Have I got this right? The world is facing, in Ukraine and the Middle East, the most disturbing concatenation of unpredictable events for decades, but the big issue in Scotland is whether it should leave the UK, and the main obsession of the Conservative party is the prospect of the UK's departure from the European Union – or Brexit, as it is known.
Just to put the icing on the cake, my good friend Peter Sutherland, once a successful EU commissioner and now chairman of the London School of Economics, points out that Scotland is the most pro-European member of the UK, and a yes vote would increase the chances of Brexit.
I don't know about you, dear reader, but this Scottish referendum business reminds me of the Italian divorce referendum of 1974, when "yes" meant "no" and "no" meant "yes". Now, it is "yes" for independence, not for remaining in the UK.
Until recently this column has been a Scotland-free zone. I have regarded the subject rather in the way touring actors were said to regard Macbeth: if all else failed, there was always "the Scottish play", but it was best avoided.
I still do not intend to get involved, other than to say that, fine economist though I know him to be, Alex Salmond ought to be well aware that to make a monetary union work properly you need a political union, as in the US; that a political union is what the crisis-hit eurozone lacks; and that what the first minister of Scotland wants to throw away is the political union that would make his planned monetary union with Great Britain actually work. You could not make it up.
Issues such as these sort out the true statesmen from the slippery politicians. I am moving on here to Gordon Brown and George Osborne. The advance publicity for a new edition of a biography of Osborne by Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times suggests that the chancellor's approach to the European Union is manifesting "an unmistakable hardening" and that, for Osborne, Brexit is "no longer unthinkable" and "a sequence of events leading to that end could be imagined". My colleague Polly Toynbee of the Guardian interprets this as the chancellor "being ready to put jockeying for personal power ahead of the national interest".
If so, the contrast between slippery politician and statesman could hardly be starker. It is to Brown's eternal credit that he was livid when it was suggested that he do a deal with Tony Blair for the succession by relenting on the pound and the single currency. The question of joining the euro was one of huge significance and Brown, for all his ambition, put national interest above personal interest.
Ironically, one person benefiting from Britain's retention of a flexible exchange rate is Osborne. The delayed effects of the major falls in the value of the pound from 2007-09 have helped offset the damage caused to the economy by his austerity policy: our overseas trading position would have been far worse without that flexibility. Indeed, the subsequent "bounce back" in the pound, while ominous, makes the inflation picture even more benign and alleviates the pressure on living standards in the runup to the election.
But back to Europe. So many common problems – climate, environment, energy, foreign and security policy – are best dealt with at a European level that the idea of withdrawing from the union simply does not make sense. But something else that does not make sense is the eurozone's approach to economic policy. Quite apart from the difficulties of not being able to adjust their exchange rates, the eurozone economies are suffering from a massive shortage of demand.
There is a deep historical irony here. I am becoming concerned that my worst nightmare about the eurozone may be realised. Consider: the origins of the European Union lay with the desire that there should never be another war in Europe, and to bring Germany and France together by economic means. But the impetus for the adoption of the single currency came from the French, who felt the Bundesbank was too powerful and that its influence could be diluted by a European central bank. The joke at the time was that the French wanted to put their fingers in the Bundesbank till, but they also wanted more enlightened fiscal policies.
Well, here we are, with deflation threatening the continuation of such recovery as the eurozone has seen and, although the present European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, has called for fiscal relaxation, he is powerless to initiate this, while the Germans continue to behave as though Weimar inflation were round the corner.
Draghi unveiled a mouse of a further monetary stimulus on Thursday. Even the Financial Times, which – with the honourable exceptions of columnists Sir Samuel Brittan, Martin Wolf and Wolfgang Munchau – has been far too keen on austerity, has now changed course in its leader line.
It is not just that the eurozone needs a dramatic fiscal boost in the form of tax cuts and public spending increases. What makes the problem even worse is, as the FT noted on Friday, that "eurozone fiscal policy still insists on tightening [my italics] across the board".
It is time analysts stop chanting the refrain that what France and other eurozone countries need is "structural reform" – usually a euphemism for wage cuts that would reduce demand even further – and wake up before their quack remedies kill the patient.
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