Franco-German Relations Cool, Anti-Assad Coalition in the Works
EurActiv reports that Franco-German relations are going through a rough patch.
The hope in Paris was that a new grand-coalition government in Berlin would be amenable to Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for EU reform. In fact, little has changed. Germany remains apprehensive of transfer union: the permanent subsidization of the south by the north.
Meanwhile, the Dutch have formed an anti-Macron pact with Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden. All argue for enforcing debt and deficit rules, completing the single market and pursuing free-trade deals as opposed to deepening political union in Europe. Read more
The Rent Is Too High, Partisanship Versus Democracy
Will Wilkinson of the libertarian Niskanen Center tells The Washington Post that expanding affordable housing in America’s major cities is the key to reducing inequality.
Wages have barely budged in decades, yet housing costs have soared due to restrictive zoning and land-use policies. Young and working Americans are now unable to save. Homeowners are getting richer.
Kevin D. Williamson, a conservative columnist who was recently hired and then fired by The Atlantic for his right-wing views (more on that here), has similarly argued in National Review that working-class Americans left behind in the Rust Belt need to move to the coasts. He partly blames them for staying put, but recognizes that policy plays a role.
Consider California, where so many of the jobs in the new economy are. Its housing crisis (you can buy a private island or a castle in Europe for the price of a San Francisco apartment) is entirely man-made, “a result of extraordinarily restrictive zoning and environmental codes and epic NIMBYism of a uniquely Californian variety.”
A Republican Party wishing to renew its prospects in California (which it once dominated) or in American cities could — and should — make affordable housing the centerpiece of its agenda for the cities.
More on why Republicans ought to compete in American cities here. Handelsblatt reports that Berlin fears San Francisco-style housing problems. Read more
Throughout the Catalan independence crisis, the Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy has taken a legalistic approach. It rejected a referendum in October, arguing it was impossible under Spanish law. When the region voted anyway, Rajoy let prosecutors and judges go after the leaders of the independence movement, never once proposing to meet for negotiations, much less to hash out a compromise.
Now the same government is criticizing Germany for allowing the legal process to play out in the case of former Catalan president — and fugitive from Spanish justice — Carles Puigdemont. Read more
Up with the new coalition: Accept that the old working class has moved to the right. Focus on minorities, women, college-educated professionals and the lower-educated service worker “precariat”.
Down with inequality: It holds down growth, it holds down living standards, it holds down upward mobility among the young, it leaves entire regions behind and it destroys healthy politics.
Unite the left: The era when one tendency, like social democracy, could dominate the left and didn’t need allies is over.
Forward to an open world: There is no going back to a closed, tradition-bound world.
Ride the long wave: The economic potential of our time, with its monumental technological changes, is vast, albeit held back by a lack of societal investment in the future and retrograde policies pushed by the right. The left should be all about untapping that potential and riding the long wave. Read more
Orbán’s Rebellion, Liberal Democracy and Trump’s War in Syria
Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is likely to win reelection on Sunday. The Washington Post has a good story about the rebellion the EU faces in Central Europe. For more on the political trends Orbán embodies, read:
Jan-Werner Müller: We are doing Orbán a great favor by accepting him as any kind of democrat. It is democracy itself — and not just liberalism — that is under attack in his country.
Tom Nuttall: Orbán’s depiction of himself as an illiberal democrat is largely window-dressing. Were his pollsters to discover that voters were no longer animated by immigration, he would manufacture a different foe. Orbán’s ideologues assemble theoretical scaffolding to justify the channelling of state resources to favored businessmen under the rubric of “economic patriotism”. The EU harbors not an illiberal democracy, but a semi-autocratic kleptocracy in which loyalty offers the quickest route to riches.
Dani Rodrik: Liberal democracy is being undermined by a tendency to emphasize “liberal” at the expense of “democracy.” The European Union represents the apogee of this tendency: the delegation of policy to technocratic bodies.
Philip Stephens: The West misread the collapse of Soviet communism. It was not, after all, the end of history. Happy assumptions about the permanent hegemony of laissez-faire capitalism and the historical inevitability of liberal democracy were rooted in a hubris that invited nemesis. For all that, the end of the Cold War did produce a big idea. Now, as we are daily reminded by Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, it is being swapped for a very bad idea. Read more