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Friday, May 05, 2017

Paul Krugman: What’s the Matter With Europe?

If Macron wins, will the European elite learn the wrong lesson?:

What’s the Matter With Europe?, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: On Sunday France will hold its presidential runoff. Most observers expect Emmanuel Macron, a centrist, to defeat Marine Le Pen, the white nationalist — please, let’s stop dignifying this stuff by calling it “populism.” ... A Le Pen victory would be a disaster for Europe and the world.
Yet I also think it’s fair to ask a couple of questions... First, how did things get to this point? Second, would a Le Pen defeat be anything more than a temporary reprieve from the ongoing European crisis? ...
To begin, while France gets an amazing amount of bad press — much of it coming from ideologues who insist that generous welfare states must have disastrous effects — it’s actually a fairly successful economy. ...
Meanwhile..., France offers a social safety net beyond the wildest dreams of U.S. progressives... So why are so many willing to vote for — again, let’s not use euphemisms — a racist extremist?
There are, no doubt, multiple reasons, especially cultural anxiety over Islamic immigrants. But it seems clear that votes for Le Pen will in part be votes of protest against what are perceived as the highhanded, out-of-touch officials running the European Union. And that perception unfortunately has an element of truth.
Those of us who watched European institutions deal with the debt crisis ... were shocked at the ... callousness and arrogance that prevailed throughout. ...
Politically, Eurocrats got away with this behavior because small nations were easy to bully... But Europe’s elite will be making a terrible mistake if it believes it can behave the same way to bigger players.
Indeed, there are already intimations of disaster in the negotiations now taking place between the European Union and Britain. ... E.U. officials are sounding more and more like a jilted spouse determined to extract maximum damages in a divorce settlement. ...Greece-style bullying just isn’t going to work on a nation as big, rich and proud as the U.K.
Which brings me back to the French election. We should be terrified at the possibility of a Le Pen victory. But we should also be worried that a Macron victory will be taken by Brussels and Berlin to mean that Brexit was an aberration, that European voters can always be intimidated into going along with what their betters say is necessary.
So let’s be clear: Even if the worst is avoided this Sunday, all the European elite will get is a time-limited chance to mend its ways.

    Posted by on Friday, May 5, 2017 at 09:02 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (71)


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