Perhaps I was wrong, after all. I thought Europe's governments would spend any amount of money and impose any amount of austerity to rescue any number of banks from their recklessness and folly. All banks were too big to fail. No debt was too big to bail. Europe was in the grip of a classic banker's ramp.

Yet Greece's bluffing of the high priests of the eurozone may, after all, be called. The unthinkable may be unavoidable. The priests are suddenly talking of "when, not if," Greece defaults. Greeks themselves seem to regard devaluation as a less painful discipline than state-imposed austerity, and are probably right. Their partial default and de facto departure from the euro would be a truly seismic moment, requiring the instant restructuring of debts and possibly currencies across the periphery of the eurozone, covering Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. It would be drastic, but since it has been predicted ever since Maastricht in 1992, it can hardly be regarded as unimaginable.

At this point "pro-Europeans" have to stop talking rubbish and start on realpolitik. Alaric is not at the gates of Rome. Washington has not crossed the Delaware. Napoleon has not returned from Elba. All that may happen is that Europe's democracies, disregarded, distorted and corrupted for a quarter century by the oligarchs of Brussels, will crawl out from the shadow of the very Acropolis where democracy was born. For all sceptics of grand federations, gilded alliances, and upmarket mafias hatched down the ages in Europe's cloud-capped spas, this could be an exhilarating moment.

There is nothing wrong in a currency zone of compatible political entities. There is a dollar union between the American states, and there have been attempts at using currencies to cohere earlier empires, with crowns, roubles and pounds sterling. But a union must reflect an underlying economic reality, with political institutions that can relate voting to taxing and spending, and borrowing to repaying.

Where, as in Europe, this has become far from the case, the disciplines of a complex modern economy become unenforcible. Those in charge merely demand "ever closer union", which means ever more power over subordinate democracy. Read full article in the Guardian...