top of page


Ideas I think about at work

Self-fulfilling crises in the Eurozone and the institutional preconditions of republican sovereignty 

By combining macroeconomics with political theory, this paper ex- plores the possibility that the conception of freedom as non-domination can be meaningfully applied to evaluate, from the point of view of justice, the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis. This perspective will high- light how member states’ capacity to autonomously determine how to weather the impact of the crisis has been unjustly curtailed by the dominating power of financial markets. The system of rules that governs the single currency has led investors to question the capacity of member states to finance their debts. The self-fulfilling sudden-stop crisis that ensued as a consequence of such uncertainty has diluted member states’ autonomy. In motivating this line of argument, the paper touches upon the recent debates on the sources and site of domi- nation and on the stance republican scholars should take toward com- petitive markets. The paper concludes by noting that, if Europeancitizens are truly free only if they live in a state that is not dominated by external institutions and forces, then Eurozone countries have an obligation to establish institutions that increase private and public channels of risk-sharing.

February 2023 (Journal of Politics)


Some economists have suggested that expert bodies like Fiscal Councils should manage public debt like central banks manage inflation. What are the democratic credentials of these new institutions? This work attempts to answer this question by highlighting the differences between two ways of conceptualising democracy offered by Pettit. The first sees constraints on politicians’ powers and depoliticisation as a proper way to preserve the non-domination of citizens, while the second pivots around the notion of popular control. Borrowing from the economic literature on deficit bias, the paper argues that Pettit’s second view of legitimacy is better equipped at dealing with what is truly normatively problematic about the path of debt accumulation witnessed in many European countries, namely: that government powers are not under the control of those subject to them. This suggests that Fiscal Councils should not be given the task of managing public debt, but rather be used as a tool to reduce the information asymmetry between executives and parliaments that is at the heart of deficit bias and that results in public powers being used arbitrarily.


This paper examines the democratic legitimacy of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) since the international financial crisis hit the euro area. From its inception, EMU has been marked by an asymmetry as its monetary pillar relied on output legitimacy while its economic pillar relied essentially on input legitimacy at the national level. The crisis severely challenged EMU’s output legitimacy, which led to the establishment of new European-level institutions. We analyse the European Stability Mechanism, the European Semester, and Banking Union to take stock of their powers and the ways that these are balanced by mechanisms of legitimacy. Our main finding is that the intergovernmental and output-oriented approach that originally informed the legitimacy of EMU has remained prevalent after the crisis. However, as the three domains – in varying degrees – address questions that are essentially political, we argue that the channels for input legitimacy at the European level remain deficient.

May 2021 (Swiss Political Science Review, in the Special Issue "Democratic Challenges of Differentiated (Dis)Integration" Patberg and Kroger)


The post-crisis reforms of the EMU have met with skepticism toward their democratic credentials. This certainly applies to the requirement to set up Independent Fiscal Institutions (IFIs). Drawing on Pettit’s model of republican legitimacy, this paper argues however that IFIs can increase the democratic character of national fiscal policy while preserving Member States’ autonomy. Such a democratic contribution is further facilitated by nationally differentiated implementation of the EU rules regarding the heterogeneous design and powers of IFIs. Based on a comparative analysis of selected Member States’ “elaboration discretion” in defining the organisation and the mandate of IFIs, the article highlights that these features reflect the variety of constitutional settings at domestic level. It is concluded that this heterogeneity amounts to a form of differentiated integration which allows for a better navigation of the trade-off between the persistence of fiscal policy externalities and the reduction in national autonomy.



Ingham and Lovett (2019) answer a critique raised by Simpson (2017), among others, aimed at an influential conception of republican freedom due to Pettit (2012). Pettit (2012) claims that, in order to guarantee that citizens are not dominated, the state and its representatives should be subject to what he calls “popular control”. It is this solution that Simpson objects to. Such ‘popular control’, Simpson argues, entails that citizens are able to coordinate so efficaciously that they can prevent the state from arbitrarily interfering. However, if a collection of citizens are able to coordinate in this way, then they are also able to coordinate against the actions of other individuals. In effect, this leads to a situation where everyone is under constant threat of domination. So much so that Pettit’s conception of republican freedom is impossible to sustain.
Ingham and Lovett disagree that Simpson’s critique is ultimately suc- cessful. Their solution is to carefully distinguish between a group’s ability to coordinate and the mere possibility of this happening. At the heart of this distinction is the idea of a collective action problem.
In this response, we advance one objection, by first allowing the model to better reflect the fact that dominated agents can have beliefs about how intensely their dominators will want to interfere. When this more realistic feature is added to the picture, Ingham and Lovett’s reply to Simpson does not satisfy the constraints they themselves imposed on their conception of domination. We discuss this objection in general terms before providing our own condition to save republicanism from Simpson’s challenge. We conclude by linking this result to the wider literature on systemic domination and its relevance for social norms.

bottom of page