Friday, 11 November 2011

EUI indignados y Don Quijote

The indignados movement has blossomed in different cities and continents. Its name follows from the protests that occurred in Spain , where the crisis hit the economy hard due to the burst of an asset market bubble. This was mainly due to little competent politicians, local credit and foreign one that jointly contributed to inflate the bubble for longer than a decade.

Among others, Joseph Stiglitz shared sympathy for the movement in the USA.

At the European University Institute (EUI) a research institution on the hills of Florence in Italy, the head of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy was also criticised by a bunch of Florentine indignados, as he participated in the opening ceremony of the 2011/12 academic year.

These guys questioned whether the European Union (EU) is run on a democratic basis and got some press coverage in Italy. Why would this be relevant? Would Joseph Stiglitz have joined them had he been in the area as he shared their views, or rather to challenge their views?

Why asking for more democracy to the EU, whose central bank has so far saved Greece, Italy and Spain from the collapse of their debt? Why not asking instead for a set of smarter EU policies that set the right incentives for the EU member countries to adopt virtuous fiscal policies and stimulate growth? This would help to relieve the burden of troubled households with mortgages to pay and poor job prospects all over the EU. Does this mean more or less democracy? Is it relevant? Delegating more power to the EU to intervene effectively would have helped its member countries to get the different medicines to treat their different problems.

One reads in the Italian press that the Florentine indignados who are based at the EUI call themselves collettivo prezzemolo , roughly "parsley movement", to emphasise their capacity to spread out, information I guess (the reason for using the word parsley is perhaps due to an Italian idiomatic expression that associates one's skill to establish several connections with the wide use of parsley in food recipes). Would these guys not be better off by instead sharpening their:
- arguments, thus avoiding to mix up democracy with the set of unpopular policies to face a financial crisis and little competent national governments in a number of EU countries, that may lead to a currency crisis and to the end of the Euro and of the EU?
- target, as the head of the European Council is hard to picture as the representative of an envil lobby?

Additional examples of the need for more clarity of thinking by the Florentine indignados are in a long long list of the ills of Europe in their blog, e.g. "Forgive the debt!", "This is not a clash of generations – defend pension rights!" or "The revolution will not be privatized!". Are these causes, consequences or something else? However, this is little surprising as elected politicians both right and left of centre in several EU countries genrally tend not to offer examples of clear-cut thinking, e.g. in the fight vs liberal evil in Italian left of centre parties and in the uneventful pre-election debate in Spain.

If parsley it is, let it season solid policy-relevant arguments, rather than ideologies that are hard to defend with logic and empirical evidence. Another way to put this: is Quijote facing monsters or windmills?