I opened the ‘Shares & Stocks’ section of the paper today and an ocean of red met my eye. All the indices were down, except maybe two or three (surprisingly enough, Nokia shares were up. Well, not a lot of place to fall once you’ve hit rock bottom, I guess :-)).
So what is the deal? Yields on Spanish bonds have surpassed the 7% mark that economists tell us is the upper limit of sustainability. Greece is still teetering on the edge of not only bankruptcy but total disaster, if we are to trust the official figures (but with about 30% black economy, they probably still have a little something stashed away somewhere ;-)), and facing the (by now) age-old question: “to be or not to be… inside the Eurozone?” Rating agencies have begun to look at Germany, the Netherlands, and other straight A-students, thinking about downgrading their creditworthiness too…
And all the talk on TV is about more credits. Securing more funds. The here, the now, the status quo. Forget complex economics, but how is a country (any country) that does not even produce enough to pay for its own pensions, schools, hospitals and roads going to be able to pay for all that PLUS a 7% interest rate? What kind of growth does a country like that need? I mean, not even the BRICS can pull that off anymore. Look around. Do you see large swaths of unused and uninhabited land here in Europe, bursting with precious mineral ore (aka natural resources)? Do you see a burgeoning birth rate (aka human resource)? Do you see academic excellence or huge scientific innovation that can cause a breakthrough in productivity or in the efficiency of how we use those resources? Do you even see a lot of free initiative anymore?
What Europe needs is a bit more entrepreneurship and creativity. Instead, our young people are about as creative, original, and ambitious as boring old fogies. Europe needs less stuffy and sclerotic bureaucracy and more flexibility. Europe needs people who, rather than always fall back on a generous state and cozy socialist policies (they truly are cozy and easy to get used to, I admit!), will take charge and responsibility for their own life. Yes, Europe needs to take chances. We need some air to breathe and come up with better ways of doing things. When times are hard, people are spurred by the desire to make things better. When things are too good (as they have been in Western Europe for a long time), people are paralyzed by the fear to lose it all.
Instead of always trying to smooth things out and return to the status quo (which is already bye-bye, people, wake up and smell the coffee), Europe needs a strategy for stirring things up a bit. We shouldn’t wait around for everything to be good and just plain comfortable again. We should make something of our lives. Tough times are coming. Rather than feeling depressed or getting all nationalistic about whose fault it is, we should keep a positive mindset and welcome the challenge. WE ARE ONLY WORTH SOMETHING TOGETHER.
I don’t want to live in a museum. It may feel safe and cushy, but it is full of dead things.