Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Amartya Sen Considers the Europe Question

Sen adds his voice to the worries about the pressures on European democracy:

If democracy has been one of the strong commitments with which Europe emerged in the 1940s, an understanding of the necessity of social security and the avoidance of intense social deprivation was surely another. Even if savage cuts in the foundations of the European systems of social justice had been financially inescapable (I do not believe that they were), there was still a need to persuade people that this is indeed the case, rather than trying to carry out such cuts by fiat. The disdain for the public could hardly have been more transparent in many of the chosen ways of European policy-making.

Riots in Amiens

Amiens? Riots? Bienvenu chez les Ch'tis! The riots broke out in one of the newly designated "special security zones." Whether there was an immediate cause remains unclear, but the government is clearly worried that the disturbance may spread, as similar disturbances have in the past. A sign of things to come?
Gilles Demailly, the Socialist mayor of Amiens, told news agencies that “there have been regular incidents here, but it has been years since we’ve known a night as violent as this, with so much damage done.” He said tensions had been mounting in the area.
The clashes involved about 100 youths from a poor district in northern Amiens and up to 150 police officers, who used tear gas and rubber bullets. A nursery school was ransacked and partly burned, as was a community center.
The district, Fasset, is one of 15 special urban zones identified by the Hollande government that are supposed to get more policing next month.

Plenel, Habermas, and the Treaty Formerly Known as "Merkozy"

François Hollande has had a fairly free ride up to now. He has avoided public splashes, and criticism has been mainly muted, except for the occasional tantrum on the Right. But now, from the left side of the spectrum, comes Edwy Plenel, editor of Mediapart, to remind Hollande that he had promised to "renegotiate" the "golden rule," that is, the treaty formerly known as "Merkozy," but is now content to avail himself of the Constitutional Court decision that no ratification or constitutional inscription is needed to swallow the treaty's terms as if they were not in binding (and in fact they are not very binding, as the wording of the pact leaves enormous loopholes). But for Plenel, who cites Habermas in support of his position, Hollande's complacency marks another step in the drift toward a "post-democratic" Europe, in which national electorates are supposed to acquiesce in the irrevocable decisions of technocrats censés savoir:

Ferme partisan du Traité constitutionnel européen (TCE) en 2005, Habermas s’est alarmé en octobre 2011 de l’avènement européen d’une « domination post-démocratique » dont le pacte budgétaire alors en cours d’élaboration serait l’instrument. « Un tel régime, expliquait-il (lire ici la traduction française),permettrait de transférer les impératifs des marchés aux budgets nationaux sans aucune légitimation démocratique propre. Les chefs de gouvernement transformeraient de la sorte le projet européen en son contraire : la première communauté supranationale démocratiquement légalisée deviendrait un arrangement effectif, parce que voilé, d’exercice d’une domination post-démocratique ». « Le joli mot de “gouvernance” n’est qu’un euphémisme pour désigner une forme dure de domination politique », ajoutait-il dans un entretien postérieur.
I expect this discussion to become more heated at the rentrée.

University Reform: Ça continue!

Behind a paywall, Philippe Aghion discusses university reform. Consulted by Pécresse under the ancien régime, Aghion is now consulted by Geneviève Fioraso under the new. Exactly how the reform process may (or may not) be inflected does not emerge clearly from this interview, which is nevertheless worth reading.

Zero Growth Thanks to Rounding Error

"France Escapes Recession," read one headline. Official growth was 0.0%, thanks to rounding up of -0.045 (although any economist will be guffawing to see growth figures reported to 3 decimal places). In any case, the big surprise was in net exports: up to Germany, down to the rest of the world (largely because imports from the rest of the world increased).

71% on the Left Support Dismantling Roma Camps

There's no getting around it: the Roma camps have very little popular support, left or right. So Valls' policy is not likely to meet with much opposition.