2 june 2011, trichet, awaaaaay

My favourite jurist as an english law student, was lord denning, who first made his mark as a junior judge in the "high trees" case, where he essentially invented the doctrine of promissory estoppel, a legal way to stop someone going back on a promise. His dictum (obiter) was not followed, but his intellectual prowess cast a light decades in the future, where it eventually became settled law. I often use high trees to justify coming to the right answer, even when I know it is unacceptable at the time. Someone has to lay out a path. Today, jean claude adopted the same tactic, setting out a bold vision of a single european ministry of finance. The ecb has long had a cogent critique of the weakness of emu's economic pillar, scorning the futility of surveillance and sanctions, and raising the question of what economic governance can possibly counterbalance a strong single central bank; but voicing a single finance ministry is a huge step forward. Walking off into the sunset of retirement, trichet obviously feels he has earned the right to take a small meander from his central role as dour central banker, and allow his creative passionate european side to wave to a future of a much more tightly-bound union, which in some way, shape or form, was always going to be needed to regulate the integrated financial sector we already almost have. The speech worked in one of my old division's favourite quotes. It humanises "institutions" not as remote technocrats but as rules of the common good that preserve values and guide actions by managing our interdependence and preparing collective decisions, though "nothing is possible without men and women, but nothing is lasting without institutions". Thanks jean monnet, and thanks to another great european, jean claude trichet.