Friday, October 28, 2011

How historians will look back on Euroland’s demise

by Norman Davies

Financial Times

October 28, 2011

If Sparta and Rome perished”, asked Rousseau in his Social Contract, “how can any state hope to live for ever? The Body Politick, like the body of a man, begins to die as soon as it is born; it contains the seeds of its own destruction.” The histories of Europe’s numerous extinct states testify to this truth. Early examples come from the five Kingdoms of Burgundy or the Crown of Aragon, a recent one from the Soviet Union, which evaporated in 1991.

Yet states continue to vanish; sooner or later, all human institutions fall apart. The German Democratic Republic merged with West Germany. Czechoslovakia broke up when Czechs and Slovaks agreed their velvet divorce. The federation of Yugoslavia was torn asunder between 1991 and 2006. The map of Europe has repeatedly been transformed by state dissolution and EU expansion. Speculation spreads about which state will be the next to fall. Some say Belgium, others Italy.

Most recently, the demise of Euroland came into view. It is not a sovereign state, but it is a body politick of sorts and subject to the same vagaries of fortune afflicting everything else. Launched only a dozen years ago, it may join the long list of organisations that have died young. It lacks viable organs of fiscal management and political governance; by general consent, it must reconstruct itself rapidly or break up. “The eurozone is doomed”, its critics argue. Britain’s Foreign Secretary describes it as “a burning building with no exits”. George Soros warns of possible “meltdown”.


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