Democracy deficit

WSJ op-ed a few days ago, Democracy and the Euro

Like every other country in the EU, Greece is still a democracy. Greek voters reserve the right to say no to Brussels, or even to elect those willing to abrogate agreements made in their names by former governments.

For decades, the European conceit has been that voters would gladly cede their national right to democratic accountability in return for Continental peace and prosperity. This worked as long as there was prosperity. But now that pan-European governance includes painful policy choices imposed from afar, the national publics want their franchise to mean something.

Europe’s leaders can’t repeal democracy on the Continent, and therefore they can’t ask countries in the euro zone for more than their politicians can deliver or their populations can take. This means admitting that the bailout model that Europe adopted for Greece two years ago has failed and is increasing political polarization across Europe, and not only in Greece.

The euro zone was conceived as a currency union among countries adhering to certain basic fiscal rules. Had it stuck to that vision in this crisis—rather than turn it into a fiscal or debt union—and let Greece face the consequences of its economic mismanagement from the beginning, Greece might have defaulted and stayed within the euro.

Now so much damage has been done that it’s hard to see such an outcome. Trying to turn the euro into a larger political union has put the entire euro zone in jeopardy.

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