German Chancellor Angela Merkel is perhaps the most powerful figure among the constellation of European elites who now face an incredibly difficult series of decisions after Greece rejected the terms of yet another proposed bailout.
But it’s not Angela Merkel, but Wolfgang Merkel, whose thinking really gets to the heart of what’s gone so terribly wrong with the European project. Wolfgang Merkel, a German academic who studies democracy, published a provocative essay last year titled “Is capitalism compatible with democracy?” In it, he argues, essentially, that the fragile post-World-War II peace between markets and democracy—both of which have grown rapidly—seems to to be fraying. In the aftermath of the global financial collapse of 2008, “the crisis of capitalism threatens to turn into a crisis of democracy.
”That’s what’s happening to Greece. In a debt crisis that has already lasted a half decade, Greece has repeatedly ceded sovereignty in matters of economic-policy-making—very clearly territory of its own democratic institutions—to a group of institutions such as the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, which all have fairly tenuous links to democratic legitimacy.