Should Britain Have Joined the Euro?

This is a nice post summarizing the arguments for and against Britain joining the Euro in 2001:

The arguments in favour, at least the economic ones, were that we might benefit from being fully integrated in a bigger trading bloc, that we would benefit from currency stability, that lower interest rates would be nice to have, and that the Eurozone restrictions would be a force that would require industry to be more competitive (or did they just mean lower wages?). The arguments against, at least the economic ones, were that the Stability & Growth Pact would be an anti-Keynesian force for deflation and that the option of devaluation would be removed. […]

But the economic argument that was very rarely discussed was the one that is now fascinating everybody – exactly how the Eurosystem, rather than the Euro, would function in a financial crisis. Apparently this was discussed in specialist circles, but it didn’t make even the best of the national press.

Maybe this is just me and my fetish for obsolete political debates, but I wish the media would engage in this exercise more often. If there’s anything history teaches us, its that the arguments for and against making a particular political move are often utterly irrelevant once the action is taken.

People opposed to giving women the vote in Britain in 1918, for example,made the argument that, once you had universal suffrage, there would be no impartial observers to serve as referees in political debates. It may be true that women’s suffrage slightly reduced the number of female-brokered political compromises, but if you were listing all the positive and negative impacts of universal suffrage 90 years after the fact, that would come in about 107th. Similarly, the arguments for and against the creation of the Euro from 2000 seem completely out of touch with its actual impact in 2011.

One of the roles of new media, I think, will be to run more postgame analysis like this. With all of our political arguments cached in full, we can’t escape the reasons we talked ourselves into tacking in a particular direction, and how those reasons relate to what has happened since. Things like, say, the Bush tax cuts and healthcare reform were designed to foster specific economic and societal impacts. If those impacts haven’t taken effect in the years since, the people designing them were either lying, grandstanding, shortsighted or just wrong. For each reason behind their decision, we need to ask them which one they were.

We need a media that not only holds politicians to account for what they do, but why they do it. Knowing what we were promised and what we got won’t just make us better debaters, but better citizens.

1 Comment

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One response to “Should Britain Have Joined the Euro?

  1. elephantwoman

    Actually, there was a website by an Australian movement that was about users submitting promises by politicians and keeping track of whether they’re kept…but I don’t know what happened to the site, it lost steam I guess. And the truth is even with new media, the flaws are inherent in the system, could it actually be enough to ‘keep the bastards honest’?

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