Democracy Imperiled In The Eurozone

Two nations in the EU, Greece and Italy, now have Prime Ministers not chosen by election, former central banker Lucas Papademos and former EU commissioner Mario Monti, respectively. Some people believe that the EU is assembling another de facto German superstate, a possibility that raises the hair on the back of the necks of some British observers, not to mention our regular commenter, L’Enfant de la Haute Mer, from Greece.

Since the beginning of the era of “free trade agreements” (what is “free” about them? not the peoples of participating nations!) and the creation of the EU, the antidemocratic nature and possible behavior of these institutions has been discussed. In the US, we have seen some of our own environmental laws… laws passed and signed in accordance with our Constitution… explicitly violated at the direction of NAFTA. Now we see two EU members forced, allegedly for their own good in the face of financial catastrophe, to establish new unelected governments. Where will it all stop? Or are we headed for a new kind of world government? Or is it already in place? [/conspiracy-theory-mode]

(H/T L’Enfant de la Haute Mer.)

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  • L’Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Saturday November 19, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Greece: technocrats will face the people’s anger:

    (I am not that sure!)

    Anyway, let’s get global!!

  • L’Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Saturday November 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Lobbyists Memo to Bankers on How to Thwart OWS:

    • Steve  On Saturday November 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm

      Ah, to thwart #Occupy for a “mere” $850k … by finding out a lot of stuff that can probably be learned by asking #Occupy leaders themselves. Unlike the Tea Party, #Occupy has not really been shown to have any major secrets, and I don’t see a whole lot that requires major funding… the few $10k that Firedoglake has given them in blankets, tents, etc. and the food some locals have provided them probably cover most of the tangible expenses. I am betting it’s just not a high-budget operation.

      To me, the letter merely emphasizes the degree to which lobbyists think inside the box and expect everyone else to do the same.

  • upyernoz  On Saturday November 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    just about every EU country uses the parliamentary system. that system has always been an indirect democracy when it comes to the chief executive. the people vote for their member of parliament, and then a coalition in parliament choose the prime minister. at least that’s how it works in a lot of countries. there is also a lot of variety among the individual countries, but they all follow the basic parliamentary system. i wouldn’t call that not “democratic”–it’s just a different system. and there is democratic accountability built into the system, in the form of the parliamentary elections.

    • Steve  On Saturday November 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      ‘noz, if there really is accountability for the members of parliament who chose this PM (after the fact, BTW; the choice was announced as a fait accompli and then parliament gave a vote of confidence), I wouldn’t want to be that PM or that parliament. Greek union members are already doing things like cutting electric power to health care facilities. Maybe this counts as democracy, but a large fraction of the public seems mighty upset. Paul Krugman said it well recently when he said the EU leaders are moralizing economics, insisting on measures that punish people in countries that have been “bad,” i.e., those countries whose economic policies do not toe the line specified by banksters. Hey, I’m not there, but I have a feeling I’d object if I were there.

  • L’Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Sunday November 20, 2011 at 4:10 am

    Nigel Farage: Puppet governments installed in Greece and Italy

    • Steve  On Sunday November 20, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      Enfant, I am reading a book called The Archimedes Codex, a work describing the history, repeated rediscovery and eventual transcription and deciphering of Codex C, which, to make matters even more challenging, is a palimpsest. The authors/researchers of the book, Netz and Noel, remark that while various manuscript copies through the ages have errors introduced by the scribes, Archimedes himself never commits an error of fact in his exposition of the mathematics he is explaining. That is remarkable, even for one of the finest minds in the history of humankind.

      And then there’s Ross Douthat. I no longer read his columns, not because I disagree with his perspective on most issues… though that, too is true… but because he commits not fewer than one significant factual error per column, and often enough he makes that error of fact the basis of his argument. Some writers are just not worth my time. Sorry!

      • L’Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Monday November 21, 2011 at 11:47 am

        I’m not supposed to know the “who’s who” of every individual columnist; I was somehow trying to “feed” the discussion and provide wider views!
        I am sorry too!

        • Steve  On Monday November 21, 2011 at 7:29 pm

          Enfant, I don’t expect you to know that; I certainly don’t. But consider for a moment what “freedom of the press” means in America. It means, exactly, freedom from government control, nothing more. Every newspaper here has owners who have opinions; those opinions are published by those newspapers (web sites, whatever) regardless of the views of their editors and reporters. One of our great and famous journalists of the past century, A. J. Liebling, is quoted, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” And so it is. Ownership of major journals sometimes changes, and their editorial position changes with ownership. This has most certainly happened to the Washington Post, and to some degree to the New York Times. As far as I know, there is no real effort here to separate news reporting and ownership of the vehicles of such reporting. In these days of the Web, this has the happy consequence that anyone with a few dollars (or not!) can put up a blog and develop a readership on the strength of their reporting, and the unhappy side-effect that anyone with a few million dollars can own a major news outlet (print or broadcast) and control its reportorial slant.

          I don’t know the particulars of the NY Times’s hiring of Ross Douthat. One may reasonably assume that they weren’t selling enough newspapers and/or ads to conservatives, and Douthat was available and a known name. I don’t mean to say that it is evil of the NY Times to run his column; my criticism is of his own frequent descent into outright factual error.

          Often enough, Wikipedia has entries on particular journalists. I often check when I first encounter a new opinion columnist to find out, for example, who has hired them in the past, etc. If you’re going to read American news, especially opinion, you have to know a bit about the author’s sources. Nobody is objective… nobody.

          • L’Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Tuesday November 22, 2011 at 2:42 am

            I have been through some more of his writings, mostly scenarios, in fact, less facts.
            He is also for the capital punishment ..

            Not to mention the NYT ‘description’ of him:
            Ross Douthat joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in April 2009. Previously, he was a senior editor at the Atlantic and a blogger for He is the author of “Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class” (Hyperion, 2005) and the co-author, with Reihan Salam, of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream” (Doubleday, 2008). He is the film critic for National Review. A native of New Haven, Conn., he now lives in Washington, D.C.

            In Greece the government (interconnected with constructors, bankers, bribes to Siemens etc, bribes also to armament trading countries) gives the ‘line’ to the mainstream media (TV, papers, Internet sites).
            In their turn, they change the “line” every time elections approach and they smell that the other one of the two parties is going to rule.

            Things are settled, Ι conclude!

            • Steve  On Tuesday November 22, 2011 at 11:05 am

              Enfant, that’s certainly more than I knew about him.

              By the way, to my regret as a member of Amnesty International, support for capital punishment is more-or-less standard in America among Republicans, and lately among all too many Democrats. It’s part of the same mentality that allows an American president to declare someone an enemy combatant, without trial of any sort, and to issue an assassination order against him, or kill his family in a drone attack. Americans seem to have become a bloodthirsty bunch, on the whole. It was not always thus!

    • upyernoz  On Sunday November 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      as others have pointed out, douthat’s analogy to the u.s. system is flawed. we elect our presidents directly, european countries do not with their prime ministers. that doesn’t mean they are not democracies, no more than the u.s. is undemocratic when the president appoints a secretary of the treasury who was never elected to that position. we have different systems.

      here, our chief executive is elected directly (okay, technically, we also have indirect elections of president–each state elects electors who then cast their vote at a meeting of the electoral college, but by statute and tradition, electors are supposed to vote as their state directs it, and with only a handful of exceptions they always have), but members of the cabinet are elected indirectly (appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate–both themselves elected positions). in Europe, the chief executive is elected indirectly, like cabinet members here. there are advantages and disadvantages to each system. but the disadvantages doesn’t mean that either one is not a real representative democracy. right now we’re just seeing a pretty big disadvantage to the European system.

      • Steve  On Sunday November 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm

        ‘noz, Article II Section 1, even with the changes made in Amendment XII, still yields a fairly indirect method of selecting the president. If you mean that at least the Electors are chosen directly according to the popular vote, that is a consequence of the choice of all state legislatures, and yes, in that sense, it is more direct than it would be if, say, the members of Congress from each state chose them. If I recall correctly, in 2000, the Florida State Legislature just about decided to choose the Electors itself… which, considering the Lege was overwhelmingly Republican, and a Democrat actually won the vote (yes, I am confident he did), would have resulted in a fairly grave injustice. Of course, we simply ended up with a different grave injustice instead.

        I don’t quite understand the problem. I am not asserting that Greece and Italy are not, at least in law, representative democracies. They are. But it looks very much to me as if institutions of the European Union intervened to choose their own preferred Prime Ministers, who were only after the fact confirmed by the respective parliaments, apparently under considerable financial pressure. That wouldn’t make me happy if I were Greek or Italian, and apparently it doesn’t make a lot of them happy either.

        True to my word, I did not read Douthat’s column. I don’t know if the man is a chronic liar or just too careless with his “facts”; either way, I can’t stand the man.

        • upyernoz  On Monday November 21, 2011 at 8:14 am

          douthat’s column tries to make the comparison with the u.s. he starts by telling this story about how, with the supercommittee deadlocked, the leaders of china, germany and the IMF decide to replace him with michael bloomberg, congress agrees and bloomberg is sworn in.

          douthat then uses that story to make two points: (1) if that actually happened, it would be called a coup, and (2) that means there was a coup in greece and italy.

          he is right on #1 because (with the exception of the case where no presidential candidate gets a majority of electoral votes) in our system congress doesn’t have the power to appoint the president.

          but in europe the parliaments do choose the chief executive. so when they choose a new one, it is not a coup. which is why he is completely clueless on #2.

          again, i’m not saying i approve of what is happening in europe. i don’t. but ross is a moron because his hypothetical misses the basic idea that what makes something a coup is its illegality (or at least extra-constitutionality). if the existing system allows it, it’s not a coup. even when it is a terrible idea, that doesn’t mean it is illegal.

  • karmanot  On Sunday November 20, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I want to say Douthat is a sophist and propagandist—-but will settle for dander on the crown of empire.

  • L’Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Wednesday November 23, 2011 at 3:14 am

    PAUL KRUGMAN: Boring Cruel Romantics

    • Steve  On Wednesday November 23, 2011 at 10:40 am


      Real technocrats would have asked why this makes sense at a time when the unemployment rate is 9 percent and the interest rate on U.S. debt is only 2 percent. But like the E.C.B., [America’s] fiscal scolds have their story about what’s important, and they’re sticking to it no matter what the data say.

      Precisely. John Maynard Keynes, where are you when we need you?

      Thanks for the link, Enfant.

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