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Democracy

Rebutting Europhile arguments

Almost all Europhile arguments about the “democratic deficit” boil down to one of the following:

More intellectually honest Europhiles will tend to acknowledge that the EU’s democratic record is atrocious, but they will often propose remedies which will either not improve the situation, or make it worse.

Other (unedited notes)

europhiles claim that the problem with democarcy in the Eu would be fixed if the eu institutions were democratic. this just isn’t true.

the fundamental point is that people do not consent to being governed by an EU wide majority on anything.

consider the strcutre of eu governance:

there are potential subjects of government action: health, criminal justice, economic regulation, trade, tax, redisttribution, welfare, etc, etc; these are hopefully termed “competences” in eu jargon

a legal system identifies which level of government has the final say over a competence: e.g., health at national “member state” level, and trade at eu “federal” level

this decision basically needs to be done by a court, interpreting a constitution

in the EU, the court which does this is basically a sham, and has only sided against federal competence once in sixty years

it is therefore possible to talk about the optimal allocation of competences, the de jure competences according to treaty, the de facto allocation of competences according to the ECJ, and the allocation of competences according to democratic consent

it will be observed that de facto competences are allocated by the ECJ in violation of the treaties; it is thus possible that if the treaties do not reflect people’s preferences, the court might be correcting this. readers familiar with these matters may have concluded i put this in as a little joke. the court doesn’t give a f*** about how people want competences allocated.

if a competence is held at federal level, then a particular state can be outvoted by a federation-wide majority. if people in a state will be consistently outvoted on some policy, they’ll favour the relevant competence being held at state level. on other matters they can horse trade, but this concentrates power in the state-elvel political elite. if there’s nothing they can horsetrade about, then they should leave the federation (e.g., ireland from uk)

(you can’t easily horsetrade or advocate across linguistic boundaries)

so, the hard version:

if the federation and the state are equally democratic, in the sense of equally responsive to citizens (not in the sense of being consented to), but one state’s people don’t want to be a part of the federation because the’re consistently outvoted or for any other reason, is any harm done?

it reduces to a simple cost benefit analysis: are the preferences of citizens of the state better satisfied by any allocation of competences to the federation; if not, then the state should leave ; this goes even if there cn be horsetrading

absence of consent for a competence to be exercised at a federal level means there are no horsetrades you’d willingly do

does this necessarily lead to greater rent-seeking? probably - you can’t get democratic opposition to a rent-seeking proposal at federal level without conceding federal competence

there’s less likely to be political engagement with an illegitimate government

two diversions:

legislatures dont make maximal use of their control over the executive’s role in the council of ministers

it is possible to identify some undemocratic feature of an eu member state, however much it may exceed the eu in democracy, e.g., the UK’s house of lords, but this hardly applies to germany or ireland

other nonsense:

democracy a bad thing

redefine democracy (no true democracy if it lacks the feature which lets me win the argument)

the civil service is politically partisan


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