The first domino has fallen and Greece has laid down their challenge to the European Union (EU) basically asking if the European body will respect them the morning after the vote to thumb their noses at the demands made on the Greek government and its people demanding that they be further bailed out for free. The Greek people have chosen to support their government in firmly demanding they be granted support from the rest of the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for restructuring the repayment schedule and not be so strict and mean demanding that the Greek government act what they define as responsibly using the restrictive austerity measures forcing the struggling nation to tighten its fiscal belt and stop the generous expenditures giving literally free tickets to the people and retired workers and other items standing directly in opposition of the demands for austerity measures for the struggling nation to be imposed by the EU, IMF and the ECB to prevent the very default on Greek debt which occurred late last week. The Greek default on their debt payment made them the first EU member to fail to meet their financial obligations slapping them in the face and throwing down their gauntlet. Now all that remains is a seemingly simple vote for the members of the EU on whether to hold the Greek government to impose strict terms in order to meet the financial demands of those attempting to collect on their ‘loans’ made with demanding Greece now act in good faith and honor the terms imposed on them and the restructure of the Greek governments debts such that they would be capable to repay those debts. The crisis was brought to a head with the Greek failure to meet the $1.7 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund as part of a previous set of further loans and restructuring made to avoid a similar crisis last year. Now an apparent ‘No’ vote is a direct challenge for all that entails.
The Greek people have now, with their ‘No’ vote, rejected the imposition of the austerity measures demanded of Greece by those holding the notes of indebtedness from the Greek government. This is forcing a crisis which has very few options and will now test the EU and whether its single currency policies are functional or inherently flawed. This threat to the EU single currency system was set into motion the second that there was not any central monetary planning unifying the disparate desires and quirks of the independent nations. Without such a system, the Euro was bound to produce just such a financial disaster leaving only the question as to which nation would be the first to fall off the fiscal cliff, the first to dare to tread beyond the cusp of financial responsibility. The predictions of an eventual default had raised its ugly face before threatening the very foundations of the Euro system and posing the exact challenge being faced today with the Greek rejection of the financial restraints being foisted upon them by the centralized powers within the EU. I suppose that Greece was as likely a candidate as any to be the first to face the imposition of external financial limits or simply defaulting thus threatening the stability of the Euro shared currency system. What are the questions needing to be answered and the actions available to be decided defining the path forward?
The questions are simple ones that get down to the basis of the Euro and through that to the entire EU. The writing is on the wall for anybody with the nerves to read the warnings telling the tale that there would be a day where a people made comfortable by the very structures put in place as a universal safety net designed to care for those unable to afford the necessities of life due to unemployment or other difficulties eventually making living off the government’s various programs sufficiently comfortable that work becomes an option and not a necessity. With such a system in place it becomes not only possible, but in some cases preferable to live a simple life permitting government to foot the bill. Eventually such a life would become far more attractive living large off the government than working and living not all that much differently and people would realize that not working was as much an option, and a far more enticing option, and simply choose to live an easy life seeking other means by which to have the government pay for more and more until there is no more and they start borrowing. This works for a while and the government stimulates the economy with infusions of money and the Ponzi scheme becomes the way of governing always staying one step from ahead of defaulting on loans. Finally there is a downturn of the economy and a country with finances so fragile becomes a nation unable to recover sufficiently to pay its debts. A nation unable to repay its debts is recognized immediately to be a threat to the entire system so this government cannot be permitted to collapse and start anew and is instead propped up by the wealthier governments and international bankers whose sources of income have always been shady and now are becoming downright unsustainable.
Soon another country teeters at the edge and begins to go down the exact same path as the previous, only more rapidly, then another and another until it becomes the crisis that is so large it can no longer be ignored or swept under the rug and propped up under auspices that this next new solution, austerity being the latest, will save the system, a system so broken that saving it is well past any possibility. The eventual default was set in motion at the very outset as was predicted by British Prime Minister the Lady Margaret Thatcher when she wisely refused to allow Britain to become dependent on the Euro and instead reached a balancing point that her merchants and industries would accept Euros as payment but that such payments must always be transferred into the Pound Sterling on the British ledgers and thus met by the EU. The Lady Thatcher once stated it referring to exactly this problem when during an interview with Thames Television’s This Week on Feb 5, 1976 she was quoted as saying, “I think they’ve made the biggest financial mess that any government’s ever made in this country for a very long time, and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.” This is exactly where Greece now finds itself and where Spain, Portugal, Italy and soon potentially others find themselves all in different points on that slippery slope, it is simply further along and at a steeper point that Greece finds itself, the point where other people’s money has run out and they have become reluctant to continue providing, period, or have they. There is one option where Greece is freely given yet another infusion of monies and the marry-go-round will continue. The debt will be restructured except this time there will be no set repayment process set up but instead a demand that Greece show its good faith of intent to eventually repay the debt once profitable times return, and those providing the crutch will continue to pour good money after bad with no false expectations of ever being repaid. Greece will have become that poor wretched relative who nobody ever speaks about but find themselves constantly meeting their bills for them. This eventually leads to the next crisis, what happens when most of the family of EU nations becomes Greece?
The EU cannot financially choose to continue supporting Greece but not because it would be a strain on them financially, it would hardly be noticed as such is how small a percentage of the total EU financial institutions that Greece requires even if it were to totally fail and every Greek citizen were receiving government livable wages. The problem is one of precedence. Once the EU sets the precedent financially holding Greece’s hand and paying its way then the path is set for other nations to demand similar treatment should they fall upon hard times. Should one look far enough down the road and it is not difficult to paint the picture they will envision, an EU that half its nations survive and are carried by the other half, and the wealth produced by the providing half is completely consumed supporting the rest. The entirety of the EU production and profits are consumed by the other nonproductive half. That is not a system that will survive even the slightest of difficulties and that will spell the end of the EU right behind the end of the Euro. But is the other option going to end any differently?
Imagine if the EU forgives the parts of the Greek debts it is able and forces Greece to return to their own currency yet remain in the European Union, where will that lead? Again it becomes a matter of precedent as now any nation which is approaching insolvency will demand the same generous exit strategy gaining a partial bailout which does not need be repaid and a return to their native currency without any penalty. There will come a point where the EU will no longer be the panacea promised and instead will become a small block of successful and wealthy nations having paid the exit fee for the remaining nations who now use their own currency and benefit from EU membership solely when conducting trade within the EU. This will have greater effects outside the EU as the EU will set their exchange rates for the Euro against their own national currencies until they are determined to be financially readmitted to the Euro club once again. There will always be the possibility that these less productive and less affluent nations will find their stride economically and be capable of rejoining the Euro based nations but most would be relegated to using their own national currency. The real problem will strike when even those nations which had been marginally able to keep astride the powerhouse economies of the likes of Germany will now constitute the least wealthy of nations still using the Euro and there may come during a time of economic stress where they too may be forced to return to their own currency or an even more frightening scenario would be the most productive nations decide to be like Britain, namely accepting the Euro in payment for trade deals or from tourists but operating using their own national currency as they would realize that would benefit them in deals outside of the EU and they also would no longer be pressed into supporting the economically weaker nations.
Any path taken would necessarily result in the end of the Euro and the stresses from the nations all returning to their own national currency eventually dissolving the EU as it would no longer serve any purpose beyond setting unified trade agreements through the Euro. Anyway one might slice this rotting cake that started with the Greek default; the result is the same, the unraveling of the EU starting with the demise of the Euro. The Euro might continue on much as Roman coins and the Spanish Pieces of Eight hung around well after their issuing nation no longer held the sway and influence they had in their prime. The question then comes as to what Europe may look like down the road without the EU as a calming inclusiveness that it once provided largely through the sharing of a common currency. Would this signal the return to the epidemic of conflicts, much as was the way of things throughout history? What will happen when the EU dissolves and there is no European unified front and each nation is now unleashed to trade completely without any concerns or other brotherly obligations. The initial return to cutthroat trade practices with each nation set against its neighbor may, over time, exacerbate old rivalries leading to skirmishes and even on to open warfare? Violence is only one part of the problems as there may be demands for reparations from the nations which had debt forgiven under a moment of weakness and magnanimity more forced by the EU than entered into with willingness and a smile. The failure of the Greek economy to sustain any kind of parity with the major economic powers within the EU will necessarily result in the end of the Euro as a trans-European unified currency, also as Lady Thatcher had predicted in her actions to forestall and eventually put to rest any hope that Britain would fully resign control over her own currency. This will prove to be the death of the Euro, the necessity for every nation to control its own currency unless they would willingly surrender their fiscal and economic planning to a central budgetary committee appointed and solely answerable to the EU and acting independently of the member nations forcing upon each their assignments for production and receipt of funds from Brussels. Nationalism or completely collective socialism, which would Europe choose. Britain would never enter such a trap, but could the entirety of the rest of the EU nations join such a group and actually make it work, that’s a tall order for any organization. Nope, could never happen, not in a million years. The other question that would remain to be seen is how the death of the EU would affect the relations out of Europe with the remainder of the world. These are interesting times, and they appear to be getting ‘curiouser and curiouser.’
Beyond the Cusp