08:43:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder if the degree to which the wealthy arrange to skew the system in their favor depends in part on how close you get to social collapse.

There is a relationship, but I think it is the reverse. The wealthy have to be protected from their basest instincts which are to skew the system so strongly to their interests that it is forced into collapse. They collectively seem incapable of accepting this, though many wealthy individuals do understand the relationship. The only satisfaction that gives is that those who understand the situation are better positioned to benefit from the collapse than those who deny the possibility or project the causes onto others.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 01:17:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Conversely, the vast majority of people also display little interest or engagement in politics so long as they are materially ok and sometimes care little for those who are not ok and who they then perceive as being a threat to their material security on a win:lose basis.  It can be very hard to organise the disadvantaged even in support of their own vital interests, and even harder to organise support from those who feel they themselves are relatively ok.

For the wealthy engaging in politics can be a hobby or a pastime, a means of upward mobility, a career, or an insurance policy against "bad people" getting into power. Often they are wealthy because they have played the game well in their own interests.

So the general observation, that major political innovations come in response to catastrophic social failures holds true for both reasons - the dispossessed become more engaged and recognise their common interests in changing the system and the wealthy lose their grip in the social upheaval that follows.

Of course the trick, in a functioning democracy, is to provide mechanisms for ongoing non-violent change which reduce the risk of catastrophic failures and mass upheavals.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 05:56:33 AM EST
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But I would argue that the financial system and the process of financialization of the economy, while contributing mightily to the wealth accumulation of the already wealthy, and while embraced by them for that reason, also tends to make the system unstable, as the further "progress" of financialization requires the dismantling of regulatory regimes that protect the stability of the system.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 12:03:06 PM EST
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