The Democratic Deficit in Europe — Another View

From Dani Rodrik’s Europe’s Next Nightmare in Project Syndicate:

The challenge is to develop a new political narrative emphasizing national interests and values without overtones of nativism and xenophobia. If centrist elites do not prove themselves up to the task, those of the far right will gladly fill the vacuum, minus the moderation.

That is why outgoing Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou had the right idea with his aborted call for a referendum. That move was a belated attempt to recognize the primacy of domestic politics, even if investors viewed it, in the words of a Financial Times editor, as “playing with fire.” Scrapping the referendum simply postpones the day of reckoning and raises the ultimate costs to be paid by Greece’s new leadership.

A more moderately-worded view of Europe’s delusions. Then again, Rodrik doesn’t need to shriek — he isn’t looking directly down into the abyss. He’s over here on this side of the Atlantic, where we have our own problems with democracy. There are many pathways to the legitimacy conferred on a government by the consent of the governed. Europe can’t seem to find any of them, while we seem to have given up looking. Given that modern history hasn’t tolerated either form of benign neglect for very long, there doesn’t seem much point in preferring one over the other.

5 thoughts on “The Democratic Deficit in Europe — Another View

  1. David Kaib November 19, 2011 / 3:11 pm

    A good deal of foolishness can be avoided by not confusing the rhetoric of legitimation for a description of reality. But it is striking how quickly elites shift to all but admitting that democracy (If it is allowed to exist in any form) is designed simply to ratify financial elites decisions.

    • William Timberman November 20, 2011 / 9:07 am

      Well, we’ve got the elites’ attention, certainly. Now let’s see if they decide to talk honestly to us, and make us a deal we can live with, or sit behind their police state defenses and send Newt Gingrich out to vilify us. I suspect that the latter, as always, will be their first choice. In any case, it’s going to be a long struggle.

      The only good news so far is that an increasing number of people are seeing what it will cost us to let the status quo continue. It’s no secret that the elites have a tactical advantage. What’s less well understood is that strategically they’ll always be vulnerable. If enough people grasp what’s at stake, all the pepper spray, tasers and clubs in the world won’t be able to keep us out of what the bankers, bond marketeers, general-purpose technocrats and political machers now believe is theirs to dispose of as they will. Then the real fun will begin.

      • David Kaib November 21, 2011 / 7:23 pm

        I doubt they will talk honestly with us, My hope is that we (writ large) will talk a bit more honestly with ourselves. I think you’re right that we are moving in that direction, but there is much more progress to be made. And I agree that the elites are considerably more vulnerable than we often realize.

  2. Xerographica November 28, 2011 / 5:39 am

    Do you agree or disagree with the premise of the story of the blind men and the elephant?

    • William Timberman December 5, 2011 / 6:26 am

      Is this a leading question?

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