First mistake: Emmanuel Macron’s handlers played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” instead of the French national anthem at the winner’s election rally. Well, at least they didn’t play “Deutschland Über Alles.”
The tensions in the Euroland situation remain: the 20 percent-plus youth unemployment, the papered-over insolvency of the European banks, and the implacable contraction of economic activity, especially at the southern rim of the EU.
The clash of civilizations brought on by the EU’s self-induced refugee glut still hangs over the continent like a hijab. That there was no Islamic terror violence around the election should not be reassuring. The interests of the jihadists probably lie in the continued squishiness of the status quo, with its sentimental multiculture fantasies — can’t we all just get along? — so En Marche was their best bet. LePen might have pushed back hard. Macron looks to bathe France’s Islamic antagonists in a nutrient-medium of Hollandaise lite.
The sclerosis of Europe is assured for now. But events are in charge, not elected officials so much, and Europe’s economic fate may be determined by forces far away and beyond its power to control, namely in China, where the phony-baloney banking system is likely to be the first to implode in a global daisy-chain of financial uncontrolled demolition. Much of that depends on the continuing stability of currencies.
The trouble is they are all pegged to fatally unrealistic expectations of economic expansion. Without it, the repayment of interest on monumental outstanding debt becomes an impossibility. And the game of issuing more new debt to pay the interest on the old debt completely falls apart. Once again, the dynamic relationship between real capital creation and the quandaries of the oil industry lurks behind these failures of economy. In a crisis of debt repayment, governments will not know what else to do except “print” more money, and this time they are liable to destroy faith in the value of “money” the world over.
I put “money” in quotation marks because the dollars, euros, yuan, and yen are only worth what people believe them to be, subject to measurement against increasingly fictional indexes of value, such as interest rates, stock and bond markets, government-issued employment and GDP stats, and other benchmarks so egregiously gamed by the issuing authorities that Ole Karl Marx’s hoary warning finally comes to pass and everything solid melts into air.
For the record, I’m not in favor of political chaos and economic anarchy, but that seems to be the only route that Deep Staters ‘round the world want to go down. The convenient protocols of finance in the industrial era which allowed routine borrowing from the future to get today’s enterprise up and running have lost their mojo. The short and practical theory of history applies to this: things happen because they seem like a good idea at the time.
Revolving credit seemed like a good idea through the 20th century, and it sure worked to build an economic matrix based on cheap energy, which is, alas, no more. What remains is the wishful pretense that the old familiar protocols can still work their magic. The disappointment will be epic, and the result next time may be political figures even worse than LePen and Trump. Consider, though, that what you take for the drumbeat of nationalism is actually just a stair-step down on a much-longer journey out of the globally financialized economy. Because the ultimate destination down this stairway is a form of local autarky that the current mandarins of the status quo can’t even imagine.
That journey has already begun, though neither the public nor its elected leaders, have begun to apprehend it. The first spark of recognition will come in the months ahead when the current cover story on markets, “money,” and growth falls away and political leaders can only stand by in wonder and nausea that the world has the impertinence to change without their permission.