And whatever you do, don’t mention the war

by Henry Farrell on February 17, 2010

“Paul Krugman”:, like “others before him”:, fails to do justice to Martin Feldstein’s perspicacity.

Today, Martin Feldstein suggests that Greece make a temporary return to the drachma, so as to regain cost competitiveness. In terms of the macroeconomics, this actually does make sense. But it’s also impossible; Feldstein needs to read Barry Eichengreen.

What he doesn’t realise is that Feldstein is playing a much deeper game here, and that his fundamental objections to the euro “have nothing to do with macroeconomic theory”:

War within Europe itself would be abhorrent but not impossible. The conflicts over economic policies and interference with national sovereignty could reinforce long-standing animosities based on history, nationality, and religion. Germany’s assertion that it needs to be contained in a larger European political entity is itself a warning. Would such a structure contain Germany, or tempt it to exercise hegemonic leadership?

A critical feature of the EU in general and EMU in particular is that there is no legitimate way for a member to withdraw. This is a marriage made in heaven that must last forever. But if countries discover that the shift to a single currency is hurting their economies and that the new political arrangements also are not to their liking, some of them will want to leave. The majority may not look kindly on secession, either out of economic self-interest or a more general concern about the stability of the entire union. The American experience with the secession of the South may contain some lessons about the danger of a treaty or constitution that has no exits.

Obviously, Feldstein can’t write about this in public; Germans have, after all, been known to “read the Financial Times”: But perhaps if Greece extricates itself very, very carefully from EMU, and promises (however disingenuously) that it _really, really will_ return to the eurozone just as soon as it can, Angela Merkel will stand down the Panzertruppen she has amassed at the Greek border …

Update: “see also Colm McCarthy”:

Matthew Yglesias says the necessary to talk people down from the ledge.

(Me? Last week I taught my students everything’s made of monads; mere universal holograms seem fairly ho-hum.)

But there is one point that should be made in these connections that almost never is: deception is a very different concept than error. Deception is a game for two: one to fool, one to be fooled. Whereas you can be wrong all by yourself. You can smudge the distinction with favorite epistemologist phrases like ‘if it turns out I am massively deceived about the way the world is …’ But if you dramatize the possibility of systematic/fundamental error by imagining deceiving demons, Evil Gods, Agent Smith, mad scientists with brain vats, caves equipped with the latest in projection technology, or giant holograms, you confuse people’s intuitions. Specifically, you confuse them into thinking that error is more conceivable (or differently conceivable) than it may really be. Telling people the universe is a hologram makes it sound as though the universe actually intends to pull the wool over their eyes. Reality itself is the ultimate Long Con! But if you just tell them matter is made of atoms, or water is really H20, that doesn’t make it sound as though the micro entities think all the macro-types with minds are marks and suckers. [click to continue…]

Good writing in political science

by Henry Farrell on February 17, 2010

Below is an essay that I wrote for my undergraduate class last semester, providing them with my (doubtless idiosyncratic) ideas about how to write good political science essays. It’s also available under a CC license in “PDF format”:, as well as “MultiMarkdown”: (its native format), “LaTeX”: and “RTF”: in case someone wants to play around with it (e.g. by adapting it for another discipline). Feel free to suggest improvements, point out grammatical errors or typos etc in comments, or indeed to comment generally on good and lousy writing in undergraduate papers.

UPDATE: some small improvements made and “Jottit version”: added.

[Cross posted to “The Monkey Cage”: ]
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