Austerity: European democracies against the wall

Wednesday, 10 July 2013
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The crisis in the eurozone has had a dramatic impact on the economic and social fabric of European countries. However important it may be, the economic dimension is only the symptom of a broader problem. The crisis is primarily political in nature. Lorenzo Bini Smaghi argues in this book that the crisis reflects the inability of western democracies to solve problems that have been building for over two decades. He finds that democratically elected officials are loathe to take unpopular decisions that could jeopardise their re-election. Emergency thus becomes the engine of political action, and the justification for corrective measures vis-à-vis the voters. As a consequence, the cure in the form of austerity, administered belaatedly and under pressure from the markets, becomes even more painful and unpopular, giving rise to populist movements and endangering democracy itself.

Lorenzo Bini Smaghi served as a member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank from 2005 to 2011. He is currently visiting Scholar at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and at the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome.

The book was originally published by Il Mulino in Italian (Morire di austerità: Democrazie europee con le spalle al muro). It may be purchased at:

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