A time of war and a time for peace – These words, made famous by the Byrds in their 7-single: “Turn! Turn! Turn!” came straight from Ecclesiastes 3:8, but are remarkable similar to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” 3:17(1) which says: He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.
Sun Tzu wrote this during the Warring States period of Chinese history (403BC-221BC) which ended up with the creation of the earliest Civilization State known to man. We have had our fighting, now is the time for peace. The European Union is Churchill’s unfinished business; indeed, he was one of the first to call for the creation of a ‘United States of Europe’ (given in his speech to the University of Zürich in 1946). – But, how does China look 2,200 years later? They have gone through periods of world exploration & trade, invasion, isolationism, imperialism, communism and back to world trade with astronomic growth; but they still stayed together. They have one language, one army, one currency, one identity – but still have no free trade agreement (between their provinces). They are still extremely sensitive about managing separatism and dissent, just think of: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet & the Dalai Lama, Ai Weiwei, the Hui & Uyghur. – The “project” of unifying Europe is not a short-term project. We can expect setbacks and disillusionment during the first 10 or 100 years of peace; we must look to the next 1,000 or 10,000 years. Think of General Patton setting the course of history for the next 1,000 years; or the Japanese cry of banzai – “may your dynasty reign for 10,000 years”. These are the long-term visionaries.
The Pound, the Pfund and the Livra – These are various names for Europe’s first single currency set-up by Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire in the 8’th Century; except, in England, King Offa set-up a parallel but equivalent system. The Pound (Value) was made up of 120 silver dinars minted by the Caliphate of Baghdad and stacked as a tower; The Pound (Mass) was defined by the weight of this tower. (A dinar was therefore worth two pennies.) – The symbol £ or the abbreviation lb remind us of the common European standard; and the 12 sides of the new coin remind us of its Islamic roots. – Punishment for clipping (the medieval equivalent of quantitative easing) was amputation of the right hand; more rigorous enforcement by the English may well be why the Pound sterling is more valuable than say the Lira is today. We cannot say that anyone is more supportive than England of a common European currency. – However, it is worth remembering that it is thanks to sharia law and the Caliphate of Baghdad that we’ve got to where we are today.
The Napoleonic Wars – Europe’s history is full of inevitable twists and turns, because the continent is criss-crossed by rivers and mountains that thwart communication, prevent integration and sometimes helped or often hindered trade and military action. (Even late-starter America has surged ahead of us with the help of its Great Plains, Great Lakes and navigable Mississippi.) – But one story is interesting: During the early 19’th Century when Mercantilism and the Guilds (protectionism) where all the rage; Napoleon set-up the Continental System of European protectionism; partly in response to the rise of England as a great sea power; effectively trying to blockade British trade with Europe. He brought Russia into the Continental System by getting them to sign the Treaty of Tilsit. – St. Petersburg society was not impressed; many of whom where Anglophiles, and avid readers of Adam Smith and his new theories of free-trade. The Tilsit Treaty had a devastating effect on Russia, which depended on Britain for trade. Merchants found themselves in abject poverty and the value of the ruble collapsed. – Eventually, Russia broke ranks by allowing “neutral” (British) Ships to use their ports for Export purposes (nobody questioned what they were carrying on the inbound journey). Ignoring the Tilsit Treaty contributed to the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Russian retaliation, the occupation of Paris and the subsequent demise of Napoleon. – Wellington survived Waterloo and spent the next four decades putting a British “spin” on events; but it’s interesting to remember the struggle between protectionism and free trade that lay at the heart of the Napoleonic Wars.
Rise of despotic powers – The rise and fall of the German Third Reich can be divided into three phases: 1) Winning the populist vote in July 1932 on a Nationalist anti-Marxist ticket; 2) consolidating power with the Enabling Act 23 March 1933 which gave the chancellor the right to enact laws without consulting parliament or even limited by the constitution; 3) leaving the world community, in October 1933 Germany withdrew from the League of Nations – eventually democracy could only be restored by external forces. – The rise and fall of South Africa’s Apartheid government can be divided into three phases: 1) Winning the populist vote in June 1948 on a Nationalist and anti-Integration ticket; 2) consolidating power with the Senate Act No 53 which effectively packed the senate with political appointees; 3) leaving the world community, on 31 May 1961 South Africa withdrew from the British Commonwealth in order to become a Republic – eventually democracy could only be restored by external pressure. – What is happening in Britain today: 1) UKIP won the populist vote in the European Parliament on 22 May 2014 on a Nationalist and anti-EU ticket; 2) consolidation of power with the House of Lords Act 1999 excluded hereditary peers, making room for even more political appointees; 3) on 27 March 2017 Theresa May signed the Article 50 notification letter that we would leave the European Union? The amazing thing is that in all cases, a large section of the voting population believed that their government was doing the right thing. Where will this all end?
History is strange and can too easily be interpreted superficially and with an inevitable bias. Why has Europe tried so hard to unite and failed every time? And what is different this time? –
- Firstly, everyone must have access to the sea no matter what (we are fortunate in this regard and may not understand others predicament): Russia to the Black Sea; Northern Europe and the Nordic countries through the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap (which NATO was set-up to deny); the Black Sea countries through the Bosphorus & Dardanelles (deniable by Turkey); the Mediterranean countries through Gibraltar (deniable by the UK); and all through Suez (snatched by Egypt); Brussels is a Sea Port; and even Switzerland has a Navy. We’re in a scrum with our hands at each others throats.
- Secondly, everyone needs to be able to be self-sufficient: as an agricultural society, we used to have all we needed, but since we have industrialized, we discover that there are always certain things that we need and that we don’t have. (Russia has no lead, Germany has no nickel, France has no tea, the Low Countries have no mountains, etc.) But working together our chances of survival are better. This translates into things like Food Security, Environment Protection, Climate Change and Population Control; which are best tackled as Europe-wide problems with Europe-wide solutions.
- Thirdly, the world is very different now to how it was in the past: our coal mines are exhausted, North Sea oil is coming to an end; we are no longer an Empire with a captive market; we have a tunnel across the Channel and a tunnel through the Alps; we have superb air travel and an integrated railway network right across Europe. We have instant communication by broadcast media, telephone and the internet. Even language barriers are crumbling with increased education and automated translation tools. This stronger infrastructure also gives us improved stability, not only currency stability but also in supply and demand of all sorts of commodities, though we still have a long way to go to reap the full benefits. Stronger communications can also give us better government.
- Fourthly, we are living in the age of the Civilization State (the Nation State will soon be as dead as the City State became with the industrial revolution). Great Empires like China, the USA, India, Russia and the Arab world will increasingly be able to push us around. On our own, we’ll be blown about like a reed in the wind; only by standing together with Europe will we be able to maintain our own true identity.
- Fifthly is the “threat” of Globalization: issues like Internet Protection (child porn, snuff movies & Jihad recruitment), Tax Evasion (by multi-nationals) and International Crime & Terrorism are far too big for any one country to tackle on its own, but by co-operation across Europe, we stand a far better chance. On the other hand, if you are interested in the “opportunities” of Globalization, notice how the big Technology Companies are all based in California or China. A Unicorn is a company with an IPO of over $1 Billion; how many Unicorns do we have in the UK? Many manufacturing companies are already giving the UK a miss, because it is too small an entity on its own.
With the capabilities of niche products, “Big Data” and extreme industrial leverage businesses are looking towards markets in excess of 100 million; with its 750 million consumers, Europe is just about interesting for industry. However, Adam Smith and the concepts of free-trade are being seriously questioned as we start to experience the limits of growth. We need new economic solutions for a new world future; it’s a common problem, and working within Europe can help.