Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stones and Glass Houses, I think.

Ryan Avent pokes fun at the E.U.’s ineffective governance system (which seems sure to precipitate a genuine debt crisis in bond markets sooner or later) by saying, of the True Finns’ 19% showing in recent parliamentary elections (they want to withdraw from the EU):
How long could America maintain its dominance—or, indeed, its union—if the fact of a secessionist party winning 19% in a Maryland election could prevent the union from undertaking a step critically important to the stability of the American economy?

This only seems funny at a quick reading. Unfortunately, upon reflection it loses quite a bit of vitality. For one, the U.S. government has already shut down—during the 90s—and seemed very likely to shut down this year. It also seems as if we’ll have a big fight over the raising of the debt ceiling, a fight that’s the economic equivalent of the balance of nuclear power equation during the Cold War—one wrong move and you’ve unleashed economic apocalypse. So I would not exactly boast of our system’s decision-making structure.

And while 19% of Marylanders can’t break up the union, 19% of Senators can make themselves a huge nuisance over some question of the highest importance. The lesson here is that any system that rewards intransigence too much is prone to allowing crippling intransigence.

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