on December 14, 2011
“Depression and Democracy”—Paul Krugman’s Monday column took on a key topic. Amazingly, having seized the critical question, he let it squirm away. Insurgent neo-Nazi extremists may pose a threat, but right now mainstream governments are doing the real damage to democracy. They are suspending accountability on both sides of the Atlantic, and they’re doing it before our eyes, even to applause, in the name of emergency financial management.
Starting in Europe, Krugman focuses on Hungary’s governing far-right Fidesz party, whose plans, he writes, “amount to the re-establishment of authoritarian rule under a paper-thin veneer of democracy.” The Fidesz sound like a nasty lot, but how authoritarian is last week’s Eurozone deal? Led by Germany, the agreement requires individual nations to shrink pensions, scale back health insurance, cut services, privatize public enterprises and de-unionize public jobs—no matter what their voters say. It’s all so as not to default to the large banks and financial institutions.
Over at Counterpunch, economist Michael Hudson is calling it the “deadly transition from social democracy to oligarchy.” Ulrich Beck, writing in the Guardian, describes it as a power shift that imposes on an entire continent a take-it-or-leave-it “German culture of stability.”
“The basic rules of European democracy are being suspended or even inverted, bypassing parliaments, governments and EU institutions,” wrote Beck shortly before the Deutschmark deal was done. “Multilateralism is turning into unilateralism, equality into hegemony, sovereignty into the deprivation of sovereignty, and recognition into disrespect for the democratic dignity of other nations. Even France, which long dominated European unification, must submit to Berlin’s strictures now that it must fear for its international credit rating.”
European heads of state have already toppled, from Ireland to Portugal, Italy and Greece. No doubt there’s more to come. As far as international credit raters are concerned, it’s end-of-history time: there’s no going back on austerity plans, and there are no alternatives—no matter how poorly they perform.
Continue reading at: http://www.thenation.com/blog/165134/depression-and-autocracy-merkel-michigan