Hard times in Europe

Who could have predicted the turmoils and problems that the old Europe has had to face during the past five years? Politicians at least have had their hands full of work in trying to navigate through the internal and external challenges of the multinational community. The problems for Europe started from the financial crises in Italy and Spain and culminated in the financial collapse of Greece reminiscent of a bankruptcy. Greeks had been milking the European Union using unethical methods and living beyond their means. The economies of the Mediterranean countries have been fixed and signs of sprouts of economic growth have been observed.

One crisis followed another. Exporting the American democracy led the countries in the Northern Africa and Near East into circumstances that could not be controlled. Libya lost its dictator which opened flood gates to a surge of African refugees to Italy. Democratising Afghanistan and anti-Islamism led also this state into a chaos. The liquidation of the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein threw the country into the throes of anarchy, and as a consequence there are more Iraqis abroad than in their own country. Chaotic power politics in Syria led to establishing the caliphate led by the Islamic ISIS-organisation. Exporting democracy into these countries resulted in an unforeseen migration of people through Turkey to Europe. Buses loaded with refugees, cars and bicycles surfed into Finland across the remote borders in Lapland. In Salla in Lapland cars left behind by refugees are being auctioned off. Introducing democracy in Ukraine and its approaches to Europe escalated into the Ukrainian crisis where one of the masterminds behind the scenes is the United States. It is no wonder that Putin is nervous about a potential flow of democracy into the steppes of the Mother Russia. Bullying results in a counter reaction.

All these would have already provided more than enough challenges for Europe but Europeans themselves or actually the Great Britain caused the next problem. Under the pretext of political points the Great Britain arranged a referendum on the EU-membership. Britons did not really understand what they were voting for. The end result was the Brexit. An outcome that in itself is subject to interpretation due to a result that is near a tie.

Democracy is said to include listening to the voice of the people. Everything should not, however, be subjected to a referendum. An outcome, for example, for a poll asking whether the health and educational services in Jyväskylä in Central Finland should be cut down, would be self-evident. Who would want any cuts? A voter does not bear any economic consequences for having cast his vote. Services would not be cut but taxes would have to be increased.

Exporting democracy into different countries succeeds only in a few cases. Would it always be worthwhile pursuing democracy if people’s standard of living is at a relatively reasonable level economically? Bread and circuses – this age old adage contains the truth.

The outcome of the British referendum was an expression of non-confidence by the voters to those in power. Something has been amiss and it has fed non-confidence towards decision makers. Citizens can vote irrationally against their political convictions in order to demonstrate their distrust of politics. Who would otherwise give their votes to these populist parties except in order to show their distrust of those in power?

Life, economy and politics are often zero-sum game. In a zero-sum game one winner’s gains are always away from other participants. In order to find a winner amongst the participants there must be some loser/s in equal numbers. Understanding a zero-sum game in politics is almost an insurmountable task for an ordinary citizen. Even such a simple matter as taxation is a zero-sum game. In determining value added tax or income tax rates, the state taxes must be collected from some other sources. The economic policy views of the Greens in this regard are full of populism.

Getting access to a position of power and staying there requires that potential voters are wooed with right kind of things. This happened in Britain. David Cameron played his political game and miscalculated this time. The referendum result showed that Britons in certain regions were fed up with immigrants and the flow of pounds into the coffers of the European Community. If the people in Finland had been asked the same, the outcome would be the same. It would take quite a strength of character and faith to vote against things that are to one’s own benefit.

Britain joined the European Union rather late in 1973. Britons had not believed in the European Union and had regarded themselves somewhat better than others. Their minds were, however, changed when France, Germany, Italy and other Continental countries managed to create a functioning market area. The Great Britain wanted its own share of the benefits. The European Union is also in particular an organisation of peace, according to Angela Merkel.

This is where we are now. Britons do not know what to do as the separation has its own advantages and disadvantages. The British economy and the money moguls of the City of London are horrified. The referendum outcome also revealed the old wounds of the Great Britain. Based on its official name the Great Britain comprises of England, Scotland and Wales that are situated on the island of the Great Britain and also the Northern Ireland on the Island of Ireland. The Great Britain in itself is still an artificial creation where the differences culturally and economically between the regions are considerable. Did the Britons try to jump out of a frying pan and end up in a fire? Will the Queen Elisabeth II lose half of her realm?

Votes were given in opposition to immigration and refugees and in the hope that financial flows would turn direction to improve own social and health sector services. It is unlikely that immigration to the British Isles will cease considering its historical traditions. The colonial country inheritance always has its own price. The referendum outcome does not bring improvements to the levels of the social and health services. Citizens cast their votes for their own benefits but the outcome does not guarantee their realisation. The world would be rather an easy place if by changing men you always make everything run better. It is worthwhile for the Finns also to remember this. The real world and a voting population are two separate things. It is so easy to pull a leg.

Jorma Kananen, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, School of Business, Rajakatu 35, 40200, Jyväskylä, Finland, jorma.kananen (at) jamk.fi



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