COULD EUROPE BE THE NEXT SUPERPOWER?

Eruope super power

One of the most successful European countries is Finland.

The Finish government minister for Europe, Alexander Stubb, told Bloomberg News May 3rd that, far from undermining the Euro currency, the European financial crisis has actually strengthened the currency and the commitment to it.  He expects another eight European nations to start using the Euro within the next few years.

“The euro is irreversible in the sense that it’s the most stable currency Europe has ever seen.  I don’t even contemplate the possibility of the euro breaking up in my lifetime.  I see the euro including 24 to 25 member states within a few years.”   Seventeen countries currently use the euro, which is controlled by the European Central Bank (ECB).

In January, George Friedman wrote for Stratfor:  “I would argue that in 2013 we will begin to get clarity on the future of Europe.

“Taken as a single geographic entity, Europe has the largest economy in the world. Should it choose to do so, it could become a military rival to the United States.  Europe is one of the pillars of the global system, and what happens to Europe is going to define how the world works. I would argue that in 2013 we will begin to get clarity on the future of Europe.”  (“Europe in 2013:  A Year of Decision,” Stratfor, January 3rd, italics mine).

Europe has been going through an ongoing financial, currency and debt crisis for three years.  It appears that the worst is behind the continent, though rumbles out of Slovenia suggest the situation is still fluid.

What is clear is that Germany has emerged at the top of the European Union.   Germany dominates the Union and is seen as the nation imposing rigid austerity on fiscally irresponsible countries.

“Angela Merkel has made Germany master of Europe in a way Hitler and Kaiser Wilhelm only dreamt of.  The implications are frightening”, was the headline in the British Daily Mail, 19th April, above an article by Dominic Sandbrook.

Mr. Sandbrook wrote:  “In countries such as Cyprus and Greece, which have felt the lash of German-imposed austerity, the German Chancellor has become a public hate figure, with protesters regularly likening her to the war criminals of the Third Reich.

“But in a sense, the hatred is a tribute to her success. For in just a few years, using the European Union as her vehicle, she has succeeded where Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hitler failed – turning an entire continent into a greater German empire.”

The EU will not be called the German Empire, or the Fourth Reich, as some detractors refer to it.   But, it will inevitably be dominated and led by Berlin.

The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said yesterday (May 7th) that, a federal European super-state “will be a reality in a few years.”  (Daily Telegraph, London, May 8th)

Brendan Simms, a lecturer in European history and international relations at Cambridge University, has recently written:  “Europe: The struggle for supremacy from 1453 to the present.”   His book shows that the struggle for the control of Europe goes back to 1453, the year the Ottomans conquered Constantinople.

The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation lasted one thousand years.   Hitler was clearly influenced by this as he promised a “Third Reich” that would last a thousand years.

But Hitler was not the first one to realize the importance of controlling Europe as a means to dominate the world.  Nor was he the last.

“In short, it has been the unshakeable conviction of European leaders over the past 550 years, even those who had no imperial aspirations themselves, that the struggle for mastery would be decided by or in the (Holy Roman) Empire and its German successor states.  Queen Elizabeth I knew it; Cromwell knew it; Marlborough knew it; Stalin knew it; Gorbachev knew it; the Russians who furiously resisted the eastward expansion of NATO after the fall of the wall know it; and the elites trying to keep the European Union together today for fear of allowing Germany to slip its moorings know it.  Whoever controlled central Europe for any length of time controlled Europe, and whoever controlled all of Europe would ultimately dominate the world.”  (“Europe”, page 5, Brendan Simms, 2013).

Clearly, there is a lot at stake in Europe today.   Germany has become the undisputed master of the continent again.  This time not by military conquest and not under a dictatorship, but under the leadership of a woman who is indistinguishable from the average German hausfrau.

This all may seem unimportant in Washington.   It should not be.

Developments in Europe in the 1930’s led to World War II.   Twenty years earlier there had been another world war that started in Europe.  European events have a habit of involving other nations outside of Europe.

There’s another reason Americans should take note.

Europe has gone through a lengthy fiscal crisis.  America may be about to go through something similar as many states are broke and the federal government is in deep financial trouble.

A number of European countries have already gone through this and had to rely on Germany for help.   Could the same happen to America?  Where else would the US turn?  Could a future German leader, having to bail out the US, force austerity on Washington?

We should also realize, as George Friedman pointed out, that the EU has the potential to rival the US militarily.   When this happens, it will inevitably be led by Germany.

A German led Europe could indeed be the next global superpower!

Advertisements

FROM THE WORLD’S PRESS . . .

LansingStateJournal

LSJ (May 7th):  “Raises missing in recovery”

“Hourly wages ticked up 4 cents in April to an average $23.87, rising at about the same 2 percent annual pace since the recovery began in mid-2009.

“Workers who rely on paychecks for their income have been running in place, financially speaking.   Adjusting for inflation, an average worker who was paid $49,650 at the end of 2009 is making about $545 less now  — and that’s before taxes and deduction.”  (Paul Davidson and John Waggoner, USA Today)

usatodaynewlogo

CHRISTIAN OR PHARISEE – WHICH ARE YOU?

Pharisee_Crucify_Him

The Barna Group surveyed thousands of professing Christians to try to answer the question:  “Are Christians more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees?” (Barna Group. April 30th).  A series of twenty questions were asked in order to make the assessment.  The questions were to see how the actions and attitudes of Christians towards others reflect Jesus or the Pharisees.

‘One of the common critiques leveled at present-day Christianity is that it’s a religion full of hypocritical people” is the opening line of their published study.

Most people will not be surprised to note that whereas only 14% of Christians reflect the attitudes and actions of Jesus Christ, 51% reflect those of the Pharisees.  It would appear that not much has changed since Jesus’ day.

Self-righteousness persists, especially in attitudes toward the sins of others.  Looking down on others for their sins naturally makes people feel better about their own shortcomings.

Hopefully, the survey will give believers something to think about, but it’s doubtful people will move away from their comfort spot.  After all, these attitudes existed amongst the Pharisees two thousand years ago.  Only a small minority tried to be different and truly follow Christ.

VICTORIA REMEMBERED IN AMERICAN MID-WEST

queen_victoria_colorization_by_krevez-d3k87mq

One of the small towns that borders on Lansing is celebrating Victorian Days this weekend.  It’s been hot and sunny so all those Victorian clothes must have been rather oppressive for those participating, but it seems like everybody had a lot of fun donning Victorian garb, riding in horse-drawn carriages, reenacting Civil War battles and sitting down for tea.

As somebody brought up in England, I find it interesting that Grand Ledge, a fairly small community in America’s mid-West has been celebrating Victorian days for seventeen consecutive years “to honor the customs stemming from late 19th century America and England” (“Annual Grand Ledge festival honors Victorian customs,” by Scott Davis, Lansing State Journal, May 5th).

But it’s understandable when you know some history.

Victoria gave her name to an age.  She was (and remains, though maybe not for much longer) the longest reigning monarch in British history, presiding over the British Empire for 64 years.  (Queen Elizabeth II is already older than Victoria was when she died and has been queen for over 61 years.)

Victoria was the Queen-Empress, not only Queen of the United Kingdom, but also all of the colonies and dominions of the British Empire, roughly a quarter of the world’s land surface.  The title of Empress of India was conferred on her in 1877, hence the term Queen-Empress.

She is a reminder of the fact that Britain was the world’s only superpower during the nineteenth century.  The British Empire remained the world’s biggest military power right up until World War II, which is still in the memory of many people alive today.

After World War II, power passed from London to Washington; since then the United States has been the preeminent power.

It’s good to be reminded of this because there’s a sobering lesson here for Americans – could the United States one day be replaced at the top by another country, just as England was?

Even before Victoria died, there were signs that British supremacy was coming to an end.  The country still maintained the greatest navy in the world right up until World War II, but it was starting to lag behind the US and Germany in industrial production and economic growth.

The US today is lagging behind China in production and is behind even more countries in terms of economic growth.  At some point in the next few years, China is projected to overtake the United States as the #1 economic power.  What will that mean for American leadership?

There is no guarantee the US will remain #1.  There is also no guarantee that democracy will triumph over dictatorship, which is what China is.  It’s also what Hitler’s Germany and Imperial Japan were 70 years ago – at a time when the outcome of the war was very much in question.

One final question to ponder as we remember the Victorian Age:  what will they call our age?   Will the age we’ve lived in be known as the American Age?  Or will it be the Second Elizabethan Age, named after a descendant of Victoria who, as Head of State of 16 countries and Head of the 54 nation Commonwealth, still plays a role in a quarter of the world’s countries?

BELOW THE LINE . . .

Grampa-Pushing-His-grandson-In-A-Stroller-Clipart

HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT, SAVE MONEY AND LIVE LONGER

“The doctor’s news is not good.  Americans are in poorer health and are dying sooner than the rest of the industrialized world.  Call it the ‘mortality gap’.  The facts are disquieting.  A 2011 study of 17 industrialized countries – 13 in western Europe, plus the US, Australia, Japan and Canada – found that American men, whose life expectancy is 75.6 years, ranked last, and US women, at 80.7 years, ranked 16th.  Worse, this gap has been widening for the past three decades” (“Facing the mortality gap,” AARP Bulletin, March 2013).

The study found that this was the case in all socio-economic groupings.

What’s the problem?

“Although the United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as other countries, Americans eat too much, rely on cars too much and get medical care that is often inaccessible and unaffordable….while Americans drink and smoke less than their peers, they eat more  calories per person, use seat belts less, are more prone to gun violence and have higher rates of drug abuse.”

Thanks to AARP for pointing all this out!

Everybody has to decide what they can do to improve their own situation, to increase their own life expectancy.  But there are two things we can all do – we can eat less and use the car less.  I’ve been trying to do both.  You can save money, too.

We are fortunate in that many stores are within a mile and a half from our house, so I can walk to them all.  I do this with our 16-month-old grandson, who just loves going out with Grandpa.  His stroller has room underneath for a just a few grocery items, so I have to limit purchases.  There’s only room for the essentials, which saves money and improves health right there.  It’s also impossible to buy ice cream as it will melt before I get home.

Aubren weighs about 27 pounds, so pushing him (and groceries after shopping), adds to the exercise value of the walk itself.  He will not let me slow down, so I keep up a fairly vigorous pace.

This also saves me gas.

If you don’t live near a store or don’t have a grandchild to take with you, you could get the same effect by driving to a central point, parking the car and then walking to other stores from there.  The fact that you can only carry so much is also good – it cuts down on how much you spend and encourages you to go out and walk more often!  You might also consider cycling to stores, using a backpack for purchases.  Again, it will limit purchases, save money on gas and give you exercise.

As you feel the benefit of walking with the resultant weight loss, you will be less inclined to eat too much.  Yesterday, I decided to join our two local granddaughters at their school for lunch.  I asked their Dad what I could take other than fast food, which is quite expensive.  He suggested M&M’s, so I stopped at a dollar store to get some.  While there, I looked for something I could eat while they ate their school lunch.  The only healthy item they had in the store was a small packet of dried fruit, which I bought for a dollar.  That was my lunch.

Until recently, I would have been inclined to stop at McDonald’s and buy the girls chicken nuggets and fries, and a burger for myself!  That’s about $10.  I spent a quarter of that at the $ Store.  Not being able to go through a drive-thru also helps cut down on those calories.

There are many things each of us can do to eat less and walk more.  One of the biggest differences between the US and England, where I grew up, is that we walked everywhere, whereas most Americans seem to walk nowhere.

I remember listening to Alastair Cooke, the famed British broadcaster and late presenter of “Masterpiece Theatre.”  He was talking about when he first came to America, back in 1929.  He was invited over to an apartment for a social evening.  After dinner, he stood up and asked the others to go for an evening walk, which had been his family’s habit in England.  The reaction was amusing, with others at the dinner party offering to call him a cab or wondering if he was unwell and needed some air, or maybe needed to go to the store to buy some cigarettes.  Concern was also expressed that if he went for a walk, the police might arrest him for suspicious behavior.

But the idea of walking was totally alien to them all.

I’m pleased to say that has changed.  I do see people walking.  In some cases, this is to save gas.  But it’s catching on.  It’s now socially acceptable to walk.  More and more people are doing it.

Who knows?  If we all walk more and eat less, maybe we will come out on top the next time a comparison is made of life expectancy in western countries.  When we spend more than twice as much on healthcare as any other western nation, we really ought to come out on top every time!

CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN HOLLAND

167647788FB00015_Inaugurati

At first glance, the fact that Holland’s Queen Beatrix has abdicated in favor of her son, Prince (now King) Willem-Alexander, may seem insignificant.  After all, the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy where political power rests with the elected government, while the Head of State is purely a figurehead, with no real power.

History shows it’s not as simple as that.

The constitutional monarchies of NW Europe have been the most stable countries in the world since the middle of the 19th century.

These nations are:  the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom.  The latter has had a stable political system since 1689.

They are as democratic as the United States but avoided the upheavals of neighboring republics, particularly Germany and France.  Both of these countries have had checkered histories.  In the middle of the nineteenth century Germany was many countries, which were finally united under a Prussian monarch following wars with Austria and then France.  Just over 40 years later, World War I led to the demise of the German Empire, to the instability and economic disasters of the Weimar Republic, to Hitler and then division between East and West.

France was even more unstable historically.  Following the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy in 1789, the country had 25 years of turmoil and war, including a brief period as a republic.  After Napoleon’s Empire, the Bourbons were restored in 1815 but overthrown again fifteen years later.  There then followed another monarchy until 1848, the year of revolution across Europe.  A second republic followed for four years, then a second Napoleonic Empire, then war with Prussia in 1870-71, the fall of Napoleon III, who was replaced by the Third Republic, which lasted from 1871-1940, almost seventy years.  Hitler’s invasion of France led to the establishment of Vichy France (a part of France whose leader cooperated with the Germans); after which came the Fourth Republic.  In 1958, that was replaced by the Fifth Republic, which is still in operation, though there has been talk of its imminent collapse.

If you found that list rather exhausting, realize that all this happened during the same period the United States has been a republic.   Though it has to be said that the American republic did have one big upheaval, the Civil War of 1861-65.  Since then, the US has enjoyed a stable political system, rare for a republican form of government.

Clearly, when you consider Germany and France, you can see real advantages in the system of constitutional monarchy, which has enabled so many countries to have political stability, except when invaded by Germany in the world wars.

Constitutional monarchy also makes dictatorship far less likely.  When the office of head of state is by birth alone, nobody else can have it.  This is just as well as elected prime ministers under a parliamentary system are very powerful – they can do anything they want if they have the backing of a majority in parliament.  A prime minister is more powerful within his own country than the US president.  The monarchy acts as an effective buffer against prime ministerial power.

Constitutional monarchy is also cheap.  The annual cost to the British taxpayer is $87 million, compared to a $1.4 billion tag that goes with the American presidency.   Even the $87 million cost in the UK is deceptive.  The cost is more than offset by entrance fees to the royal palaces, money that goes straight to the Treasury.  Additionally, money the queen receives for her constitutional role is actually revenue the government receives from the Crown Estates.  The government, in effect, is giving her back her own money – and they only give back 15%!

Other nations that remain loyal to the crown, notably Canada, Australia and New Zealand, benefit even more as there is no cost to them except when the monarch visits.

An additional benefit to all the countries named is that the monarch is a unifying figure who remains above politics.  Any monarch (or family member) who expresses a political opinion risks dividing the country over which they preside.  It would be very unwise and could prove fatal, leading to revolution or civil war.

Meanwhile, the monarchs are kept extremely busy in their respective roles.  The 87-year-old British monarch takes on more engagements each year than the US president.   So do other members of her family.  The other monarchs play a similar role.

Holland is unusual in that it has become tradition for an elderly monarch to retire.  This is not the case in other European nations.

Finally, a sovereign is a guarantor of sovereignty.  As long as The Netherlands has a monarch, a European super state under one federal authority remains problematic.  At a time of strengthening European unity, these monarchs are the greatest guarantee of their country’s continued existence.

The grand hand-over ceremony and celebrations marking Queen Beatrix’s abdication and her son’s swearing in may not seem very important but Holland is one country that is so stable the rest of the world doesn’t have to worry about it.

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill