How the dignity of office makes fools of the dignitaries

The clowns who are currently running the EU are very cross because Paul Krugman has been pointing out that their current economic policies (if one can call them that) are manifestly not working. So they’ve been twittering abuse in his direction. His riposte (tactfully headed “Of cockroaches and Commissioners”) reads, in part:

The dignity of office can be a terrible thing for intellectual clarity: you can spend years standing behind a lectern or sitting around a conference table drinking bottled water, delivering the same sententious remarks again and again, and never have anyone point out how utterly wrong you have been at every stage of the game. Those of us on the outside need to do whatever we can to break through that cocoon — and ridicule is surely one useful technique.

There’s an especially telling tweet in there about how “unimpressive” I was when visiting the Commission in 2009. No doubt; I’m not an imposing guy. (I’ve had the experience of being overlooked by the people who were supposed to meet me at the airport, and eventually being told, “We expected you to be taller”). And for the life of me I can’t remember a thing about the Commission visit. Still, you can see what these people consider important: never mind whether you have actually proved right or wrong about the impacts of economic policy, what matters is whether you come across as impressive.

And let’s be clear: this stuff matters. The European economy is in disastrous shape; so, increasingly, is the European political project. You might think that eurocrats would worry mainly about that reality; instead, they’re focused on defending their dignity from sharp-tongued economists.

One of my academic colleagues spends a lot of time in Brussels and tells me that the one tactic that never fails to get Eurocrats riled is to ask whether a particular wheeze/project is “a good use of taxpayers’ money”.