A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.
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Beguiled by Europe « Back to Story
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As most Belgians are very prosperous and the government promises to solve all their problems, they are not really concerned about Europe: not here, nor there so to speak. For the other inhabitants of Belgium (and for those living off the Fleshpots of the "Capital of Europe", the corrupted superstructure must be maintained at all costs.
Concerning "technocratical government", let us not loose out of sight that "State of Law" is more important for prosperity & justice than the various implementations of pseudo democracy that we currently "enjoy"!
I'm hopeful for Europe, but not for this superpower nation-state the ruling elites have tried to force upon the peoples. Some cooperation like the old Common Market, and NATO membership, was good; they've tried to take that notion to its logical extreme and (predictably I'd say) that's not working out so well. Overreaction to the increasing failure of the EU is as much a danger here as in the other direction. I would point to the role of out-of-control Multiculturalism here. E.g., the Schengen Agreement, which was completely unrealistic in allowing free flow of squatters from the more problematic to the less problematic places. Repealing that Agreement (not agreed to by quite all the EU countries). That needn't doom the whole unification project, just one extreme vision of it. More generally, overly general inclusion is a KEY challenge here. Mr. Dalrymple's article at least hints that the main problem is Technocrats versus Democratically elected statesmen. Puh-lease! We're talking about mass media-elected hack politicians, right? Democracy of that sort has more than just a few "warts" to it; it's a dubious practice indeed.
The EU can't be blamed entirely on politicians and technocrats. We as individuals ceased to be educated* and self-governing people, that's how we paved the way for the EU. Keep in mind that most of us voted for the creation of, or membership in, the EU.
* While people spend more years in school and earn higher degrees than ever, I would argue that we are more trained for professional skills today than we are educated in good citizenship. And whatever remains of our classic education was hijacked by leftist intellectuals several decades ago.
No, I don’t think the basement of the Capitol Building in D. C. hosted a weekly conspiracy to divide American voters into factions. More than likely, that practice began as a necessity and continued for the simple reason that it worked and worked quite well. If you’re old enough to have lived through the 60’s and early 70’s, it was a time of great change, socially and economically. Civil Rights legislation and highly effective, inexpensive forms of contraceptives brought new freedoms to millions of Americans. Emotional pressures drove these newfound freedoms within two critical areas: Opportunities for individual gain and greatly expanded legal protection of hard won freedoms. And it wasn’t long before voters demanded their representatives support their individual political goals, even when those goals were narrowly defined to a special interest group.
Politicians found they could support one another’s legislation by exploiting these emotional pressures for greatly expanded legal controls creating new economic opportunities. Urban based politicians would vote for farm state legislation and expect reciprocal support for their urban relief and social welfare agendas from politicians representing agricultural/mineral states. Those politicians back then who resisted change or weren’t imaginative enough to exploit the social and economic goals derived from these new freedoms found themselves out of office and back in private life. Those politicians who understood the new political goals thrived and some even founded dynasties – of the longest serving members of Congress, 17 out of 20 are Democrats. And it’s no coincidence the Democrats were the most adept at creating new legal rights and privileges stemming from the new freedoms.
So, survival of the fittest, not conspiracy, created today’s crop of politicians. But this survival also required a massive expansion of government from national down to local levels. And once limited government fell out of favor with voters, it was a certainty Americans would vote along narrow lines and lines in direct conflict with other political factions. Democracy as a political system is far from perfect and once limited government was abandoned, the common good became a polite fiction shared by all but no longer recognizable as applicable or even practical.
All this needs is the J.J. Hitchcock invention: "...the next two or three years will be critical."
The subtle undermining of democracy, in particular, could hardly be bettered.
What failed in the last decade is Capitalism -- by losing out to organized criminality and failing to make effective social investments. The mortgage crooks and phony "AAA" bond (and derivatives) salesmen ran off with $7.3-trillion among them and that was just the United States.
Social investments have improved the schools. Except that every damn thing is done to avoid effective response to adolescent-onset dyslexia among African-American males. Those boys get a testosterone dump, turn into excellent athletes, and have trouble reading for about a decades -- easy to compensate and never/ever done.
EU has similar difficulties and similar ineffective technical responses. You think Greece had a chance?
But do blame it on democracy.
No surprise to me. I have been predicting the collapse of a united Europe for over 20 years. Obviously, the Soviet threat helped to keep the concept of European Union intact. Economic self interest is now sowing the final seeds of destruction.
I, too, favor technocracy-- on the sole condition that I and a few of my friends get to be the technocrats in charge. Other than that, I think it's a horrible idea.
Pat - Like your comment but do you really think that politicians "cabal up" and dream up ways to keep the voters divided?
I fully agree with the views expressed in the article. However, on a point of correct information: Belgium has 4 'communities': Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels and the German-speaking community. Brussels, which is supposed to be bilingual (Flemish/French) is the hottest potato on the Belgian table: it is overcrowded with a massive amount of legal and illegal immigrants from Muslim countries, the jobless number over 24%, education is a basket case, and the town is split into 19 'baronies', also known as the municipalities, which are jealously guarded by the classic parties. This last fact means that Brussels is ungovernable.
Excellent, concise article. Tell me more, please.
This intelligent, cultivated, and decent man should read two books: The Dictator's Handbook: why bad behavior is almost always good politics, by Bruce Buena de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, and Why Nations Fail: the origins of power, prosperity, and poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson.
Both books are careful works, one by political scientists, the other by economists. Their conclusions have a common thread: one of the determinants of human happiness and progress is a State that rests on a broad base of popular support. When a relative few call the shots, they call them in their own favor. This works out badly for everyone else.
Systems in which a leader needs the backing of at least 50% of the population would be a theoretical ideal, rarely achieved. But even when only 20% is needed, the leaders must serve some version of the general welfare to secure enough support to hold their positions. A technocracy, by definition, could run very nicely thank you with the support of the best and the brightest...by definition again, less than ten percent.
So the Eurocrats in Brussels have a high regard for "technocrats" (themselves) and a low regard for democracy (everyone else). Does this qualify as news?
Why the surprise that democracy is not our salvation – assuming salvation is the correct word? Democracy has a fatal flaw many of today’s thinkers constantly overlook or naively excuse. The original concept was based on individual differences being compensated for by common interests when it comes to governance. You may dislike your neighbor, his wife and even his dog but theoretically you would both vote for what was in your best interests.
And whether you voted for a trusted man or woman to represent you in some congress, assembly or parliament, the result was the same as voting directly on issues – self-interest led to an enlightened common good for the entire polity and overcame personal differences among voters - theoretically.
And everything was fairy tale perfect when our government worried solely about collecting customs duties and punishing Barbary pirates – but what about now? Is there a common good to vote for nowadays? Or is there only special interest good, ethnic good, rich vs. poor good and racial identity good? Democracy as a form of government is rendered obsolete when the unifying concept no longer applies. Americans resent, mistrust and are deeply suspicious of each other – and probably for good reasons.
With a government as all-encompassing as ours, the common good is far too complex to be defined, let alone recognized by the average voter. The politicians discovered that caveat decades ago and have been actively dividing Americans into opposing groups ever since, it makes it easier to rule us. But, along the way, the basic theory of democracy was trashed and the common good has become a pathetic joke.