The Germans are at it again
By Vin Suprynowicz
May 3, Hotel St. Giles, Bloomsbury -- All the Public Houses along New Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road having dutifully shut down at 11, we have repaired to the antiseptic, Nouveau Pizza Parlor decor of the recently-renovated St. Giles hotel bar -- where English law generously allows foreign tourists to imbibe for one extra hour -- only to find the place still dominated by the busload of German tourists who rolled in the day before, now sitting with all their tables strung together in a line along the back wall, hoisting their steins in their traditional drinking revels and song, resembling nothing so much as the officers' mess at a wartime Luftwaffe base, except perhaps for the dress code.
Would the scene be so much different if Operation Sealion had gone ahead, and the Wehrmacht occupied a desperate and thinly-armed Britain in late 1940?
More than one Brit in the past week has returned to asking me
the now-time-worn question, "Who won the war, anyway?" -- amplified
by the recent German acquisition of Rolls-Royce, the totemic British industrial
concern whose sleek, V-12 Merlin engines made possible the Supermarine
Spitfire and the P-51 Mustang, and thus the Allied air victories of both
1940 and 1944.
I ask the tall, shaved-head white kid behind the bar for a shot of Laphroaig -- two pounds fifty, or about $4.40, which makes it 10 percent more expensive than a more liberally-poured shot would run me back in Las Vegas, after being shipped an additional 7,000 miles and whacked with the American excise tax.
(Whiskey is still a bargain, at that -- most everything else in Britain these days is so expensive the pound prices actually look like they ought to be in dollars: 5 pounds for a pub breakfast, 8 for a cheap lunch -- $8.75 and $14 respectively -- and gasoline at a cool $4.50 a gallon, despite the fact they keep turning up more of the stuff right next door in the North Sea. In fact, the celebrated new 17 percent "Value Added Tax" is only the tip of the iceberg in a British redistributionist state that looks prim and prosperous on the outside, but somehow produces an amazing number of unshaved young men curled up in sleeping bags in the shop doorways of London each night, six or more to a block.)
Anyway, shaved-head -- at a guess, I make him Ukrainian -- can't find the bottle of Laphroiag, and the more instructions I give him the more flustered he becomes: "The lovely single malt from the Isle of Islay. On your top shelf there, you've got five bottles, and she's the one on the far right. No, the other right. Green bottle, white label."
Finally, the English barmaid has to come over and show him which one it is -- she's competent, she's smiling, she's black. In London, at least, the most "English" people in England these days seem to be Indians or blacks, pretty well disproving Pat Buchanan's suggestion that the "Zulus" will have a harder time integrating into a European society. In fact, it's the lily-white Eastern European ex-Communists who just can't seem to "get it."
England has great charm for the tourist, but the strict local planning codes that keep everything west of Maidenhead looking like they're still awaiting news of General Cornwallis at Yorktown must work hell on the right of a local property owner to install central air conditioning or a new roof if he so chooses.
Pubs that close at 11 may be merely inconvenient, but I also can't seem to find much thoughtful criticism of a "New Labour" government that embraces the same hypocritical, touchy-feely malarkey as Bill Clinton's "New Democrats" on any of the four or five government-approved English TV stations.
And this day's real eye-opener was the Antique Arts and Militaria Fair at the Bonnington Hotel, advertised as "England's longest running" of its type, "established 1968" with "over 70 trade stands" and an admission price of 4 pounds, though that quickly drops to 2 when I show up to enter the single room and inspect the sparse wares of the dozen or so exhibitors who have actually showed up, not even pretending to much enthusiasm as they peddle overpriced souvenirs of one dead empire or another -- the odd $400 sword or $80 bayonet, a few badges, patches, and regimental flags. An 18th century Scotch Claymore broadsword goes begging at 950 pounds, as does an alleged helmet of the czar's personal bodyguard, brass with a double-headed eagle perched atop, offered at 4,000 pounds ... and not a smidgen of provenance for either one.
Why are the gun shows dying? No guns, of course. Yes, a Russian Degtyarev "pan magazine" light machine gun and a Sten Mark V machine pistol are on display for $280 apiece, but they've both been "deactivated" -- rendered incapable of firing -- as has an 1890s single-shot Martini-Henry formerly converted to .303.
That's right, this century-old antique has been plugged, welded and snipped so it can't fire a shot -- apparently to protect one and all from the enormous likelihood it would otherwise be used in some liquor-store stick-up. If not "de-activated," it could only be sold "on a certificate" -- a laborious and time-consuming government background check, at the end of which it could probably only go to replace an existing weapon already owned by a collector with a limit to how many weapons he can own "on his certificate" ... in short, no sale at all.
And that's a century-old, single-shot rifle. Modern handguns? Semi-automatics like the 1942 M-1 Garand? Forget it.
The Limeys think they're still a free people, since the cops are of smiling countenance (strolling the streets in chatty co-ed pairs, mainly busying themselves writing an endless blizzard of parking tickets) and young folks are free to wear nose rings and day-glo red mohawks with only the mildest of disapproving looks from their tweed-and-briefcase elders. But we've seen this purely cosmetic definition of "freedom" before. In truth, the carefully scheduled gaiety of Leicester Square apres theatre smells of nothing more to me than Weimar Berlin -- one last giggle at the mouth of the abyss, a nation once again frozen on the tracks, watching the headlight approach out of the tunnel, insisting, "No, surely that can't be a high-speed train."
The newscasts this date are full of "controversy" over the "deeply flawed" compromise under which 11 European nations (England has allowed itself one extra year before adopting the "euro") have agreed to combine their economies and their currencies starting Jan. 1, 1999. Faced with an intransigent France, British PM Tony Blair has brokered a last-minute compromise under which Germany agreed that the German-sponsored candidate for first president of the European Central Bank, Dutchman Wim Duisenberg (head of the European Monetary Institute) will step down before the end of his eight-year term, allowing Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet (governor of the Bank of France) to take up the office in or after the year 2002.
(In fact, the compromise is a thoroughly sensible one, paralleling that under which Americans informally alternated the office of president between residents of our two then-largest states -- Massachusetts and Virginia -- during the first 30 years of our own short-lived federal republic.)
The kind of commentators who make their livings stirring up tempests assert this compromise smells so bad that it will likely doom German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's chance of re-election come September. I suppose anything's possible, but this would merit a "What Have You Done for Me Lately" Ingratitude Award almost as large as that earned by the British people for booting Winston Churchill in favor of Clement Atlee in July of 1945, as Mr. Churchill's reward for winning them the Second World War.
Of course, a lot of creative accounting went into "qualifying" Italy and Belgium for EU membership, as they busily hid their massive public debt load in a double set of books that would make a mafia olive-oil importer proud. So the possibility remains that the whole Economic Union will still collapse in a heap of giggles -- like Gamal Nasser's ill-fated "United Arab Republic" -- as the Germans find themselves devaluing their precious new currency by printing up millions of new coupons to make good on Italy's intransigent borrowing.
But on balance, the thing ought to work, primarily because it makes such good short-term economic sense -- look how the United States has prospered due to the lack of tariff barriers between New York and Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana, California and Arizona.
As for any localized need for a "common currency," this is a smoke screen. The Europeans could just as easily agree to start issuing coins in fixed weights of pure gold and silver tomorrow, which would have the same real "value" in each nation, no matter what denomination in local pounds, guilden or zlotny was inscribed on the side.
No, what the Bundesbank is really up to with its "Euro" scheme is to produce a reserve currency to compete with the dollar (How obviously? To facilitate the hoped-for switchover from dollar denominations, the thing will even start out being worth a dollar -- a hundred dollar bill in London today brings 58 pounds; the current plan is for a 100 Euro note to bring 57.)
The Euro would not be pegged to the dollar, of course, like the Guatemalan Quetzal. Instead, it would then proceed to float, testing just how committed the German bankers are to a true policy of "laissez faire." For what can float up can also float down, and the temptation will be to see it as a "blow to European pride and prestige" to allow the currency traders to bid down the new euro, especially since the central bankers in Frankfurt will now "control" the gold reserves and interest rates of other countries, an open invitation to sell off gold reserves, raise rates, and demand reduced government social outlays (good) and higher taxes (bad) in an effort to "defend" the Euro.
What's this really all about? According to Dr. Gary North, only 8 percent of all dollars today have actually been printed up on paper. The other 92 percent are "virtual" dollars, which exist only in the electronic memories of various banks and currency trading firms.
But even of the 8 percent of all outstanding "dollars" which are actually printed on paper, from 60 to 80 percent are held outside the United States, many sewn into mattresses by folks who figure that's "real money" they can leave to their kids.
While such naive confidence in a non-convertible asset is touching, it's also a great boon to the Federal Reserve, which realizes the bulk of the worthless green coupons it prints, promptly go away and are never recirculated in the American economy, where they could cause dreaded price inflation.
The Europeans would love to have the luxury of creating new wealth for themselves (after all, people give us things for our worthless paper dollars -- stereo systems, TVs, cars, oil, sugar, gold) and see most of their new counterfeit just disappear into foreign mattresses, never to be brought back for "redemption" (as though any of these fiat paper currencies still actually promised to pay bullion on demand, anyway.)
The question is why anyone would want a new dollar, when they've already got the real dollar. The answer is that people might very well prefer a better trading currency -- say, a 20-gram gold coin -- but not a second one, same as the first.
Still, the real accomplishment of Mr. Kohl -- and the real long-term danger for the non-German Europeans -- lies in the tale of how one-world socialist Francois Mitterand got them this far, in the first place.
Full European monetary union was first proposed by Karl Blessing, head of the German Bundesbank, back in 1963. But Blessing believed a federal European political state would have to precede economic union; it took the warped genius of Mitterand of France to convince the Germans it could be done the other way 'round, with economic union first.
Note that no one to date has proposed an economic union instead of a Europe-wide state; only that the economic part should come first.
The United States is the prime historical example of 13 sovereign states agreeing to share tariff-free borders and a "weak central government, of limited powers," primarily for economic advantage, while earnestly assuring one another that they would each and all maintain their "political sovereignty."
That dream lasted less than 80 years; it lay crushed in the dust of Dixie by 1865.
Think our 50 states are "politically sovereign" today? How effective were the people of Arizona and California last year, when they voted two-to-one to legalize marijuana? How long do you think it would take the federals to intervene -- with troops if necessary -- should the state legislature of Idaho or Utah or New Hampshire decide to re-legalize cocaine, or commercial machine gun manufacture, or to halve its residents' tax burdens overnight by shutting down the mandatory youth propaganda camps ("public schools,") throwing thousands of government-union teachers out of work, and turning responsibility for the education of the children back directly to their parents, as worked so well before 1840?
Likewise, London Telegraph Economics Editor Bill Jamieson warns "The euro will unleash enormous economic pressures for tax harmonisation and fiscal transfers from the centre." Most observers agree Britain will be unable to resist being swept on board, once prices at all tourist hotels and shops start getting posted in euros as well as pounds (Jan. 1, 1999), and even British workers employed by foreign-based firms start to receive their paychecks denominated in euros.
Do the rural French and the British people really know what the phrase "no tariff barriers" means? The rebellion of the regional cheesemakers alone (accustomed to centuries of kid-gloves tariff protection) upon the first arrival in their local markets of cheap foreign produce, should be good for some medium-sized riots, blockades, and violent demonstrations.
It is at that point that it may slowly start to dawn on the people of Western Europe why their "benign" governments have been so assiduously propagandizing them, lo these past 30 years, that guns are nasty, dangerous things which they are better off without, either confiscating or "deactivating" even their old bolt-action take-home souvenirs of the Great War.
(Even the gun-rights "opposition," in Britain, falls
into the trap of "defending the rights of legitimate hunters, collectors
and target-shooters" -- not a word about the right to resist tyranny
with personally-owned military-style "assault weapons" ... except
from my lonely friend Sean Gabb, whose valiant counterattack against the
so-called Snowdrop Petition can be found on the Internet at
The offer to put a Frenchman in charge of the new central bank in Frankfurt for a couple of years is mere window-dressing. The fastidious German bureaucrats -- by then well in charge -- will see to it that he attends lots of important-looking ribbon-cuttings. He'll run day-to-day operations to about the same extent that Jimmy Carter was "in charge" of the CIA.
And what will happen if the central bank's new policies depress
the buying power of the English pound? If, as predicted, the German bankers
move to "rein in" the economies of Ireland and Portugal, currently
growing "too fast" to suit their necromantic theories of economic
stability? If Brits who are having enough trouble supporting all those
unwed mums from Liverpool to Birmingham recoil in horror at the welfare
bill from France, Italy, and Finland, even as they're told their own taxes
will now have to "harmonised" to help make up the difference?
Strikes and riots in the midlands, I suspect, to be put down by the newly downsized British army, with whatever "technical support" they find they need from their new bosom buddies, the kinder, gentler Bundeswehr.
In short, Chancellor Kohl has managed to pull off with smiles and handshakes what neither Kaiser Wilhelm nor Corporal Adolf could accomplish with shot and shell. Europe will have one economy, it will be run by the Germans, and what part of your marching orders is it that you do not understand?
If amphibious German troops were now storming the beaches from Yarmouth to Ramshead, and a German foreign minister salivating aloud over the radio about what he planned to do once he "gained direct control" of more than 5 billion pounds of British gold reserves, that bullion would be on a fast train to Liverpool for shipment to the States, and old men and schoolboys would be rushing to the beaches with sharpened spears and antique fowling pieces to "do what they could."
Instead, the Sunday Telegraph reports that 5.2 billion pounds of British gold reserves will indeed "come under the direct control of the ECB" once Britian joins, specifically to be used to "defend the Euro," and the public response is to turn to the Sports section to learn whether Arsenal won today's semi-final football match against Oxford.
Who did win the Second World War?
Sock away gold and guns (the kind that still work), while you can. And the next time they cry for our help, remember what Mr. Atlee and the Brits did in 1945 with all those NRA-donated private American weapons (collected and sent in 1940 in answer to urgent appeals to bail them out after they left so many of their own on the beaches at Dunkirk.)
Did they oil them up and send them back Stateside with a note of thanks? Not a bit of it. They stuffed those perfectly good home-guard weapons into drums of wet cement, hauled them out in barges, and dropped them into the English channel, so the commoners wouldn't end up with them.
Remember that, if they come whining that this "euro" thing hasn't worked out quite as well as they hoped, "over there."
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.
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