As the United Kingdom debates whether or not to part company with the European Union, the question of EU membership should be something we are all thinking about. As the global élite have managed to claw back their majority share of the world’s wealth lost to them during the 1929 Wall Street Crash, and as this present international recession has exposed the serious flaws of Neoliberalism, we – every ordinary working Joe Soap – have to consider whether seeking our own good and wellbeing is best served in the wider European Union project, or, more locally, within the sovereignty of our own states. If our objective is a fairer playing field for all away from the transfer of wealth from us to the top mechanism of Neoliberalism (or unfettered Capitalism), then we find ourselves in a bit of a bind; as both the nation state and the EU are products of Neoliberalism’s politico-economic success.
Conventional wisdom has somehow imparted upon us the belief that Europe is different, economically speaking, to the United States. The prevailing opinion is that on this side of the Atlantic we are more socially democratic and less cut-throat in our use of Capitalism. Actually, and this may come as a shock, this is very far from the truth. The US it seems simply has a better neoliberal PR guy. In fact, the European Union’s relationship to the Neoliberalism is, by far, more economically and politically structural than the United States’, and much more efficient. Unlike our American cousin’s, the Treaty of Rome (1957), the foundational treaty of the EU, constitutionally binds all member states to the rigid application of the Washington Consensus of a free market unencumbered by regulatory distortions.
In contrast to the widespread perception of European distinctiveness, Europe shares the same outcome with other regions of the world where neoliberal restructuring has been put into effect: There has been a major redistribution of wealth from work-contingent income to ownership-contingent income.
– Christoph Hermann, Neoliberalism in the European Union (2007)
By treaty, legally and constitutionally, bound to a Deutsche Bank and ECB system of corporate preferment that has greatly accelerated the accumulation of wealth (this to the bureaucrat is a good thing), has trapped every one of us into a financial equation that is moving our wealth to the top. However bloodthirsty we think American corporatism to be, at the very least they are not constitutionally bound to the process. This has been seen in how the ECB differed from the Federal Reserve in its handling of the last recession. The Fed adjusted interest rates on saving upwards to stimulate spending and social recovery, while the ECB pressed the hold button to facilitate the movement of money to the banks and the rich.
Frustratingly, the neoliberal model of economic thinking has become the mainstream. More than this, it has become the dominant and almost unchallengeable global norm. Beneath the level of the EU its member states have without exception accepted the model. This means that, with all other things remaining the same, remaining in or leaving the European Union makes no difference to the person on the street, the marriage of big business and government is going to continue draining our resources. Survival – and that is what we’re talking about – depends on reversing this way of thinking, and, as the evidence shows, this is best done at the level of the nation state where democracy has in the past reversed neoliberal policies.
Hermann, Christoph. “Neoliberalism in the European Union.” Studies in Political Economy 79 (2007): 61–90.