We haven’t learned the lessons of the recession. Forget fiddling with tax rates or imposing inhumane austerity programmes, it’s time to get back to making stuff. European nations must develop a real industrial policy.

Britain famously deindustrialised during the 1980s. Those few inclined to see this as the mistake it was tend to spread the blame around according to their political tastes. Those on the left blame the then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher while right-leaning critics blame the unions. In reality, Thatcher simply finished-off the job that British industry started itself. The death of British industry was a case of “assisted suicide”. The captains of industry acted more like feudal lords, extracting tithes from their businesses rather than investing in new production methods. The result? By they time they were nationalised in the 1960s and 1970s they were already on death’s door.

Happily – or not – a new industry stepped into the breach: financial services.

Sadly financial services is almost entirely unproductive.

As financial journalist Daniel Ben-Ami says: “I’m not saying finance is unnecessary. It’s about channeling capital around and managing risk. This is important but it makes its profit by creaming-off from other areas of productive activity and so it can’t replace it.”

Ireland, meanwhile, is similarly unproductive, but for other reasons, having skipped industrial development altogether.

Ireland's much-loathed corporation tax rate of 12.5 per cent, a figure MEPs would see doubled and that brought out the Little Englander in Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, is not simply a case of “tax piracy”, it’s a sign of Ireland’s absurdly low horizons. By offering itself up to multinationals as a handy base for accounting offices Ireland is effectively saying: “We don’t really make much, nor do we expect you to come here and make much either.”

Contrast these two post-material economies to the productive powerhouse that is Germany. Germany is the second-largest exporter by value in the world, recently surpassed by China, and, as a result, is either the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world depending on how one calculates it – something, incidentally, that makes arguments that Ireland was better-off poor all the more insulting. German Romantic visions of stone walls and dirt poverty are not welcome in a country that is still in need of massive industrial and infrastructural development. Heinrich Böll can get knotted – Ireland needs motorways, high-speed rail, manufacturing, software development and biotechnology, not cloth caps and sad laments sung in Sean Nós style. In other words, Ireland should look a lot less like Böll's dream and a lot more like, well, Germany.

What Germany gets right that Britain and Ireland get wrong is the issue of production and this is central to the contradiction at the heart of the euro currency.

The imbalances between European economies shouldn’t surprise us. The eurozone, for instance, presupposes the integration of its constituent economies but no such thing exists. Instead Germany, and to a lesser degree France, dominate the euro and other economies do their best to muddle through.

If the EU wants to save the euro it would do well to encourage national governments to re-engage with productive economic activity. As unglamorous as it might be, it really does create wealth – and there’s more to it than smelting anyway. It's time to face reality: the so-called 'weightless economy' was weightless because it had no content.