Saturday, July 9, 2011

To some extent he is right

Professor Herfried Münkler gives his view on how to salvage the situation. What situation? Why Europe, of course. To be honest, the good professor is playing verbal games. He must be aware of the fact that Europe has existed for a very long time before the creation of what eventually led to the European Union and it is just possible that some of us would prefer to salvage that Europe.

Not so the good professor, who is writing in Der Spiegel:
Europe's political elites are a pathetic sight at the moment, from their contradictory reactions to the rebellions in the Arab world to their timid handling of the euro crisis. Either they persist in doing nothing or they flee from one falsehood to the next, all in the expectation that this will enable them to gain control over the markets. Now that the European elites have had to produce proof of their long-held claim that Europe is a capable player on the global political and economic stage, they have done nothing but flounder. And because they refuse to believe that this is the case, they celebrate every stumbling move as the salvation of Europe and the euro. The poor image Europe is currently projecting is largely the result of the impotence of its elites .

In light of this failure of the elites, it is hardly surprising that we are hearing renewed calls for the democratization of Europe. Suddenly, the people are expected to fix what the elites have botched. Since they are already being asked to pay for the problems caused by the elites, many believe that the people should have more say in how and by whom Europe is controlled.

As reasonable as this might sound, by no means does it make as much sense as it seems at first glance. Even after the democratization of Europe, the elites in Brussels and Strasbourg will still be in charge. The only option available to the European people, to the extent that they can be referred to as such, would be to react to obvious failure by voting their leaders out of office -- and to vote an opposing elite to take their place. Whether this would fundamentally change anything is open to question.

Brussels, also the capital of Belgium, is particularly well suited to show that democracy does not automatically lead to the installation of capable elites. Since last summer's elections, Belgium's political parties have been unable to form a functioning new government. Belgium's democracy suffers from ethnic quotas and political parceling. It has long been incapable of reaching the most basic decisions. And, now, not even compromises are feasible.
I certainly agree with his description of Europe's political elite: it is a pathetic sight but their failure to solve the problem may have something to do with it being insoluble; their failure to project Europe's power may have something to do with there being no power to project; and their failure to come to an agreement may have something to do with the fact that there is no common ground. Giving them more power in the circumstances may sound like a good idea but, among other problems, it would go directly against the thought and spirit of the real Europe.


  1. Hmm, this reminds of the Road to Serfdom, pages 9 & 10:

    9: Confidence in the "planners" fades.
    10: The "strong man" is given power.

  2. I'm rather taken aback that he appears to be arguing, *in so many words,* no less, *against* democratization of Europe and the return of power to the people. I guess I'm not used to seeing such an agenda spoken of quite so blatantly.

  3. The creators of the European project have always been fairly open about this. Democracy is not a sacred cow, as far as they are concerned. He is saying what we, the opponents of the project, say. The problem is the soggy "we need to reform the EU" contingent among our politicians.

  4. Sorry for being slightly off-topic, but given that the "Ode to Joy" is the EU anthem, this version sung by Beaker is strangely appropriate for what's happening with the Euro (as well as quite funny) as his metronome overheats:

    Ok, so that's a fairly tenuous link, but it's too late now! :)