I consider myself a relatively sophisticated American when it comes to understanding other countries. For instance, I know that there are other countries, and I could probably name, like, twelve without going on Wikipedia. But even I was surprised by Merkel and Sarkozy’s proposal that every eurozone country adopt a balanced budget amendment into its constitution.
As my fellow Americans will recall, the Balanced Budget Amendment–in America it’s important enough to capitalize–is an old hobby-horse of the Republican Party, which the nation will have the pleasure of debating once again thanks to Obama Mission Control’s latest 11-dimensional chess move in re: the debt ceiling. The BBA has always struck me as a kind of dull-witted nostalgia for a plainly false idea, the macroeconomic equivalent of flat earth astrophysics or the Latin Mass. But now that the French and Germans have embraced it, I guess I’ll have to give it a second look; for like all half-educated Americans, I consider Europe practically the brand label of humane enlightenment.