THE RISE AND FALL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
Steven Den Beste
has some really pithy observations about the EU economic summit that's going on now. Click on the link and read his thoughts. Go ahead. I'll wait.
This whole situation reminds me very strongly of ancient Rome
. Originally ruled by Etruscan kings, the Romans decided to adopt a Grecian style of democracy after they kicked the kings out on their ear. Citizens would elect representatives who would make the big decisions. The problem was that, after a few hundred years, the politicians realized that giving stuff to the voters for free was the best way to get re-elected. A few hundred years of this and things started to get out of hand.
For example, it was an ancient tradition that free food would be passed out on religious holy days ("holidays" for short). A senator that managed to get a new holiday added to the official list would be remembered by the voters. It finally got so bad that there was, on average, two days per week that the law would allow most businesses to operate. To make sure that each business got a fair crack at any profits, laws were passed so you could only hire a business for one week at a time. So if you needed a new roof put on your house, and it would take five days of work to get the job done, you'd have to hire three different construction firms and wait a month before you could stay dry when it rained.
By the time the Flavian Ampitheater
was built a vast network of support infrastructure was built to funnel supplies in to the city ("All roads lead to Rome"). It made sense to devote all of these resources to one city because Rome had the highest concentration of voters.
Historians will tell you that Rome fell because of a series of barbarian invasions. This is true, but the invaders wanted to force the Romans to accept them as Citizens (the guys who voted and got the free stuff). Then the barbarians could settle down and start sucking at the public teat just like any other respectable Roman. When things turned bleak and sacrafices had to be made to save the Empire, the Citizens couldn't give up the free stuff. After all, it had been passed out for hundreds of years.
Now the Euros have been complaining about how overwhelming the U.S. culture, military and economy is, but they aren't willing to cut the social programs that get them the votes. I will probably live for another 50 years or more. It will be interesting to see where this goes.