NEW YORK – The outcome of the Italian elections should send a clear message to Europe’s leaders: the austerity policies that they have pursued are being rejected by voters.
The European project, as idealistic as it was, was always a top-down endeavor. But it is another matter altogether to encourage technocrats to run countries, seemingly circumventing democratic processes, and foist upon them policies that lead to widespread public misery.
While Europe’s leaders shy away from the word, the reality is that much of the European Union is in depression. The loss of output in Italy since the beginning of the crisis is as great as it was in the 1930’s. Greece’s youth unemployment rate now exceeds 60%, and Spain’s is above 50%. With the destruction of human capital, Europe’s social fabric is tearing, and its future is being thrown into jeopardy.
The economy’s doctors say that the patient must stay the course. Political leaders who suggest otherwise are labeled as populists. The reality, though, is that the cure is not working, and there is no hope that it will – that is, without being worse than the disease. Indeed, it will take a decade or more to recover the losses incurred in this austerity process.