Elitism, Populism, and European Politics

By Jack E. S. Hayward | Go to book overview

Since the historical norm for real interest-rates has been nearer 2.5 or 3 per cent, this assumption makes any debt position seem less sustainable than it is. To the same general effect the authors of One Market, One Money commit themselves to the alarming fallacy that the prospect of increased government outlays on pensions for an ageing population two or three decades ahead requires a tighter fiscal policy in the present. 19

In reality there is no simple relationship between a government's current fiscal stance (or its future fiscal needs) and the sustainability of its fiscal position. This was well recognized by the authors of The Economics of 1992. If expansionary fiscal policy can sometimes stimulate the economy, then it can raise tax revenues and thereby improve the sustainability of any given quantity of public debt. There is no presumption, for example, that a requirement for higher tax revenues to pay pensions tomorrow necessitates a contraction of government borrowing today. If such a contraction leads--as it may--to economic downturn, unemployment, and lower investment, then the ability of the government to meet future obligations is reduced, not increased.

It is difficult to suppose that the economists of the Commission have lost touch with these economic realities. The plausible explanation is that the exaggerated horror of some actors on the European political scene at the prospect of government policies sometimes (and, we would say, justifiably) being such as to lift the rate of inflation was allowed to dominate the Maastricht negotiation. The Commission in One Market, One Money is engaged in the delicate task of persuading the peoples of Europe that such domination is in order.


4. Conclusion

Could one say that the inconsistencies of the Commission and its recent blinkered anti-inflationism account for the European public's suspicion of monetary union? That would probably be going too far. None the less, we suggest that the Commission has acted against the interests of the people. It has espoused economic theory which was never previously part of the philosophy underlying the Treaty of Rome and which threatens serious damage to the European economy and ultimately to the project of European integration itself. It is in the nature of any political process that there will not be absolute consistency among the arguments advanced

-235-

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Elitism, Populism, and European Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables ix
  • LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS x
  • Introduction Mediocre Élites Elected by Mediocre Peoples 1
  • Note 9
  • 1: The Populist Challenge to Élitist Democracy in Europe 10
  • Notes 30
  • 2 - 'Losing Touch' in a Democracy: Demands Versus Needs 33
  • Notes 60
  • 3: Freedom from the Press 67
  • Notes 86
  • 4: From Representative to Responsive Government? 88
  • Notes 99
  • 5: The European Union, the Political Class, and the People 101
  • Notes 120
  • 6: Political Parties and the Public Accountability of Leaders 121
  • Notes 141
  • 7: Élite-Mass Linkages in Europe: Legitimacy Crisis or Party Crisis? 143
  • Notes 160
  • 8: Organized Interests as Intermediaries 164
  • Notes 186
  • 9: Mediating between the Powerless and the Powerful 190
  • Notes 202
  • 10: Public Demands and Economic Constraints: All Italians Now? 203
  • Notes 219
  • 11: The Fluctuating Rationale of Monetary Union 220
  • 4: Conclusion 235
  • Notes 237
  • 12: Has Government by Committee Lost the Public's Confidence? 238
  • Notes 249
  • Conclusion Has European Unification by Stealth a Future? 252
  • Notes 257
  • Index 259
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