Tag Archives: Nation states

How to kill welfare state, nation state and democracy in Europe in one blow?


If Margaret Thatcher has been remembered as the Iron Lady, the Lady that destroyed the welfare state to open space to the complete free market in her country, Angela Merkel could be remembered as the “Steel Lady”. The Steel Lady that could destroy in one blow not only the welfare state in southern Europe (with Renzi in Italy and the impositions to Greece) but the sovereignty of the European nation states and, even more important, the integration of Europe from the grassroots level, from the voice of the people, in one word: the democracy in the European integration.

As Krugman correctly wrote today (1) Germany’s attitude after the Greek referendum “goes beyond harsh into vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. (…) Who will ever trust Germany’s good intentions after this?” Nobody, and this will be caused by the law of Karma (or call it the third Newton’s law of motion, as Germans love more scientism) that is if you mistreat the others sooner or later the others will do the same to you. It happened many times since the German unification at the end of last century, and keeps happening because history repeats itself and often we don’t learn from it. Did Germany forgot what does it produce to humiliate a country? Did the German government forgot how populism, fascism and racism started in Europe almost one hundred years ago? German people, and in general northern Europeans, in a way or another feel superiors to the southern Europeans (like in Italy, where the people from the north feel superior to the ones of the south). But many times they overcome their stereotypes and worked together, as populations, to come out from suffering and miseries. I hope that they will do this time too, without punishing the “slackers” of the Mediterranean, being them Italians, Greeks or Spaniards, as they don’t work enough and steel if they can (even if they have good food, the sun and the sea). If this is not a form of racism what is it? The problem is that racism applied to politics is not exactly the best adviser.

The negotiations for Greece tonight are going on “with a vengeance”, in all senses, and the ashtag “Thisisacoup” is a hit. Not only Frau Merkel, and the rest of the Eurogroup (that is the ministries of finance of the Euro countries) could humiliate Greece, punishing it with consequences for that state that we cannot foresee right now. But they could throw to the garbage also the voice of the Greek people, that voted in the majority to ask the EU to reconsider the absurd austerity measures that made their economy to collapse. This could be not only the destruction of the welfare state and the ‘statism’ in the south of Europe. Not only anymore a struggle between who believe that there is only one way for the economic development, the way of the banks that hold the states by their balls (pardon my French) and the others that tries to propose alternative. This could be the start of the end for the national sovereignty in the European continent. And that would not be a drama if it was coming from below instead than from above. Instead it could be the start of the end of the democratic voice of the European people, because the European Union, as it is structured right now, cannot give to the people the voice to decide for the continent as a whole, and so it still needs the national sovereignty to give people the possibility to count. The European Parliament has no this force, and the European Commission neither. So this could be a democratic collapse. And it could be very risky for the future of the continent.

Where is the dream of the European integration, the motto of “United in Diversity”, where is the trust among countries that fought for thousands of years and finally found peace and prosperity after the biggest madness of their history. Where is the mutual understanding, the consensus decision making, the struggle for agreements, dialogue, dignity and tolerance? Did it start to end when Tsipras was lectured and insulted in the European Parliament and outside, treated by his Northern European colleagues as Schauble, Junker or Verhofstadt, as a pampered child that doesn’t do the homework? Will start to end tonight, with Ms Merkel and Mr Schauble sitting on the altar of the Gods, and the Greeks under the Olimpo, with their smaller gods asking for dignity and being slammed in the face with humiliations? Is this the start of the end of the European dream? May be, or maybe could be the beginning of it, with finally the people of Europe, in particular southern Europe, retaking in their hands their destinies.

If Germany believes that will be able to compete with superpowers like China and the US, or even with future great powers like India, Brazil or Indonesia, without the European integration, is just naïf. But Germany should become the trusted and legitimate leader, not the hated ruler. And the point is that, even if there will be no Grexit, the other states could not trust Germany anymore if these negotiations fail or Greece will be humiliated in the conditions requested, and countries like Italy will not stay still, looking outside the window for when the German storm will pass. Unless Renzi greases Italian’s people palm with much more than 80 euros in the salary or the reimbursement for the pensions, the Five Stars Movement could be the next first party in Italy very soon. And at that point the Karma, and the laws of economy, will do their path, going back to Germany and making this country regret its arrogance of tonight.

PS An agreement has been reached in the morning, it is much tougher than the one rejected by the referendum, in disregard to the voice of the Greeks. We’ll see if it will be accepted by the Greek Parliament…Germany and the rest of Europe have been forward-looking to keep Greece inside Euro, but they have done so mostly for their interests. It is the end of national sovereignty in Europe: monetary politics and banks won, and Germany, followed by several other northern countries, decided the domestic policy of another country. If this is not the start of the end of the nation state from above what is that? Greek debt has not been restructured, as instead it was done for Germany after WWII or for many international banks recently (from Morgan Stanley to Citigroup and for many more billions of dollars respect to Greece). German hypocrisy remained, keep cutting public expenditure in Greece while maintaining it in its country to increase the advantages respect to the other members, and going on with a monetary union that benefit mostly Germany, being not fair a real monetary union among countries so different in the competitiveness. Reforms and the EU Commission intervention should help Greece economic growth but it is not sure yet how. Hopefully this experience will help the continent to be more united and democratic in the future…but i have my doubts.

(1) Killing the European Project, from: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

From big to small countries: “make democracy work better” in a globalized world?


From city states in the ancient Greece (the poleis from where the name politics comes) to the Empires in Europe, Asia and America that lasted for many centuries, and then to the Nation States of today, the political entities in our planet seems to have followed cycles of expansion (from small to big size) and reduction (from big again to smaller). We are not back to city states today but if we judge from the trends of fragmentation of nation states around the world it seems that we are not far away from it anymore in some way. Is this breaking up of territories and populations good or bad for democracy? Is it a normal consequence of ending not only of colonialism but also of dictatorships? I tend to believe that small can be good for democracy and development if is not isolated, but on the contrary more interconnected and interdependent with the rest of the world.

From the end of Soviet Union and Yugoslavia a couple of decades ago to the desire of independence and autonomy in many regions of the ex-colonies (Aceh, South Sudan, Kashmir, Kurdistan etc.) or even in our ‘western’ democracies (like next referendum for independence in Scotland) human populations are striving for their self-determination, self-government and self-development. And this seems actually not only rightful for a more free and democratic future but also useful for a better wellbeing of human communities. Besides the “imperial overstretch” (1) and all the problems of managing big territories and populations, it seems clear to many analysts that carrying out economic development of smaller states or even city states (like Singapore, Monaco, Hong Kong or Macau) is easier than thinking to do it in bigger states (look to India, Indonesia or Russia, even if big size doesn’t necessarily mean difficult growth as China show us). So can we say that last century ideas of Leopold Kohr (‘The breakdown of nations’, 1957) Jane Jacobs (‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’, 1961) E. F. Schumacher (‘Small is beautiful’, 1973) or John Friedman (‘Empowerment: The Politics of Alternative Development’, 1992) are still very much actual and important to build our sustainable economies? Or in reality in the era of globalization small sizes are not adapt anymore and will be wiped out by the big giants? The importance of European integration has been supported in recent years also because of this concept that alone no European state could compete with the big countries of the world. In reality we know that ‘smaller’ is more manageable and if it is able to find a niche and increase the interdependence and integration with “the rest”, the smaller size of a village respect to an ‘alpha city’ or of a city-state respect to a continent-state doesn’t necessarily means to succumb to the great powers in the planetarization of markets. The examples of economies of the scale of Asian tigers or European countries outside EU is there to demonstrate it.

But besides the positive effects on economy we also know that human beings living in human scale communities are able to create a more participatory democracy in their territory (think only to the Swiss villages that can decide directly for many policies affecting their communities) and so our societies could think to facilitate such environments and systems if they strive for more democratic and sustainable futures. The great political scientist Robert Putnam (2) argued that to make democracy work we need a high level of ‘social capital’, the famous concept based on a civic engagement through associations of active citizens who care about the “public thing” and so become able to control the controller (the politicians and their policies). But is today possible the existence of a social capital in a globalized world? Should we build it in our cities and our communities, in order to “think globally and act locally” or do we need to create it in the global village, in the international settings, to allow us to “think and act both globally and locally” at the same time?

It is difficult to say it but one thing is certain: in a ‘liquid society’ like the one we are living now nation states cannot stay attached only to the status quo of their national sovereignty and national interest. They need to open to integration and decentralization (international organizations and local institutions) at the same time if they want to survive transforming themselves and rebirthing in a new era of political entities. The task is not easy and is the challenge for the future of our communities: to find the balance in complexity between local and global, small and big, communal and world scale. And to “make democracy work better” we need to look for harmony and equilibrium between small and connected at the same time: small is more and more useful but isolated is more and more dangerous, in all senses (3).

(1) The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Paul Kennedy, 1987
(2) Making democracy work, Robert Putnam, 1993

(3) Just as example look at the two probable extremes of the spectrum between connected and isolated: EU and ISIS.