When Francois Hollande, the newly elected president of France, arrives today in Berlin for his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it will kindle memories of the long history of Franco-German partnership in leading the European Union. In France, it may even trigger the traditional condescension Parisian politicians feel towards their neighbors: the lumbering German economic giant that relies on French diplomatic, military, and nuclear savoir faire to achieve political clout. Increasingly, however, such sentiments are mere nostalgia.
Athens, Greece—The big winners of Greece’s election this week were parties far removed from the political center. From the leftist SYRIZA, which came in second place with 17 percent of the vote, to the far-right Independent Greeks, who ended up with 11 percent, and the racist extremists of Golden Dawn, who gained 7 percent, the non-mainstream parties received an alarmingly large share of the total vote. What’s less clear, however, is what the vote tallies mean. Were they simply a reflection of anger against the ruling parties that have presided over the country’s current economic freefall?
How an Election in Greece Could Cause Europe to Crumble
April 20, 2012
Anyone anxiously waiting for the European Union’s death knell could do worse than circle May 6 on his calendar. That’s when Greece, a nation brought to its knees by an unprecedented economic crisis, is scheduled to hold what promises to be a turbulent parliamentary election. It’s an open question whether Europe’s fragile political balance—and Greece’s tenuous hold on membership in the Eurozone—will survive the subsequent aftershocks.
Can Domestic Policy Affect Income Distribution?
March 13, 2012
On March 9, Carnegie Mellon economist Allan Meltzer argued in the Wall Street Journal ("A Look At The Global One Percent") that income inequality is a global phenomenon and therefore not a problem that can be solved through changes in U.S. domestic policy. He's right about the first proposition and wrong about the second. Actually, he isn't even entirely right about the first. Yes, income inequality is occurring globally. But it isn't happening uniformly. Until recently it was declining in France, Ireland, and Spain. Now it's declining in Turkey and Greece, and it's basically flat in France.
Tracing Europe’s Long Road to Economic Catastrophe
March 09, 2012
The economic crisis in Europe reached its latest crescendo last night, as Greece managed, through furious last-minute negotiations, to convince its creditors to give it some more breathing room. But if the Greeks have managed to stave off ruin for a few more minutes, nothing has essentially changed in their situation: Their economy is still in shambles. The burning question on most observers’ minds, and rightfully so, is whether the Greeks will ever manage to pay back their debts. But at this stage, it’s also worth considering how we ended up on the precipice of such catastrophe at all.
David Thomson on Films: A Requiem to an Unjustly Forgotten Filmmaker
February 02, 2012
In a recent article published in Sight & Sound just days after the death of Theo Angelopoulos, the director is quoted: “The only place I really feel at home is in a car next to a driver. I don’t drive myself, but I find the simple act of passing through landscapes very moving. The way I look at the world on my various travels is what essentially defines my filmmaking.” Sometimes artists die in what might be incidents from their own work.
Though the continent's collected prime ministers will no doubt again pledge to do all that's within their powers to preserve the grandeur of the European Union when they meet today in Brussels, the continent's fate ultimately rests on the quiet, technocratic governments of Italy and Greece. Unfortunately, those administrations have since seen their fortunes diverge considerably. It’s worth noting, however, that their respective failures and successes have been entirely predictable (if not entirely preventable.) Take Italy first.
Team Newt: Meet the Men Who Actually Run the Gingrich Campaign
January 30, 2012
Since the better part of Newt Gingrich’s staff jumped ship back in June, when he jetted off to Greece, the campaign has been a bare-bones operation. Even as the Gingrich campaign was flying highest at the polls, it was still beset with ineptitudes like failing to qualify for the Virginia ballot. So who’s been running the campaign these days?
The Return of Sovereignty
January 25, 2012
Sovereign Equality and Moral Disagreement By Brad R. Roth (Oxford University Press, 320 pp., $70) Sovereignty is back. Our debates about the global economic crisis keep returning to the problem of sovereign debt and the need for sovereign guarantees to reassure the markets. We keep hoping that somewhere, sometime, in the downward spiral of de-leveraging and disillusion there will be an authority—a sovereign—to take charge and put an end to our anxiety. This longing for an authority, after years of market follies, runs very deep. We want to know that someone is in control.
Strategist and Scourge
December 14, 2011
George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.