By Richard Heller
Yesterday evening I came across some old photographs of a family Disney-centred holiday in Florida. This is us at the Magic Kingdom… this is us at Typhoon Lagoon… this is us at the Epcot Centre, having lunch at the World Showcase. This section gave me the Eureka Moment which led me to a simple solution for the problem countries of the Eurozone.
The World Showcase contains pavilions which create an idealized, movie-set version of eleven different countries. The British pavilion, for example, has a towering plastic castle, pretty gardens and a pub, the Rose and Crown, where impossibly jolly regulars enjoy an endless happy hour.
Staring again at all these pavilions I realized there and then that all the weaker members of the eurozone should be transferred forthwith to the Disney Corporation theme park division. They would be far better run.
Take Greece. Is it rejoicing over its new bail-out? Not so. The country’s present rulers, in the eurozone, have no better idea than to plunge it deeper and deeper into depression and misery. Suppose instead that Greece became a colossal Disney theme park. Its new Disney managers would want to make it the best possible visitor experience. They would seek to enhance its existing attractions and make it easier for visitors to access them and enjoy them. That would generate massive new investment in repairs and maintenance, transport, accommodation, environment and infrastructure. At present the Greeks receive millions of euros from the EU for non-existent lemon groves and olive trees. The Disney people would insist on real lemons and olives, even if they are not to be consumed, to create agreeable landscapes.
Above all, Disney managers would want visitors to see smiling Greek faces all around them. Instead of cutting jobs and services and public salaries and pensions, they would pay all the Greek people to display all the happy behaviours which visitors associate with them. Greek men might find it irksome to be required to perform Zorba’s dance every hour on the hour. But it is far better than dancing to the tune of the eurocrats in a queue for petrol or food.
Once safely inside the Disney empire, Greece could replace the euro with the world’s best currency – the Disney dollar. For non-initiates, the Disney dollar, printed with colourful Disney characters and scenes instead of Presidents, can be used only to buy goods and services in any Disney location. They are ultimately redeemable at par with US dollars, and therefore enjoy all of the latter’s advantage as a world currency, but they are also uniquely flexible. If business is slack in any particular Disney environment, they can be instantly devalued against the real dollar. The visitor then acquires more Disney dollars to spend on Disney merchandise. Local activity is stimulated far more quickly and certainly than through the “quantitative easing” injections by the Bank of England and the other cumbersome methods in use by the eurozone.
Moreover, unlike the drab banknotes of euroland, the attractive Disney dollar is often collected by visitors rather than spent. When that happens the Disney empire enjoys, in effect, a favourable transfer of foreign exchange.
For Greece, saddled with a monstrous trade deficit through its over-valued euro, the Disney dollar would offer real hope of improving its balance of payments and reviving its domestic market.
Above all, Greece and other problem countries would enjoy a far higher standard of management and decision-making under Disney than under the eurozone. As has become only too apparent in recent months, no special qualifications or talent are required to run any of the countries or major institutions of the eurozone. It is a far more demanding task to run a theme park, as was demonstrated when one of Britain’s leading eurocrats, Peter Mandelson, was put in charge of the Millennium Dome. Not surprisingly, he found the assignment far beyond his abilities.
A successful theme park requires a unique combination of creativity with fanatical attention to practical detail. Disney has invented the agreeable portmanteau word “imagineer” to convey that combination in the inventors and builders of its attractions. Disney’s leaders encourage fantasy on the drawing board but never in their account books. Unlike the leaders of the eurozone, they do not allow underperforming parts of the empire to conceal financial weaknesses and invent numbers to meet the criteria set for them.
If Greece and the other weaker members remain in the eurozone they can expect more austerity without ambition, more pain without purpose, more hurt without hope. As part of the Disney world they would join an empire with better managers and a superior currency, an empire with proven achievement and a global reputation, an empire built on imagination and the pursuit of happiness.
Richard Heller is an author and journalist and a former adviser to Denis Healey. His latest novel is The Network.
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