Yanis Varoufakis has an article in which he suggests that Germany and France – the principal powers of the EU – are rather dysfunctional neighbours:
At the heart of this Franco-German war is the clash between two Rs: the German commitment to rectitude versus the French penchant for redistribution. German officials greet every French government proposal by mentally computing its cost for German taxpayers. And, behind every German counter-proposal, French officials see a ploy to hide behind rules and regulations so that the German elites can have their cake and eat it. Europe’s continued slide into stagnation and disrepute is the natural outcome.
This is the conflict between the sometimes revolutionary (and thus sometimes also authoritarian) French and the order orientated Germans. Last time I visited Germany I really did see people waiting for the green man even though the road was clear. I know I’m going to be told that it is the law. Yet if you come from the English common law tradition it is usually reckoned that you can pass only those laws that have a general acceptance sufficient not to bring them into contempt. There is a noticeable variance of this contempt between the Germans, French and British, which I think goes a long way towards defining our characters. The idea that the British always gold plated EU directives has some substance. The Brits expect them to have to work properly because they are going to be in common use, whereas the French might get round to legislating in due course and the Germans would just take them as they were.
Since Britain is a sort of offshore mixture of the two other countries, both in outlook and origin, it is no wonder that neither Germany nor France really want the famously pragmatic but otherwise “vague and joking” British to leave.
Although Britain is sometimes wont to see its continental cousins as dressing up the mind blowingly obvious as the deeply philosophical, it could often provide, sometimes only by distraction, the opportunity for compromise between Germany and France. And while Britain’s invention and subsequent driving of the EU single market can be seen as very practical, it may, on the other hand, be an indication of its rudderless lack of philosophy that about half of its voting population thought, 30 years later, that this was a terrible situation to be in, with leaving the EU the only solution. If it had been part of a proper, philosophical ‘big idea’ derailing it might not have been so easy.
Yanis Varousakis meanwhile suggests that the Germans cannot rationally expect their 9% of GDP surpluses to continue, whilst everyone else is in deficit and locked in to an arbitrary ‘stability’ pact which simply scapegoats government deficits. When Germany is in surplus, surplus elsewhere is unlikely. It is impossible in the long term without harming its fellow Eurozone members, so Germany needs resolutely to flex a bit and do their rational duty.
He goes on:
Kant offers a famous example: Language is what distinguishes us from other species; without it, we are mere beasts. While lying often pays, if we all lied all the time, language would become obsolete. Rational humans, Kant concludes, must recognize that they have a duty to abstain from a practice (lying) that, if adopted by everyone at once, would annul our most precious invention (language).
So on this basis, as the Germans will know that their surpluses cannot last indefinitely, they should be frank about the need for financial redistribution within the eurozone.
Governments are elected to look after their electorates. If they are not doing so, they have to lie to them. This corrupts democracy and that is what Mrs May is doing when she says the NHS has never been better prepared (for a crisis) whilst omitting that that is because everyone has seen it coming a mile off. Since 2010, this Conservatives have cut 15,000 hospital beds & £6 billion from social care. And the population has increased. It couldn’t be more obvious – just see: we are playing Russian Roulette with people.
Trump is engaged in lying so blatant that we are now supposed to believe that Banon was thrown out of his Breitbart job for comments in a book that was in all other respects entirely false news.
Tunisia, once considered in the vanguard of the Arab spring, has spontaneously erupted in demonstrations against austerity helped on its way by the 2015 IMF loan of $2.9bn (£2.2bn), which means the government finds itself in a difficult situation. It should remember the duty of care to its people – banks always come second.
Governments everywhere have to understand that they have first and foremost, a duty of care to all their people. Their duty is not to be distracted by bankers or the special interest lobbyists, the courtiers of our age.
A government’s duty is to the population as a whole and to the public good. When governments seem to stand against their own people they are not properly undertaking their duties. In acting so they call into question their democratic mandate – and if they persist they call into question democracy itself.
At home, Corbyn’s ‘listening to the people’ is dismissed by many as hocus-pocus. In fact it rather looks as though this is currently all that remains of our fragile democracy.