I was discussing this idea I've had rolling around the empty spaces between my ears the other night with a good friend of mine. I think it was about 12 or 15 years ago, when he had married an English Lady and was therefore honor-bound to remain in Britain, that I told him to make sure that he saved his pennies, and made preparations to run back to the United States if that should become necessary, because at that time the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair was seriously considering joining the European Union. Or at least, trying to prepare British citizens for the possibility of being joined at the hip to the French and Germans.
That Labour government never entered the shotgun marriage of full EU membership (that would have meant abandoning the Pound for the Euro, and giving up much that made Britain British), but did inch it's regulatory system closer and closer to the European model (ex: it is now illegal to sell produce in Britain in any measure but metric). I'm convinced that had Blair had another go at things, he would have turned Britain into Belgium, only with prettier women. That the British people resisted Monetary Union, and unaccountable Continental bureaucratic control, is to their credit.
"The European Union cannot last", I told him. "Any organization which has both the French and the Germans in it, is doomed to fail."
Time has proven me right, in the general theory, just not in the particulars. The European Union is now in financial crisis, as is the United States, only the EU economic crisis is one of it's member states own making, because despite all the talk about free markets, the free movement of labor, and all the rosy economic predictions, the member states can't handle austerity or responsibility, either in times of plenty or in times of dearth.
There are no "free" markets in Europe; if the labor markets aren't controlled by the Trade Unions, then the financial markets are rigged by governments (both the elected officials of the member nations, and the unelected bureaucracy of the EU) to favor European concerns above foreign competition. Granted, we do the same things, just not as badly or as ham-handedly as the Euros do.
Anyways, all that stuff about the European social welfare model is finally coming home to roost in such a way that people are recognizing it's true costs.
An economic crisis arrives, austerity measures are needed: and French workers will have to work two more years into their 60's to keep their Social Security system afloat...and they riot.
Greeks riot in the streets of Athens, home of democracy, because the government is stepping up enforcement of tax collection (apparently, Greeks have become expert tax dodgers over the years), and reducing social benefits to stave off bankruptcy.
British "students" (who knew football, female promiscuity and public drunkenness were legitimate fields of study?) riot in the streets because the government cannot continue to provide a "free" college education (note to all you people who are supposed to be getting educated: nothing is ever "free", you just don't happen to pay for it because someone else does, dispshit!). When Her Majesty's Government makes the suggestion that, perhaps, students might pay some of their own tuition, they take to the streets to set things aflame and otherwise make a nuisance of themselves (over a rate so low that it would make an American college student consider blowing someone for British Citizenship).
It was Germany that began the breakup of the EU. Angela Merkel figured that if any part of the European economic system was going to be saved, it might as well be the German part. Austerity is the new buzzword; Germany will not bail out Ireland, Portugal, Spain, in fact, Germany won't bail out anyone it doesn't absolutely have to. The first crack has appeared in the EU; the dam will surely break, and the lesson (which somehow everyone forgets) is finally re-learned -- everyone is friendly...until money is involved.
I had always believed that when (not IF) the EU dissolved, it would be because France and Germany would get into another of their cyclical Fascist phases and then go to war over who had the God-given right to shit all over the Danes, Czechs and Luxembourgers, plunging Europe into another war (the French and Germans have fought three of them in the last 150 years, five in the last 200, if you count Napoleon, and who the hell-knows-how-many since the days of Charlemagne). Instead, the collapse of the EU is because the potential Shitters are afraid of bearing the cost of preserving the Shittees, upon whom they depended to slough off their own social welfare costs in the first place.
How that all sorts itself out is open to debate, and the vagaries of time. However,there's a bigger threat to international security and recovery than a pissing match within the Eurozone, and that threat is China.
China, at present, has three major economic advantages over the West; first, it contains tens of millions of people willing (and happy) to work for low wages. Even the pittance the average Chinese worker makes compared to his Western counterparts represents a great leap forward (no pun intended) for the average Chinese. Secondly, China is a place where speculators can run wild, making a killing -- on paper -- with little real investment. Some places in China are so remote and economically-depressed that the installation of a gumball machine or a pay phone represents 1000% economic growth. A skillful speculator can take those paper gains, and turn them into real cash. The Communist government certainly has, mostly because it's the body which produces the inflated economic figures in the first place.
All that Wall Street talk of China being "the biggest potential market in the world" is just that; talk. We've heard it for 30 years, and the Chinese trade imbalance with America grows worse with every goddamned day. Those who brag about opening Chinese markets and cheerleading the growth of Chinese capitalism are blowing smoke up your ass: they're simply trying to keep the investment pipeline open to prevent yet another bubble from breaking.
The third advantage which China enjoys is a corrupt government willing to do anything in order to maintain the power to slaughter millions if it feels itself threatened. It's why the Commies "liberalized" the economic system in the first place. This seeming-abandonment of Communism for unbridled Capitalism is merely a shield intended to buy the Chinese Communist apparatus the time and money necessary to save it's own skin when the time comes. China has learned the true lessons that Mikhail Gorbachev taught totalitarian regimes with his programs of glasnost and perestroika:
It's okay for The People to have the illusion of wealth, for as long as they believe their standard of living is rising, political unrest can be kept at bay. Let the people get rich, just don't let them demand -- or get -- political rights. And herein lay the problem.
Within a generation, perhaps two, China will be rent by political discord. The sources of this unrest will be a rising Middle Class, and a generation of unmarried and childless Men. This Middle Class, the first generation of accumulators of real wealth in Chinese history, will very soon demand that their modest fortunes be preserved for future generations -- and the first threat they'll want their money protected from is their own government. There will be calls, and possibly bloody riots, for political, economic, and legal freedoms/protections that the Communists will be unable to contain, deflect or ignore without great bloodshed.
At the same time, there will arise a peculiar class of Men denied the right to a wife and family by draconian birth control policies that have made marriageable females scarce, and which will have given what women there are a power they have never had before in China; the right to pick and choose the "best" husbands from the nuveau-riche parvenus, perhaps to even command huge payments and advantageous pre-nuptual agreements that the average man simply cannot provide.
There will be tens of millions of Chinese men who will have no, or limited, prospects for wives and children...and they won't be getting laid. Societies in which men can't engage in regular sexual activity, attain wives, or produce families to pass on both their genes and their property have far too much energy and time for other things...like violence. The sort of violence which one normally associates with the Middle East -- another sexually-deprived culture where wives are hard to come by once one runs out of first-cousins, and where inbreeding, closet homosexuality and bestiality are rampant, and grave threats to anything that can be considered civilized society.
There can never be enough Japanese sex robots to keep these guys in check.
The combination of a new Middle Class and the Man-with-no-marital-prospects will, eventually, mean the end of Chinese "Communism", and destroy much of the gains China has made economically in the last 30 years through some sort of Civil War. Whether it's a Peaceful Revolution, or one of those historically-cyclical-and-violent episodes of Chinese history is yet to be seen, but I'm betting on it being one hell of a holy mess, because let's face it; everyone is friendly...until there's money...or pussy...involved.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reports an agreement between France and Germany that might save Ireland from insolvency, but undermine the Euro in the process. The article suggests the belief that this plan will bring the Eurozone members closer together, but let's get real; that's propaganda. The real story here is that the failings of the Irish (and Spanish, Portugese, etc) banks will fall squarely where they belong; on the shoulders of the investors who hold the bad debt.
Also, Tea Parties rising in Germany? We all know how well German Nationalist parties meeting in Munich beerhouses have worked in the past, don't we?