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Europe: New Challenges, New Directions

by John Brian Shannon | August 30, 2016

Europe is at a crossroads and it’s time to make some decisions

Very conveniently, however, there are really only 3 problems with Europe.

Map of Europe includes the EU and non-EU nations.

Map of Europe includes the EU and non-EU nations. EU nations that aren’t part of the Eurozone (the euro) are light blue. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

I: The trickle-up economy continues to move trillions of dollars out of the bottom 4 quintiles and place it into the hands of the top quintile. This remains a recipe for failure, and the longer it continues the more draconian the solutions will need to be.

In 2016, half the world’s wealth is concentrated into the hands of the 1% — but by 2030, three-quarters of the world’s wealth will be concentrated into the hands of the 1%.

That’s wholly unsustainable. And nobody is even talking about it.

Unless addressed, Record Inequality will become Social Breakdown. And that will be the end of Europe as we know it.

II: Globalization is a truly wonderful thing. It continues to bring cheap goods to consumers since the Arab Oil Embargo in 1974, which caused millions of Americans to buy cheaper, more fuel efficient cars. That was the beginning of it, but the flood of electronics, textiles, and other goods soon followed.

For one such example of this; Each iPhone would retail for over $2000. with some sources asserting each iPhone would cost $3000. if manufactured in the United States.

But globalization has piggy-backed on Record Inequality to the detriment of workers and families in the West and it looks like (however fairly or unfairly) ‘The People’ are sick of globalization.

Declining living standards due to Inequality and Globalization have ‘The People’ thinking that change is necessary.

And change will come. The People always get their way. Maybe not with Perestroika and Glasnost, but the will of the people eventually becomes reality.

III: “You are leaving the American Sector”

We all remember those signs in postwar Europe. But what is actually happening is that America is leaving the American Sector in Europe.

Yes, America has realized that 58% (and growing) of all global trade is happening in the Pacific and the Americans are lowering their commitment to Europe and the Middle East.

Europe should be all grown-up by now, and the Middle East is a rambunctious, late-teenage, regional power. You should try to get along.

Prior to the Brexit referendum, the normal course of events would have been for the U.S. to become the Pacific Power and for the EU to become the Atlantic Power.

However, for that to happen, the EU needed Britain (which is by definition) the world’s seafaring nation and Britain is leaving the EU.

Consequently, history is still happening as the logical course of action post-referendum is for the UK to become the dedicated Atlantic Power, while the EU becomes the dedicated Mediterranean Power.

And that means strong (and fair) linkages with MENA nations and it means a strong invite to join the EU for every single southern European nation.

As 97.1% of Crimeans voted to rejoin Russia, it also means ‘Hands-Off Crimea’ but either Turkey or Ukraine (sans-Crimea) will eventually join the EU. But not both.

Russia won’t allow the EU to have both, so choose the option you prefer and get it done with as little upset as possible. The EU already has too much on its plate — troubles with Russia is the last thing the EU needs — especially in view of decreased American commitment to Europe.

The next 10 years will be a vulnerable time for the EU; Meaning, this is not the time for the EU to go shooting itself in the foot with a Russian gun.

Summary

Europe has only three problems. The ways I’ve outlined are not the only ways to solve them. However, they align with what is already happening.

What I’m saying, is that instead of governments being steered by events European leaders need to steer the thing even if it means continuing on with what was already going to take place anyhow.

Which is:

a) Friendly divorce with Britain.
b) EU lowers Atlantic commitments and ramps up linkages and commitments in the Med and MENA.
c) All southern European nations join the EU.
d) Choose either Ukraine (sans-Crimea) or Turkey and make one of them an EU nation, ASAP.
e) Friendly relations with Russia are imperative — if the present leadership can’t get it done, Fire Them and get new leaders — it’s that important.
f) Friendly relations with the Middle East (stop bombing your neighbours)
g) Address Inequality in no uncertain terms.
h) Stop using the word globalization and seek Win-Win bilateral trade agreements exclusively, where that trade actually benefits both sides — instead of just dumping your goods in other countries and getting the loot. You need (true) Interdependence instead of Globalization.
i) Harmonize EU economic policies around the best existing model in Europe (Norway) where deficits are limited to 4% of GDP, plan for a 3% unemployment rate, free university education for residents, low crime rate, high productivity, very high SPI and UN Happiness Index scores (and those two metrics drive all other positive stats) revenue surpluses directed to a sovereign wealth fund, and so much more.

These are not big challenges compared to the challenges faced by WWI and WWII leaders, and by leaders in the immediate postwar era. These are tiny challenges.

But these challenges will require persistence by leaders who can keep the main objectives in the forefront of their mind, even as (seemingly) everyone else wants to go in different directions.

The question is not; “Does the EU have good leaders?” (Of course it most certainly does or the EU wouldn’t have ever existed, nor would it still remain)

The question is: “Does the EU have the leaders it needs to actually accomplish the remaining goals?”

Related Article:

‘Bremain’ or ‘Brexit’ Opportunity for Britons?

by John Brian Shannon | June 21, 2016

Opinion

Many non-British commentators have strongly suggested to British voters that they should vote to remain (‘Bremain’) in the EU, in the June 23 referendum.

Yet, some of those commentators have told other non-British citizens with opposing views on the issue (‘Brexit’) that they should refrain from expressing their strong suggestions.

Which I find odd, and troubling at some level.

I’m glad they’re worried about British voters being unduly influenced by the opinions of others in faraway lands.

But I’m not worried at all.

I think British voters are educated enough to be able to discern between the opinions of foreigners, and the opinions of present-day British citizens who are eligible to vote in the referendum.

By and large, Britons are a pretty educated lot and there are many nuances to British society that demonstrate they have plenty of 21st century sophistication.

British voters aren’t likely to get the proverbial wool pulled over their eyes by commentators from around the world. If they’re susceptible to that, they’ve got bigger problems than staying in, or leaving the EU.

Democracy

I do agree that people shouldn’t be stirring up trouble. After all, it is illegal to run into a crowded theatre and yell, “Fire!” in a convincing way. And for good reason.

But a person can contribute their thoughts about a democratic vote in another country in a way that is designed to not inflame people to untoward behavior.

In fact, freedom of speech goes directly to the heart of the Western democracies which is exactly why it must be practiced often.

And whether we’re commenting about the goings-on in our own country or in our fellow Commonwealth nations, fair comment ought to be encouraged — as long as the commentator refrains from unduly inciting the voters of that nation.

Economics

Some commentators have made the case for, or against, the economic angle. It’s true that UK GDP has risen since it joined the EU.

Even euro-skeptics admit that United Kingdom GDP has risen — as compared to not joining the European Union.

Read: You can’t feed a family on GDP (New York Times)

How could it not? The EU is the largest single economic unit on the planet, slightly larger in total economic output than the United States and larger than other great economic powers such as the rising tiger in China.

Not that the bottom two economic quintiles in the UK have seen it!

The economic question, then, becomes; Will voting to ‘Stay’ or ‘Leave’ the EU result in higher income for the bottom two quintiles?

They’re certainly not seeing it now while still part of the EU, therefore, what would make their cohort expect to see higher incomes by staying in the European Union?

In fact, people in the UK’s bottom two quintiles say that recent and high immigration levels have ‘stolen’ many low-paying jobs from the two bottom quintiles and UK unemployment statistics seem to bear that out.

One can therefore empathize with very large numbers of people who’ve at the end of the day ‘lost’ more than they’ve gained via EU membership.

It will be interesting to see how many vote in the referendum and to look at their voting patterns, post-referendum.

Governance

Henry Ford used to say; “Don’t tell me what you can do. Show me what you’ve done.”

Many Bremainers are quick to point out that governance in the UK could be improved by staying within the European Union. And it goes without saying that the UK would be a force for good within the European Union as it relates to EU reform.

No doubt there has already been some of that. For one example, some labour standards have improved in the United Kingdom as a direct result of EU labour directives.

It’s too bad that recent (and high) immigration levels took huge numbers of low-paying jobs away from British-born workers, otherwise Britons would be able to witness those labour law improvements instead of reading about it in the broadsheets — while (not) enjoying life on unemployment insurance.

EU ‘Mission Creep’

Separate from labour law improvements and lower employment levels for British-born workers, is what could be termed the ‘bureaucratic mission-creep’ of the EU governance structure.

We all know what mission creep means in the military sense, it typically happens during long military campaigns where the fight has been long and hard, and the progress uneven.

Military commanders begin expanding the definitions of engagement and troop commitment on their own volition in order to more quickly or more fully attain their standing orders.

With the exceptionally clear lines of command found in military units, such liberties taken by commanders are almost always caught and rectified.

I don’t know that is always the case with regards to faceless, nameless bureaucrats who are in the business of running the EU’s governmental architecture. Many of whom may not be under the direct authority of duly elected politicians it must be said.

Instead of following the instructions of their elected leaders, such bureaucrats could easily engage in their own ‘mission creep’ and elected EU politicians wouldn’t know about it unless a whistleblower made it public.

For ambitious (unelected) EU bureaucrats with few checks and balances to worry about: Why bother to go through all the trouble of staging a coup (in a single EU country) in order to get the life they want, when by playing it coy and telling the politicians exactly what they want to hear over a period of years, the bureaucrats could eventually do whatever they wanted throughout the entire European Union, using the levers of power available to them in the existing governance architecture? Maybe with some help from other ambitious (unelected) EU bureaucrats?

Q: What are the chances of that, exactly?
A: About 100% — given enough time.

Who would know until it was already too late? How can you see hidden crime? How to stop them?

Eventually, the unelected functionaries in Brussels will be telling the elected politicians what to do, where to go, and at what time to do it. Some suspect they already are…

It’s bad enough that segments of the EU governance architecture are maintained by powerful and unelected individuals. When you factor-in bureaucratic mission creep it quickly scales-up to terrifying dimensions.

Some highly educated and respected commentators have spoken to the lack of democratic legitimacy for EU Apparatchiks and their masters the EU Nomenklatura — even at this early stage. I guarantee they’re not taking into account the bureaucratic ‘mission creep’ that is guaranteed to occur within the EU governance architecture over time.

It is likely to be cumulative and significant.

Windows of Opportunity

Quite separate from ‘Stay’ or ‘Leave’ debate is the future the British people could attain outside of the European Union political structure.

Some of us think that opportunities as big as the sky would be missed by the United Kingdom permanently joined to the EU.

While some ideas seem fanciful until someone crunches the numbers, a different plan could allow the United Kingdom to excel as never-before.

As there’s no precedent for the Brexit situation it could now become anything the UK government wants it to become.

Teaching Others

Every day, we teach others how to treat us. At a personal level, how we interact with others shows them how to treat us.

Even the political relationship between nation-states are directed by human beings (not artificial intelligence bots) therefore:

As human nature is the foundation of all human relationships;
If we make people feel afraid, they will act defensively toward us.

If we solve their problems, we’re teaching them to become dependent on us.
If we act as their genuine partner, we are teaching them to trust us.
If we act as a team-player, they will either become part of our team or we will become part of theirs — either way, it works.

If we teach half of the UK population that their concerns aren’t a priority for us right now, we’re teaching them to withdraw from us.

In the end, we reap what we sow.

Summary?

EU membership isn’t working for Britain’s bottom two quintiles and bureaucratic ‘mission creep’ will eventually bring a complete end to democracy within the EU, and Britain might miss windows of opportunity larger than the sky for as long as it stays in the EU.

If those reasons (and more that I haven’t touched on) aren’t enough for British voters to exercise their vote carefully, I don’t know what might qualify.

Whatever the results on June 23rd, I support the right of Britons to choose their future. It’s my goal however, to do my part to ensure that they go into the future (whichever way the vote goes) with ‘eyes wide open’ as opposed to ‘ears stopped shut’.

No matter the outcome of the referendum, the people of Europe have created an astonishing success story out of the rubble of World War II, and I salute their sacrifice, their dedication, and their ingenuity, and I very sincerely wish every one of them eternal peace, prosperity, and good governance.

Present Brexit/Bremain discussions aside, Europe is one of the brightest lights of our civilization. But we must always remember: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

And some in the UK expected better.

Isn’t that everything?


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UK ‘Report Card’ on EU Membership ready June 23

by John Brian Shannon | June 17, 2016

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Sir Winston S. Churchill

Which is exactly what the UK referendum on June 23rd is all about; Voters looking at the results of EU membership.
UK membership in the EU

The ‘report card’ on continued UK membership in the EU is a British referendum on June 23, 2016.

Having experienced temporary European Union membership for a few years, British citizens will exercise their right to vote on how they feel about EU membership. That’s called democracy, and whether non-Britons agree with the decisions of those voters or not, it’s quite irrelevant.

On June 23rd, UK voters will either vote to ‘Stay’ or ‘Leave’ the European Union and ‘the people’ are always right — that’s how democracy works

If they feel that EU membership hasn’t worked for them, it certainly isn’t their fault, it’s the fault of the people who created such political arrangements.

Dissatisfied Britons will be telling UK and EU leaders on June 23, ‘You can’t eat GDP’ and ‘I don’t care for your ideals, I want my own back as they served me better’ and it is probably a comment on rampant elitism and unelected officials in Brussels making decisions that impact Britons negatively.

We should listen to them

Just as on the fateful voyage of the Titanic, once an alarm has been sounded, pretending that there isn’t a problem only means that the ship eventually fills with water and the whole thing sinks to the bottom — as opposed to taking concerns seriously and altering course to steer clear of danger.

Why is there always so much resistance to that?

And therein lies the whole story. It seems that many of the 1 percent have decided that the UK staying in the European Union better serves their interests, therefore the electorate should vote according to the interests of the 1 percent.

It also seems that many European and American non-1-percent elites feel that having the UK stay in the European Union serves their best interests, therefore the Brits should vote accordingly.

And all of them seem to say;

‘Vote according to our wishes because that’s what is best for us!’

(And not necessarily what is best for British citizens)

If that isn’t what they’re saying, they need to correct it. Because that’s what we’re hearing.

If you ask the average Briton; ‘How has EU membership benefited you and your family?’ you’re likely to get negative responses from Brexiteers — or confused looks from Bremainers. Because, largely, it hasn’t.

(Again, I reiterate, you can’t eat GDP. Yes, higher GDP is a tremendously amazing and wonderful thing for the UK government, for European industry, for the bankers, and for Brussels. It does practically nothing for everyday Britons)

Maybe the UK referendum question should be changed to:

‘Do you feel EU membership has benefited you personally?’

(If Yes; vote ‘Stay’)
(If No; vote ‘Leave’)

It would be a landslide if that’s the question on the ballot.

All I’m saying, is that if the EU *is working* for the largest number of Britons, then the largest number will vote to ‘Stay’ in the EU. And if it doesn’t, they’ll vote to ‘Leave’.

But no matter the result, it will be cathartic for the EU and the UK governments.

If the Bremain side wins by a wide margin, the UK government will still be empowered to push for change from within the existing EU membership, and even the EU hierarchy now realize that changes are needed to mitigate the concerns of other states in the union.

If the Bremain side wins narrowly, the UK government will be HIGHLY EMPOWERED to push for change from within the existing EU membership — and it may well influence other EU nations to feel empowered and likewise push for needed change.

If the Brexit side wins convincingly, the UK government will be HIGHLY EMPOWERED to rule for Britons (instead of the present arrangement which is a sort of caught between Brussels and Brit voters affair) and British politicians could still negotiate an even better agreement from outside of the European Union.

Instead of concerned parties looking at all of this democracy that is happening as a negative, why not look at it as a positive and necessary step towards building a better European Union?

If it *isn’t working for Britons* browbeating them to accept it will only serve to disillusion them moreso, which leads us to a worse conclusion.

If it *is working for Britons* but significant numbers disagree, why ignore those warnings? Why not alter course and preempt a worse conclusion?

Some commentators have characterized Brexiteers as ‘populists’ — of a sort having either a lower economic station in life or a lower level of education (or both) — and therefore, their votes should be regarded as of less importance than Bremain votes. But in truly democratic systems every voter is equal. A vote is a vote, and a person’s vote isn’t worth *more* for agreeing with one side vs. the other.

The June 23 referendum is one thing and one thing only; It’s a report card from British voters on how well, or how badly, Britons feel served by the EU. It’s no more, and no less than that

Trying to cast it in any other light risks bringing about another #OWS-type revolt, but this time from disrespected British voters.

The UK Voter ‘Report Card’ will be ready shortly after June 23. If significant numbers of Brit voters warn of, ‘Icebergs, so far!’ the governments of both the European Union and the United Kingdom would do well to heed their experiential warnings and adjust course.

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