Much as the sinking of the Titanic came to symbolize the scuppering of the Industrial Era’s hubris and loftiest ambitions, so too is the sinking of the Costa Concordie an irresistible metaphor – already seized on by cartoonists - for the demise of another grand scheme; the Eurozone.
Brought undone by a toxic mixture of deceit, stupidity, vanity and politicians persistently ignoring the warning signs, the lessons of the calamitous single European currency will be taught to future generations as one of the great follies of our own era.
Yet standing on distant shores watching the boat go down, our Prime Minister has decided not to learn from this European tragedy, but rather, to gloat about it.
Responding to the recent decision by Standard and Poors to downgrade the credit rating of nine European countries, Julia Gillard chose, somewhat brazenly, to spruik her own government’s so-called ‘economic performance.’
"The contrast with Europe could not be more stark,” she boasted, before erroneously claiming that “our recession beating stimulus” and our “strict fiscal rules” have saved us from Europe’s fate.
No mention, of course, of the $45 billion Labor inherited from Howard and Costello, and then promptly frittered away. No mention of our ever-ballooning debt, currently running at $100 million a day. No mention of the one ace up our sleeve: China’s fondness for our minerals.
History will show that Europe’s current problems can be traced back to a succession of well-meaning, weak, left-of-centre minority governments allowing their spending commitments to spiral out of control. The philosophy of nations “living within their means” was gradually replaced with a heady mixture of EU protectionism, EU subsidies to unprofitable enterprises, trade unionism, excessive EU workplace regulation, crippling taxation on small business and of course, uncontrollable welfare spending. Unable and unwilling to balance the books, governments took to lying both to the EU and to their own people whilst borrowing and gambling with their futures in order to keep the funds flowing in.
The Eurozone was, and remains, a grand folly, where the bureaucrats and boffins of Brussels mandated measures that are impractical and anti-productive. For the next decade or so, it will be the taxpayers and workers of numerous European countries who will pay the price for this flamboyant and misguided project.
"The Government will keep taking the tough decisions needed to secure a strong, productive and sustainable Australian economy for the future," Ms Gillard bragged, rounding out her criticism of the Europeans. Fine words, but of course the reality is that this government, far from encouraging productivity and private enterprise, is indulging in grandiose and cripplingly expensive schemes of its own; reminiscent of the EU at its worst. The NBN, Fair Work Australia, the mining tax and, of course, the carbon tax all follow the Brussels blueprint of economic risk-taking and unnecessary regulation in order to splash excessive and wasteful benefits upon a misinformed public.
Rather than lecturing the Europeans, it might be smarter for our Prime Minister to start learning from their mistakes.