Thursday, July 9, 2015

Slouching Toward Grexit: That Whirligig Sarkozy, Signs of Life Among the Socialists, European Democracy, etc.

A week ago Nicolas Sarkozy had a clear position on the Greek question: throw the bums out. In his detestation of Alexis Tsipras, he seemed to recover some of the joy of the good old days, when he could direct his heavy artillery against the "socialo-communists." No doubt he thought the Greek mess provided him with a nice issue on which he could both look tough and differentiate himself from Marine Le Pen, for whom Tsipras's "resistance" to the consummately evil forces of the Europe Union is an inspiring example, despite her advocacy of Grexit, which Tsipras says he does not want, as the quickest way to destroy the European Union, which is her ultimate solution for everything.

Alas, problem: Alain Juppé, whose presumably more statesmanlike approach to politics has put him ahead of Sarkozy in the race for the Republican nomination in 2017, also came out in favor of Grexit--rather surprisingly, because one would have expected a more conciliatory position from the former prime minister. So Sarkozy seized the opportunity: he would be statesmanlike, advocating compromise, thus setting himself apart from both Juppé and Le Pen--the two people he needs to demolish if he hopes to regain the presidency.

Meanwhile, Manuel Valls made a rather rousing pro-Greece speech in the National Assembly yesterday. The dormant Socialists have aroused themselves in other ways as well. Claude Bartolone spoke out in favor of compromise. Sapin and Macron are doing their best to slow the seemingly inexorable drive to expulsion. Even Christine Lagarde is now openly calling for debt reduction to be combined with extended austerity, and US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has added to the pressure on the EU to stop short of forcing Greece out.

But yesterday's session in the EU Parliament was not encouraging to those who think that "more democracy" is the solution to Europe's problems. The sentiment among the democratically elected representatives of the peoples of Europe was decidedly anti-Greece.

And suddenly there is political life again in Europe. Instead of a very unequal tug of war between accountants in Brussels and firebrands in Athens, we are at last beginning to hear some discussion of the historic implications of the threat to the European project that Grexit poses. It may well be too little, too late, but at least we will have heard some debate that rises above the level of whether hotels on Greek islands should pay a value-added tax of 23% or 17%.

1 comment:

Mitch Guthman said...

It is impossible to deny that the European Parliament is exceptionally well stocked with a wide array buffoons and cranks. The speeches by Nigel Farage and the remarkably clueless Polish gentlemen who thought Greece would benefit by a military coup were obviously the high point of day’s circus performance. The presence of such clowns in a parliament would be quite worrisome if the the European Parliament actually made policy for Europe but, since it is a entirely toothless and functionless appendage of the EU's Potemkin democracy, the entire event was more like watching Fox News than a parliamentary debate. As an aside, it does occur to me that perhaps people might choose their MEP’s more carefully if they thought it was a more important choice than voting for the winning Eurovision song.

In any case, I advocate for more democracy in the EU not because I believe the people to be incapable of error or because I imagine that their choices would invariably coincide with my own. Rather, the people should choose because it is they who will pay the price of folly, so the choices should be theirs and not those of unaccountable technocrats.

I continue to believe in the force of Churchill's famous dictum: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)