Europe is full of flamboyant politicians, but when it comes to rescuing the continent from financial ruin, the money right now seems to be on the most technocratic of technocrats: economists who have served time in the trenches of the very common currency they helped to create in the 1990s. As the euro has melted down, the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, has stepped aside, replaced by Lucas Papademos, an economist. In Italy, the embattled billionaire PM, Silvio Berlusconi, is being moved aside to make room for Mario Monti, another economist.
The message to Europeans is pretty clear: politicians created this mess, and now the people who actually know what they're doing with the economy will get us out. Try to imagine what this would be like in America. We'd kick Obama out of the White House and replace him with...an executive from a consulting firm. Oh, wait...didn't Mitt Romney work for Bain & Co. back in the day?
So it's not entirely preposterous. But in the case of the Eurozone, it's actually a dangerous propostion to expect a cadre of technocratic economist to pull the euro out of its death spiral. After all, the euro is perhaps the greatest technocratic achievement of all time. It was designed and built by technocrats.
Remember the Titanic? It's designer, Thomas Andrews, was actually on the big boat when it struck the iceberg. He quickly deduced that the liner would sink. There was nothing he could do about it, except run around evacuating the passengers.
He went down with his ship.
At this point, the H.M.S. Euro may be headed for the same fate. And there's nothing, ultimately, that the new technocratic leaders, clear experts in what has been called "the dismal science," can do to prevent it. The best they may be able to do is to calm the population and slow the euro's descent beneath the waves.