Wednesday, June 20, 2012
TMM have woken up this morning pondering the uselessness of politicians and wondering how we have got to a stage where paralysis of policy response has reached an almost global level. We are at the point where we are once again wondering if politicians themselves are the problem or if there is a problem with the system in which they have evolved, or even whether the two are inextricably linked in one super-problem.
If the current seizure in the machine of response was a one-off then perhaps we could let it go, but it does appear to be becoming a global disease. TMM have touched upon this concern in previous posts, having worried that China may be catching the European disease of indecision (Sinostriches), but it is worth listing some current examples
US - Last year's debt ceiling debate exposed the cracks in the efficiency of the US system to near breaking point. We doubt if it will be long before the same issue occurs again.
Europe - Apparent paralysis in response to a problem that the rest of the world can see yet, judging by Barroso's response at the G20 on Monday, the Euro politicians do not recognise, let alone take responsibility for, let alone think they need a solution for and let alone offer one for. UKIP Farage's speech last week in the Euro-parliament was worryingly symbolic. Not in what Farage had to say but the response of the Eurocrats around him. Their mockery betrayed a belief that there is no problem.
UK - Coalition hell. The lack of ability to implement strident policy due to consensus politics is somewhat hidden as the UK is muddling through at the moment. Like the US it is being hugely helped by capital inflows caused by European ineptitude. TMM like to think that the very low UK and US borrowing costs are not the product of either masterful economic management nor, as we are beginning to hear from some Eurostriches, some master plan of Western/Anglo political manipulation to stitch up Europe, in order to maintain global currency dominance, but they are just a result of competitive political stupidity, with the US and UK winning by being marginally less stupid than the Europeans.
Greece - The home of democracy where the current state of Greek politics makes the Monty Python's "Life of Brian'" political revolutionary parties look organised. Of course you can argue that there is bound to be paralysis when there is no solution, but the petty bickering between parties point to self-serving political priorities over those of the country as a whole.
The feeling that the present system is failing is picking up steam. Of course there is rarely a demand for change when the populace is vaguely contented, no matter how useless the ruling body - it's when things go wrong that the mettle of the rulers is tested. Until a couple of years ago the Euro-project had been an easy run, but complacent growth (funded by sovereign profligate spending, funded by profligate lending) together with a self-regulated administrative budget has created a "Jabba the Hutt" of a European Parliament. Bloated, self important, dictatorial, living in a luxury created at the expense of its subjects only to succumb when confronted by a "Hans Solo" of a problem that they thought was dead. They are completely useless in time of crisis.
So knowing that we cannot rely on European Central Command to make a decision in this time of stress, we look to the European states themselves to unite and provide strong leadership, combined with an ability to make difficult decisions, despite populist concerns. Worryingly, policy appears to be set by consensus rather than coalition due to a misunderstanding that "consensus politics" are the same as "coalition politics". They are not. During World War II the UK ran a coalition government, however decisions were delegated to individuals who were given absolute power in their fields. Trying to run a war on consensus is impossible, yet Greece and Greater Europe are both trying to make some very difficult decisions by consensus, rather than by strong coalition. Not surprisingly they are failing miserably, leaving TMM wondering where the strong group leadership is going to come from.
While we ponder the path of Pan-European rulership as current consensus democracy is failing, we are seeing Arab nations fighting hard to move towards consensus democracy, having shed oppresive dictatorships. TMM do wonder if they will succeed, as we are beginning to surmise a tendency for the success of a democracy to be inversely proportional to the diversity of the beliefs, behaviours, interests, cultures and religions of its populace (Egypt is in danger of bypassing its newly found democracy, remaining in military control). In other words, the more balanced and numerous the make up of subgroups, the less likely consensus politics will succeed. Which is, we suppose, why the oldest "democracies" sort of cheat by becoming two or three party systems where democracy is partially obscured by an oligopoly of power sharing. Before you ask -"Then how come Greek democracy isn't working as it is culturally homogenous? - TMM suggest that Greece is actually made up of 12 million different interests!
None of this bodes well for Europe where each state's interest is given equal weighting creating an artificial multi-party system all with the same vote weight, thus making it even harder to reach agreement. This instability of indecision perhaps even increases the chances of a breakdown back into multiple stable units of common interests, in other words reverting back to local country driven politics, where the number of disparate interests is reduced. Just as we are seeing?
The dread is, to paraphrase Aristotle, "extremism abhors a power vacuum", and this leads to a swift transition to oppressive dictatorship which is sold initially as being benign. But these rarely stay as such unless particularly wealthy (eg Saudi, Brunei, and even a certain Asian city state). Many point out that it wasn't that long ago that Europe had its own dictators and even now we are hearing the odd casual remark about the chances of coups and a return of the military juntas, 1970s style. TMM really do not see this happening, though the thought of a NATO takeover of the European Parliament does amuse us.
As it is we are left hoping that Europe swiftly moves from consensus policy to a coalition, with strong delegated responsibility, as the hope of the European Parliament ever being able to make a useful decision seems as remote as the chances of a Greek taking personal responsibility.