This post explores the logical end goal for the political project currently known as the EU, because it is suffering a crisis of legitimacy at the same time it grows its post-sovereign ambition.
To cut a very long and tortured story short; the EU was invented by France to ensure that Germany never invaded again, Germany being somewhat embarrassed by recent history was all too happy to comply, and their neighbours who tended to host the wars in question were doubtless delighted too. However, what is of concern here is the future.
The crucial feature of indirect democracy is the perception of representation, the collective trust in shared aims and expectations that allows the people to put their destiny in the hands of another, safe in the knowledge that even if ‘their’ man doesn’t get the job then the other guy will still be looking after their best interests.
The manner in which this trust is built is the knowledge that you and ‘he’ have a history of cooperation, and that your respective families likewise have a shared social and cultural history of cooperation, all of which allows you to trust that when adversity strikes ‘he’ will act in a predictable and acceptable way.
There are many varieties of trust networks including religion and ideology, but we neither live in an authoritarian theocracy or a communist dictatorship, and thus the most relevant network of trust in western europe is the sovereign nation state, as it can make the most binding claim to a common identity that gives birth to a trustful Demos.
There is obvious truth in this, witness the passionate defence of laïcité by the French, or the determined neutrality espoused by the Irish, the rejection of abortion by the Polish, the dogged euro-scepticism of the British, or the accommodation of Moscow by the Finnish, to name but a few examples. These strongly shared convictions result directly from that shared cultural and social history, and breed distrust of anyone who would hold authority over the group but not share those same aims and expectations . If the government is not considered to be representative, then it will struggle to claim legitimacy, and will only maintain its control by becoming increasingly authoritarian and remote from the people it claims to serve.
Of course the transnational progressives would have it otherwise given their ideological distrust of the sovereign nation state, its call of loyalty is an interference in what they consider to be far more important group identities, and they do have a point because, remember, the EU was born of fear.
Throughout centuries of brutal warfare, from the Thirty Years War, the Napolenic War, the Franco-Prussian War, the First World War, the Second World War, and many more, europe has suffered political instability repression and revolution. How many EU countries have not been facist, communist, revolutionary, dictatorships, or repeatedly invaded in the last three hundred and fifty years? Only one. Have many have suffered at least one of the above within living memory? The rest. The EU represents stability to the continent, a framework for peaceful cooperation for the past half century.
The fascination with using proportionalism in defence of ‘victim’ groups, the institutionalisation of multitudinous identities, and the end of majority rule in favour of power sharing, all of these serve to break the network of trust that binds the citizen to their state, to be replaced with endless waltz of realignments as you ceaselessly redefine your identity, and a serf-like deference to a supra-national authority. You are too busy to care about the previous loyalty, and anyway, wasn’t it replaced by something ‘higher’?
All of this must be at least somewhat appealing to peoples who have never been properly protected by their state, whose shifting borders have left pockets of ‘others’ cheek-by-jowl with people whom they share no common history, and people who retain a nascent wariness of whatever catastrophe will next be inflicted upon them by their neighbours. Wouldn’t it be so much better if there were a less contentious way to live…………
It is no coincidence that many european states have a political system based on proportional representation, why would you not when repeated trauma and dislocation prevent the electorate from trusting the politician not to become a tyrant, and the politician from trusting the electorate not to install a demagogue. Democracy is the fusion between the Demos and the Kratos and in europe there are evident fractures between the two.
However, it is the view of this blogger that in the end the perception of representation will trump all, and that for all the apparent flaws of the sovereign nation state it is still the most important network of trust as the recent financial crisis in europe is making clear:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defied France and the IMF, refusing to modify Germany’s strategy of export reliance or boost growth to help alleviate the deep crisis sweeping Southern Europe. “Where we are strong, we will not give up our strengths just because our exports are perhaps preferred to those of other countries,” she told the German Bundestag.
“Indeed, why should the industrious Germans retard their economy to prop up the relaxed lifestyle of their neighbours?”
French finance minister Christine Lagarde; “Clearly Germany has done an awfully good job in the last 10 years or so improving competitiveness. When you look at unit labour costs, they have done a tremendous job in that respect. I’m not sure it is a sustainable model for the long term and for the whole of the group. Clearly we need better convergence.”
“Why doesn’t the French Gov’t admit that it would be unable to impose such labour reform on its own electorate?”
When adversity strikes, those aims and expectations forged from that shared history really stand out, and make an utter mockery of the idea of a trans-european representative governance for all. People have different needs, and right now the sovereign nation state is best placed to meet that need. Transnational progressivism remains an ideology not a reality, and like all ideologies it will struggle for credibility, then it will struggle for relevance, and finally it will struggle to be remembered.
There can be no legitimate european Kratos because there does not yet exist a pan-european Demos with which to grant it legitimacy, and given the remoteness of the institution to the people it patently cannot represent, it certainly isn’t going to happen any time soon either. This is not to say that with enough time and effort a european Demos could not be forged, but this blogger sincerely doubts it would include all twenty seven nations, or that it would be a pain-free experience along the way. Most of all, this blog questions the need for a federal europe given that it is a poor solution to a non-problem.
None of this is to say that the EU should not grow and expand, merely that it should get broader rather than deeper. Certainly Turkey has an earned a place within the EU should that be its wish, totally aside from its obvious merit as strategic partner, it spent fifty years on the front line of NATO defending europe.
As for Britain, remember that although the EU was born of fear we joined for economic reasons, and that we have not in recent history suffered; unstable borders, traumatised populace, displaced people, revolutions, fascism, communism, or dictatorship. Britain is an island nation, as a result of which we have no compelling motive to dilute our aims and expectations with groups whom we do not share a common history, that fear does not exist. The first-past-the-post electoral system is more than anything a declaration of trust in the cohesiveness of ones society, and by the same token a rejection of the victim politics commonly used to justify proportional representation.
There is without doubt a new era of friendly european cooperation, to which some credit must be given the EU, the only question that remains is for how long that remnant fear of the past will cause some individuals to keep pushing for “ever-deeper-union” when the utopia has already been achieved………. that of a tranquil europe.