Thursday, January 20, 2005

Having grown up in Ireland, I've occasionally thought about retiring there. I've always dismissed it as a pipe-dream, as land prices have been going through the roof ever since Ireland really started taking advantage of the EU.

This gives me some reason for hope.

It's obvious to me that the EU can't hold. It looks like an attempt at a federal United States of Europe, but it's actually the French putting Europe back to where it was in about 1680. The Brits hate the French and the Irish; the Spanish hate the Portugese; everyone has contempt for the Italians; the Germans, well, let's face it, four words: "Land war in Europe." And all this love is returned with interest. The currency is up for whatever dodgy game the French think will help them get ahead. There's no common language. Rules and regulations are set by an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels. Inspectors General reports of fraud in EU administration are dealt with harshly, in that the IG gets fired. The Arabs are taking over. Meanwhile, no politician has the will to deal with reality.

I've no doubt that the EU will collapse, sooner rather than later, and when it does there will be dislocation like we saw in Germany in the 1930s. Afterwards, we'll see a number of looser federations. One will be centered on Germany and include Holland, the Scandanavian countries, and bits of Eastern Europe (the rest of Eastern Europe will fall into Russia's orbit.) Another will be centered on France, and include Belgium and the mediterranean countries. England will go it "alone," falling back on its commonwealth and the United States - the emerging anglosphere.

Ireland? Well, as usual, Ireland will be screwed (again). Culturally the Irish have more in common with France, but communications with the continent do involve crossing water. Historically, Ireland's an English colony and England is Ireland's biggest trading partner. So, simple geography dictates a mismatch between what the Irish want, and what they'll get.

Then there's Northern Ireland. Ireland wanted to join a federal United States of Europe in order to become wealthy and liberal enough to overcome protestant objections to reunion. Well, Ireland may have become quite liberal, but a collapse of the EU puts the wealth in doubt. It's in England's interest to keep Ireland weak and in its orbit, so Ireland will get little help there. In fact, the English may well reprise their historic role as Saxon troublemakers and bane of Celtic existence.

Ultimately, Europe will fall back into historical patterns, and Ireland will start to look like it was in the 1950s: divided, occasionally violent, poor, rural, agrarian, and a net exporter of people.

There's a piece of land near Achill that I might just go after. When the walls come tumbling down, that is.

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