Friday, July 04, 2008

The European Union as a Good Study in Bureaucracy and Politics

A mind of its own

The European Union started out 50 years ago as a way for the European countries to harmonize (make more efficient) their coal and steel policies. With its steady growth in scope since then the EU has turned into an excellent example of bureaucracy as a self-serving machine. Now the people in this machine are not necessarily evil, they are driven by what they see as right and proper and by the human instinct for power and progress. But when this is power unchecked in an international bureaucracy, it does not necessarily represent a march towards freedom.

Several years back the Netherlands and France voted "No !" to the expanded EU constitution. You might wonder what happened to those votes and what the recent Irish "No !" vote means.

After the failure of the earlier referendums the 'Eurocrats' decided to bring back an-enlarged EU constitution without needing referendums, by having the national legislatures approve an expanded EU directly (An EU with more power means less power for the nation-states which make up the EU). This was a self-serving bureaucratic power-grab, an end-around the problem of referendums. After-all why should the EU bureaucracy be happy in just a status-quo situation, the idea is to grow and accumulate power. So thats what they've done, despite the "No !" votes in the Netherlands and France.

Now the designing and implementing of constitutions is interesting. How does one political body give up power to another, and how do the people decide under which laws they want to live? Ireland decided that an expanded EU required a referendum of its people directly, that it went beyond the powers delegated to the national legislature to decide the people of Ireland's relationship to the EU. The other EU countries did not believe (or rather those in power did not believe) that the the EU constitution decision was beyond those powers already delegated to them.

Constitutions can be changed for liberal purposes, to give more equal rights to those without these rights (althought to be honest, does this ever come without violence?). It is only when law goes beyond rights and gets into redistribution of wealth that special interests come in. Thats what was so cool about the original Polish parliment is that it required unaniminity so that everyone had to be in agreement. This reduced the slowy creeping insidious growth of the coercive power of the unelected (the coercive power of the elected is bad enough !). Everyone had to be bribed or no one at all !

Unaniminity reduces unaccountable backroom special interests from gaming the system. There is no log-rolling, you scratch my back I'll scratch yours. Only those programs which help everyone, not the few, are approved and these before the eyes of everyone.

Anyway back to the EU. Good for Ireland not to be steamrolled. The larger a political body is the less by definition is known about what it does by the people it is supposed to govern, and who, of course, pay for it. The want is for political bodies to grow, abetted by the bureaucrats working for the political bodies, who naturally seek more power and money for their good works. The EU is an excellent case study in this.

However politics really only effects most people when their money is taken to pay for it and when the rules intrude in their lives or some kind of utopian dream or idealism or competitive state of mind. Otherwise it is just kind of entertainment or folly or what have you.