Egypt faces more or less spontaneous mass unrest aimed at toppling President Mubarak, who has been in power too long for anyone’s good.
Great swathes of Egypt’s Internet access has been shut down. James Cowie is following:
This is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow. The Egyptian government’s actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map.
What happens when you disconnect a modern economy and 80,000,000 people from the Internet? What will happen tomorrow, on the streets and in the credit markets? This has never happened before, and the unknowns are piling up.
Whereas we all will be pleased to see an end to Egypt’s tired national socialist regime brought about by people power, we may not be too pleased if the people with the most intense ‘feelings’, ie radical Islamists, take over in the confusion.
Meanwhile back in plumply prosperous Davos, President Sarkozy spells it out:
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, he told speculators to be prepared for big losses if they bet against the euro. “[Germany’s] Chancellor Merkel and myself will never – do you hear me, never – let the euro fall,” he said.
“The euro is Europe. And Europe spells 60 years of peace. Therefore we will never let the euro go or be destroyed… To those who bet against the euro, watch out for your money because we are fully determined to defend the euro.”
Yesterday in London I heard an eloquent defence of the Eurozone by one of the UK’s leading experts thereon. His basic point was that it was impossible for the Eurozone to fail without a massive disruptive collapse of some sort or the other – even the hint that a country might leave the Eurozone would get its citizens wiring their money to other places, crashing the banking system.
More. If (say) Italy left the Zone and tried to benefit from cheaper exports, surely (say) France would do whatever was necessary to keep those Italian goods out?
In short, the brutal end of the single European market and the crash of sixty years of steady peaceful integration. Not something (say) President Sarkozy seems ready to let happen.
Much more likely, our expert said, was a new determination to create in effect a new sort of Eurozone in which certain economically strong countries plus the Commission in effect ran the economies of those weaker countries in return for putting up the money to keep the weaker ones alive. The sheer weight of this phenomenon (and its core creditworthiness, based on Germanic discipline) could pose a significant competitive problem for the profligate ill-disciplined USA economy and polity in a few years’ time.
Europe – reborn! With the UK left sadly outside peering through the window!
Afterwards I asked him about the implications of this new set-up for Democracy As We Have Known It. "Well, in a country of 300 million people government is bound to be a bit remote…"
Think about it. If (say) Germany is in effect deciding what taxes get levied in (say) Spain and what major infrastructure projects get approved or not, isn’t that a form of colonialism? Hard to imagine the system not being rigged so that any spare flexibility benefits the strong Germans and not the weak Spaniards.
For how long will proud Spanish taxpayers and unemployed people be ready to take unchallenged orders from Berlin/Brussels before they ‘go Egypt’?
In our new turbulent Facebook-mobilised populist world, insofar as any government system is capable of being described as ‘stable’ it probably finds that stability based in a popular sense of legitimacy/authenticity. Does there come a point where ‘remoteness’ of government simply = illegitimacy?
Would a Eurozone based on such governmental remoteness – in effect based on at best surly acquiescence by much of the Eurozone’s space – really be credible? Or sustainable?
And even if we are left peering through the window, at least we’ll be free to walk away from the window and make our own minds up. Reminding me of this thought:
Someone once put it to me that the issue is rather simple.
Would the UK rather be Canada, or Illinois? An independent but (relatively small) next-door neighbour to a Big Power, or part of that power but with only an intermittent regional and almost non-existent international voice?
Maybe part of the problem is that people here on all parts of the political spectrum just aren’t sure, but would like the chance to talk it through and take a vote?
Is that really so mysterious? Or ‘viscerally hostile to the European enterprise’?