Must-Read: Time to fly my Neoliberal Freak Flag again!

I see this very differently than the extremely-sharp leader of the Seventh Social-Democratic International Dani Rodrik does. The Greek and the Spanish electorates vote loudly that they want to stay in the EU and even in the Eurozone at all costs, rather than threaten to exercise their exit option. The German electorate votes loudly that they want fiscal austerity at all costs. The policies are a result of those–democratic–decisions. The problem is not that Europe has too little democracy. The problem is that it has the wrong kind. Issues of fiscal stance are technocratic issues of economic governance in order to balance aggregate demand with potential output–to make the demand for safe, liquid, stores of value at full employment equal to the supply of such assets provided by governments with the exorbitant privilege of issuing reserve currencies and whatever other actors (if any) maintain credibility as safe borrowers. They are not properly what Angela Merkel and company have turned them into: things for the Germany electorate to vote on as it participates in what Dani Rodrik rightly calls a morality play about prudence and fecklessness. The monetary issue of whether to stay in the Eurozone or to pursue adjustment-through-depreciation is also a technocratic issue of economic governance in order to maximize speed and minimize the pain of structural adjustment. It is not properly what it has become: a thing for the Greek and Spanish electorates to vote on in a different morality play, one of whether the Mediterranean is or is not a full part of “Europe”.

Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes were good democrats. Neither would say that Europe’s economic problems now are the result of a deficiency of democracy. They would say that it is the fault of their IMF–that their IMF should have blown the whistle, declared a fundamental disequilibrium, and required one of:

  1. the shrinkage of the eurozone and the depreciation of the peso and the drachma back in 2010
  2. a wipeout of Greek and Spanish external debts, and a fiscal transfer program from the German government to Greece and Spain and to German banks if German authorities wished to avoid such a shrinking of the eurozone.

We did not have such an IMF back in 2010. But that we did not have such an IMF is not the result of a deficiency of democracy in Europe.

Or so I think: I could be wrong here.


Dani Rodrik: Brexit and the Globalization Trilemma: “My personal hope is that Britain will choose to remain in the EU…

…without Britain the EU will likely become less democratic and more wrong-headed…. Exit poses significant economic risk to Britain…. But there are also serious questions posed about the nature of democracy and self-government in the EU as presently constituted. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (AEP) has now written a remarkable piece that… has little in common with the jingoistic and nativist tone of the Brexit campaign….

Stripped of distractions, it comes down to an elemental choice: whether to restore the full self-government of this nation, or to continue living under a higher supranational regime, ruled by a European Council that we do not elect in any meaningful sense, and that the British people can never remove, even when it persists in error…. We are deciding whether to be guided by a Commission with quasi-executive powers that operates more like the priesthood of the 13th Century papacy than a modern civil service; and whether to submit to a European Court (ECJ) that claims sweeping supremacy, with no right of appeal….

The trouble is that the EU is more of a technocracy than a democracy (AEP calls it a nomenklatura). An obvious alternative to Brexit would be to construct a full-fledged European democracy…. But as AEP says,

I do not think this is remotely possible, or would be desirable if it were, but it is not on offer anyway. Six years into the eurozone crisis there is no a flicker of fiscal union: no eurobonds, no Hamiltonian redemption fund, no pooling of debt, and no budget transfers. The banking union belies its name. Germany and the creditor states have dug in their heels….

Democracy is compatible with deep economic integration only if democracy is appropriately transnationalized as well…. The tension that arises between democracy and globalization is not straightforwardly a consequence of the fact that the latter constrains national sovereignty…. External constraints… can enhance rather than limit democracy. But there are also many circumstances under which external rules do not satisfy the conditions of democratic delegation…. It is clear that the EU rules needed to underpin a single European market have extended significantly beyond what can be supported by democratic legitimacy. Whether Britain’s opt out remains effective or not, the political trilemma is at work….

When I was asked to contribute to a special millennial issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives… I viewed the EU as the only part of the world economy that could successfully combine hyperglobalization (‘the single market’) with democracy through the creation of a European demos and polity…. I now have to admit that I was wrong in this view (or hope, perhaps). The manner in which Germany and Angela Merkel, in particular, reacted to the crisis in Greece and other indebted countries buried any chance of a democratic Europe…. She treated it as a morality play, pitting responsible northerners against lazy, profligate southerners, and to be dealt with by European technocrats accountable to no one serving up disastrous economic remedies…. My generation of Turks looked at the European Union as an example to emulate and a beacon of democracy. It saddens me greatly that it has now come to stand for a style of rule-making and governance so antithetical to democracy that even informed and reasonable observers like AEP view departure from it as the only option for repairing democracy.