European Technocracy

by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2011

My review-essay of David Marquand’s book on Europe (Powells, “Amazon”: (deprecated))is up at the _Nation_ (paywalled version “here”: , unpaywalled PDF “here”: It pulls the usual US review-essay trick of being as much about the arguments of the reviewer as of the author (however, since Marquand and I agree on the major issues, it should be less annoying than it sometimes is). I use Marquand’s book to talk about the ways in which technocracy has become the EU’s default mode of policy-making, and the political problems that this creates. Paul Krugman “wrote”: a couple of weeks ago that:

bq. It’s a dubious idea to supplant democratic governance with allegedly non-political management even in the best of times. But to assign authority to unelected men whose actual record suggests that they govern based on prejudices rather than analysis is even worse.

and then went on to write a “column”: about the incompetence of the current shower of technocrats. My piece is about the other part of this argument – the sorry consequences of “supplanting democratic governance” with “allegedly non-political management.”

bq. _The End of the West_ was written before the deficit crisis (HF – it actually was finished at the beginning of the crisis – this is an editing artefact which made it through). Nonetheless, it provides a crisp and relevant analysis of the difficult choices that Europe faces. As Marquand says, the current crisis involves the “revenge of politics over economism.” Europe is caught in a “no-man’s-land between federalism and confederalism — and between democracy and technocracy.” Because they could not get the politics right, European leaders left the politics out, hoping that the usual gradual accretion of policymaking authority would provide an acceptable substitute.

bq. This was a grievous mistake. Yet the EU’s efforts to fix it have been as riddled with hedges as was the original arrangement for economic and monetary union. Europe’s richer states want the deficit problem to go away, but they are not ready to make the necessary fundamental political commitments. They have tried to obscure this lack of commitment in various ways, but the illusion is wearing thin. More hedging will not work. Markets need the certainty of politically credible guarantees if they are to be genuinely reassured. Politically credible guarantees require that European governments come clean with their citizens about the need for new arrangements.

(Thanks to Eric Rauchway for a great and apposite “Keynes quote”: which I repurposed for the review).