November 13, 2011
It’s hard to understand a trend from the political goings on Greece and Italy now.
In both countries, popularly elected leaders are leaving and being replaced by technocrats — stable, competent men well-respected by the rest of Europe.
In Italy, the hard-partying billionaire populist Berlusconi finally lost the support of Parliament, whereas in Greece, a third-generation Greek leader has been replaced with someone who has served both the ECB and the Boston Fed!
The NYT has a piece on the technocrat phenomenon, and whether there the new leaders of Greece and Italy will do any better.
The question now, in both Italy and Greece, is whether the technocrats can succeed where elected leaders failed — whether pressure from the European Union backed by the whip of the financial markets will be enough to dislodge the entrenched cultures of political patronage that experts largely blame for the slow growth and financial crises that plague both countries.
Some said there was cause for optimism. “First, the mere fact that they have been asked in such difficult circumstances means that they have a mandate,” said Iain Begg, an expert on the European monetary union at the London School of Economics. “Granted, it’s not a democratic one, but it flows from disaffection with the bickering political class.”
This point about democracy is dead on. Once you are begging for money from the outside, you pretty much forfeit your right to democracy.
In Greece — which is the birthplace of democracy — Papandreou was forced to scrap his radically democratic attempt to have a referendum on the bailouts.
In Italy, it became pretty clear that as long as Berlusconi was in power, there would be no help from the ECB or Sarkozy or Merkel. So he had to go.
This could presumably go on forever, with the ECB, Merkel, and Sarkozy exerting more and more power until the people explode with resentment over their loss of sovereignty and self-determination.
By the way, in case it weren’t obvious that this was the age of a technocrat, check out the spike in news volume for the word “technocrat” lately.
This article was posted: Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 6:35 am