Magazine article The Spectator

Give Us a Vote Now

Magazine article The Spectator

Give Us a Vote Now

Article excerpt

Much sententious babble has issued from the mouths of European magnificos, as the Continent this week celebrated the launch of the euro in its tangible form. Commissioners and central bankers have vied for the microphone, and tried to be the Neil Armstrong of the moment. Giant leaps have been made, new eras have been hailed. A new sun has risen, glistering, metallic, to hover benignly over a relaunched Continent. In all the piffle, one remark stands out, not simply because it is pretentious, but because it is a lie. Mr Wim Duisenberg, the Dutch president of the European Central Bank, said that the euro was an `expression of freedom and democracy'. It is certainly true that the new notes and coin give us a modest extra freedom. We can drive across the Continent, and use the same type of cash in each country.

Hitherto, of course, we have been able to use the same plastic debit card, with zero charge, irrespective of country or currency. But let us not be too grudging. The leaders of Europe have gone to a great deal of trouble, abolishing 12 more or less ancient currencies, and introducing 650 billion euros worth of notes and coin, at fantastic cost. If this has really been done for the greater convenience of the travelling public, then we should be grateful. In so far as the euro assists cross-border trade, and helps consumers to find bargains, then that is also a gain. A currency union is by no means essential for a free-trade area, as North America demonstrates; but there may well be some marginal commercial benefits, and these should not be sneezed at.

So we will just about allow Mr Duisenberg his talk of 'freedom'. When he suggests that the euro is about 'democracy', however, he lies. The euro is not an expression of democracy. It is the opposite. It subverts liberal democracy, as it has grown up over the last three hundred years. For the first time in history we have a major currency without a state. One problem with this, as has been widely remarked, is that those who run the currency have no particular duty to any particular state in the currency union. Some countries (Ireland is the present case in point) may have to put up with a monetary policy quite unsuitable for their domestic needs. But that is nothing to the Eurobank. Their duty is to the great agglomeration. And suppose things get worse, in this hypothetical country, where the wrong interest rate is being imposed from Frankfurt. Suppose that jobs are being lost and houses repossessed. To whom shall the people complain? They might threaten to kick out the politicians presiding over the mess; but the politicians could plead that the policy was out of their hands. …

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