Mario Draghi felt a draft of wind blowing from Europe, precisely from Berlin. He is the ghost of Alexander Hamilton. This was evoked by Wolfgang Schaeuble, president of the Bundestag, the German Parliament. He did not do it by chance.
Hamilton is one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. He is George Washington’s Treasury Secretary and the founder, with John Adams, of the Federalist party. Some consider him the man who directed the thirteen colonies towards a destiny of great power. For others he is the patriarch of the strong powers and the cynical businessman who has betrayed the libertarian spirit of the republic. Among them was Thomas Jefferson.
Hamilton takes away space from individual states. Center. Hinges. It does so by wresting economic autonomy. The first move is to share the debt. The second commissioner. The third is to create a national bank. It can be said that this is how the colonies became America or perhaps this was just one of the possible ways. Certainly Hamilton’s choice also marks the victory of the New England States over Virginia.
This is why Schaeuble mentions Jefferson’s enemy. “We need a debt redemption pact for the euro zone on the model of the historic sinking fund established by Hamilton in 1792”. The message has a specific recipient. It is precisely Mario Draghi. Name and surname. “I have discussed this moral hazard several times. Left to themselves, the members of a confederation of states risk succumbing to the temptation to contract debts at the expense of the community ».
Schaeuble is noticing that Italy is somehow trying to get back on its feet. He is not the only one. Valdis Dombrovskis, the Latvian vice president of the European commission, has also noticed. So much so that it immediately relaunched the idea of restoring the stability pact. Draghi may well be good and authoritative, but Italy is not planning to grow only by relying on debt: “Macroeconomic imbalances remain excessive”. Too high debt, low productivity and a distressed credit market. In short, the holiday is about to end.
The strange thing is that these talks happen when the Recovery loans haven’t even arrived. It is an alert, but one that comes from two old feelings that have never faded. The first is distrust. The guarantees of the former head of the ECB are not enough to sweep away the doubts about the character of the Italians. The suspicion of happy spending, of bad debt, of a country that prefers to assist rather than invest, persists. It is a prejudice, but it is not easy to deny. It is the old story of the “good life”, with rich Italians, tax evaders, with savings in the bank and the house they own and of a ragged state that does not respect the rules of the game. For Schaeuble this is also a moral question. There is a Europe that keeps repeating that it does not want to pay for the Italian cicadas.
The other sentiment is a desire, which answers the question: who should count in Europe? Draghi is bringing Italy back to center stage. It is there to fill the void left by Merkel. Now the Italy that is failing is a problem, but even Italy that counts too much is not comfortable in Berlin.