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  1. Wealth
January 24, 2011

Eurozone wobbles

By Spear's

As with all jellies, one wobble in one place causes other wobbles in other places, and so on ad infinitum

Following the daily shenanigans of the incipient demise of the eurozone in a bonfire of busted bonds, I have been searching for a suitable image or metaphor, and I have chanced upon one of each, but I can’t tell which best captures the scene, so here are both of them.

First, there is the image of a tug-of-war, which I felt worked marginally better than a sack- or three-legged race, although an egg-and-wooden-spoon race would have worked well but for the egg bit. On the left hand end of the rope is Germany, pulling against the PIGS on the other end, while the middle-marker, with the rope securely fastened round his middle, is Jean-Claude Trichet of the ECB.

Standing on the sidelines are little Sarkozy of France who suffers a lack of weight problem but he can shout a lot and so is rooting for Germany, while Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the IMF, another Frenchman adopting their customary non-participant role as he has his eye on Sarko’s job, is yelling at all parties to do better, which irritates the Germans who don’t want to pay for any more bailouts and rescues of private sector bond-holders.

In this tug-of-war, you win if you pull the central marker over your line so forcibly that the other side fall over and let go of the rope, while you collapse as well but without letting go of your end of the rope and your quarry, which is your ability to control euro bond policy through the now-captured ECB. Germany hates inflation and is pulling for all its worth, while the PIGS from Club O’Med hate unemployment and welfare cuts and are pulling for once with all their strength.

The hidden card, however, is the third umpire known as the German Constitutional (meaning ‘Political’) Court in Kahlsruhe, which has been asked to opine in February. The various cases before it can be summarised quite simply: having judged in 1992/3 on the case brought by Herr Manfred Brunner that the Maastricht Treaty did not undermine German sovereignty – which of course it did, as is plainly evident then and even more so now – it is now being asked if all the budget deficits, national debt excesses and bailouts are ultra vires that Treaty, which of course they are.

On past performance, however, this Court, which has already got its legal knickers in a fine-old twist once before, will probably rule them intra vires, as basically all EU law is whatever it is meant to be in any given set of variable circumstances. It wouldn’t surprise me if above this Court, instead of Justice blindfolded and holding her Pair of Scales, there isn’t just a common-or-garden weather-vane spinning out-of-control.

Apologies, I was nearly getting ahead of myself and forgetting my chosen metaphor for the eurozone. Ladies and Gentlemen, I offer you the prospect of a giant wobbling jelly, no less, with even the Millennium footbridge thrown in as well. As with all jellies, one wobble in one place causes other wobbles in other places, and so on ad infinitum, until just one great giant quivering wobble about to collapse.

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The cook, or too many cooks – Heseltine, Howe, Hurd, Mandelson, Clarke, the heads of BT and Unilever come tediously to mind – have tried Stability Pacts and Treaties that had no effect on this over-sized, obese, One-Size-Fits-All mankini of a jelly, which just went on wobbling. As with all jellies, this one looked beautiful when it came out of its mould, but in practice was as odourless as it was tasteless, and on closer examination, if this was the answer, the question was definitely flawed. Some of us even said so at the time. As with all witless jellies, its decent disposal sets a problem. The tried and tested solution is to tell all the kids at the party that they can each have a prize if they eat up all the jelly.

“Corrr! What’s the prize please, Miss?”

“If you eat all this jelly, then you can all have your own currencies back!”

Like so many childrens’ tea parties that start off so happily, this one looks set to end in tears and recriminations too.

And that was where I was going to leave this Blog on euro-imagery, until a discerning friend drew my attention to a strange species of bird called Dromornis stirtoni, the largest known bird never to leave the ground, as it weighed 1,000 pounds and stood 10 feet tall. This flightless bird had its time in the sun 8,000,000 years ago, and with its strangely-shaped beak lived by cracking nuts and fruits. The thing that caught my attention though was that its beak looked exactly like the € of the euro symbol. Has D. stirtoni been reincarnated as the flightless euro? I think we should be told.

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