December 18, 2011
The euro crisis is really, really, really bloody complicated. I think most sensible people can agree on that. Just read any recent coverage of it in the Economist or perhaps Martin Wolf’s blog at the FT and it is clear that there are multiple layers upon multiple layers to deal with.
To try and put this in perspective, I have a good understanding of what is going on, and I really don’t know what is going on!
This is why a conversation in a bar this weekend amazed me somewhat and shows just what a long way politicians have to travel to make everyone else understand what is going on.
Amongst a group of friends was a gent of about 60 I’d guess. He seemed like a nice guy, Swedish I think, but I’m not certain of that. His accent was untraceable to me.
He was asking what people were buying as Christmas presents for their loved one’s this year. As a typical Brit with what I like to call a sense of humour, I explained that, “No presents this year. Austerity measures.”
The chap ‘bit’ and launched into a five minute diatribe about how to save the euro. The essential words included:
It’s simple really.
Just increase consumer spending and the problem is solved.
We have too much sovereignty and should abolish European countries and all become one country like America.
Debt isn’t the problem.
David Cameron was an idiot last week.
Truthfully, I didn’t know where to start! I don’t think I heard a single word that I agreed with, or could even imagine agreeing with under pressure. When I challenged, he replied more forcefully. He really believed this stuff!
It was only when discussing a new treaty that I mentioned the dates of the negotiation and introduction of the Lisbon Treaty that he very abrubtly stopped. Having made his point, and then realised that he might be about to find himself out of his depth, he changed the subject and left the room…
The real issue though, is that the other four people with us agreed with him. These are normal folk that read the daily paper and watch the evening news and they all seem to believe that what is currently going on with the euro ‘will pass’ and ‘is nothing serious’.
The euro is in the news every day and the news keeps getting worse. Politicians, journalists, central bankers and economists keep describing the woes, and these five people seem to believe quite honestly that the media is causing the problem.
I am at a loss to know what to say.
If they don’t believe the nightly TV news, why do they watch it???
If the euro collapses, I hope not, but if it does, these will be the unprepared people desparate for the state to help them. Millions will cry, “You didn’t tell us it was serious!” despite the non-stop news coverage for months…
To me, this highlights the vertiginous scale of the communication problem that both European and national politicians face. Even during a crisis and despite the huge sums spent each year on ‘outreach’ and ‘communication’, there are very few people listening. And those that are do not seem to be concentrating.
Both national and European democracy is in trouble.financialguy