Magazine article The Spectator

European Funding

Magazine article The Spectator

European Funding

Article excerpt

To prop up the euro, a German court has agreed to allow Germany to fund the European Central Bank (ECB) so that it can bail out failing states. But it has imposed a cap on Germany's contribution which only the Bundestag and Bundesrat together can overrule. Will the two parliaments ever do it? Certainly Themistocles would.

By 483 bc, the lead mines at Laurium on the southern tip of Attica (Athens's hinterland) had produced an over-abundance of silver to the tune of 100 talents. The people's Assembly (male Athenians over 18) debated a motion to copy the citizens of the fabulously gold-rich island of Siphnos and divide it up among themselves. But the statesman Themistocles seems to have had a grander vision: an Athens with total dominance of the sea. So he proposed the Assembly should forego short-term pleasure for longterm advantage and use the money to construct a huge fleet. His pretext was that they could then take on Aegina, 'the eyesore of Athens', a local island in bitter conflict with them, and crush it. This appealed, and the Assembly agreed to distribute the money to the hundred richest citizens, a talent each, to build a fleet of one hundred ships. …

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