Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Left Case Against the EU

British leftist Alan Johnson supported Brexit not for anti-immigrant or nationalist reasons, but because he thinks the EU has become an authoritarian state:
We voted Leave because we believe it is essential to preserve the two things we value most: a democratic political system and a social-democratic society. We fear that the European Union’s authoritarian project of neoliberal integration is a breeding ground for the far right. By sealing off so much policy, including the imposition of long-term austerity measures and mass immigration, from the democratic process, the union has broken the contract between mainstream national politicians and their voters. This has opened the door to right-wing populists who claim to represent “the people,” already angry at austerity, against the immigrant.

It was the free-market economist Friedrich Hayek, the intellectual architect of neoliberalism, who called in 1939 for “interstate federalism” in Europe to prevent voters from using democracy to interfere with the operation of the free market. Simply put, as Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission (the union’s executive body), did: “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.”

The union’s structures and treaties are designed accordingly. The European Commission is appointed, not elected, and it is proudly unaccountable to any electorate. “We don’t change our position according to elections” was how the commission’s vice president Jyrki Katainen greeted the victory of the anti-austerity party Syriza in Greece in 2015. . . .

The wishes of electorates are regularly brushed aside. When, in 2005, a proposed European Constitution was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands (most governments did not even allow a vote), this meant nothing to the proponents of the European Project. A few cosmetic tweaks, and the constitution was imposed anyway; only then, it was called the Lisbon Treaty. (Ireland, the only state to allow a referendum on the treaty, voted against it. So Ireland was told to vote again until it got it right. That’s democracy, European Union-style.)
I don't know that it's right to blame the rise of the European far-right on the EU, since nations outside the EU are having their own problems in that direction. Plus, socialists were arguing for a unified Europe before Hayek was even born. But I agree absolutely that the current structure of the EU thwarts democracy. The dream of a borderless, peaceful world is a powerful one, and I see why the EU is appealing on those grounds. But for me democracy matters more.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

The EU has always had one mission, and one mission only - to prevent further war in Europe.

Nationalism led Europe to almost total ruin twice within half a century, and dragged the rest of the world into chaos with it. But since the creation of the EU, we've entered into a period in which the great powers no longer are willing to war with each other. We haven't seen this little violence in Europe since the Pax Romana.

That said, there are valid, major concerns about how the EU operates. It absolutely does need to undergo reforms. No system is perfect, but we can and must do better.

Yet at the same time, it must be recognized that the EU exists and operates the way it does because of its own history. It is a product of the mid and late 20th century, and it was built to operate in a manner meant for that time period. Things have since changed, and the EU must itself endeavor to change with the times. But any organization as massive and complicated as the EU is going to have a lot of inertia to overcome to get it to change course. Change is going to take time, effort, and patience.

And the best way to make that change happen sooner, with less effort, and without trying too much patience is for everyone to come together and work together. And yet, impatient and self-centered individuals don't want to wait, or to help get things done. They want instant gratification, and damn the costs.

And so you get Nationalists and Populists crying, "Don't fix it, scrap it!". They don't want to work with others toward the benefit of everyone, they want to go it alone and don't care if they harm others in the process.

They complain that the EU isn't Democratic enough, and then they vote only amongst themselves to do things that will harm the rest of Europe. Why does Britain alone get to vote on whether they leave the EU, when the effects of their leaving directly impact hundreds of millions of non-British EU citizens? How is it Democratic to have a single group within a larger whole get to dictate what happens to everyone?

Perhaps the primary flaw of the EU is that it suffers from The Tyranny of the Majority. If we look at the Greek austerity crisis, we see a local minority being overruled by the will of the rest of the EU heirarchy, creating regional oppression.

And it absolutely is monstrously wrong for French and German bankers to be forcibly taking control of the Greek economy and even the Greek government itself, against the wishes of the Greek people. But the problem isn't that the EU isn't Democratic enough - it's that it is too Democratic, without having enough protections in place for the wills and desires of minorities within the larger whole.

And while this problem is one that absolutely must be addressed, the solution isn't to remove Greece from the EU, thereby weakening both parties. The solution is to introduce reforms which will instead strengthen both parties.

This is why Brexit is a colossal mistake. It weakens not just Britain, but the rest of Europe, and even beyond. China was against Brexit, because a stronger EU is better for Asia. Indians were against Brexit. Africans were against Brexit. South Americans were against Brexit. The only people who cheered at the notion of the EU being undermined were the warmongers of Putin's Russia.