Saturday, May 31, 2014

More Canadian lessons

In the last few days, professor Jean Leclair, a legal scholar from the University of Montreal has been in Barcelona to talk about federalism. Jean Leclair belongs to the scientific committee of "The Federal Idea," a think tank in Quebec (Canada) that is worth imitating. This Canadian province has been through a controversy between secessionism and federalism for a long time, from which federalism has emerged as the winner (overall majority in the last provincial election), but which has left many scars in society, which have not been completely healed. That is why it is very important to learn Canadian lessons. Canada is one of the most successful decentralized and diverse democracies in the world, but still today secessionists in Quebec keep saying that it is a failed state. That is one of the reasons why "The Federal Idea" was created in 2009, because in spite of the failure of secessionists to create a new nation state, after two referenda (in 1980 and 1995) and decades of controversy, the idea of federalism was still unpopular in many sectors of society in Quebec. The intellectuals and academics behind this think tank reached the conclusions that federalism is worth mobilizing for, that it will not necessarily survive by inertia in front of powerful feelings and emotions (which are easy to manipulate by so many opportunists).
Jean Leclair explained that federalism should be defended as a moral issue, as a defence of the principle that what matters is the individual and its rights, and how these rights are preserved in social life in a diverse world. Identities are not homogeneous, even each of us has a diversity of identities, and it is immoral to make us choose among these identities.
The main problem of federalism is that nobody wants to die for compromise, whereas there are always people willing to sacrifice their lives for a homeland or a nation. But compromise is necessary and desirable, in order to organize societies that are characterized by diversity (that is, all of them).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Making the EU and the euro irreversible

The victory of the UKIP in Britain and the FN in France is scary. These are extreme right xenophobic parties, no matter how they disguise it. They won the election in their countries to choose the representatives to the European Parliament, though not by an overall majority. In terms of policy, what matters is the global composition of this Parliament. To this extent, these two parties are not in a position to even condition the current EU policies. They cannot even influence in the short run the EU policies of their countries, because they have not a majority in their parliaments and they are not in government. The UKIP has as political objective to enter the British Parliament in the general election next year, not to dominate it. The French FN will hardly win a Presidential election with two rounds, although they might win an election to the national Assembly at some point. But the biggest danger is that these parties exert a strong pressure on the mainstream parties, in the UK to abandon the EU and in France to abandon the euro and to force protectionist policies that undermine the common market (which is a good thing, and we should say it). The reaction to this threat by the majority of Europeans who want a federal, united and democratic Union must be to cooperate with the civilized forces in these two countries to make the EU (with the UK) and the euro (with France) both politically and economically irreversible. This means to complement the common market with social policies and coordinated growth strategies that make it acceptable. Europe has the opportunity to leave behind centuries of political fragmentation and violence. Actually we are already doing it, with large economic and social dividends, despite the mistakes in managing the crisis. It is these mistakes that must be addressed, and make progress to a better, more popularly appealing Union. The Roman Empire lasted for 1000 years, we are just starting to build a new political organization.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Britain and France: we love you, let's stay together

The victory of the UK Independence Party in Britain and the Front National in France in the European election are very bad news. As the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said, the situation is serious, very serious. Europe needs France and the UK. Of course, it needs much more, but these two countries are part of the essence of Europe. The two countries where nation-building from the state was more successful in the XIX and XX centuries are today the countries that threaten more the progress towards a federal Europe. Other countries were nation-building has been less successful (for a variety of reasons) are today more committed to the ideal of a united Europe: Spain, Germany, Italy. What can the non-British and non-French do? I don't really know, but if there is anything we can do, let's do it. Nation-states are obsolete, the UK and France without the European Union will not solve their current problems or their future problems. No European country will be relevant in the next decades unless we build a more united Europe. Our quality of life, our employment prospects, the deterioration of the planet's climate, financial instability, nothing has a solution in the context of the nation-state. Europe needs changes: we should discuss these changes so that a majority of the British and French population (those that did not vote for the extreme right and some of those who did, but who would welcome alternatives) are comfortable in our Union. But as with all nationalists, the response should not be to make national concessions, but to build a better federation that solves the people's problems.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The European election, a remarkable achievement

In a few hours time, I will be voting in the election for the European Parliament, together with millions of citizens in the European Union. Despite the enormous problems that the Union faces, the election itself is a remarkable achievement, as has been acknowledged by Paul Krugman. He argues that an alarmingly high fraction of the vote is expected to go to right-wing extremists hostile to the very values that made the election possible, and he is probably right. But Europeans citizens everywhere are safer, more prosperous and freer because of the existence of the European Union. A continent devastated by war and nationalism in the XX century and earlier has decided to make progress in peace and cooperation. Countries want to join in and only one of those who are in, out of 28, has doubts about staying in. People from other continents risk their lives to join us. The success so far has been enormous: with a handful of the world population and 25% of world GDP, the EU concentrates 50% of social expenditure. The fall of the EU would make all of us poorer and more vulnerable to all kinds of disasters. The nation-state is obsolete and Europe needs to make progress toward a closer, more democratic union. The Roman Empire lasted for one thousand years, and we are just starting a new kind of large political organization. We must do everything in our hands to guarantee the success of this notable institutional experiment.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The European election and non-linear history

On Sunday May 25th we will vote our representatives in the European Parliament. It will be Euro-scepticism versus the dream of a more united Europe.
Europe has only 7% of the world population, but 25% of world GDP, and concentrates 50% of global social spending. It is a model worth preserving an expanding. The model faces enormous challenges. But Europe has enough wealth to solve many of its problems as long as it achieves coordinated solutions, that should be more federal than intergovernmental.
For the first time, we will elect a Parliament that will subsequently elect the President of the European Commission, the executive body of the Union. Many of us would like even more democracy than this, for example by directly electing a president by universal suffrage, or by sending our national parliamentarians to rule on the fiscal policies and social transfers in the euro zone.
On Sunday evening we will probably be scared by the results of some anti-European nationalist parties in some countries. These parties represent the worst of our past, and it is the duty of decent people to stop them with our vote.  But the founders of the European dream will see that their construction is not under risk, and must rest assured that millions of people will keep fighting to make it true. We must vote for decency and progress towards a federal Europe, but be ready to keep fighting, because the battle against the past is not linear, and will be far from over.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My open research windows

What am I doing when I’m not writing in this blog or other personal activities? Well, I teach and do research. Thanks to credit accumulated in the past, now I don’t have to teach until September, so time to try to push my research hard.
I am working on political connections in Spanish firms and their impact with Pau Castells (and starting something on the specific impact on energy firms with Daniel Montolio also). Our starting point is Pau’s thesis and a paper we already published in the journal Series. I’m also working on the economics of Public Private Partnerships with Lluis Torrens and Giampiero Mattera. And a piece on the institutions of soccer with Jordi Perdiguero. Most of this is empirical, although I try to keep it closely related to the theoretical literature.
On my own, I’m working on the relationship between behavioural regulators (that is, regulators with psychological biases that make them depart from full rationality) and institutional architecture, and I’ll present something about this in a conference in Bristol in June and in a Workshop in Barcelona in July. My idea is to survey recent literature on behavioural regulation (these are many of the lots of papers that visitors can see on my office’s desk) and apply it to issues I have explored in the past, such as independent regulators, regulatory federalism or the merger of regulatory agencies.
Ideas and suggestions for collaboration are more than welcome.
I see all this as fascinating on its own and complementary of my teaching work, both in class and as a supervisor of theses or similar work by students (of which I typically do a lot, because I learn from my students with it).

Friday, May 9, 2014

The day of Europe, our homeland

Today, May 9th, is the Day of Europe, commemorating the historical declaration of French foreign minister, Robert Schuman. It should be our 4th of July. Congratulations! My present for you in this important day is to reproduce a fragment of the Ventotene manifesto, one of the classical texts of European federalism:
The dividing line between progressive and reactionary parties no longer follows the formal line of greater or lesser democracy, or of more or less socialism to be instituted; rather the division falls along the line, very new and substantial, that separates the party members into two groups. The first is made up of those who conceive the essential purpose and goal of struggle as the ancient one, that is, the conquest of national political power – and who, although involuntarily, play into the hands of reactionary forces, letting the incandescent lava of popular passions set in the old moulds, and thus allowing old absurdities to arise once again. The second are those who see the creation of a solid international State as the main purpose; they will direct popular forces toward this goal, and, having won national power, will use it first and foremost as an instrument for achieving international unity.
Through propaganda and action, seeking to establish in every possible way agreements and links among the single movements which are certainly being formed in the various countries, the foundation must be built now for a movement that knows how to mobilise all forces for the birth of the new organism which will be the grandest creation, and the newest, that has occurred in Europe for centuries; and the constitution of a steady federal State, that will have an European armed service instead of national armies at its disposal; that will break decisively economic autarchies, the backbone of totalitarian regimes; that will have sufficient means to see that its deliberations for the maintenance of common order are executed in the single federal States, while each State will retain the autonomy it needs for a plastic articulation and development of a political life according to the particular characteristics of the various people.
If a sufficient number of men in the most important European countries understands this, then the victory will shortly be at hand, as both the situation and the spirit will be favourable to their project. They will have before them parties and factions that have already been disqualified by the disastrous experience of the last twenty years. It will be the moment of new action and it will also be the moment for new men: the MOMENT FOR A FREE AND UNITED EUROPE.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The speech by Churchill that British conservatives should read, again and again

These below are some fragments of the speech that Winston Churchill gave in Zurich in 1946, where he endorsed the idea of a United States of Europe. These words were used among others in this wonderful video to celebrate the award of the Nobel Peace Price to the European Union in 2012. Although the ascription of Churchill to the federalist side is not without controversy, clearly his ideas on this are far away from many contemporary British conservatives.
"Indeed, but for the fact that the great Republic across the Atlantic Ocean has at length realised that the ruin or enslavement of Europe would involve their own fate as well, and has stretched out hands of succour and guidance, the Dark Ages would have returned in all their cruelty and squalor.
They may still return.
Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is today.
What is this sovereign remedy?
It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom.
We must build a kind of United States of Europe.
In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living.
The process is simple.
All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong, and gain as their reward, blessing instead of cursing.
Much work has been done upon this task by the exertions of the Pan-European Union which owes so much to Count Coudenhove-Kalergi and which commanded the services of the famous French patriot and statesman, Aristide Briand.
There is also that immense body of doctrine and procedure, which was brought into being amid high hopes after the First World War, as the League of Nations.
The League of Nations did not fail because of its principles or conceptions. It failed because these principles were deserted by those States who had brought it into being. It failed because the Governments of those days feared to face the facts and act while time remained. This disaster must not be repeated. There is, therefore, much knowledge and material with which to build; and also bitter dear-bought experience."

Friday, May 2, 2014

Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Bertrand Russell and Mahatma Gandhi, world federalists

Thomas Piketty is being criticized by the right not mainly because his historical and economic analysis is wrong (even The Economist accepts that it is mostly right), but because his main policy recipe (a progressive global welath tax) is allegedly infeasible. Even the French economist himself is hesitant to defend his alternative. In the book, he says that this proposal is utopian (although a European version would be feasible, he argues), and in the CUNY debate he started by saying that the fourth part of the book (containing his proposal) is more speculative than the others. Ultimately, the issue boils down to determining whether world federalism is a practical proposition or not. Actually, we are running in that direction, and we have been running towards it since politicians, thinkers and scientists such as Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Bertrand Russell and Mahatma Gandhi advocated the idea of world federalism in the early Twentieth Century.
World federalism, or world government, is the concept of a political body that would make, interpret and enforce international law. Inherent to the concept of a world government is the idea that nations would be required to pool sovereignty over some areas. In effect, a world government would add another level of administration above the existing national governments or provide coordination over areas national governments are not capable of adequately addressing as independent polities.
The most relevant model for the incremental establishment of world federalism may be the European Union, which politically unites a wide-ranging group of nations, some formerly hostile, over a large geographical area. Though the EU is still evolving, it already has many attributes of a federal government, such as open internal borders, a directly elected parliament, a court system, an official currency (Euro) and a centralized economic policy.
The EU’s lead is being followed by the African Union, the Union of South American Nations, the Organization of Central American States, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A multitude of regional associations, aggregating most nations of the world, are at different stages of development towards a growing extent of economic, and sometimes political, integration.
Now more than 40% of the population is in self-proclaimed federal states. These states, the European Union and other unions should and can lead the world towards global federalism. Even China will have to join if it becomes a democracy, according to Branko Milanovic in "The Haves and the Have-nots", and then they will have to read again about the ideas of the great Chinese federalist Chen Jiongming.
To me, the fourth part of Piketty is as good as the others.