Sunday, January 13, 2013


El trabajo de Philippe van Parijs NO EUROZONE WITHOUT EURO-DIVIDEND señala, más allá de su propuesta concreta, los problemas fundamentales del diseño de la eurozona y los derivados de las limitaciones políticas que se superponen a ellos.

Esta es su conclusión:

“Let us sum up. If the analysis proposed here is correct, the euro-dividend
would equip the Eurozone with an essential transfer-based stabilization mechanism analogous to the one supplied to the dollar zone by the far more
complex and extensive American welfare state. In addition, the euro-dividend would not make things worse but, if anything, significantly better in terms of two other features whose presence contributes to the sustainability of a currency area. Bearing this in mind, we can now turn to a final question.

Suppose one is convinced by the need for a euro-dividend, how is it to become politically feasible.

Firstly, perception is of the greatest importance. There is little prospect for a euro-dividend if it is successfully depicted as a mega-bureaucratic machine that threatens the valuable democratically shaped diversity of national social protection systems and ends up channelling masses of money from countries well run to countries sloppily run, thereby perpetuating the latter’s sloppiness.

It is important that European citizens should understand that a euro-dividend is not a threat to the diversity of European welfare state, but instead, for the reasons explained above, an essential tool to prevent the constraints of the single market and the single currency from gradually forcing all of them to trim down and converge to a minimalist form of social protection. Even more important, the euro-dividend should at the same time be viewed as a way of making as sure as possible that every European citizen should share in the material benefits of European integration. How high these benefits are is impossible to assess with any precision. To imagine the relevant counterfactual, one must find some inspiration in the contrast between the aftermath of World War I and that of World War II. The very fact that it is hard to think of a military build up and armed conflict between European countries, let alone to estimate what they would cost us, is not a reason to ignore them in the assessment of the material benefits every European derives from the creation and perpetuation of the European Union. They must on the contrary be taken into account as a bulky and lasting component of what the EU keeps doing for us.

There are, in addition, the considerable material benefits of a common market in terms of breaking monopolies, stimulating innovation, facilitating specialization, etc., mostly reflected in the difference between the prices Europeans pay for the goods and services they consume and the prices they would have paid had the trade and investment barriers remained what they were prior to the European Economic Community. Arguably, this type of benefit is directly shared by all, but it is so to various extents, as the bundle of goods consumed by rich and poor is not the same. Moreover, greater transnational competition also makes many jobs and many regions more vulnerable. For the reasons discussed above, this vulnerability has been further increased by monetary unification. Lower prices than would otherwise be the case are therefore no guarantee of universal gain. In this context, the euro-dividend would not prevent some people and regions from gaining a lot from European integration nor some others from losing out. But it would give everyone a tangible share in part of the overall material gain that can be safely attributed to the very existence of the EU. Indexing the level of the dividend on the EU wide per capita level of value added (or GDP) — or its average over the last five years or so to make it less bumpy — would make this link more explicit: the prosperity of the whole would then be clearly seen to benefit each of its parts — member states, regions and households.

There are no doubt also background institutional conditions that will favour this perception of the euro-dividend and thereby its acceptability by the population, rather than a perception in terms of immediate country-level net losses and net gains. As long as key decisions are taken by politicians who are accountable exclusively to the electorate of a single country, it will be very difficult to prevent electoral competition from getting the issue framed in terms of net gainer and net loosing countries. This is the case to the extent that the key decisions are taken by heads of government gathered in the European Council. But it does not need to be different if more power is exercised by the European Parliament, meant to emanate from the EU population as a whole rather than from its member states. As things stand, MEPs are also electorally accountable only to the citizens of their own country. In the US and in European nations, an inclusive rhetoric and policy orientation is facilitated by direct presidential elections or centralized political parties. At EU level, there are good reasons to believe that we shall never have either. The next best option is the development of strong pan-EU federations of national parties, which itself will remain a pipe dream in the absence of an EU-wide constituency for part of the seats of the European Parliament, coupled with a direct link between the composition of the EU executive and the electoral results in this constituency.

More broadly still, the political achievability and sustainability of a euro dividend— and of any other major redistributive scheme at EU level — requires the existence and liveliness of an EU-wide democratic forum. An EU-wide parliamentary constituency should help, but will not suffice. Institutional innovations such as the European Citizens’ Initiatives should also help, because of the opportunities and incentives they create to meet, argue and mobilize across national borders. The most fundamental obstacle, however, is the EU’s linguistic diversity. National welfare states were not born out of the blue through some top-down decree. They were the laborious outcomes of long struggles. Such struggles could only be successful because of efficient communication, trust building, coordination and mobilization across the nation made possible by a shared national language. The wonderful yet expensive and stiffening services of translators and interpreters will never supply an adequate alternative to a shared language. As mentioned before, competence in English is spreading rapidly among the younger cohorts of the European population. But this lingua franca should not and will not replace national languages. It will not therefore be able to play quite the same role as national languages in cementing trust and fostering solidarity. Nonetheless a minimal condition for the political sustainability of institutionalized solidarity is that the people among whom this solidarity operates should be able to address and understand each other. The democratization and appropriation of English as a lingua franca throughout Europe is therefore at least as crucial to the political feasibility of EU-wide redistribution as institutional engineering.

What follows from this brief discussion of political feasibility is not that we might as well give up. It is rather that it is not enough to spell out blueprints of what is needed to get to the roots of our present problems, submit them to critical scrutiny and advocate what emerges as the most robust version. At the same time, one must fight and progress on many different, seemingly unconnected fronts. Banning the dubbing of films may be no less crucial to the sustainability of an EU-wide transfer system than removing the cap on the EU’s taxing powers.”

(Philippe van Parijs: No Eurozone without euro-dividend)

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