Even when things are good in Europe there are many Europeans who don't
want much to be Europeans. When things are awful in Europe,
as they are now, almost no one wants to hear about Europe. Even the
Europhile leaders who are big on the European Union--or used to be--are
going local and finding fault with other leaders who are also going
local. As you may recall, I think Europe is nigh close to a
fantasy. So this does not surprise me.
Take a look at a fascinating article, "Brown furious over Sarkozy VAT attack," in Saturday's FT about the contretemps between Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy over Brown's plan to cut the VAT, which would be an $18 billion centerpiece to British Labour's fiscal stimulus program. This would, of course, put pressure on other European countries to eliminate their VAT. I suppose that one problem with Sarkozy is that his utterances are not really polite. In fact, they are usually inflammatory. His depiction of the British economy is close to mine.
So I'll tell you mine. The center of the British economy is the City where sat the bankers, sort of like Wall Street. The Brits had the advantage of having been colonized by the financial elites of four cultures: the Arabs, the Russians, the Chinese and the Indians. They were there and now they are gone, gone home to tidy the mess outside London. But London and it banks, said Sarkozy, lay "close to ruin." It's true, but it's not helpful. How many banks will soon become complete wards of the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
I've lived in France but I don't know that much about the vigor of its industry. Still, I gather that it has been degraded by bureaucratic and trade union socialism. One year I lived there the economy went through a reform that I imagined as magic: the work-week was 40 hours and was cut to 35, only the pay would be the same. And here is the rabbit.
Like many Americans, I've been trying to figure out what advantage we have over the Brits in the coming months and years. So this is what I've fixed on: our industry is still relatively vibrant and diverse. When Britain has lost its banking services, all that British working men will be able to do is cut each other's whiskers. And British working women will go back to raising children.
Sarkozy was not only unkind to England. He was massively unkind to Czechoslovakia. Dangling the promise of further social measures in France and "floating the prospect of tax cuts for families on low to middle incomes," he then went on to suggest that Renault and Peugeot-Citro