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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Unions and States at the G-8

At the G-8 summit at Camp David in May 2012, E.U. and U.S. leaders met with the leaders of four E.U. states (Italy, Germany, France and Britain). As this picture illustrates, the qualitative differences between looking after a union of states and a state can show up unintentionally in informal seating arrangements. In the context of the European debt crisis—in particular, whether to give one state (i.e., Greece) stimulus cash or just insist on the austerity programs already agreed to—the governors of the E.U. states have particular agendas (given the financial interests of the respective states) whereas the federal officials are oriented to the good of the whole (i.e., the E.U.). President Obama of the U.S. was by the time of the summit used to taking such a perspective over and above the interests of particular U.S. states. Such a commonality of federal, empire-level interests as distinct from the relatively particularized interests of E.U. (and U.S.) states could be reflected in the seating arrangement in the picture taken by the White House, wherein Obama, Barroso (sitting next to Obama), and Van Rompuy (in the sweater) seem to be facing the four governors. The seating arrangement could just as easily have been a circle. It probably was, originally, and I suspect that the federal v. states distinction operated unconsciously on the participants such that the three federal officials came to be as though a line facing the four governors of E.U. states.

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.