Thursday, August 5, 2010

Real federalism

One of the misapprehensions about the EU is that it is or aims to be a federal state. In actual fact it aims to be a unitary state with a few rights and privileges left to the members. That is still a long way down the line and there is a strong probability that the whole project will implode before it reaches that point.

The obvious country to look at if we want to see real federalism is the USA, despite the gradual accumulation of power by the federal as against state polity. Much of President Obama's term so far has been spent on trying to transfer even more power to the centre but it looks like this may not go as easily as was hoped.

One of the interesting outcomes of this Administration's and this Congress's behaviour has been the strengthening of the right and, in particular, the populist right. That, in itself, has produced an interesting and ever more ferocious debate as to how conservatism differs now from the past, a debate that could not even begin to happen in Britain at the moment. But that is for another posting.

Right now I should like to call my reader's attention to the fact that the State of Missouri has voted against an important part of Obamacare, that of mandatory health insurance, preferring to leave matters to individuals or organizations rather than the state.

James Taranto explains:
Official election returns show that citizens of the Show Me State voted overwhelmingly--71% to 29% in favor of Proposition C, a ballot measure described in a pre-election report from Time magazine:

"The specific issue boils down to this: Can the government require that citizens buy health insurance? Mandatory insurance is a key element of the health care reforms passed by congressional Democrats and signed by Obama this year. Adding healthy people to the insurance pool spreads the cost of policies for people with health problems. Missouri's referendum rejects that mandate by asking voters whether state laws should be amended to forbid penalties for failing to have health insurance."

Time describes the vote as "largely symbolic." Other states have already passed such opt-out laws via legislative action rather than voter initiative, and the real test will come in the courts. But symbolism matters. If the constitutional question is a difficult one, it's possible that judges will resolve it on the side of public opinion. And of course the public's reaction to ObamaCare is likely to influence the politicians who have control over its implementation and possible repeal.
For the moment, as Neo-Neocon says, the White House prefers to ignore the will of the people, pretending that this vote matters little, if anything. Here is her posting on the Missouri vote in which she adds:
[NOTE: Other states are planning similar votes on the individual mandate. Legal scholars seem to be saying such states’ rights protest votes are unenforceable and merely symbolic. Although I’ve seen many articles that mention this, I’ve seen no actual discussions on the merits, nor links to such discussions. If more states go the Missouri route, I would imagine we’ll see more debate on the subject.]
Other states are taking a different route, preferring legal challenges. One of them is Virginia where the first hurdle has been overcome.
Judge Hudson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia denied a motion by the federal government to dismiss a suit filed by Virginia challenging the mandatory health insurance provisions of the ObamaCare law. Similar motions to dismiss are pending in other district courts.
I don't want to get involved in the difficult subject of US constitutional law or the whole problem of Obamacare. All I am suggesting is that similar actions would not be possible in the EU. It is not and does not intend to be a federal state.


  1. The states are trying thier best to stop this run away administration. The poll numbers show that the public is absolutely fed up with what is going on down in DC. We are only 89 days out from the November midterm elections and I think it will be a wipe-out for the Democrats. It is amazing to me how many people are fired up about politics. I have been a political junky most of my life and I have never seen this amount of anxiety and concern from all of my friends. The election of Chris Christie in my home state (democratic NJ) is just another indicator how the people and the states are getting sick of the federal encroachment into our constitutional rights here in the US.

  2. Let's hope so, Natalie. Elections are so unpredictable in democracies.

  3. The only country with a truly functional federal system is Switzerland;Roosevelt completely wrecked ours. The SCOTUS has been worthless in protecting us from the center since the mid thirties. The complete incompetence of our Feds has become more and more obvious-in that lies our hope. The EU can be stopped by some of the provinces electing people who refuse to go along,no?

  4. Strictly speaking Switzerland is not a federation but a confederacy. The central (federal) government has next to no power.