1.1 A decadent society: the end of Europe as we know it


    We are living in the aftermath of the plutocracy of the previous century. We are stuck due to the dynamics around us. We do not oversee our actions throughout our social, economic, and political systems – systems dating back over 200 years. Some European countries are still rich, while others are not. Gradually, there is an awareness that our wealth is gone. There is awareness, especially among younger people, that things can and have to be organized differently. Forced innovation, or “revolution” by the “lower caste” is something of all ages. So, be prepared: “all is quiet” can, under the influence of the modern social media, change in no time.

    Robert Adams mentions in his book, Decadent Societies, five drivers leading to the decay of rich and influential societies:
    – Indecisive leadership;
    – Extreme taxes;
    – Social inequality;
    – Extensive laws and rules; and,
    – Smugness and arrogance.

    Decadence in Europe? Let’s do some checking:
    Moving the European Assembly every two months between Brussels and Strasbourg is costing us €200 million per year as a result of an old compromise, still stubbornly in place.
    The average Dutch European Parliament member earns a monthly salary of €6,000 (after taxes!), has a monthly expense account of €4,000, and is allowed to spend €21,000 on staff each month. “Staff” may be his/her partner, child or any other broadly-permitted designee. Members have access to Mercedes limousine transportation in Strasbourg and Brussels, making an average of €1,000 per trip to their home country. On top of that, there is a royal pension arrangement the likes of which we “paupers” can only dream of obtaining.

    Construction of an “office” (headquarters) for the European bank in Frankfurt, Germany cost €1.2 billion in 2013.

    In spite of the fact that in The Netherlands there are over 1 million square meters of empty office space, the European Patent Organization is building a new office near The Hague. “One of the largest building sites in this country, over 80,000 square meters.” For me, this tower-shaped building is giving a symbolic ‘middle finger’ to the European taxpayer.

    In Europe, we redistribute only € 140 billion annually. That amount has to increase, crisis or not: the two European self-appointed leaders (President of the European Council and President of the European Commission) have asked for a European budget for the coming years (2014-2020) of a staggering €1 trillion(!).

    Nevertheless, the European Commission (EC) annually spends more than the budget and the European countries (taxpayers) can afford: an additional € 7 billion in 2013!
    According to a “secret” investigation of the European Audit Committee, a meeting of the Euro Agency EFSA board costs taxpayers €92,000. This agency is one of the 30 European Agencies, each having between 30 and 80 board members. Together, they spend € 1.5 billion per year, and nobody has a clue how, and how appropriately, this is done.

    One market? When it suits us – otherwise, forget it!
    Germany is blocking any European equalization on European cross-border trucking, as the lobby of Deutsche Bahn (German railway company) is against any improvements to road transportation. And, in The Netherlands, the Secretary of State is an errand boy (or girl, in this case) for Nederlandse Spoorwegen (primary Netherlands railway operator). In 2013, she fought the introduction of foreign train companies on the Dutch infrastructure all the way to the European courts. In the UK, the postal service, Royal Mail, even after going public, doesn’t have to pay the 20% VAT, a luxury commercial postal services don’t have. Germany is blocking of new CO2 regulations for cars, as its automotive industry has problems coping with these new rules. But, they are quick when they want to impose a highway tax for non-German cars

    On a country level: the soccer club Real Madrid of Spain buys, in 2013, a soccer player for €100 million, despite having a debt of €600 million. The deal is financed through a Spanish Bank, which, in turn, has recently been saved by the European taxpayer for an amount of €18 billion. And then, they “fix” their matches, so the European taxpayer is screwed twice. In total, all Spanish soccer clubs have a debt with the banks and government tax offices of almost €5 billion. In this way, “sport” is obviously not healthy.

    France is planning to impose, unilaterally to other Europeans, an “air tax,” while Germany and Austria want a “transit road tax.” And the Germans can’t even finish building a new Berlin airport. Even after spending €5 billion (double the budget), nobody in 2013 dares to predict when it will be open. Opening a Seats2meet.com location in Greece leads to warnings from Greek entrepreneurs “not to establish a corporation in Greece itself, because the cost are diffused, and the bureaucracy is killing any entrepreneurial initiatives.”

    The smallest legal stupidity: VAT (“value added tax” or “sales tax“) on rabbit food is 6%, but for guinea pig food, the VAT is 21%. A rabbit can be eaten, where in Europe, a guinea pig is a luxury pet. Bird seed is 6%, but “sing-bird-seed,” you guessed it right, is 21%. And if you want to produce a meatball, you’d better check Commission Regulation (EC) No 1162/2009 of 30 November 2009, “laying down transitional measures for the implementation of Regulations (EC) No 853/2004, (EC) No 854/2004 and (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council” in order to comply with this “One European Market.”

    Is any of this recognizable?

    A whole generation has lost its way. And, with it, are its corporate and governmental organizations. Our Europe is showing all Adams’ symptoms. The future is unstable, as politicians focus on fragmentation, damage control, and polarization.

    On a European, national, and local levels there are no longer big majority governments, so real decisions are no longer taken. The traditional corporate, governmental, and political establishment does not see the reality of the changing society. They refuse to abrogate their institutions, so in order to finance this old system, taxes will go up in the coming years, decreasing the buying power of the taxpayers, thus leaving the economy in its zombie state. Greece is already forced to sell its assets, so if you want harbors, trains, and other infrastructural stuff, you know where to go.

    We still refuse to realize that our growth of the past decades was based on creating debt, and that this game of debt creation is still a reality today. We also forgot that economics is a social science and not a mathematical prediction machine.

    Let there be no doubt about it: I am in favor of Europe as a network of smart, collaborative, Society 3.0 citizens. That is why I am against any further development of Europe! In spite of the good intentions in the 1950s, when the European Community for Coal and Steel was founded in order to prevent future wars between Germany and France, this construct cannot be maintained in its present state.

    In the coming decade, I foresee a split within Europe: countries will leave the system and form smaller cooperatives with each other, like a Scandinavian or a German-Dutch-Belgium-Luxemburg combination. Or, they could remain part of the Euro as a currency, but leave the rest of the European Community.