It’s getting pretty exhausting living inside the Eurozone. We screw up our nerves for the next moment of crisis, which is narrowly averted, only to find that the same old problems lie in wait just around the corner; but worse this time, because they were’t properly sorted out the first time.

Last week’s worries were put to rest for a short while: Greece is still in the Eurozone, the Euro hasn’t imploded, the banks are still open. Spanish banks teetered; a fix was found for the time being. But it doesn’t mean anything has been solved, and the moments of respite get shorter and shorter.

It seems to me that we’re strung out on Dani Rodrik’s trilemma of global politics in an increasingly dangerous way. His contention is that you can only have two of these three things:

‘hyper-globalization’ (in the EU context, the free market in goods and services and mobility of capital and labour);

‘national sovereignty’ (in which national governments have realistic choices to make between options that may be ideologically quite distinct);

and ‘democratic politics’ (in which there is meaningful involvement by actors and electoral accountability for decisions made).

Kevin O’Rourke (whose work I’ve mentioned here before) pointed out that the odd design of the Eurozone was meant to avoid it getting definitively boxed into any two options in this triangle. Trans-national oversight of the currency was delegated to the ECB. Nation states were charged with making fiscal and financial policy within a loose-ish trans-national framework of rules. Democratic debate was expected to internalize the requirements of pooled sovereignty.

But the sharp ends of the trilemma are becoming more and more difficult to span. The fuzzy compromises are under growing strain, and the Eurozone is being pushed into classic trilemma trade-offs. It’s at growing risk of ripping apart entirely.

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Struensee redux

by Chris Bertram on June 18, 2012

A brief note for anyone who remembers “my post from last August”: on the career of Dr Struensee. “A Royal Affair”: is now out, I’ve seen it, and it is excellent. Superb performances from Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander, beautifully shot and with a cracking script. There’s even a guest appearance for _Du Contrat Social_. Don’t miss it!

In his new book, _The Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy_, Chris Hayes manages the impossible trifecta: the book is compellingly readable, impossibly erudite, and — most stunningly of all — correct. At the end, I was left with just two quibbles: first, the book’s chapter on “pop epistemology” thoroughly explicated how elites got stuff wrong without bothering to mention the non-elites who got things right, leaving the reader with the all-too-common impression that getting it right was impossible; and second, the book never assembled its (surprisingly sophisticated) argument into a single summary. To discuss it, I feel we have to start with remedying the latter flaw:

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A follow-up post, I suppose. This sequel to the original 40-worst Liefeld drawings post is a wonder and a public service. But here’s the thing: like all good people, I love Jack Kirby and loath Rob Liefeld. But most of the criticisms of Liefeld – namely, it’s so, so anatomically wrong! – could be applied to Kirby. Why do all his characters look like someone poured a pot of ink down their foreheads? What are those things on the women’s cheeks that might be cheekbones but aren’t? But in the one case I feel affection and admiration, in the other, contempt and revulsion. [click to continue…]