Complacent insiders sow the seeds of their own demise

After 17 years, this will be my final column for this newspaper.

Instead of ruminating about the past and repeating what has been said before, I think this is a moment to bring a unifying perspective to the issues that informed my writing in the later years. This column never quite fitted into the categories of pro or anti-European discourse, left or right, pro or anti-government. I must have left some readers confused about whether I am a European federalist, a Eurosceptic, or a cynical contrarian.

I find these classifications useless. I think about Europe and other current issues as a power struggle between insiders and outsiders. European integration started off as an outside challenge to national political and corporate cartels. But the EU, too, has displayed some cartel-like behaviour, for example in the way it dealt with small countries during the financial crisis.

I find this insider-outsider classification more useful than, let us say, establishment versus anti-establishment, or liberalism versus populism. I do not believe that populism will endure. But the rules-based multilateral order is crumbling for reasons that have nothing to do with populism. Many traditional power centres of our democracies — centrist political parties, the mainstream media, some industries —…

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