There are some issues that the hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts thinks are vitally important and easy and fun to write about and some issues that are vitally important and difficult and challenging to write about.
This is a problem. Writing about the Iran nuclear talks are like the foreign policy equivalent of crack — quick hit, quick high, when can I write about it again!! [Full disclosure: I have no idea what doing crack is actually like.] But in many ways, the ongoing sclerosis of the euro-zone economies matters a hell of a lot more to world politics. Opining about it is just so damn difficult, however. Internecine euro-zone politics are really confusing and the economics are genuinely baffling. This is true despite the use of cool villain-y terms like “troika” and after Greece elected a truly out-there leftist party in response to the disaster that is austerity.
Which is why I will outsource this issue and heartily recommend Mark Blyth’s and Matthias Matthijs’ “The Future of the Euro,” which is a mini-miracle of a book in so many ways. If you were going to devise a formula for producing a book that would be overtaken by events before it was published, you’d use the following criteria:
- Make it a book by academics and published by an academic press;
- Make it an edited volume, because those take longer and tend to fluctuate wildly in quality from chapter to chapter;
- Make it about an ongoing policy issue.
“The Future of the Euro” meets all these criteria, and yet the miracle is that the book is still wildly informative and relevant. This is especially for folks who are coming at the euro-zone issue without a great deal of EuroKnowledge (TM).
Be warned, however: it is pretty much impossible to read “The Future of the Euro“ without concluding that the euro zone is good and truly screwed. Like a large, fractious family, the euro-zone actors simultaneously aggravate each other and yet cannot escape from each other. The book demonstrates the clear, hard limits of further European economic integration — but also the limits on European economic disintegration as well. The euro zone seems stuck in some kind of political economy purgatory. Numerous actors *COUGH* France *COUGH* have grown weaker and more policy incoherent over time. Other actors *COUGH* Germany *COUGH* have grown more powerful and coherent over time, but coherent around a set of policies that simply cannot be implemented elsewhere in the euro zone.
Seriously, it’s worth a read. Chapters by Abraham Newman and Wade Jacoby do an outstanding job of explaining why German policy preferences look the way they do (it’s not really about the 1920’s hyperinflation) and Jonathan Hopkin’s contribution on the politics of the euro zone in Spain and Italy is an exemplar of how to write about political economy. So go read it and be depressed — because after I read it, I concluded that the only thing that will rescue the euro zone from sclerosis is a massive worldwide economic boom that will lift these economies out of the doldrums.
Writing about the foreign policy crack will resume tomorrow.