The answer is no. In a recent blog post he has revealed the tactics – also employed in the US during the Bush years – that are at work here: if you attack a policy and a leading proponent of it – what he did with Olli Rehn and the EU’s austerity push – you get accused of of being against the wider idea (Europe). But Krugman made clear that:
As it happens, I’m very much pro-European; I consider the European project, the path of peace through prosperity and integration, one of the best things to have happened to humanity over the past century. I’ve seen the good work Europe has done in promoting democracy.
My problem isn’t with Europe, it’s with the bad policies that are ripping Europe apart, and with the officials who for whatever reason – intellectual inflexibility, ideological blinders, or, I suspect, sheer personal vanity, an unwillingness to admit that they were wrong – have refused to consider any modification of these policies despite years of disastrous results.
And the attempt of these officials to wrap themselves in the mantle of European unity is truly contemptible.
I happen to agree with a lot of things Paul Krugman writes but I don’t want to defend him per se. It is more important that the substance of his criticism is reinforced.
To be perfectly frank: the biggest threat to the European integration project is the economic policy course pushed by people like Olli Rehn. It is also a perfectly legitimate criticism to state that a lot of people (though not all) in Brussels are living in a bubble and are completely detached from what is happening on the ground in many European countries. And when election results show how dismissive people are of their approach, they feel deeply hurt and blame them for not seeing the good intentions and the big picture. There is no alternative anyway, right? What comes to mind is the famous question posed by Bertholt Brecht: ‘would it not be easier still for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?’
There has been a lot of talk about Europe’s democratic deficit. I am beginning to think that there is not just an issue in the governance construction but also in the way actors absorb democratic decisions into their actions. This looks like an entrenched cultural rather than just an institutional issue. This needs to change.
Does this kind of criticism make me anti-European? Of course not. I want Europe to work so the bits that don’t have to be identified and changed. Olli Rehn should better get used to this sort of criticism and think hard about it. He will hear a lot more of it from people he is supposed to serve.