Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The German question

part of Habermas and the EU

This is ultimately about the problem of EU integration from the German point of view.

Since it’s the middle of an election season in Germany, it would seem unlikely that there’s such a singularity as “the” German point of view on Europe. But all of Germany and all of Europe can agree that there is the German Question in all talk of EU prosperity. Andrea Kluth (Berlin bureau chief for The Economist) explicates it brilliantly. This is must reading:

The dilemma at the heart of Europe: Germany and the German Question” [If that original link becomes invalid, Kluth’s essay can be found here.]

I’ve kept up with accounts of the ongoing EU recession since its beginning. In my view, Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, understands the EU situation appropriately:

We Germans don’t want a German Europe,” W. Schäuble, The Guardian, July 19 (also available here).

Habermas would disagree: "Merkel’s European Failure: Germany Dozes on a Volcano," August 9, 2013, SpiegelOnline [English] (also available here).

So, there are the major parameters for thinking about the EU Question, if you will, relative to Habermas.

What’s best for Germany as such is none of my business. What’s best for the EU is a US citizen’s business inasmuch as the US-EU marriage is vital for global prosperity.

The absence of effective EU political integration has important bearing on the effectiveness of the G8, the US-EU alliance in the G20, and the isolation of the US facing Assad’s impunity.

By the way, in the G20, the US is one member, of course. But there are 4 EU nations plus the EU as such, as member—call it 5 EU members or a quarter of the G20 membership. Considering the US-EU marriage as a partnership of economic peers (GDP of the EU is slightly larger than the US), the lack of EU efficacy to lead as the EU is notable.

Lastly, I want to say that there is, amid all of this, an implicit question of what appropriate leadership is.

What is the better (if not best) balance between stabilization, stimulation, intervention, and what I call enablization? Indisputably, enabling southern European economies is everybody’s value. I can make a detailed argument for how enabling southern EU economies is a higher concern for the IMF, ECB, ESM compact than Habermas seems to appreciate. (I support Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman’s proper hysterics about the failure of austerity economics, in his NYTimes columns and blog; but I find that commensurable with support for what the IMF/ECB/ESM compact is doing.)

So, there’s a situation for further consideration. The German Question inhibits EU political unity, just as the national interests of other EU nations inhibit formalization of political integration in light of a historical legacy designed to keep Germany from becoming a bad hegemon (there are good hegemons, e.g., hegemony of democratic constitutionality). And the viscous EU recession inhibits resolving the paralysis of EU political leadership in global affairs.

Fascinating now is to think about the place of law in all of this, i.e., a discussion of Habermas’s Athens lecture, which I’ve anticipated, but I don’t know when I’ll get to it.

April 2017: The sequel to this, I guess, is “Habermas and the global metropolitan lattice

This posting is associated with the “being in Time” area of