As we approach the US Independence Day, I thought it could be fun considering which country in Europe that would count as the most “American” – and by the way Denmark seems to be the only country which holds an official popular July 4th celebration (as in: a celebration where the local US Embassy is not the organiser).
US-European relations are notoriously tricky. On the one hand, Americans tend to see Europeans as more cultured and sophisticated while on the other hand deploring their (our) lack of initiative. Europeans see Americans as shallow and materialistic and consequently do everything that is in our power to emulate the US lifestyle with a couple of years’ delay.
OK: Our cars and houses are still smaller, but you get the picture.
But to round up some suspects and criteria: What does it take to be “an American country”?
First, we could be looking for a country which in some way or the other has influenced US culture and social and political institutions in a significant way. Britain (legal system) and France (rationalism, republicanism) would be obvious suspects, but perhaps the Netherlands also merit some attention.
Second, we could look for countries where American social, economic and political influence has been especially profound. The Federal Republic of Germany with its emphasis on federalism and the role played by the Bundesverfassungsgericht would be an obvious candidate here.
Third, we could look for countries which institutional similarities even if there is no evidence of direct US influence. Switzerland with its profoundly federal style of government and limited public sector would be a parallel on this side of the Atlantic. But then again, the Swiss are probably too organised and exclusive for the American taste.
But, just to tease you, I will promise two more posts on the subject with some surprising candidates. Stay tooned.
ungrateful Paddys Irish voters did it again: Voted to no a European treaty.
With a turn-out of 53,1%, 46,6% voted yes to the Treaty of Lisbon while 53,4% voted no. (Official data here)
The problem now is a) Why did the Irish vote against the treaty and b) What does this mean for Ireland and the EU?
With regard to question a) the immediate answer is likely to be that the voters voted on something else than the issue – political scientists have a term for this: the second-order election problem -, but there is a couple of problems here:
a1) This isn’t the first time the Irish have stopped (at least momentarily) an EU treaty. It happened in 2001 and even if the turn-out was a pathetic 34,8%, the politicians should have learnt their lesson by now.
a2) This isn’t the first time, the present treaty has hit a serious bump in the road: I’ll leave aside the legal niceties and note that the French rejected the treaty in its original form in 2005 (Y: 45,3%, N: 54,7, T-O: 69,3%) as did the Dutch a couple of days later (Y: 38,5%, N: 61,5%, T-O: 63,3%). This treaty systematically fails at referendums.
It will be interesting to see a breakdown of the numbers, but generally there seems to be some clear dimensions in the voting in all three countries: Class and urban-rural divisions play a role here1 – the urban middle-classes are pro-Europe, the working-class and people from rural areas are more likely to be Euro-sceptic.2
b) is trickier and political scientists in general are bad oracles but I’ll try some observations:
b1) The obvious strategy will be to make this “the Irish problem” in order to contain the damage in the short run. I’m not sure that this is the best road to take in the long run as there are misgivings about the EU out there.
b2) Ireland and to a certain degree Denmark has provisions for mandatory referendums, while there is a strong push for a UK referendum on Europe by anti-EU groups. This could stop formal institutional development and push the cooperation into transnational policy-networks that are more flexible but also more difficult to control.
b3) Denmark has a couple of issues on the agenda – the Maastricht opt-outs and the future of Anders Fogh Rasmussen. I’m sure that it would be possible to hold referendums on the opt-outs under the present Nice Treaty but it may look odd politically. On the other hand, it might theoretically be easier to keep the referendums as referendums on Justice and Home Affairs and Foreign and Defence Policy. My guess is that we will be a bit wiser in early July or August.
Declaration of interest: In case anybody out there wonder, I’ve voted in the Danish referendums in 1986, 1992, 1993 and 1998 as well as the Swedish referendum in 2003. I voted yes all of the times even if I had and have some reservations about the economic conception behind the ECB’s brief.
Update: Professor Richard Sinnott, author of a standard volume on Irish electoral behaviour, has this analysis in the Irish Times. He points to two factors affecting the vote: a) a lack of confidence in people regarding their knowledge of the issues and b) national identity.
How would this
… it is evident that running an integrationist referendum in a political culture in which almost two-thirds of the electorate feel themselves to belong exclusively to a certain national identity (in this case Irish) is never going to be a walkover.
apply in the Danish case?
For those in a hurry: Here are my del.icio.us-bookmarks tagged referendums – you’ll find links to references about the Irish referendums (including to no to the original Treaty of Nice) as well as the Dutch and French referendums of 2005.
I just read Berlingske Tidende’s US correspondent Poul H°i’s latest column about, well I think it’s about Gordon Brown, but H°i believes that he is saying something profound about a number of politicians.
H°i, as far as I can see, doesn’t like Brown and that’s fair enough. We can discuss whether or not Brown should ever have become prime minister – my take on this is that Brown is a competent problem solver and a hopeless mobiliser and, yes, Brown’s ego in all likelihood got the better of him in a situation where he should have resigned along with Tony Blair, opening the road for a line of younger Labour leaders.
Just as an aside: A colleague once pointed out to me that good finance ministers tend to make terrible prime ministers. You are free to add your own thoughts here.
What really annoys me is that H°i presents a number of other politicians and hereby reveals a remarkable ignorance of recent European politics. But let us take his cases one by one.
George W. Bush. Correct: This man should never have been allowed anywhere near an executive office, not even in a state the size of Luxembourg. Jacob Weisberg in The Bush Tragedy actually does a nice job in trying to unravel the enigma within the riddle which is Baby Bush. But remember: Baby Bush was actually re-elected by the US electorate in 2004 and that is the really scary bit.
Jacques Chirac. Correct. Chirac is the prime example of someone running for office without having the slightest idea about why. A closed circuit elite system gone totally wrong.
Anker J°rgensen. Actually, J°rgensen didn’t seek office, he was shunted into it by his predecessor Jens Otto Krag. Or if you will: Krag wasn’t forced out of office. He left of his own free will.
I think most political historians will agree that J°rgensen’s performance as Danish prime minister was one of the least impressive during the 20th century, but that he stayed in office for nearly ten years was not just an ego thing. The paralysis of Danish economic policy also had to do with external factors and the struggle between a radicalised trade union movement and the Social Democratic party as well as the disintegration of the Danish party system.
Gerhard Schr÷der. Excuse me? Excuse me?? Nothing happened in Germany during his terms in office? Brother, what planet were you on during those years? The Wikipedia shouldn’t be your sole source of information but just take a look at the policy reforms listed in the German entry about Schr÷der. Helmut Kohl’s last term as Chancellor was a mistake and he should have retired in 1993 or 1996 to make way for younger politicians but surely Schr÷der cannot be faulted for that. And we may also ask: Was Schr÷der a less competent Chancellor than Rudolf Scharping might have been. An interesting question, but I’m not sure the answer is yes. That the German Social Democrats have a tendency to self-destruct is another issue.
Sorry – I just had to let out steam. H°i’s article doesn’t make any sense and an editor worth his or her money should have asked him to come up with some better cases.
Floyd Norris shows that the share of U.S. men without work is higher than many imagine (hint: “unemployment rates” are not the same as “the rates of people without a job”). Paul Krugman agrees and adds France to the equation.
Krugman also points us to a paper from 2006 by John Schmitt and Dean Baker taking issue with the “Eurosclerosis” argument.
Just one thought: How do the incarceration rates in the U.S. influence the figures?
Of cause the impending downturn complicates matters a bit.
In Copenhagen, former mayor Winnie Larsen-Jensen slams the door as she leaves the Social Democratic group in the local council and accuses Premier Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard of autocratic rule. Larsen-Jensen is the wife of Claus Larsen-Jensen who unsuccessfully tried to win first place on the Social Democratic ticket before the 2005 local elections.And while we’re at it: The Kramer Mikkelsens should also be added to the dynasty list: Brothers Jens and Lars were Premier Mayors and MPs for Copenhagen during the 1990s.Meanwhile in another part of the world:
- SÚgolŔne Royal throws Franšois Hollande out of their appartment because of an extra-marital affair.
- Horst Seehofer (CSU) does his best to counteract the decline in the German birth rate – but not with his wife.