26 November 2015

Douglass North
(1920-November 2015)
Douglass North and Elinor Ostrom, both Nobel laureates, when the latter was President of the American Political Science Association

My discussion:

"The theory of equilibrium institutions, as developed by Douglass North, is notorious for having marked the capability of institutions to reinforce themselves and to make their replacement difficult thanks to the effects of incentives embodied in their structure. According to the Northian framework, inefficient institutions may survive as a consequence of actors’ learning by use, their adaptation to institutional regularities, and the costs of their replacement.
      "The basic foundation of this argument is that institutional developments are subject to increasing returns, that is, that people obtain positive net benefits from using the existing institutions and the costs of replacing them rise. The original analyses in this approach developed by economists tend to focus on institutions such as property rights, contract guarantees, rule of law, justice and others producing efficient markets for the provision of private goods. The corresponding applications to politics are appropriate to the extent that certain institutions for the provision of public goods can also produce widespread satisfaction among large numbers of citizens, even universal benefits because some public goods can be consumed by all citizens in ways that each of them can hardly anticipate (including, for instance, national defense, security, and environmental protection).
      "But the stability of formal institutions may have been overestimated. Public goods are also the subject of political competition because they always involve some redistributive dimension – including taxes, allocation of public expenditures, decisions on location, etc. In fact, all political activity –and electoral politics in particular – involves some degree of competition and the production of winners and losers. In other words, the benefits and costs of many institutional political outcomes are significantly different for different actors. In these contexts, for some actors the temptation to exit from the existing institutions can be neutralized to some extent by the relative benefits of routine, predictability, and previous adaption to the existing institutional rules, but not necessarily by significant gross benefits derived from institutional outcomes. Thus, some aspects of institutional politics may not be subject to increasing returns because, for some actors, learning and adapting to the existing rules can be almost equivalent to accustoming themselves to lose. Then, if the costs of exit are relatively low, promoting institutional change can be a rational strategy.
      "More precisely, actors who anticipate that they will become absolute and permanent losers as a consequence of the political game played under the existing institutional rules may prefer institutional change – in spite of its uncertain benefits and its certain costs – to sure defeat. The actors interested in institutional changes are not only the permanent losers in the game. Also risk-averse rulers submitted to new challenges from alternative potential winners may rationally choose to change the institutional rules of the game in order to minimize their likely losses."

Excerpt from:
Josep M Colomer ‘Disequilibrium Institutions and Pluralist Democracy’, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 13, 3, July 2001. CLICK

North, Douglass C. (1990a) ‘A Transaction Cost Theory of Politics’, Journal of Theoretical Politics 2(4): 355–67.
North, Douglass C. (1990b) Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press.
North, Douglass C. and Robert P. Thomas (1973) The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

15 November 2015

Franco and Me

The news in the United States, 40 years ago
CLICK below for a 1 minute video:

Notes from my Diary
Barcelona, 20 Novembre 1975
When I arrived at the fountain of Canaletes, a group of fascists with sticks and brass knuckles were already there. As the top of the Rambla is the typical meeting point for political demonstrations and sport celebrations, they were waiting for any progre that may appear smiling. Elena and I, like many of our politicized friends, had kept a bottle of champagne in the fridge since early October, when it was announced that the Caudillo Francisco Franco was at last seriously ill. But since his clinically prolonged agony lasted several weeks, we drank the bottle one night for dinner and replace it with a new one for when the time came. Finally, today at six in the morning my sister Montserrat phoned me: "Wake up, it’s a new day!” she said, quoting a recently musicated poem. The radio had announced it. At the corner’s kiosk I bought all the newspapers with the historical front-page and made a few comments with some neighbors, who were smiling but self-controlled. It was, however, a normal day, so we had to work as usual. A few hours later we saw the head of government sobbing on television while reading the official statement.
     I saw Franco in person a few times (...about 4 more pages…)
     So today, in order to avoid a group of the same type of fascists who continue honoring the dictator until the last day, we have moved away from the celebration in Canaletes and went to dinner at a restaurant on the Bishop Urquinaona Square, a couple of blocks away. We were about forty people, including a number of wannabe leaders who wish to become legal democratic politicians as soon as feasible. The mood was one of relief and hope, but not of euphoria. There were no speeches. We were only talking non-stop at each table during dinner. At some point, all of us raised and toasted for the future, with more faith than clairvoyance. We felt like a huge burden had been lifted from our shoulders.

Extensive version in Spanish in the daily El Pais CLICK

My book on post-Franco transition to democracy

14 November 2015

Paris, 13 November 2015

Frogs & Rosbifs together
CLICK on picture for a 1 minute video

09 November 2015

Google Joins Homage 
to Hedy Lamarr

One year after this Blog homaged Hedy Lamarr's centennial,
Google makes her its first page with a lovely video as a tribute to Hedy's 101st anniversary.
Greetings to Google!

See this Blog
Homage to Looks and Brains: Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000)

24 October 2015

Primary Games
It’s supposed that the U.S. primary elections are a mechanism to simplify the political supply to only two candidates, which will produce a single majority winner in the real election. The primaries are a substitute for the formation of a single majority winner in parliament, usually by forming a multiparty coalition, as is usual in Europe and elsewhere. In Europe, the mess is after the election, while in the U.S. it’s starting more than a year before voting day.
     In comparison, the primaries mechanism can be distorted by the failure to achieve two objectives: coordination and convergence.
     Coordination means that a varied array of primary candidates should be reduced to only one from each party, two in total. Only in a two-candidate competition plurality rule can guarantee that the winner in the real election will receive a majority support. In fact, multiple candidates run within a political and ideological range similar to multiparty systems in European countries: from social-democrats to liberals within the Democratic party and from moderates to populists within the Republican one. The point is whether, at the end, only two will run in the election. In the first Republican debate, Donald Trump, who had identified himself as a Democrat in the past, didn’t pledge to abstain from running as a third candidate in the election if he didn’t win the Republican primary. This looked like a threat in the intention to attract more voters in the primary who would fear the breakup of the Republican side if he didn’t win. But the maneuver soon backfired and a few weeks later Trump held a theatrical press conference to publicly sign a loyalty pledge to the Republican party. What’s more intriguing is why nobody has yet asked Bernie Sanders, who was a mayor for a ‘Progressive party’ against Democratic rivals and ran and stayed as ‘independent’ in the House of Representatives for 15 years, whether he can also pledge not to run as a third candidate next year if he doesn’t win the Democratic primary.
     In fact, third candidates are a very common feature in U.S. presidential elections. As a consequence of multi-candidate races, more than one-third of the presidents have won the election on the basis of a minority support in popular votes. Third candidates have also spoiled many elections by not winning but indirectly favoring the likely loser between the other two. Egregious cases include: Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge favoring the victory of Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Progressive Theodore Roosevelt favoring Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1912, Southern Democrat George Wallace favoring Republican Richard Nixon in 1968, Independence Ross Perot favoring Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and Green Ralph Nader favoring Republican George W. Bush in 2000.
It can always happen again.

     Convergence means that if coordination achieves to select only two candidates, the best strategy is approaching the median voter's preference, which is usually a moderate one. Yet on a number of occasions highly divided party primaries have produced extreme candidates who have experienced huge defeats in the real election. Memorable cases include Republican Barry Goldwater (who was derided by the Democrats because “he was right, yes, extreme right”) who lost to Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and Democrat George McGovern (who was supported by the hippy students) who lost to Richard Nixon in 1972, both by about 38% to 61% of popular votes. 
     Something of the sort could happen again if the two candidates were, say, Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders against… hmmm, is still Jeb Bush around?
     But if even if there is coordination and convergence, the Downsian model of competing for the median actually predicts a tie. In fact, there have been numerous presidential winners with less than half a percentage point advantage over the runner-up. They include Rutherford Hayes (who actually obtained fewer votes but one more elector in the College) against Samuel Tilden in 1876, John Kennedy against Richard Nixon in 1960, and George W. Bush against Al Gore in 2000. In those cases the actual tie is broken by the way a few votes are counted --as happened in three Southern states, Chicago, and Florida, respectively in the cases mentioned. Anything may happen on occasions like these.
     The coming presidential election is going to be interesting because the result is always contingent on surprises, be it by lack of coordination, non-convergence or peculiar tie-breaks. But these types of surprises can happen because the institutional mechanisms enforced: primary elections and plurality rule, are highly imperfect, to say the least.


Lauri Karvonen said...

A cogent and helpful analysis!

Åbo Akademi, Aarhus University, Finland

27 September 2015

Catalonia Votes, But Does Not Decide

The widely observed election to the Parliament of Catalonia last Sunday opens a new period of uncertainty. The coalition candidacy ‘Together for Yes’ (JxSi), formed by the incumbent government party Democratic Convergence (CDC) and the opposition Republican Left (ERC), conceived this election as a substitute for a plebiscite for independence that was not authorized by the Spanish government. JxSi has been the most voted candidacy, but with only 40% of popular votes
      It’s the most extreme party, the Candidacy for People’s Unity (CUP) that, in spite of its small minority support, can have the highest threat and negotiation power in the incoming Catalan Parliament. This is because the CUP is located at the “corner” of the two-dimensional space, as it is the most leftist and the most Catalan nationalist of all parties. From such a position it can challenge and bargain with both the nationalist JxSi and the leftist coalition Yes We Can (CSQEP). The first occasion will be the reelection of the incumbent president Artur Mas, of CDC. The votes of the CUP will be ruthlessly negotiated, as its abstention wouldn’t be sufficient if all the other parties voted against. The CUP may hint with a more leftist alternative candidate who could obtain the support of both the left wing of JxSi and of CSQEP. Similar challenges on other major issues will follow.
      A kind of second round will take place in December at the election of the Spanish Parliament. It is expected that, for the first time in Spain, a multiparty coalition government may be formed. This may create the opportunity for a grand bargain between Spain-wide parties and for the Spanish and the Catalan governments to try a new deal.

You can click on the Figure for larger size.

The horizontal axis represents left-right socioeconomic policy issues.
The vertical axis represents Spanish-Catalan nationalist issues.
The areas of the circles are proportional to each party’s votes.

Parties from top to bottom:
·     CUP: Candidacy of Popular Unity. Pro-independence, against EU. 8% of votes, 10 seats.
·     JpSi: Together for Yes. Coalition of CDC-Democratic Convergence (currently in Catalan government), ERC-Republican Left, and other groups. Pro-independence. 40% of votes, 62 seats.
·     CSQEP: Catalonia Yes We Can. Coalition of ICV-Initiative Greens, Pod-We Can, and other groups. Pro-referendum, divided regarding independence. 9% of votes, 11 seats.
·     PSC: Socialist Party. Pro-referendum, pro-federal Spain. 13% of votes, 16 seats.
·     C’s: Citizens. Pro-status quo. 18% of votes, 25 seats.
·     PP: People’s Party. Pro-status quo (currently in Spanish government). 8% of votes, 11 seats.

Total seats: 135.

Sources for the Figure: Author’s elaboration with data from the survey by Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió CEO, Baròmetre d’Opinió Política, 35, Barcelona, Generalitat de Catalunya, 2015.


Josep M Valles said...
"Catalonia: Any time left for a consensual way out?"
The Catalan people have delivered their verdict but, creating political space to translate that into meaningful action will prove difficult.
From Barcelona, for Centre on Constitutional Change, ESRC

Guillem Lopez-Casasnovas said...
Vinga, Josep Maria. Molt mes del que esperavem tots. Particularment tu. 
D acord, pero, amb la conclusio. 
Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

Hector Schamis said...
Please, educate me. Doesn't Spain, or Catalonia for that matter, have a PR system? Or may be not and I am wrong, if less than 50 percent of the votes gave them more than 50 percent of the seats. Or that is the landscape of Parliament now, after partial renewal? I have not seen this explained very well. Perhaps my fault, for reading too fast.
Georgetown University

PR with unfair apportionment of seats among districts which produces (minor) disproportionality. 
Catalonia is the only autonomy of Spain without own electoral law --because they didn't approve the proposal from the Expert Commission that I chaired a few years ago (which required 2/3 majority in Parliament and got only 55%). They use some "provisional" rules approved for the first election in 1980, taken from the Spanish electoral system (which is even more disproportional).
There is strong suspicion that the leading Catalan parties more recently have maintained the existing electoral rules in order to keep the possibility of this majority of seats with a minority of votes, even at the cost of having an election for the independence of Catalonia managed by the Spanish Central Electoral Junta! In a hypothetical independent Catalonia, as it is now, they would not be able to call a new election by themselves.

Pedro Gete said...
muy bueno! ese grafico es muy ilustrativo, menudo lio el q hay montado, a ver si lo arregla Merkel....
Georgetown U.

Jenna Van Stelton said...
Very interesting!
Washington DC

Carles Castro said...
Com sempre, d'acord. 
Pel que fa als cercles, la votació ha desplaçat la base electoral de C's més a l'esquerra, ja que el seu espanyolisme rotund ha atret molts antics votants d'esquerra (i per això han guanyat al Baix o l'Hospitalet). És el que passa quan es tensa tant la corda, que el vot es torna purament identitari, sense cap consideració ideològica.
El cert és que fins el final de la campanya no vaig sospitar que el sobiranisme tenia una reserva per sobre del 9-N. 
La Vanguardia, Barcelona

Siscu Baiges said...
I'll will like to know if you think that the massacre in Paris can affect the support to independence of Catalonia. One could think that an independent Catalonia would be easier to attack by the jihadist!

21 September 2015

The Irrelevant Election in the Greek Protectorate

After the election in Greece last January in which the coalition of the radical left won and formed government, I predicted HERE that “in a year or two” the experience of Syriza government would lead to either a big turnaround of its campaign slogans or to a quick governmental and electoral failure. The former alternative happened, much earlier than expected. 
      As a consequence of the Greek government's acceptance of the bailout from the European Union, the new snap election last Sunday was largely irrelevant. The main task of the government, which is formed again by the far left and the far right, is to implement the Memorandum of Understanding agreed with the European Commission a month ago. You can give it a look HERE and you’ll see that, in fact, Greece has become a protectorate of the European Union. Virtually all policies on taxes, pensions, health care, control of the banks, labor market, competition, energy, administration, justice against corruption and several others are designed and committed to be implemented “over many years”.
       By accepting the EU’s bailout, Greece avoided exit from the euro and the EU. But it also eluded a possible default or declaration of bankruptcy within the EU that would have challenged the Greek rulers to undertake their own way to recovery. Now, Greece is not an independent country. Its sovereignty has been replaced by the EU’s “suzerainty” –as it was termed in the Ottoman Empire--. The Greece’s autonomy is reduced to choose the domestic rulers that will implement the decisions of the European Empire.


Jan Zielonka said...
Dear Josep.
I enjoyed reading your latest blog. As you will see at this link below, my views are very similar to yours:
I hope our paths will cross again before too long.
University of Oxford

Rein Taagepera said...
Ottoman subject states could not opt out of empire.
Greece can. No EU army would intervene,
University of California, Irvine

John Carlin said...
Good stuff!
London and Sitges

12 September 2015

The Bizarre Labour "Primary"
The British Labour Party is back. I mean back to its old days when it lost one election after another. For the first time, the party has held a primary election to select the party leader in which every vote had the same value. The selectorate was formed of party members, members of trade unions and registered party supporters. In total, 422,664 people have actually voted. This is only 4.5 percent of the votes the Labour party obtained in the general election four months ago. In spite of rhetoric about “engaging a wider body of supporters in Labour Party activity” and “expanding the electorate”, the actual participants have mostly been party and trade unions activists with eccentric preferences regarding the whole electorate.
     This kind of ‘primary’ has nothing to do with the United States primaries. In the US, the average participation in the presidential primaries during the last forty years has been above 30 percent of the voters in the presidential election. In the Democratic primary of 2008, more than 52 percent of the party voters participated, and both the Democratic and the Republican primaries may reach high levels of participation this coming year too. The higher the participation in the primaries, the closer the winner tends to be to the preference of the whole electorate. The lower the participation, like in the British Labour experiment, the less electable the winner can be. This seems to be clearly the case of the new party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has won the ‘primary’ with support from only 2.6 percent of the party voters in the last election.
     This looks like a way back to the long period when the British Labour Party was in opposition, during the 1980s and early ’90s, which was attributed partly to the way the party selected candidates for prime minister and members of parliament. While in the winning Conservative Party, leaders and members of parliament kept control of nominations, in Labour, all party members and trade union affiliates had voting rights. Tony Blair achieved to change the party rules to select candidates, particularly by reducing the weight of the trade union affiliates, in the mid-1990s. An electoral college was formed by splitting the votes into three thirds: members of parliament, party members, and trade unions and other organizations.
     With this, Blair was able to promote his centrist ‘Third Way’ between classical Labour and new Conservative policies and to become able to win one election after another. New rules were also established to select new candidates for parliament seats. Instead of being chosen by the party members in each electoral district, candidates to candidate began to be screened by the party central headquarters, they were obliged to attend training weekends, to submit standardized CVs, and to be interviewed by a panel which included members of parliament.
     The intention, according to a senior party figure (quoted by Jeremy Paxman), was to “weed out of the charlatans” who might have somehow sneaked through the old selection system. He was frank about what this meant. People who “appeared not to have a pragmatic line on policy disagreements” or could “not avoid sounding divisive and combative if disagreeing with party policy” would be eradicated.
     By the new primary procedure, the chosen Labour party leader sounds again kind of “divisive and combative”, as in the old times. Most observers bet that he is a likely loser in the next election.

As reproduced in the Financial Times:


Nelson Rojas Carvalho said
Nice your article on such skewed primary. Only 5% of labour voters is a joke. 
Universidade Federal Rural de Rio de Janeiro

Carles Castro said…

Hola Josep. El teu post em va despertar la serotonina ideològica i vaig dedicar-li aquest text als nostres entranyables Jeremys.

Pedro Gete said…
muy interesante estos datos
Georgetown University

Xavi Fornells said...
Bona mirada sobre el binomi primaries/participacio.
Washington, DC

30 August 2015

Greece, Puerto Rico, Catalonia

These three countries are going to make news within the next few weeks. They represent the three major options to the economic and public debt crisis: bailout, default, and exit, respectively. They are all relatively small or medium-size countries, have dubious status within a larger union (be it the European Union, the United States or the Spanish state), and call snap elections, referendums and plebiscites to try to deal with the above mentioned three options.
Greece is for the BAILOUT from the EU. The government called a referendum on the EU’s bailout in July, about 55% of voters said ‘no’, but the government accepted the bailout nevertheless (see this Blog about it CLICK). Then the Syriza ruling party split and the prime minister called a snap election for September 20 (which will be the fourth in a little more than three years). All the polls predict losses for the incumbent party. The bailout will be confirmed any way. There will not be exit so far. And strangely, default is not being considered by the EU.
Puerto Rico is for DEFAULT. The Governor and most people of the island want to declare bankruptcy. But as they are not a state but only a “Commonwealth” of the US, they are asking and getting support from presidential candidates to legalize that option. Bailout is out of question, as the US federal government has not rescued local governments since the mid-19th century (See my comment about it CLICK). Exit is not in the agenda either: the most recent plebiscite and referendum was in 2012; it included 2 questions with 2+4 answers; the result was a kind of tie between keeping the current status and statehood in the US, while independence got less than 4% of votes.
Catalonia may be for EXIT. The current government called an a-legal plebiscite in 2014, with 2 questions and 2+2 answers, in which about 30% of the electoral census voted for an independent state. It has also called a snap election on September 27 (which will be the third in five years). A new candidacy for independence has been formed, which may obtain a majority of votes only if there is low turnout in the election. For several decades, the people of Catalonia were considered to be pristinely Europeanist. But the elephant in the room is that Catexit from Spain would also imply exit from the European Union. This would cancel any EU’s bailout (which actually the government of Catalonia has indirectly received via the Spanish government) and most likely would not prevent default.
My personal wish: Let’s everybody default and stay in or join the larger Union. To discuss.


Rein Taagepera said…
O be,
tot és possible, tot puc creure.
Tartu, Estonia

Joan Ricart Huguet said…
Està molt ben trobat el blog post així a la Hirschman :) 


14 July 2015

Tsipras called the referendum 
to lose!
In a post here a week ago about the weird referendum in Greece, I argued that "no sound government takes the initiative to call a referendum to vote ‘no’".
     Now, former minister of finance, Yanis Varoufakis, explains that, actually, Prime minister Alex Tsipras wanted the 'yes' to win, in order to "have to" accept the deal with the EU that he had already seen as inevitable
     This clarifies the apparent ridiculousness of Tsipras' challenge, which would have been only a gesture for the gallery after he had reached a deal with the EU. 
     It also explains Varoufakis' sudden resignation immediately after the victory of 'no', which would have backed his tough negotiating stance only if had it been supported by his Prime minister.
     In fact, Tsipras too-smart maneuver backfired and now he, according to his previous plans, has accepted the EU deal, but in spite and against the referendum result. A double political defeat.

Varoufakis declarations to ABC radio in Australia:
About his resignation: "I jumped more than I was pushed."
How he realized that Tsipras had wanted and expected the 'yes' would win:
The night of the referendum "I entered the prime minister’s office elated. I was travelling on a beautiful cloud pushed by beautiful winds of the public’s enthusiasm for the victory of Greek democracy in the referendum. The moment I entered the prime ministerial office, I sensed immediately a certain sense of resignation—a negatively charged atmosphere. I was confronted with an air of defeat, which was completely at odds with what was happening outside.
At that point I had to put it to the prime minister: 'If you want to use the buzz of democracy outside the gates of this building, you can count on me. But if on the other hand you feel like you cannot manage, handle this majestic ‘no’ to an irrational proposition from our European partners, I am going to simply steal into the night’... I saw that he [Tsipras] didn’t have what it took emotionally at that moment to carry that novelty to Europe, to use it as a weapon… I decided to give him the leeway that he needed in order to go back to Brussels and strike" the deal.

Listen to Varoufakis' words: CLICK (until minute 3)


Varoufakis confesses Greek government's incompetence:
“If we manage to handle properly a Grexit … it would be possible to have an alternative. But I’m not sure we would manage it, because managing the collapse of a monetary union takes a great deal of expertise, and I’m not sure we have it here in Greece without the help of outsiders.”
In interview with New Stateman CLICK
     In other words: the Greek government didn't have a plan B. And nobody can win a negotiation without a plan B. 


Achim Kemmerling said...
Looking at a survey fielded just a day before the referendum shows what Greeks associated with voting ‘no’. It is clear that Greek naysayers did not really want to leave the Eurozone, but that they want to send a signal to politicians. Effectively a ‘no’ is more like a ‘yes, but’, saying yes to debt renegotiation, but with better conditions for the Greeks... CLICK
Central European University, Budapest

Xavier Vidal-Folch said...
No m’ho puc creure!!!!
D’altra banda, la lleialtat d’aquest senyor és perfectamnent millorable…
Salut sempre,
Xavier VF
El Pais

Salvador Giner said...
Evidentment. La regla elemental de tota política bizantina és voler el contrari del que dius que vols. Grècia no s'enten pensant que són hereus de Sòcrates sino d'Alcibíades. O be: no són fills d'Atenes, sino de Bizanci. Com diu Confuci: embolica, que fa fort.
Universitat de Barcelona

khel Sahitya Kendra said...

Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! I've been looking for books of this nature for a way too long. I'm just glad that I found yours. Looking forward for your next post. Thanks :)
New Delhi, Delhi, India

13 July 2015

Greece, our cousin

If Greece cannot be the brother of another 18 full members of the European Union, at least it could be a close cousin. The choice for Greece is to remain a full member of the European Union committed to abide by all the rules derived from the monetary, fiscal and banking union or to move to a second tier of association that, with several variants, already encompasses one third of its members.
     In the past, different countries have shown different degrees of willingness to join the transatlantic alliance of defense, the euro, or the agreements on border control, justice and police. Nowadays, some EU members are not NATO members, others are in the euro but not in Schengen, others are not in the euro but in Schengen, others neither in euro nor in Schengen, and some non-EU members are in either NATO or in euro or in Schengen or in several of these unions. Rather than uniform European integration, there are nowadays different degrees of union across issues and countries.
     In the future, different countries may keep accepting further integration on new issues along different paths and at different speeds. A large group of core countries will remain in the Euro-zone, under the jurisdiction of the European Central Bank and the Fiscal Compact, as well in loyalty to the Schengen agreement. Other countries may keep taking benefit from the European single market, but they may also continue to be out of some of the other commitments.
     The possible Brexit or Grexit have been compared to a separation or a divorce. In the same vein, the variety of allegiances of different countries to the common policies of the European Union can evoke complex family relationships, which are composed of the nuclear family and several connections with first-, second- and third-degree relatives. The actual interactions are partly determined by blood, but affinities, exchanges, and animadversions can also derive from voluntary choices. Likewise, some countries can shift between closer and looser relationships with the EU, choose opt-ins and opt-outs, and enter or leave the Union with different prenups and settlement packages.
     The United States of Europe, in the sense of a compact, homogeneous federation, is not in the horizon. The European Union can endure and succeed, in contrast, as an inwards, non-colonialist “empire” because empires typically hold uneven levels of formal integration of countries and varied degrees of people’s allegiance. The current asymmetries in countries’ degrees of integration are likely to endure. 

09 July 2015

                Politics in Art
                An Anthology     

1. War
2. Kings and Presidents
3. Revolution
4. Voting and elections
                 Video 15 minutes

03 July 2015

The Greek weird game: 
When ‘Yes’ means ‘No’
Some people wonder whether the Greek government of Syriza headed by Alex Tsipras is a group of maverick politicians and skilful game theorists or a bunch of amateurs who improvise every move and don’t know where to go next. A clue to bend on the latter interpretation is how they have called this Sunday’s referendum. It’s not only that it has been called only one week in advance, that the question is undecipherable, and that they may not get on time to cover all the towns and islands of the country. It’s that the question is upside down!
        An elementary rule for callers of a referendum is to call ‘yes’ to what the callers want. This is due, first of all, to a basic democratic element of accountability. A referendum is to ratify (or reject) some proposal or decision previously made by the government, the parliament or whoever organizes the query. If the government’s proposal is rejected, which rarely happens, then the government must resign and its proposal will not be implemented. See how this was the case in Ireland a few weeks ago, where the government called for ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage and won. In last year’s referendum for independence of Scotland, the Scottish government also called for a yes, and as it lost, it resigned. Even in the a-legal query in Catalonia about a similar issue a few months ago, the Catalan government asked for a ‘yes-yes’ (which won but was not validated due to low turnout).
       The only occasions on which the government can call ‘no’ is when the referendum is promoted by a group of citizens to challenge some existing legislation, which may happen in a few places like Alaska or Utah, for instance. In fact, most popular initiatives against government-backed legislation loss. And no sound government takes the initiative to call a referendum to vote ‘no’.
        The other ‘strategic’ reason to call for ‘yes’ is psychological. In general, people prefer ‘yes’: it’s positive, optimistic, it may be based on trust, it comes first to your mind, it’s easy to deliver. ‘No’, in contrast, may require more information on the intricate matter and an attitude of distrust and angriness. Campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote is certainly easier and more cheerful than a ‘no’. Aware of this, the Britons are discussing the question for the announced referendum about Brexit from the EU (which is not going to be called one week before, like the Greek one, but about two years in advance). The independent British Electoral Commission suggested that in addition to the obvious question: “Should the UK remain a member of the EU? Yes or No”, the government should consider a less biased question with the “neutral wording”: “Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? Remain or Leave”. Still, the status-quo (remain) would be favored. But surely the British government will feel emboldened to have its own way.
       The Greek callers are trying the silly trick of putting ‘No’ above ‘Yes’ in the unreadable and bilingual ballot, as can be seen in the image (Oxi=No, Nay=Yes). This may mislead some voters to vote for the first available option, but it can also surprise others that can react against a too obvious suggestion.
       This Sunday in Greece, if ‘no’ wins, the EU loses. But the Tsipras government would not win anything. Syriza called ‘no’ precisely because they have no-thing to offer. If the ‘yes’ wins, the governments loses and the EU wins. Then it’s the EU that should manage the victory and rule in Greece.

Marjorie Henriquez said...
Very informative! 
from IMF

Pedro Gete said...
muy bueno!
from Georgetown University

Hector Schamis said...
Buena nota sobre el referendum. 
Comparto esta de hoy.
'Argentina y Grecia' CLICK

Argentina had a trade union with Brazil, but no monetary union; Brazil devalued and Argentina had to break parity with the dollar to devalue as well.
Does this mean that Greece should leave the euro to devalue?
Why not take the example of Puerto Rico? It will go into default right now, but without leaving the dollar and without creating a major crisis in all the USA for it.
As you say, over-indebtedness inevitably  leads to "austerity" one way or another. Tsipras & co believe that, with the victory of ‘no’, tomorrow they will sit again at the table with the EU with stronger negotiation power. But the EU can tell them to follow their path.
Like Puerto Rico, California, Illinois, Detroit ...
Argentina, Russia ...
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