A New Pact for Europe

Comments – As in 1951 but because of the finance

By Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire  on 15/04/2012

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The instability and the fiscal and economic uncertainties that are characterizing, and will still long characterize, the current season of the financial market and of society, also depends on the big question on the present and the future of Europe, of economic, civil and political Europe. When in 1951 the CECA was formed, the Community of carbon and steel, behind this epochal event, took a fundamental step towards the “Treatise of Rome” and, therefore, towards the European Community, there was a genial and prophetic intuition of huge political, cultural and also spiritual valence: to create a community pact precisely on the strategic resources that were at the heart of two big world conflicts, that carbon and steel that had fuelled the wars.

It has been a few yeas that Europe is living through the greatest civil crisis since after WW II. The globalization of markets, and unsustainable lifestyles on the level of individual and collective consumption (public debts), have destabilized, perhaps also undermined, the equilibrium on which the European Community was founded, generated by the initial agreements. Today, if Europe truly wants to get out of this serious crisis and imagine itself in a new season of wealth and civilization, it is called to do something similar to what was done back in 1951 by our fathers and grandfathers: it must really put in common the main strategic resources that in these recent years are fomenting a form of war among the peoples of the old continent and, always more, of the world: their finances. Whatever has been done up to now through the euro, the European Central Bank, the save-the-nations fund, have evidently not been enough. A community pact on the finance would mean many things, among which to give life to Eurobonds and a true Central European Bank, which however, in order to be created,  need a fundamental element, as essential as it is clearly absent or at least insufficient; that is, real trust among European nations and institutions.

The European financial situation and that of the world, in short, are in urgent need of a real structural reform. This capitalistic financing, which increasingly possesses (or puts a lean on) big industries, institutions and politics, is becoming a “common global evil” that renders our development unsustainable and is based on the dogma of maximizing profits in brief time periods. A dogma, that in the past was implicit and normally tacit and which today, instead, has no shame and is explicitly stated as the only possible way to be efficient and grow.

A true European pact "on and for the finance" could represent an initial and decisive step towards the necessary and urgent regulation of financial speculation, recalling the banks back to their fundamental functions for the common good (access to credit, prudent management of savings, support of investments made by productive businesses), functions that in the last decades have been betrayed by huge speculative financing which is deforming the whole financial sector, and therefore the economy and society.

Luigi Einaudi often recalled that economic science should study above all the “critical points”; that is, those thresholds crossed by which a positive reality becomes a negative one (or vice versa). Today, the financial market has certainly crossed this threshold and from the fundamental guardian of the economy and the family, it is becoming a tyrant in the world. These are the moments in which high politics needs to get back to its proper task by giving life to institutional processes that place at the centre of civic life the needs of the common good, a common good that today is so evident that it should not cause any dispute with theological and philosophical descriptions of its nature. In these years, we are playing a decisive game for our democracy.

The strong earthquake that the globalization of markets and that capitalistic-financial ideologies have set off has given a powerful shaking to our democratic edifice. The measures that we are taking in these years and months have been supports to stop the building from crumbling all together, without being able to discern real operations of restructuring of the main buildings.

A European pact “on and for the finance" would be its first and fundamental pillar, but one cannot see in our current political leaders neither the strength of ideas nor the civic courage to give life to such an operation, thus leaving to the younger generations a common home that is dangerously off kilter and in constant risk of succumbing to the next tremors. We thus need to continue to talk always more on these fundamental topics that are absent from public debate, because if there is to be a rebirth of Europe and a new economic world order, this time it will not be able to come up from the political sphere (too weak after the demise of the ideologies): the hope lies entirely in civil society and, therefore, in people’s will to live and to have a future.

All of Luigino Bruni's comments on Avvenire can be found under Avvenire Editorial.

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