Category Archives: Europe

Is Ireland a Legitimate Country?

lemass-on-time

Lemass committed Ireland’s future to one of sovereign compromise. He had no choice.

The international system is a complex and convoluted thing, and sets the framework against which States are measured for their effectiveness, righteousness, or other measures that could serve as proxies for legitimacy: transparency, robustness, even happiness, or goodness. According to these indices, Ireland performs reasonably well – very well actually. It is the seventh most ‘unfragile’ country in the world; the eleventh most ‘good’; the 18th most transparent; and the 19th happiest. Most of these indices combine different metrics such as GDP, social metrics like unemployment, education rates, and so on, which tend to mean that Ireland – and other countries – won’t deviate too much from one ranking to the next. So Ireland performs well as a country. However, the combination of the EU Crisis, Brexit, and Trump’s America seem to represent a trifecta of bad things over which Ireland has little or no control, and could send the country hurtling down those indices. So if Ireland has so little control over these shaping factors, is Ireland in fact a legitimate country, a genuinely sovereign power?

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Trump/Brexit: Popular Legitimacy and the Rule of Law

Morten Morland's cartoon from The Times, November 4th.

Morten Morland‘s cartoon from The Times, November 4th.

The New York Times ran an editorial yesterday on what it called ‘a coup’ against the Supreme Court. The death of Antonin Scalia earlier this year, and the Republican Party’s refusal to entertain a replacement has rendered the previously nine, now eight judge court unable to resolve some important cases, split evenly as they are between four generally liberal and four generally conservative justices. The GOP Presidential Nominee, Donald Trump, has recklessly attacked other institutions in his scorched earth strategy that followed his poor showing at the debates, including the Military, the FBI, the President, the Federal Reserve, and the Media. Early on in the campaign, he attacked a judge who ruled against him, claiming the judge was biased because he was Mexican-American. He has threatened to jail his opponent if he wins, he has consistently attacked and undermined the electoral process itself, and encouraged voter suppression.  Every pillar of democracy in America has been weakened by Mr Trump’s candidacy whether he wins or not, and people love him for it.

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The Idea of France

Delacroix's <i>Liberty Leading the People</i>

Delacroix’ Liberty Leading the People. She – Liberty – is so much more than the country: she is the ideal and the aspiration, the unadulterated guiding principle. Her path remains clear; but have the people stopped following her?

As Francois Hollande transitions from the bureaucratic administrator of the Fifth French Republic to a wartime leader in the latest instalment of the rolling war on terror, decisions are being made about France. The latest pronouncements – from overbearing surveillance measures introduced in the Summer in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings, to the most recent introduction of a three month state of emergency in order to deal with the Paris attacks – diminish democratic governance and accountability, in the short-sighted interests of expediency and national security. But this disaffected progression is not new; perhaps the January and November attacks were more overtly offensive than before, and appear more obvious inflection points, but we must go back ten years to the riots of 2005 to try and understand what is happening. Furthermore, the decisions being made today are not merely reflective of missteps taken in the past, but instructive as to the kind of France that is emerging for the future. And for France, we can read Europe, and Western Liberalism.

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A Note on #Grexit

grexit

(from The Telegraph (UK))

With the Eurozone crisis in full swing, and ‘Grexit’ now seeming inevitable, the differences between France and Germany seem stark. In particular, the position of Germany appears to have veered significantly from the position it had taken at least in the aftermath of unification, and certainly at the time of the Maastricht Treaty. This is troublesome on many levels, not least the inevitable parallels that will be drawn between a belligerent and newly assertive Germany, and its inter-war counterpart.

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Platform, Identity, Capital, Regulation: The New State

Stuart Hall, who died earlier this year

Stuart Hall, who died earlier this year

So let’s say the State becomes a platform, like we talked about in the last post.  In order to participate in the State, in order to pay taxes, and get educational accreditation, access healthcare, and to get licensed to own dogs, own a gun, or drive a car, you need to subscribe to the platform.  Let’s say then that the platform allows for commercial entities to participate, to advertise their wares on the State Platform, to ‘compete’ for consumer attention based on big data analysis of citizen behaviour and experience.  What are the other things that are happening with technology that impact upon the evolution of the state?

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British Exceptionalism and the New Isolationism

isolationismIn the early part of the twentieth century, Woodrow Wilson‘s America decided upon an Isolationist Foreign Policy concentrating their efforts on the battles at home. It wasn’t a new strategy – since the days of George Washington, the country as it emerged tried to distance itself from foreign entanglements, notwithstanding repeated encroachment on its borders by regional competitors and the death throes of European Power. The German ascendancy in the Atlantic finally forced their hand, and in order to protect the interests of America the country was forced into the war, and away from its isolationism. America, it appeared, could only advance her domestic interests if actively engaged on the International Stage.

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Inequality and The Demise of the Euro

euro-meltdown

This is not going well.

The coalition negotiations in Germany appear to have stalled on the question of whether Chancellor Merkel will authorize further European capital (read: German capital) for Irish banks.  Further more, the SDP is trying to force Ireland to raise its corporation tax rate, an incentive that has diverted investments away from the rest of Europe in key areas such as the Internet and Biotechnology.  This is not the first time that Germany has taken on the appearance of a reluctant bully in Europe, forcing itself on the weaker nations who are not deserving of its largesse.  It is of course symptom, not cause, and the true reason for the current difficulties – perpetuated now for five years or so – is the structural failure of the European project to manage economic diversity.

There is some great wealth in Europe, concentrated in pockets such as the Ruhr valley, Northern Italy, Southern England, and other places.  Big industries such as auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals employ hundreds of thousands, while financial services help to facilitate the trade of those products all over the world.  The wealth, however, is poorly distributed if we consider the wider context.

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Habermas and the Crisis of The European Union

JuergenHabermas

Juergen Haberman: The German neo-communist informs a considerable part of German thinking on Europe, though one suspects from his writing that he is not too pleased with German strategy on the Crisis.

I’ve been reading Juergen Habermas slim volume The Crisis of the European Union: A Response, and I have to say that it is an exceptional read.  Not only is it very accessible – important, if you’re trying to send a message to politicians – but it is equally concise.  These are big thoughts, and grand ideas, and it is easy to get bogged down.  Highly recommended to everyone reading this – if you’re interested in my blog, Habermas is a must.  These are some of the notes I took on the Preface.

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Sovereignty, Poverty and Interdependence

sean_lemass_02

Seán Lemass, Taoiseach of Ireland 1959-1966. Lemass believed Ireland had given up its sovereignty to the International Community in the years after World War II.

Ireland has had a well documented, rather turbulent recent economic history.  Following on from the bursting of the property bubble and the attendant banking collapse, an extraordinarily myopic political decision to nationalise the exposure of the banks led to a sovereign debt crisis, and, ultimately, a bailout from the troika of the IMF, ECB and European Commission.  Apart from the loss of money, there was plenty dramatic wailing about the loss of National Sovereignty, and references to the War of Independence and the heroes of 1916 and ‘is this what they died for?’ rhetoric.  There was even a nuance to the sovereignty question, in that the country had lost her economic sovereignty, whatever that meant.

Now, politics has always had an uneasy alliance with the propriety of language, bending it to its will as any situation may have seen fit.  The distinction between economic sovereignty, and other sovereignty, one supposes, is that while we’re not necessarily allowed to award pay rises to civil servants, we are still permitted to invade England.  At least we have that, I guess.   Of course, the extent to which we are – truly – permitted to invade England is limited in exactly the same way as our freedom to spend money has been limited.  It is not a flat prohibition on action through coercive or other power that has limited what Ireland as a State can do; it is the threat of exclusion from international systems upon which we have become irrevocably dependent that limits our action.

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Systemic Issues: Marx, Python, Equality and Capitalist Doom

Karl_Marx_001

Karl Marx. The man had his moments.

Charles Moore’s article in the Telegraph yesterday caused something of a stir. Equality, he said, was not really a good thing at all. What’s that you say? He must be an elitist! How uncool is that! Well, essentially he was arguing that in the context of women in the army, and in particular on the front line of the army, that it was one step too far. Women just are not as strong as men, and therefore shouldn’t be there. His argument weakened when he extended it into civil partnership, defining marriage in terms of the legal structures for its dissolution, which appears to me to be something of a non sequitur. In essence, Moore misses the point that ‘unconventional’ couples are not seeking access to the institution, but rather to its attendant rights; indeed, they are seeking to fundamentally alter the institution, and make it more inclusive, rather than simply more equal.

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