The Focus of Austerity Protests

Martin Wolf, from the London Financial Times says:

« Austerity has failed. It turned a nascent recovery into stagnation. That imposes huge and unnecessary costs, not just in the short run, but also in the long term: the costs of investments unmade, of businesses not started, of skills atrophied, and of hopes destroyed. »

So why did we do it? It depends what you mean by “we”.  Wolf again:

« Some will insist that the eurozone countries had no alternative: they had to retrench. This is true in the sense that members have limited sovereignty, wed as they are to a single currency, and had to adapt to the dysfunctional eurozone policy regime. Yet it did not have to be this way. »

In brief, as I argued before, some did it because they could,  and the others because they had to. This has a practical implication for the fight against “the costs of investments unmade, of businesses not started, of skills atrophied, and of hopes destroyed”. Namely that protests should focus also on putting pressure on European institutions and countries.

There is no scarcity of embassies, consulates, offices, etc, full of European diplomats and officials who report to those who hold the power and who make decisions that we all have to live by. Citizens of countries under “bail out programs” cannot vote or directly participate in the political process that makes these decisions. This yet another reason why protests can legitimately be directed at representatives of the EU/ECB/IMF. It is natural for citizens to protests their governments and hold them accountable. But if the center of power changes, we must make the pressure of democratic demands follows right behind.

Finally, what this indicates is that we need to either increase democratic accountability of European institutions, or we need to devolve sovereignty back to states – but we can’t have it both ways. In the meantime, decision makers should be made to feel the weight of their decisions. If not by votes, then by other means.


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