The major dispute over the American preference for fiscal stimulus as opposed to the European priority of global regulation is at the heart of this. Europe may as well get this straight now: Barack Obama will not subject the United States to policing by an international regulatory authority, not just because he puts the economic recovery of his own nation above all other concerns (and from the point of view of the rest of the world, this is no bad thing since American recovery is essential to the future of the global economy) but because to do so would be to sign away the democratic accountability of his and all future US governments to a body in which American voters had no say.
Unlike in Europe – where the historical commitment to democracy has been patchy – America has little difficulty with the question, “who needs to be in charge of our future?” The answer is always, “we the people”. Democratic self-governance, and the concept of personal freedom that underpins it, comes first and last…
Everybody is telling them that global cooperation (which sounds so nice) is necessary for survival, but nobody is saying what that will actually mean in terms of sacrificing the power they have over their own government – even in the attenuated form in which it still exists in the EU. When people are worried about their survival, it is quite easy to persuade them to suspend what seems like the abstract concept of democracy. But once you have given up, as citizens, that power of restraint over your elected government, you can say goodbye to it forever.
By all means, we must continue to make the moral case for capitalism, but it seems that we have to make the case for democracy, too. People must not be bullied into believing that economic security must be bought at the price of their political birthright. The operative word in the phrase “free market economics” is “free”.