Europeans have been stunned and dismayed by the shutdown and near-default of the United States. Perhaps they even felt some schadenfreude. After all, European leaders have been held to ridicule and contempt for their global brinkmanship over the dysfunctional eurozone in recent years – time and again taking their economies to the cliff, only to pull back just before the markets opened.
Yet Europe might be in for its own version of a shutdown – less dramatic than the US government one, to be sure, but with similar causes. Just as the Tea Party has turned Congress into a paralysed, self-hating institution, an alliance of anti-European Union parties could give Europe its own version of “gridlock” if they win enough of the popular vote in next year’s European elections. European elites – and any citizen who cares about the fate of the EU – better start thinking about that scenario.
The US and the EU share one characteristic: they are, in the jargon of political science, “mixed regimes”, with a strong separation of powers and numerous checks and balances. This is good news for those who want laws to be based on broad consensus and generally to avoid what James Madison called “public instability”. Unlike the Westminster model mixed regimes make it easy for a relatively small number of political players to veto change. They are also less transparent; plus it is harder to hold anyone clearly accountable – blame for politicking can always be shifted around.
*Read article in full at The Guardian.