The F-word: A History Of Federalism



Michael Goldfarb looks at the history of federalism, and its successes and failures.


The euro zone crisis boils along like a tea kettle left screaming on the stove. But once this situation is resolved, the fundamental problem of the euro will remain; it's a single currency serving 17 countries - with 17 different governments, operating on 17 different electoral timetables, setting 17 different tax policies. Can 17 into 1 ever go?

Some have suggested Europe's single currency needs an independent central bank, a single fiscal policy, and a single democratically elected government to oversee the economy it serves.

There's a word for this arrangement among states. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher knew it well: Federalism. Federalism was fine for America but she was dead set against it for Europe.

That was more than twenty years ago. Now the F-word is resurfacing in the euro debate. Jorg Asmussen, the German representative on the board of the European Central Bank, recently gave a speech in Berlin calling for greater federalism to strengthen the euro.

Presenter Michael Goldfarb looks at the history of federalism, the intellectual theories behind it and its successes and failures.

From the Act of Union between England and Scotland, arguably the first act of federalism in history, to the debates surrounding the creation of the American Constitution, Michael interviews not just British and American historians, but also contemporary European politicians and policy makers. How relevant is federalism in the euro-zone crisis? And how could a federal United States of Europe work?

Presented by Michael Goldfarb

Producer: Julia Hayball

A Wise Buddah Creative Ltd production for BBC Radio 4.