Keeping an eye on Washington
Europe is regularly put under pressure because of elections in member-states that put off decisions whose importance depends on the influence of each particular country on the bloc as a whole. On a global level, however, changes in Europe’s political landscape are akin to a regional election when it comes to the stronger bloc members and to the election of a community leader when it comes to the less powerful countries. In this respect, next week’s presidential elections in the United States are of monumental importance and a win for Republican candidate Donald Trump will inevitably rock the entire world. Even putting aside the histrionics and vulgarities of his pre-election campaign, Trump is touting a return to the fundamental ideas and obsessions that created the “American miracle.” Smug and aloof, Europe – under the catalytic influence of Germany – appears to have forgotten the fact that America has set the international tone in every area, and particularly in the global economy, for the past century. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was established in 1933-36 to offset the effect of the Great Depression of 1929 and it helped boost the state’s role as an important regulatory power. This notion was adopted in Europe – to a greater or lesser degree – and the state was elevated to a regulator of economic growth. This philosophy persisted until Ronald Reagan entered the White House and changed the course of the US and global economies. Over the past few years, the European Union has developed an economic philosophy that is diametrically different to America’s in order to manage the crisis in the bloc, and this philosophy is centered almost entirely on Wolfgang Schaeuble’s insistence on fiscal austerity. The German finance minister is basically acting like an accountant who sweeps some things under the carpet and does what he can to safeguard his client’s interests, but at some point, the regulatory authority – in this case the US – comes along and slaps enormous fines on the giants of German industry, making it perfectly clear to the entire world just who is running the show. Mainly, though, Schaeuble is acting on the belief that the US will do everything needed to protect the West and that Europe’s most prosperous nations will make more money in the process. But right now, Europe faces the likelihood of a president in the White House who believes that the US-Europe marriage has run its course. Coupled with the rise of nationalism in Berlin as well, the Europe Union appears too close to a post-euro era for comfort.