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Friday, June 21, 2013

Governmental Paralysis in Illinois: Behind the Underfunded Pension Crisis

Sometimes when a government’s fiscal matters get bad enough, dysfunction in the real power-relations at the highest level can suddenly become painfully obvious, or transparent, as when Toto pulls the curtain away to reveal the man behind the “all and powerful” Wizard of Oz. 

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

E.U. & U.S.: A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words

E.U. and U.S. Counterparts Meet
President Barak Obama of the U.S. and Presidents Herman Van Rompuy and José Barroso of the E.U. at a news conference following the EU-US Summit at Lisbon in 2010. Even though the E.U. and U.S. are both empire-scale federal unions of states, and thus are equivalent in terms of political type or genre, they differ in terms of how their respective federal offices are arranged and constituted. Interestingly, the alternative of having more than one president (e.g., a presidential council) was debated in the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Image source:  European Pressphoto Agency. 2010.                   

Rhetorical Analysis:
The personal belief stresses E.U. and U.S. equivalence politically (i.e., empire-level federal unions) and in terms of scale (i.e., empire-scale). It follows that the two E.U. presidents—of the European Council and the Commission—are together the counterpart of the U.S. president. We see this visually in the picture, even down to the podiums and manner of dress. The respective flags are also visually equivalent, being the same size and contiguous (an early American flag would be more equivalent visually and in terms of federal development). Lastly, “EU-US” illustrates equivalence, and in a font that indicates that the equivalence is modern, rather than traditional. Accordingly, I chose the Arial font, which is modern yet official-looking, for my title. The title itself highlights the theme of equivalence by “EU and US” and “counterparts.”


The following picture also shows the full presidential equivalence (while showing how the EU is not a replica of the US):

The three men look more "governmental" here. Also, the flags show a symmetry that supports to motif of equivalence. 
Image source:
AFP. 2013.

Here is a very symbolic, "abstract art," way of depicting the equivalence:

Image source: Atlantic Council. 2012

Slightly less symbolic, showing that the equivalence is symbolically represented somewhere in practice, what does this picture imply regarding the flags of Germany, Britain, or France, or for that matter, California, New York, and Texas?

EU and US Flags in front of an E.U. building in Brussels
Image source: AFP/Getty Images. 2012. 
Actually, to compare the early U.S. with the early E.U., the flags should be from the early U.S. and the early E.U., respectively. Interestingly, an early U.S. flag bears astonishing resemblance to the first E.U. flag.

The E.U. flag was designed by Arsène Heitz and Paul Lévy for the Council of Europe in 1955. The EC and the E.U. would subsequently adopt the flag as their own. The "Betsy Ross" U.S. flag was in use by 1777. Regarding the number of stars, whereas the 13 on the U.S. flag represent the original 13 states in the U.S. alliance, the 12 stars on the E.U. flag were chosen when the Council of Europe had 15 members (10 of which were founding members). Even so, the similarity between the two flags is striking, especially as both the U.S. and E.U. have added states since their respective foundings.  
Image sources:  Flickr and IATA, respectively.

Out of all of the pictures above, which one (or two) do you think best depicts the motif of equivalence?

Monday, June 17, 2013

European Federalism in E.U.-U.S. Trade Negotiations

When U.S. President Barak Obama and the E.U. Presidents José Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy announced that talks would begin on a free trade agreement between the E.U. and U.S., the hope was that a sweeping deal would “largely eliminate trade tariffs and harmonize regulations across a broad range of industries” in “the world’s biggest two-way economic relationship.” [1] That E.U. ministers meeting days earlier had decided to protect the “cultural exception” to international trade rules “for the sake of preserving” the distinctive cultures of the E.U. states was cause for concern, should the U.S. seek to exempt the financial sector in exchange. [2] France had long been concerned that the English-speaking California film industry would swamp smaller French studios to the detriment of the French language and culture. Even though exceptions threatening a broader trade deal are indeed protectionist, in this case European federalism is also at issue. This factor could legitimate the exemption such that a countering U.S. exemption would not be equivalent and thus justified.

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires, available at Amazon.
1. Matthew Dalton, “EU Deal Paves Way for US Trade Talks,” The Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2013.
2. Ibid.