Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Tackling the euro popularity deficit

Another one to get the sceptics all upset – a call for a propaganda campaign to convince people that the euro is great and stuff. From the report (.doc download) it looks like some of our more economically-minded anti-EU brethren could have some fun with this:

“the benefits of a single currency and its accompanying instruments – a single monetary policy and enhanced co-ordination of economic policies – cannot be seriously questioned at this stage”

I mean, I’ll freely admit to having little knowledge of economics and even I know that’s a silly claim to make.

There’s also the assertion that “polls in new Member States also reflect some scepticism to the adoption of the euro caused primarily by a lack of relevant information” (my emphasis).

Lack of information is not the issue – it’s lack of a detailed knowledge, understanding and ability to interpret the relationship between macroeconomics and individual prosperity.

I’d say that the dodgy situations of Italy and Germany, both Eurozone members, is probably in itself reason enough to be a tad sceptical about the benefits. And it’s entirely reasonable for the average punter to look at the apparent short-term impact of the new currency on those states which have adopted it, even if the hopeful assertion is that, long-term, it will be beneficial to all – and even if the short-term impact may only be a perceived one.

What else, after all, can they base their judgement on? They certainly aren’t going to trust “information campaigns” funded by an organisation with a vested interest to see the thing work. Bias in economic analysis is among the worst sort, for economics is basically a science. You wouldn’t trust the findings of a creationist study of evolution which concluded that evolution is a load of bollocks, so why would you trust an EU-funded study which concluded that the euro is great?

In any case, a propaganda campaign is not the way forwards, as it assumes a popular hostility which flies in the face of the facts. I seriously reckon that, when you get down to it, the issue of euro resistance is not one of nationalism. Naturally there is a strong traditionalist attachment to national currencies – especially one as strong and successful as the pound. But what the majority of people want is not so much the coins they’re used to jangling in their pockets, but simply a comfortable standard of living.

The issue of the Queen’s head on our currency has long since been sidestepped by – erm – each member of the Eurozone being able to have national symbols on their money. And the experience of switching from L.s.d. in the seventies shows that everyone can cope with a far more complex currency changeover than a simple shift from one metric system to another would be. (The issue of metric weighting is somewhat different, what with money being an arbitrary construct dependant on many variables and weight actually relating to something tangible and constant and all, but that doesn’t really bear on this issue, thankfully.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the largely abstract notions of national identity are not as strong or as binding as the desire to get food on the table as cheaply as possible. If the euro could be demonstrated to cut our bills and make life in general cheaper, we would – bar a few “patriotic” extremists – be up for it.

This is why, of Gordon Brown’s famous (yet never sufficiently remembered) five economic tests, the only one that really matters to the average man on the street is the last – “Would joining the euro promote higher growth, stability and a lasting increase in jobs?” That test cannot be passed with a propaganda campaign – and until it is any propaganda campaign will fail.

The real question, of course, is whether the euro can ever achieve all that has been claimed for it. As of yet, there is little in the way of overwhelming evidence to support claims that the euro – and, importantly, the euro alone – has been responsible for “price stability, low mortgage rates, easier travel, protection against exchange rate fluctuations and external shocks” as that report asserts. There is also little overwhelming evidence of the opposite. But when it comes to this sort of thing, better the devil you know is a fair enough line to take until the evidence becomes overwhelming. The evidence isn’t yet overwhelming – hence Gordon still saying his tests aren’t passed – so no one but the most fervently ideological is going to be convinced. That simple.