Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 18 No. 4 (Fall 2004)


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The European Union: A Politically Incorrect View

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Alesina, Alberto, and Roberto Perotti. 2004. "The European Union: A Politically Incorrect View." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18(4): 27-48.

DOI: 10.1257/0895330042632780


In this paper, we present our view of the recent evolution of European integration. We first briefly describe the main features of the institution and decision making process in the European Union, with particular attention to the debate between federalists and super nationalists. We then identify two key issues in the process of European integration: 1) an emphasis on "institutional balance" based on a complex web of institutions with overlapping jurisdiction; 2) A conflict between a dirigiste versus a more laissez faire approach to government. We argue that the first problem leads to a lack of clarity in the allocation of powers between European institutions, confusion in the allocation of prerogatives between national governments and EU institutions, and lack of transparency and accountability. The dirigiste culture also manifests itself in an abundant production of verbose rhetoric, which in our view is far from innocuous and direct set the European policy debate in the wrong direction. We then study how these problems play out in 4 important areas: employment policies, culture and scientific research, foreign and defense policies, and fiscal policy. Finally, we study the implications of the recently proposed European Constitution a potential solution of these two problems.

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Alesina, Alberto
Perotti, Roberto


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