Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 !

New Year is over. One tries to find some reason for happiness but one ends up in the misery of vulgarity, certified by a hangover. This latest “Passation de pouvoirs” was a rather sober event, playing out with the North Korean weeping chorus as background. The morose met the absurd. 2012 should be a year to look forward to, with Queen Elisabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics (and Kim Yong Un for fun). Elections, inter alia, in the USA and in France might put a damper on the good will which such events could create. Besides, the financial skies look more ominous than ever. We have the means to come up with solutions but the EU does not have the Sisyphus to push the heavy stone up hill and begin again if it rolls down. The American political scene, for its part, is for awhile irremediably dysfunctional. The Europeans meanwhile keep busy piling up bureaucracies instead of reaching out for creative solutions. In the current conditions the Gresham Law could very well have a revival. On both sides of the Atlantic it erroneously looks as if salvation should be the result of a multiplication factor, rather than the outcome of the ideas of a few. Keynes changed the world economy. Jean Monet changed Europe. They did not need an entourage. Their intellectual heritage is overtaken by zealotry. They stood alone and suggested a clear, transparent outcome. Nowadays a stalemate prevails and both the United States and the EU look rudderless. The US institutions are under assault and the President gives the impression of preferring distance to proximity. The EU machinery is an unloved tool, generally ignored, often snubbed by governments which sometimes appear closer to the 100 Years War than to the post- World War II peace.

2011 was a backward-looking disaster. 2012 does not look any better. Foreclosures in the United States will increase. The euro crisis might not be contained, with all the negative consequences for a globalized world. Reliable banks, which are not short of cash, will continue to be reluctant to lend. Political populism is here to stay. Some royal or sportive distractions will not bring any lasting solace and better be managed in minor. What is missing is leadership. Europeans are drowning in a tsunami of institutions which fight for relevance in the Brussels EU web. Their purpose is overtaken by the yield which they are supposed to provide for the civil servants who dwell in this phantom circuit of competing EU institutions and the absurd commute between Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasburg and Frankfurt. Athens and Co. could start to fight over the seat of the EU Pawnshop which will have to be created.

I am sure we will have a new generation of Quartets, Tony Blairs, Arab League inspectors, Euro groups, sub-groups, BRICS, G2, 4, 8, 20… while the Arab “Spring” will have plenty of opportunities to cheat the many who believed that the day of democracy was in their grasp. All this sounds pessimistic. The rates of poverty, bad education and financial mismanagement at home, the loss of soft power abroad (in Latin America, Asia, Africa) would not have escaped Nabucodonosor, even if the gravity of the situation now seems to be taken too lightly by our graying multiple Pollyanna leaders. In the EU as in the US, the right statesman seems to be AWOL. This coming year has too many fathers to become a normal offspring. We had better fasten our seatbelts, keep our savings under the mattress and learn how to dance with the stars, who might well be Chinese, if we have to believe in the overpowering might of the dragon. Let us take some solace in the fact that a Singapore Sling still tastes better anywhere but in China or in its little bastard offspring, North Korea.

Slim Europe, slim! The United States might also need a Jenny Craig makeover. We are in this together! A toast to that! The more, the merrier…

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