Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
You would expect people like finance ministers to be very, very good at negotiation

I wouldn't. Most countries are like the UK - ministers get jobs as rewards for party loyalty, not because of any obvious competence.

In the British system, you're expected to become an instant expert on transport, or health, or the entire economy, or even on being Prime Minister, even though you have no experience and no relevant qualifications - except knowing how to shout a bit, score cheap points in a debate, and perhaps collect cash as a 'consultant.'

So, farce it is.

The socially-aware post-war consensus was a brief exception to the usual endemic and virulent greed that has run Europe's politics since the Middle Ages, and US politics since before the War of Independence.

It's not actually a surprise that most policy makes no sense, and appears to be chosen for the immediate personal gain of the policy authors - because that's exactly what's happening.

The terrifying thing about Varoufakis and Tsipras is that they don't seem to be like this. This must absolutely enrage the IMF, etc, because they're having to deal with people who not only have professor-level insight and experience, but also come equipped with moral principles that aren't bounded by simple reptilian greed.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 25th, 2015 at 07:30:04 PM EST
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I don't know the precise situation in other European countries, but the cabinet making process in Ireland and (I think) the UK is an absolute joke. Over a matter of a few hours the prime Minister designate calls in the favoured parliamentarians and tells them he is making them minister for such and such. The actual portfolio allocated may have no bearing on actual prior knowledge, experience, or stated preferences.  It often is explicitly not the brief the relevant parliamentarian covered in opposition - lest his/her statements in opposition might come to haunt him as Minister.  Sometimes some appointee has a hissy fit regarding their allocated portfolio and a hasty re-shuffle ensues.

The whole process ensures most ministers, however able, are almost complete novices in their newly allocated policy area and are the easy sitting ducks for experienced civil servants who have spent a lifetime in that area and who can easily browbeat their Minister into their preferred policy positions.  By the time the Minister becomes sufficiently proficient in a policy area to challenge his/her civil servants, they are reshuffled to a new portfolio...

And so the veneer of democracy is maintained whilst the real Government is carried out by career civil servants with very privileged pay and pensions provisions that are higher than in the rest of Europe.  Sometimes they even sabotage a Minister who is proving "difficult" with wrong, partial, or downright mis-information.  Because of the the archaic tradition that Ministers are responsible for everything that happens in their department, it is the Minister who must fall on his sword whilst the Civil servants smile in the background.  Not that there is much of a tradition of Irish Ministers falling on their swords no matter how egregrious their mistakes...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 26th, 2015 at 12:02:22 PM EST
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