Bruegel Annual Meeting – The Missing Link

by Anthony Zacharzewski

I spent this morning at the Bruegel Annual Meeting, kicking off the autumn with economics and geopolitics. Several high level speakers talked about the EU’s future economic policy and geostrategy (armies, hard power, soft power and so on), but for me there was a critical missed connection.

It was clearest in the economy panel. The speakers talked about the impact of the Trump presidency on trade, how Brexit was going to damage the EU and the UK, and the importance of acting at regional and local level on skills and development.

Marketers and economists understand people as consumers, as measures of confidence in purchasing or in products, but the last few years have shown us that people are just as powerful as citizens. In the way that 2008 reshaped the European financial system, 2016 should have reshaped the European political system.

Yet issues of open politics and good governance didn’t come up. With every generation, a later speaker said, democracy has to be born again. Yes, and economics too.

The risks and opportunities in the economy depend on people and communities – and therefore on the ability of the policy makers in Brussels to address those people and bring them into the decisions that are being made.

Our Networked Democracy project and work with the Open Government Network for Europe are about building a resilient democratic society that works at local level and at European scale. It’s no easy task, but neither is banking union. Success in that would be good economics: it would reduce the risks of disruptive events and system collapse, while increasing the opportunities for effective collective action around skills.

Why predict when you can read the newspaper? Politics is a huge risk factor for economics and finance. So where are the banks and financial institutions talking about open government and participation? I don’t see them, but perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places.