Even now, the collective madness grows.
By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.
As the late great U.S. comedian and social commentator extraordinaire George Carlin once said, the table is tilted, the game is rigged. Nowhere is this truer than in today’s Europe, where power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of unelected, unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats. The result is that representative democracy is on its last legs and national sovereignty (that dirty “S” word) could soon be a thing of the past.
Europe’s tilted table is dominated by the five presidents of its main institutions. Politico calls them, the “Five Horsemen of the Euro’s Future.” Or as I call them, the “Five Horsemen of Europe’s Monetary Apocalypse.” At the head of the table – the same negotiating table that is now being used as a platform for browbeating Greece’s upstart leaders into submission (see this image for that table and those sitting around it) – is Mario Draghi, Europe’s central banker-in-chief.
It is no surprise that Draghi enjoys pride of place at the top of the table. As the historian Carroll Quigley documented in his book Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, it is the world’s central bankers who are the true power brokers of today’s increasingly globalized world.
This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements, arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland; a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. The growth of financial capitalism made possible a centralization of world economic control and use of this power for the direct benefit of financiers and the indirect injury of all other economic groups.
No region of the world has been more exposed to this incremental process of financial centralization than Europe. As President of the ECB, Draghi heads an organization that supervises the continent’s 130 biggest banks and controls the Eurozone’s monetary policy. He has arguably more power than any other public official on the continent, perhaps even including Angela Merkel. Ultimately it’s his institution that can – and quite possibly will – sever Greece’s ELA lifeline, triggering one almighty final run on the nation’s banks, capital controls, and complete disintegration of the economy.
To Draghi’s right is Christine Lagarde, the president of the IMF, an institution that has played a frontline role in just about every financial bailout or crisis of the last 30 years. In every case, from Mexico to Thailand and Greece, it has sacrificed each nation’s middle and lower classes on the altar of bondholders. As the former IMF economist-turned-whistleblower Davison L Budhoo told the New Internationalist, “I dare anyone in the Fund to point to a country and say it is much better off economically today because of a Fund program.”
In the case of Greece the bailout enabled huge financial institutions from France, Germany, the UK and elsewhere to dump — at or close to par — the vast bulk of their Greek “assets” onto unsuspecting European taxpayers. Now much of Greece’s debt is owned by the Troika institutions. If there’s another Greek default in the coming months, it will be European (and quite possibly US) taxpayers — and not European banks — left holding the bag.
Lagarde (I include her as an honorary member of the six horsemen/woman) recently introduced herself to Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis as “the criminal in chief,” in reference to Tsipras’s claim that the IMF bore “criminal responsibility” for the situation in Greece. Lagarde was joking of course.
Alas, Lagarde’s two predecessors, Rodrigo Rato and Dominque Strauss Kahn, are accused of a litany of financial misdemeanors, indiscretions, and outright crimes (Rato) as well as sexual predation (Strauss Kahn). In a fairer world they would both be behind bars. As for Lagarde herself, she is suspected of involvement in the high-profile Bernard Tapie corruption scandal in France, as I reported in the article “Christine Lagarde, the World’s Most Powerful Yes Woman.”
Europe’s Other Horsemen
Also close to the head of Europe’s top table are three more of Europe’s five presidents:
- Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the Commission and former prime-minister of Luxembourg, one of Europe’s largest tax havens (along with Switzerland and the City of London). Juncker has repeatedly warned that the economic and monetary union is irreversible: If Greece leaves, he argues, the “Anglo-Saxons” will try to break the Eurozone apart piece by piece.
- Donald Tusk, the president of the EC Council.
- Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup, chief negotiator in Greece’s latest bailout/default.
Europe’s other “horseman” is Martin Schulz, the table-banging president of the European Parliament. Perhaps he was too busy trying to whip up last-minute support in Parliament for the deeply unpopular EU-US trade treaty TTIP and couldn’t attend the Greek negotiations or didn’t make the picture for other reasons.
The five horsemen (and one horsewoman) have three obvious things in common: first, none of them were elected to the office they currently hold; two, they are all fervent believers in a federalized Europe; and three, they all share a huge power delusion – the belief that might makes right – as well as an acute lack of foresight. As Raúl Ilargi Meijer points out, this can be an extremely dangerous cocktail of human qualities:
These people don’t see ahead, they project ahead. They are under the self-reinforcing collective illusion that the future will bring what they want it to bring. They honestly think they have the power to control history. And control all of Europe. Their vision of the future is one that they look good in.
And that can in turn only possibly bring about mayhem. Or actually, as the Greece crisis tells us, it already has. Something the leadership in Brussels, Paris and Berlin will flatly deny, because, as Paulo Coelho once said: “Collective madness is called sanity”.
What better illustration of collective madness than the creation, in 1999, of the euro, a woefully misconstructed currency union that bound together starkly different European economies in a monetary strait jacket. As experts warned at the time, many of those economies did not belong together, including Greece of course. But those experts were ignored, drowned out by the cacophony of pro-euro voices. It was yet another example of projection trumping foresight.
Even now, the collective madness grows. The more the monetary strait jacket frays at the edges, the tighter the eurocrats try to pull it back together. In a report published last week titled “The Five Presidents: Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union,” the fearsome five call for increased integration at the fiscal, monetary and economic level. Meanwhile efforts are under way to establish continental-wide digital union, energy union, and defense union.
Even as Greece totters, Spain dithers, Britain demands a referendum, France’s Marine Le Pen calls for Fr-exit, and financial pressures continue to build across the continent, the gear is stuck in fifth and the foot remains firmly on the gaspedal. There will be no slowing down and no going back. The madness must go on. By Don Quijones, Raging Bull-Shit.
Our conniving leaders are once again forced back to the drawing board. Read… Democracy on Hold: President of European Parliament Suspends Vote on Secretive U.S.-EU Trade Pact as Tide Turns Against It