Friday, 18 November 2011

Euro or democracy

Daniel Hannan writes:
So this is what 'the full Monti' means. As well as being prime minister, the Brussels placeman has appointed himself finance minister. And how many elected politicians has the EU's Governor of Italy put in his cabinet? You guessed it.
It does sound quite dodgy, but I felt I had to ask the obvious question:
What percentage of Italian cabinet ministers are normally elected?

In our own cabinet, we have two unelected members: Lord Strathclyde and Baroness Warsi.

In the US, "no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office."

And many in the current US cabinet (including Timothy Geithner, John Bryson, Shaun Donovan, Steven Chu, and Eric Shinseki) have never been elected.

This is generally considered a feature rather than a bug.
Of course, it seems likely that this particular cabinet will have European rather than Italian interests at heart.

The Guardian has published profiles for "some of Monti's technocrats":
The former European commissioner, Mario Monti, has unveiled Italy's new government. A distinguished liberal economist, he kept for himself the finance ministry. The list is stacked with academics, who will take more than a third of the seats in the new cabinet, and most will be unknown to members of the Italian general public.
It's not that I have any great love for politicians, or democracy. aureliusmarcus did a good job of outlining the flaws of our present system in a comment on that same Daniel Hannan article:
It seems to me that this crisis has served to expose some fundamental flaws in democracy, at least the form of representative democracy we practise in the west, as a system of government.

The first flaw in a representative democracy is that politicians tailor their policy agendas to whatever will attract the most votes, and then the electorate generally vote for the policies that garner unto then the greatest largesse form the treasury. This has progressively been the case across Europe from the end of WII onwards as countries have saddled themselves with increasingly unsustainable social contracts, widening public sectors (of which the EU itself is a perfect example) and productivity throttling employment laws.

The second flaw is that everyone has an equal vote, whether they are a wealth creator or a wealth eater. Eventually the wealth eaters reach a critical mass or tipping point, and begin to outstrip the ability of the wealth creators in society to continue to support them. After this point the likelihood of radical political reform dwindles and eventually vanishes. Again, we have seen this across Europe in recent years.

Finally, the third flaw in a representative democracy is that the turkeys will never vote for Christmas, even if the alternative is that they all die anyway, and no politician can ever get elected or survive on a platform that requires them to do so. So when faced with a situation such as we have at present, it simply cannot function as an effective form of government

So what happens? Exactly what we have witnessed. The situation remains increasingly untenable until eventually there is some sort of revolution, violent or otherwise. In this case a coup d'etat by the EU, but I am not convinced that it will be able to resolve the problems or even contain them for very long.
Unlike Daniel Hannan, I'm sympathetic view to the view (attributed to Churchill) that
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
The point is illustrated well by a recent YouTube clip that I discovered through Tom Paine: Obama Is Not A Keynesian, He's An American!

However, as Churchill also famously said:
All this idea of a group of supermen and super-planners, such as we see before us, “playing the angel,” as the French call it, and making the masses of the people do what they think is good for them, without any check or correction, is a violation of democracy. Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.
The whole Parliament Bill debate from that day, 11 November 1947, makes interesting reading. 64 years later, the supermen and super-planners are on the march.

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