In This Review

How to Democratize Europe
How to Democratize Europe
By Stéphanie Hennette, Thomas Piketty, Guillaume Sacriste, and Antoine Vauchez. Translated by Paul Determine, Marc LePain, and Patrick Camiller
Harvard University Press, 2019, 224 pp

This book, which sparked considerable debate when it appeared in French, criticizes Europe’s single currency not because it does too much (the usual complaint) but because it does too little. The authors, three legal academics and a celebrated economist, charge that the eurozone’s technocratic obscurantism and self-defeating tendency toward austerity exacerbate inequality, right-wing populism, and Euroskepticism. They propose to counteract these forces by greatly increasing fiscal transfers between EU countries. To do so, they recommend that the EU create a powerful new transnational parliament composed of national parliamentarians. This body would, they hope, supplant existing institutions and allow for transfers of wealth from richer EU countries to poorer ones. Yet none of this has the slightest chance of being realized, and even if it were, it would hardly be sufficient to offset the harm done by the euro. Recent experience and social science findings, moreover, belie the idealistic notion that referendums and parliamentary elections automatically legitimate policies. The proposal is important chiefly because it illustrates the utter failure of Europe’s center-left social democrats—caught between their pro-federalist beliefs and the realities of international economic cooperation—to craft coherent and viable proposals for renewing the EU.