Monday, November 7, 2011

Replace the European elite with European federalism

If you’re not Greek (and most people aren’t), the news that the Greeks are going to resolve the political unpopularity of the new austerity package being imposed by the European Union by forming a grand coalition immune to public opinion and political pressure is probably good news. It’s much less clear to me that this is good news for Greek people. At the end of the day, had Greece played chicken and insisted on a better deal, I think the Germans would ultimately have paid up. It’s cheaper to bail Greece out than to deal with the fallout. But for the non-Greeks of the world, this is definitely the best outcome.

That it’s playing out this way is, I think, an example of a benign consequence of the rise of the global ruling class. The leadership of a small upper-middle-income country is willing to do something unpopular and likely contrary to the interests of its population for the sake of the greater good. Still, as a structural matter I think it’s a fairly disturbing trend. The action is now moving on to Italy where “international community” is basically trying to stage a coup against Silvio Berlusconi. Here, too, that sounds like a good outcome for the world if it can be achieved but again constitutes a fairly disturbing trajectory.
As Matt points out, if you're not Greek, the best possible substantive outcome is that the government knuckles under. But Matt is also correct that it's a galling turn of events: the democratic preferences of Greeks overridden by the technocratic preferences of the European elite.

Which is why it's worth pointing out that there's a way to achieve the same substantive end while giving Greece the procedural voice it's currently being denied. The best way to do this is, of course, is to make Greece a part of a pan-European state, into which each member country elects representatives and would in turn be legally bound to follow the dictates of the European Parliament.

A lot of people seem to think Europe is better off splintering, but that's loony -- even absent the eurozone, the nations in Europe are too closely linked economically and geographically to pursue their own interests without impinging upon the interest of their neighbors. In a sense, the European ruling class is doing the lord's work here: they've recognized that there needs to be a way to subordinate provincial concerns to the greater good, and in the absence of a formal mechanism, have directed their influence towards that end.

But why have a shadow government when you can just have a government? Europe needs to formalize what already exists; surely even euroskeptics can agree that letting this process play out in plain sight is superior to letting roving heads of government beat legislatures into submission.

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