It’s interesting to try to think about the incentives facing Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. Normally you would think that a national prime minister’s best option is to try to do the stuff that’s likely to get him re-elected. No matter how bleak the outlook, this is your dominant strategy. But in the era of globalization and EU-ification, I think the leaders of small countries are actually in a somewhat different situation. If you leave office held in high esteem by the Davos set, there are any number of European Commission or IMF or whatnot gigs that you might be eligible for even if you’re absolutely despised by your fellow countrymen. Indeed, in some ways being absolutely despised would be a plus. The ultimate demonstration of solidarity to the “international community” would be to do what the international community wants even in the face of massive resistance from your domestic political constituency.
My guess is that even if Brian Cowen turns out to have permanently destroyed the once-dominant Fianna Fail, he has a promising future on the international circuit talking about the need for “tough choices.”
Here touring the various palaces and such, my thoughts have drifted a bit to the ancien regime world of a Europe dominated by a transnational nobility. To the extent that the elites of the EU governing class identify with each other more than they do with their own populations, the weird elite-driven EU governance model has sort of recreated that.