Saturday, 19 November 2011

baby out with the bath water

There have certainly been some chilling exchanges between Germany and the United Kingdom over the UK’s peripheral participation in the European Union and (at least perceived) German insistence that if one is in for a penny, then one is in for a Pound--or rather the Pound Sterling ought to be retired in favour of the common euro zone currency. These tensions are not being distilled in the most helpful of ways, and given the way words and intent has been twisted and other consequences of membership dues (like Germany’s being privy to the Irish budget before Ireland's leaders saw it) and other overtures to Britain, I think it is not surprising to hear of such aversion and ire. The UK is a member of the EU and that partnership ought to be respected, and not just over potential obstinacy that would threaten any unanimous range of movement submitted to Brussels.
Both sides ought to realize the limits of reparations and accusations before diplomacy is exhausted as well: sacrificing national self-determination for the sake of monetary-security is as big a farce as the security-theatre of the absurd of the States. And although the old arrangements have been shown to be less than ideal and Europe’s true-believers have been given a great gift in the chance to re-think and re-build the framework of this cooperative, one should not be tempted to dismiss the overall health and well-being of the EU with such prejudice. Some are crying socialism and collectivism, very reminiscent I think of the harsh treatment and fear-mongering propagated by the opponents of Obamacare when they cited horror stories from the British NHS (National Health Service) as reasons to avoid socialized medicine, but in large parts of Europe, the people are seeing benefits from the taxes they contribute realized in affordable health-care, less gentrification, labour laws that protect the worker, preservation of heritage and the environment, rule of law without tolerance for corruption. The financial institutions that are ailing for the most part are limited to those that were over-extended in the American real-estate market and the imaginary numbers game of derivatives, Volkswagen is worth more in real assets than all of American auto manufacturers combined, and though employment and future prospects have sadly diminished in many places, there is great potential for recovery, should national entities only be able to deliver on their original promises. There is not, I think, so much outside pressure mandating change as restructuring for competition, enforcement of regulation (taxation) and growth, within reason. There's already enough crap in the world to satisfy any consumer (though possibly not at the right price), but the de-industrialization of the world's former factories (the US and the UK have grown a bit shrill in their criticism along with moving to a service-based economy) had nothing to do with a grand-anti-consumerism movement and more to do with greed.
Countries that retained their manufacturing sector continue to enjoy economic health and good levels of employment all around--not to over-simplify matters and not to disparage those nations that have picked up the slack with the outsourcing and off-shoring of corporate colonialism, tasked nominally with the production and export of things out-of-proportion with their own needs, means and tastes. It is not just the cars, planes, computers, etc. but also the management and control in line with demand and the dirty part of the business that leaves a mess to clean up: increased demand and improvements in standards of living has not pushed the tolerance of the environment to unseen heights but the struggle to maintain profit and productivity has. Remanded to one's own backyard, manufacturing and the challenge to do it all better and within one's neighbourhood imperatives, I believe, to mend the environment and the economy. National branding won't heal rifts nor will it safeguard statehood but maybe without the artificial threats of endless debt and austere futures, nations can resume talking about what works and what hasn't and without entendre and vitriol.