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No good can come of nations cooperating with each other

December 14, 2011|By TIM ROWLAND | timr@herald-mail.com

I want to go back to the days when I didn't know the names of any European leaders (with the exception of France, whose leaders' antics were always highly amusing) and, beyond that, had no need to know the names of any European leaders.

Perhaps I am channeling my inner Herman "Oh, you mean THAT Libya" Cain when I say that no good ever comes of knowing a foreign premier, czar, prime minister, grand pubah or what have you.

Consider that in good times the only foreign leader we know is the prime minister of the United Kingdom, and only then if it's one syllable — Brown, Blair etc. Cameron? Forget it.

We only knew the Soviet premier when the USSR was an evil threat (Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev) or in the middle of an upheaval (Gorbachev and Yeltsin).

In between, when the Soviet Union was on its last legs and pretty much impotent, there were a couple of old coots whose time in office barely outstripped William Henry Harrison — and no one will remember because it just didn't matter. Nothing Chernenko or Andropov ever did or said caused shares of IBM to tank.

I used to know the prime minister of Canada when I was up there a lot. Today, I know OF him, but the name escapes me. That's because Canada never gives us any trouble.

Sweden? I don't even know if it has a leader. I assume so, but he or she never threatens to, economically speaking, bomb us back to the stone age.

But now, consider the names of European leaders that assault our ears on the news every night to the point they are burned into our memory: Sikorski, Merkel, Papademos, Sarkozy and Berlusconi.

Two years ago I would have thought these might be leading characters in a Harry Potter novel, but today I have this dismal awareness that these are the men and women who could single-handedly bring down my 401k.

I don't get it. What does the nation of Greece have to do with the Fidelity Contrafund? I love Greece. Been there. But it's still Greece. How would its bankruptcy affect the global economy any more than the RoomStore?

All along, my brother has been saying that Greece should just go ahead and declare bankruptcy, because that could hardly be more damaging to the markets than the daily grind of bad news. It's kind of the Civil War surgeon approach to economics. I grant you, but I still think he's on to something.

If I understand it — and keep in mind that I don't — this whole foreign monetary crisis is the result of the Eurozone, in which 17 nations all tied their deck chairs together so that they could stand more strongly in the winds of the global economy. That's all well and good, except that if one member falls overboard it pulls the other 16 with it.

Did you ever notice that when nations cooperate no good ever comes of it?

I mean war is bad, I know, but cordial relations among nations are no picnic. Think of it — the Eurozone, United Nations, NAFTA, pretty much all of the Italian-state alliances during the Medici period. If three or more nations get the bright idea that they can work together, watch out.

I don't know why we're surprised by this. Look at America — we can't even agree how to run our own government, much less five or six others.

Maybe that's the lesson here. If Greece had had an Olive Oil Party and an Occupy Parthenon movement it would have been too wrapped up in its own problems to bother anyone else.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant at www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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