The economic crisis is moving from the southern provinces of Europe north and if policies continue to be based on austerity and budgetary discipline, we will soon see social misery and, subsequently, unrest in northern Europe also.
While the southern, countries like Greece, Italy or Portugal, are by and large used to and capable of managing large scale difficulties such as malnutrition, even famine, lack of proper medical services, mass reduction of pensions and salaries, reduced security and many others effects of the crisis, northern societies are not.
The photograph above depicts a usual scene in Greece whose credit rating, ironically, has just been upgraded by Fitch. It shows one of many free distributions of food to the needy.
What is scary is that the people you see in the picture are not homeless or immigrants. They are ordinary people. What is also frightening is that the “benefactors of the masses” are not state institutions but either the Orthodox Church of Greece or the far right party “Golden Dawn.”
There are a similar cases of free food distribution in other parts of Europe on a smaller scale. Some by established churches and charities, but in several countries the extreme right have been occasionally setting up food distribution, but the beneficiaries are few and, as the food always contains pork, Muslims (that is immigrants) are “democratically” self-excluded.
Yet large-scale phenomena of this kind are unlikely to be seen in northern societies because bottom up changes may be triggered before this point is reached. Indeed, the backbone of northern societies is the middle class and it is not difficult to foresee a large scale reaction if it is driven to misery and starvation.
Northern societies are much more disciplined than southern ones, but since they are hard working, they will not easily tolerate losing the rewards of their hard work.
The leadership of Europe thinks and acts like chartered accountants and not like politicians. The problem of Europe is political, not economic and it requires a political approach.
For Europe to shift from its catastrophic course, which is heading to the point of no return, it needs to take a few simple, effective and immediate political decisions.
First, to abandon austerity and budgetary discipline as the end result is well depicted in the picture above.
Then to forget any policy of socialist origin, a prime cause of Europe’s deadlock today, and liberalise the economy in any aspect. Once the crisis is over, we can think of selectively re-introducing, after thorough and in-depth remodeling, some of these policies.
In this context, the European Central Bank has to print money and make sure that this money arrives to citizens and businesses; freeze debts; let small businesses be reborn and offer jobs to the jobless, freely and without restrictions and finance pensions and social welfare with freshly printed money.
The point is not to fight the black economy, leaving the people starving like it is happening in Greece, but to let entrepreneurs be free to create jobs.
This probably is not the most “orthodox” way but it seems to be the only way to keep the European Union and the Euro alive.