Sunday, 3 June 2012

The bursting of the bubble

In my travels around Europe in the past few years a few constants emerge. For anyone who traveled in the 70s and 80s, the most visible difference is the cars on the street. Back then, traffic was dominated by national marques, sparse ownership, old vehicles. Now, even in former Soviet bloc nations, the streets are filled with a Euro-homogeneity of  compact cars all under ten years old; the same Fiats, VWs, Fords crowding the roads everywhere from Barcelona to Budapest. If the EU means anything to voters from Europe's less prosperous periphery, it means sharing the great car dream, being part of a prosperous Europe. 

The second is a cultural invasion that offends and disturbs - the EuroMall. There's not a single city in Europe exempt from these cloned excrescences, these dread sterile behemoths of steel and glass, polished terrazzo and halogen lights. Only the prices vary with currency; the same man's H&M T-shirt is 1290HUF (£3.50) in Budapest, €4,95 in Barca and incredibly only £2.99 in London. With their identical iPods, Nautica, Helly Hansen, Converse, Adidas, Puma and H&M accoutrements the Yoof of Europe give the impression of an egalitarian cohort, but this too is a Chimera.  

The cars and the clothes, the culture, the chain multiples and the flat-pack clone architecture give the impression that there has been a wealth transfer from rich to poor, an equalisation from core to periphery, but this is no more than a bubble, and a bubble about to burst. The worst hit, those that face a real return to the 1950s when the Eurozone folds, will be Greece, Spain, the Mezzogiorno, Portugal, rural Ireland, La France Profonde and the former Soviet bloc. The UK, northern Italy, metropolitan France and Flanders, Scandinavia will perhaps only have to retreat to the 1970s, Germany to the mullet, the 118 moustache and the 1990s.  

They will go screaming and unwilling, shouting demands for German gold, but they will go. 

Spain 1958 - and 2013?


Anonymous said...

The long coming economic
Probably true.
The credit bubble pops, reality takes over.

Anonymous said...

Germany would be OK if it went back to the 70's, it was a prosperous country in those days.
For most of the former eastern bloc nations the return won't be too bad, for the Western EU - it will be a painful shock but as usual, it will be the poor who'll feel it most.
The country least well equiped is Britain, the 'welfarist entitlement mania' is ingrained and people expect too much, we've gotten soft and too dependent.
There is, a whole generation who will not be able to cope - 'UK uncut' and their hackneyed ethos in toto an apt synopsis.

Demetrius said...

I'm sorry to be critical, but I have to say that you are an incurable optimist. We could all be going back to the late 1940's.

Nick Drew said...

screaming and unwilling, shouting demands for German gold

and also for a tax on the 'Anglo-Saxon' banking sector

and when they don't get it, they may all choose to default - who knows, even the Germans

may have to agree with Demetrius here ...

Elby the Beserk said...

Lils and I were over in Ireland last September. Whenever we saw anything clearly built with EU funds we cried out "Eurobillions". And in Ireland it is all over the place. Was all over the place.

Zerohedge (who does favour the apocalyptic approach) says it won't be long now... (btw, he recks the cost of the Euro "bailout" so far to be some €2 trillion. To no effect)

Anonymous said...

You have not mentioned the redistribution of pigment or religion .
Not without effect even if it is not PC or legal to say so.

Edward Spalton said...

Hello Anonymous,

You are bang on the money (so to speak) about the welfare entitlement culture. Here in Derby we had the tragic case of 6 children burnt to death and the fecund parent now charged with murder.
A local councillor told me that this family's benefits (there are many more children of various parents) came to over £50,000 per year and it was probably a failed attempt to make the council give them a bigger house.

A young lady I know has a serious hip problem (soon to be righted, we hope, by surgery) . She is working as a waitress part time whilst studying for her degree at the Open University. She comes from the sort of working class family (with the accent on working) who do not believe in debt.

A presumably well-meaning acquaintance asked her why she was working, as she could claim disability benefit from "The Social" She also added that if the young lady had a baby, she would qualify for a council house.

In this case, it is certain that this "advice" will not be followed - but here are many more who will take this comfortable path. It's yer rights, innit?

Traveller said...

Some years ago in a African country which will remain nameless, everybody was complaining about how bad things were getting, economy and business-wise. They were right; the place was going down the tubes (which it subsequently did).

The only optimists were the removals company men sending all the expats' chattels home, who stated that they could not understand all this pessimism as business was booming.

It would have been too painful to explain the bleedin' obvious to them.

banned said...

Our identikit shopping mall opened about 5 years ago, I have been there once.
I would not mind returning to the 1970's, I seem to remember being quite comfortable then.

Anonymous said...

And all this threat of deflation is why the Eurocrat politicos are deserately trying to keep the gravy train rolling (stuttering!) along its tracks. You see they can't prop up their fat-cat salaries and burgeoning pensions with deflation; they need inflation. But they ain't gonna get it, so hopefully its bye-bye to them.

Coney Island

James Higham said...

Euromall, of course, tied in with PoMo and Helvetica.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Ref the pic.

They all look fairly happy and well-fed.

They are quite smartly turned out, perhaps for a holiday or festival, or maybe even just for the photographer.

I note the old granny is there with the rest of them, not farmed out to some ghastly "care" home.

And the various men are still around - probably they're the original men, not several boyfriends removed from the father(s) of the children.

The appearance is that they all eat together routinely.

Quite possibly everyone in the picture has the same surname.

We could do a lot worse.