God help you if you become part of a politician’s dream.
I’m in Lisbon this week on holiday and around me I see the intolerable effects of the slow unravelling of the Euro dream.
As we landed we passed Angela Merkel’s jet on the tarmac. Luftwaffe Ein (as I guess it’s called) was receiving her vast motorcade as she left town. And as we drove on, so we read endless graffiti telling her where to go. That morphed into more formal notices informing all of yesterday’s Greve Geral. For I now know the Portuguese for General Strike.
And so yesterday, we were tourists in a ghost town. There were minor riots a few streets away, but I think the Portuguese mostly all just stayed at home in the suburbs and saved their money seeing as they couldn’t earn any.
As a result, the shopkeepers and restaurateurs had time to talk, in pretty good English, and tell a tale of endless months of worsening sales. The recession here looks to have no end in sight.
The politicians’ dream is grinding down this economy as surely as were it an invading army. Of course no one intended this evil.
While recalcitrant Britons may have rejected the chance to be part of it, the Euro has in the past been wonderfully kind to his adherents. But its false kindness has left them all owing far more than they can ever repay and unable to do anything about that, for they are denied the one tool they need.
For if you are going out of business and can not invent some miracle product, the only way out of the mess is to cut your prices and get the punters in!
You can’t do that if all your meals and goods are effectively priced in fat-cat Deutschmarks. Were they paid for in Escudos this place would be cheap and packed, and its farms would be selling their wine and leather to the world.
But that won’t happen unless some strong man takes power and forces the issue. And then they’ll be part of a new politician’s dream!
I suppose one could link this to UK financial services regulation and its destruction of a flourishing savings culture in its search for a perfectly financially advised society, but my normal obsessions seem very trivial compared to what’s happening outside my hotel window.
Out there it is clear that all those who seek power over others should simply do less; should shrink the mighty state and superstate and leave people and peoples to their own devices.
Sadly that is not Merkel’s dream, she seems to see herself as the competent soldier charged with defending economic trenches despite the fact that they are slowly starving entire countries. She cannot cut them free, for she cleaves to the old orthodoxy that persuaded a continent’s politicians (never quite its peoples) that only by forcing themselves ever closer together could they stop fighting each other.
Of course that’s just how to start a fight! And you end it by letting people mind their own business.
But now Angela is minding Lisbon’s business and like Athens and Madrid are now, the city will one day start picking up its own stones and start hurling them at its police. I think I know where this all ends. And it’s not peace, no matter what the Nobel people say.
The Portuguese do not have much money, but what they do they are investing in Gold. It is the only thing a politicians’ dream has never been able to ruin.
Tom Baigrie is chief executive of Lifesearch