With the global economy as stable as pissed jelly and the eurozone being sick on its own shoes, the last thing a small country that blows with the world's winds needs is a lack of leadership.
And having seen their country break Iraq's world record for the longest elapsed time without a government, the good burghers of Belgium were worried. With no one in charge of their finances, no one to slash and burn services and impose austerity cuts, they were surely going the same way as Greece, weren't they? (And by that we mean financial meltdown, not a fine line in erotic pottery.)
Well, no. With no one at the helm, Belgium's GDP expanded by 0.7% in the second quarter of this year. It's not much, but it's a big swinging dick compared to the piccolo efforts of France (0%), Germany (0.1%), the UK, Spain and the Netherlands (0.2%) and Italy and the US (0.3%).
Which begs the question – who needs a government?
The pain of austerity cuts in the UK has seen unemployment rise, services cut and public projects cancelled, all of which means there's less money around to put into the economy to help it grow. And with the most of the Western world doing the same, how does anyone expect their economy to expand?
Belgium however, has failed to make those 'essential' cuts, failed to trim budgets and cancel projects, leaving people in work and keeping public spending constant. And it's making us look like idiots.
Not that the plucky Belgians are celebrating. They've come up with ingenious methods of protest to try to force their politicians to form a government. Senator Marleen Temmerman proposed that the partners of the political negotiators go on a sex strike until an agreement was reached and a government formed. Though as Laura from Brussels explains, "People are protesting about the politicians' lack of skills and all the money they use for nothing. They are going on holidays, going to restaurants, driving nice cars…the same as before actually." They're just not doing any work.
The sex strike didn't work either – maybe they took matters into their own hands during the drought – but it didn't seem to matter. They were in better shape than their larger, more proactive neighbours, even if it was by accident.
The pain of austerity cuts in the UK has seen unemployment rise, services cut and public projects cancelled, all of which means there's less money around to put into the economy
Belgium's impasse is due the rivalry between the Dutch-speaking Flemish in the north and the French-speaking Walloons in the south. Both groups are splintered into several parties, meaning the only chance of a government a coalition. And with one lot saying Tomate and the other Tomaat, they decided to call the whole thing off.
Another option is for Flanders to become independent, splitting the country in two, though that would leave two governments to screw everything up. Twice.
King Albert II appointed mediators to sort the mess out, but so far they've had about as much success as the tens of thousands of protestors who marched through Brussels, and the dozens of Belgians who stripped to their underwear in Ghent to show their displeasure, if not their Grundies.
Benoit Poelvoorde, one of the country's best-known actors (and therefore totally unknown elsewhere) urged his fellow citizens not to shave again until a government was in place, leaving parts of the country looking like 60s California or a casting call for a 70s German porn film.
So, with neither beards, sex boycotts, nor placard-waving Belgians in their pants able to rouse the politicians into action, they have now gone over 470 days without a government. But maybe that's the way forward for all of us. What do we need a government for, exactly?
There is the argument that without government we would be beset by riots. Oh.
OK, we need stuff like food safety, roads and the health and emergency services. But do we need a government to help private companies shaft us with lousy, expensive and overcrowded public transport?
A government was required to save a failing banking system, admittedly, but only after having such a hands-off approach to regulation in the first place that we might as well not have had a government. Even now banking reform is being delayed. Why? Because they don’t like it, which gives us a pretty clear idea of who is really in charge. They claim it will hurt the 'recovery'. The recovery, that is, that's not happening.
What do we need a government for, exactly?...There is the argument that without government we would be beset by riots. Oh.
We are however going full steam ahead with closing libraries, hospital wards and youth clubs. That shit can't wait.
Those banks that we saved still haven't paid us back and, strangely, appear unlikely to. And what do we call borrowing without paying it back? Well, I call it stealing. But this is government-ordained stealing so no one has to go to jail, we all just need to tighten our belts, safe in the knowledge that the government is acting in our interests.
Not only are the banks not paying us back, they are not lending to homeowners, small businesses or each other either. They are creating jobs for vault makers however, to meet the growing demand from their clients to house their gold. JP Morgan and Barclays Capital are looking to expand their precious metals vaults while share prices tumble and commodities sink. As much as we worry about the poor dears, the banks will probably be alright.
Could we possibly need government to get us into new and exciting wars, thereby fuelling the next generation of Call Of Duty games? Or, could we live without bombing anyone into liberation for a bit? Say, 100 years, just as an experiment? I'm not sure anyone is going to miss it except the military and to be fair, it would be nice if less of them had to give their lives, not for their country, but for a passing government.
Founder of Western political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes, believed we need governing or else we'd remain in a 'state of nature' that would lead to constant war and a world in which everyone acts in their own interest (a bit like the City). But now we have a system of governance that retains some semblance of order, do we need a government to keep tinkering with it? Do we need ever more NHS and education reforms that will be undone 10 years later?
Instead of constant flux, couldn’t we just have a nice sit down and a cup of tea and achieve about as much at the same time as saving us billions of pounds?
The US is on the verge of a double dip recession that is going to bite all our arses. The eurozone is in the brown and smelly with everyone crying out for decisive action that is not forthcoming and George Osborne hopes to stimulate growth by cutting spending and… um… ooh look, a squirrel!
Everybody, except Belgium, is trying really, really hard without any notable success. So if government isn’t helping the situation, what is the point of it?
At the heart of the European Union, home of its headquarters, many Belgians are embarrassed that they are unable to form a government, but are they inadvertently showing us the way?
I wonder if future elections could contain a 'No Government' option and if so, how vast its majority would be?
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