Thomas Piketty is France’s version of Paul Krugman: a renowned economist and a member of the moderate and reality-based left. (How many French progressives would title their book Vive la gauche américaine !?) But he’s also pushing through his frequent media appearances and popular writings for concrete action on one of the big causes of our day: the fight against the rising tide of inequality since the 1980s.
The endless refrain of the current management of the eurozone crisis is Margaret Thatcher’s old line: “There Is No Alternative” (TINA) to cuts, privatization, a stronger European Central bank, etc. But there are alternatives, one of which was described by Piketty last July in an interesting article in Libération. It both concedes the risks of eurozone federalism (that it would destroy hard-won social rights and standards of living at national level) and proposes how a functional and democratic eurozone might actually work. He argues against Europeanizing welfare and instead for combining joint eurozone debt with a “budget chamber,” composed of national elected members of parliament, which would debate and vote common and binding debt ceilings. This, or a scheme like it, seems the only way for the eurozone’s to be democratized, as opposed to antidemocratic measures such as simply banning all future parliamentary majorities from engaging in deficit spending and Keynesian policies (the aim of the Fiskalpakt). Continue reading