Is not the stand-off taking place within the EU somehow a re-run of the struggles that were precisely opposed to the notion of an European Empire imposing its rigid ‘Lex Europa’ over diverse peoples, by a centralized and aloof, authority?
Wherever one looks, it is evident that the post-war Establishment élites are on the backfoot. They maintain a studied panglossian hauteur. But whether it is in Britain, where a PM seems ready to sacrifice her own party’s future on the altar of maintaining the cosy nexus between big business and Brussels’ smug ambitions to be a global economic player, rivalling the US or China. Or, whether it is Trump’s readiness to put America’s financial system into fiscal and debt jeopardy, in order to keep the cogs and wheels of the Military Industrial Complex whirring and spinning comfortably – at a time when US government over-spending already threatens to break dollar ‘trust’.
Or, whether it is Europe, where the abrupt ECB reversal marks a huge conceptual failure … [i.e. the destruction and transfer of wealth from Eurozone savers, to rescue debtors; and from the general public to the banks, government and large corporations to rescue their balance sheets]. This has contributed materially to having turned the Eurozone into an economic zombie, and having radicalised a large and hostile constituency.
Or, whether it is manifest with the EU’s evident befuddlement upon China’s tectonic ‘landing’ at Rome last month, heralding the shift of the global trade ‘plates’. Maybe the EU leaders do ‘get it’ – that the EU is already on the slipway, gliding down towards ‘new waters’, slipping towards its sibling separation from the erstwhile ‘parental home’ of the trans–Atlantic relationship, to a new life in which a Chinese partner features. But if so, strategic thinking is not evident.
Or, whether it relates to Washington’s foreign-policy Establishment’s surprise at China and Russia’s assertive ‘spanner’ thrust into the ‘game’ of regime change being played-out in Venezuela; or by NATO-member Turkey insisting to buy Russia’s S400s, despite Washington’s threats; or (unimaginably), by tiny Jordan and Lebanon actually saying ‘no’ to the US (over Kushner’s plan to strip King Abdullah of his custodianship of Jerusalem’s al-Quds, or in Lebanon’s case, by declining to wage sanctions ‘war’ on its co-citizens).
The studied ‘front’ persists, but the cracks show. What is significant, and so interesting, is that the resistance now is percolating into the ranks of the ‘Establishment’ itself. (The Establishment was never homogenous, but internal revolt within its ranks was always cauterised easily, and the wound quickly healed-over). Not now – at least not so easily.
All in all, the post-war élites are shaken: the reaction to the Mueller Inquiry outturn (by Establishment outlier Trump), and EU Michel Barnier’s outburst that there are mischief-makers (Nigel Farage in particular), who actually “want to destroy the EU from inside; and others from outside”- are but two symptoms of psychic fracture in an erstwhile, sealed Cartesian mental retort. Core concepts are being challenged on many fronts.
An ancient European war of two ‘visions’ – between old-style conservatives (with a small ‘c’) that are instinctively suspicious of grand, utopian projects, and who prize autonomy and native institutions – is rebelling against the contemporary embrace of millenarianism.
This has re-emerged most furiously with Brexit; with Macron’s Jupiter-like conceit; with the scorn and non-conformism coming out from Italy; and from the undisguised disdain for EU ‘values’ emanating from Warsaw, Budapest, and other Visegrad capitals. Is it truly feasible for the EU to maintain their unbending stance, as challenges proliferate?
Yet, in spite of this catalogue; in spite of all the evidence surrounding us that we stand at the edge of one of those substantive inflection points, we just amble on, continuing as usual – sure that we will muddle through, somehow ‘okay’.
But will we? Why the unfurrowed sanguinity? We may be entering global recession. Yet neither the Fed, nor the ECB, have the weapons to deal with it (as they freely admit), beyond reverting to more money-printing, interest rate suppression and asset purchases. What will be the outcome then, this time? The Central Banks will print (already collectively $1 Trillion this first quarter). In past rounds of monetary inflation, cheap Chinese imports did repress western inflation. We could ‘print’ the cash, with seemingly no adverse blowback. And China effectively ‘lent us’ its growth stimulus, too.
But the adverse blowback was always there, just less visible. The ‘printing’ represented a huge transfer of wealth from one component of the public – to another. Can the fabric of our polity really assimilate any greater inequalities, without tearing apart, without exploding? Are not the Gillets Jaunes flashing a red warning signal? Apparently not. Markets continue to soar away. For sure, the consequences however, to the inevitable (now fully locked-in) monetary authorities’ response to stagnation, this time will be that the 60% will sink closer to the economic ‘cliff edge’, (whilst the 40% fly high) – and the young will become the new long-term unemployed.