FLORENCE – The eurozone crisis is a common cause for Europeans. But the shared interests of Europe’s citizens lack adequate political representation – a failing that contributed to the current crisis. The longer the crisis is treated exclusively as a technocratic issue, the more strongly the European Union will be pushed toward disintegration.
To avoid a breakup, Europe’s leaders should look to the ideas of James Madison, one of the authors of the United States Constitution and The Federalist Papers. Currently, Madison’s co-author Alexander Hamilton is on everyone’s mind in Brussels, as watered-down versions of his concept of fiscal federalism are increasingly perceived as the solution to the eurozone’s malaise.
But Hamilton’s ideas are incomplete without Madison’s examination of how political representation should be structured in order to facilitate economic integration. Madison’s “scheme of representation” included several innovative elements, two of which apply to the eurozone’s current crisis.
First, if institutions are structured in the right way, political representatives can articulate programs and policies that, as Madison put it, “refine and enlarge public views.” Within an integrated economy, there are divergent categories of actors, such as creditors and debtors, or manufacturers and agricultural producers, the combination of which can affect the outlook of states and regions. An effective system of representation, Madison argued, would create support for political projects that would render compatible these actors’ divergent, and potentially conflicting, interests.