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The presidency of the French Republic is a job description written for one man – Charles de Gaulle – and no one else has since filled the post with much distinction.
Keynes famously advocated reducing unemployment by employing people to dig holes and fill them in again: today it would be enough to employ them to fill the potholes that are already there.
Governments will in the end always put voters ahead of prior commitments or external obligations. That democratic imperative has costs and benefits – but, overall, the benefits of popular accountability far exceed the cost.
Financial markets are an effective discipline on profligate individuals and states because markets cannot easily be bullied or lobbied, and their threat to make the cost of funds prohibitive is effective.
If the eurozone had quickly recognised defeat in Greece, it would have suffered a manageable failure and learnt an important lesson for the future. Instead it has followed the martingale.
The skill of the statesman is to distinguish situations in which ambiguity makes coexistence possible from those that will make the future more troublesome. In this respect, politicians who have steered world affairs through the financial crisis have not served us well.