The State of European Political Economy

When Francis Fukuyama stated that there was no higher form of historical development than the Western social democratic state, many laughed.  I actually lost my breadth laughing.  But when a person thinks in isolation or outside any sound dominant tradition (Leo Strauss, Harry Jaffa etc. . . ) you find yourself like Francis did, alone defending a filament that entirely misses both the moral foundations of liberty and the theological foundations of culture.  Being trained in the technique of political science akin to positivism renders one unable to discern nor defend the synoptic whole.  But then again, what else is tenure for??

Like the early 1970’s, the United States went through a profound crisis of mediocre leadership aggravated by the twin shock of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and its aftermath in the OPEC crisis; all of which was enveloped in the closing of the ‘gold window’ and the removal of fixed exchange rate regimes.  The whole thing would not be resolved until the early 1980’s under Reagan and Volcker.

With new influences at work in new arrangements, new forms of geopolitical, monetary, fiduciary underwriting, the world fractured in 1973 and the cleavages rent many of the formal institutions of government.  Its happening today, but the fault lines aren’t fracturing like they did in past decades.  Today’s shocks are the result of social, technological, demographic, even cultural changes that don’t register in positivist tones.

When the coachman of Europe, Prince Klemens von Metternich, sought to end the rule of egalitarian romantic revolutionary movements throughout Europe, he only had to conjoin a Concert of Europe.  Given a certain equanimity in the social base of European Christian civilization, a comity was easily reached and Napoleon thwarted.  What does one do to harness a reply to foreign influences that run outside the mores of ones culture.  When monetary, fiscal and instruments of war are useless in thwarting or assimilating an enemy, how does one command a center for harness, when there is no center to speak of.

When Bismark was dismissed after 28 years of service by the 31 year old German Emperor Wilhelm II, who could measure that Germany was fatefully placed in dangerously incapable hands?  Fearing encirclement in World War I and the twin enormities of both hyperinflation and social darwinism, the German volk happily invited a gotterdammerung worthy of any Greek tragedy.  It fell to the Americans to finally fix that Prussian menace.  Ditto for Japan and Russia.

The American’s are being called again now, to distant lands; we should remember Washington’s admonition of alliances and monsters abroad.  For if Germany, Japan, Russia and hosts of other first world nation states fell upon an altar of sacrifice under a democratic banner, the same could happen to the American’s.

We should also remember the achievements wrought under a Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy or Reagan.  It isn’t all blackballing and violence.  Wasn’t the greatest European act of statesmanship prior to John Paul II, Adenauer’s rejection of Stalin’s offer of reunification in exchange for neutrality.  Even still, with Bismarck, Germany was hobbled by fractious divisions of its politics inviting a profound ambivalence of German ambitions that plays out today.  With Merkel, the moral, strategic condition of inferiority still afflicts Germany.

This Teutonic ambivalence plays out today between the Social Democrats & Christian Democrats.  Embedded deeply within the components of these coalitions are divided and dysfunctional national ambitions that cannot be reconciled.  As of this writing, the German political condition is unstable and untenable.  Merkel has squandered her ambition and strength in the admission of Syrian refugees; her profound delay in realizing how untenable her policy was, is fatal.

No matter what happens in the immediate German elections, it will take another generation of those born long after Merkel (1954) to ease Germany through the vacuum left by an imploding Third Reich.

The French Republic remains in a far more dangerous position than Germany.

The Platonic idealism animating the French Republic has found a home in jihadi Islam.  To stir the French out of their cynicism and impractical nature will require the very horrors jihadi’s are imposing upon the French Republic.  What the French need is a national goal of imaginative grandeur.  This isn’t something impossible for the French to conceive, but for Paris to conceive of it, it will need to contain, and evenly break the overt socialist tendencies that paralyze French politics.

Remember when De Gaulle took over a France mired in failed counterinsurgency in an imploding Algeria and failed Indochina.  De Gaulle gave strong leadership, a new currency and nuclear weapons.  He cut Algeria loose and worked with the American’s in Indochina under the pretense of holding firm to any German advance in the western Atlantic.

The French have never really recovered from the bombshell of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago nor Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.  Even still, the French have never taken appeals to national interest seriously.  For France to succeed in the near future, it must find a way out of a self-imposed socialist malaise.  Without addressing France’s paralyzing ennui, it is in permanent decline.

England has never recovered from the near suicidal defenestration of Thatcher in 1990.

When she was elected in 1979, the IMF had England in receivership with strict currency controls.  The top income tax rate was 98% with an unimaginably high corporate rate of 70%.  British industrial relations is where Maggie sought to lay her ax and her reputation.  It was a gamble, and she won big.  All this galvanized her stalwart positioning in the Falkland island dispute, only to strengthen Reagan’s ‘wobbly knees‘ in his own near fatal grasp of Soviet adventures in Afghanistan & Central America.  None of this was foreordained, and there remains much in contention socially and related to tax policy and its relation to deficits etc. . . In all, “we win they lose” won the day.  No one should expect that calculation to succeed again.

The west today is at an interregnum of weak leadership.  November of 2016 marked a profound fault line that Americans will not accept decline and have moved to upend an un-regenerative, reek seeking political class.

What Lincoln and others knew may come truth again:  the American’s are a warrior class and openly seek confrontation in a culture war whose patrimony is discerned in the American experiment that is liberty in equality.



About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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