Last 16th of November I attended the European Students for Liberty conference in Maastricht. One of the speeches was given by Professor Boudewijn Bouckaert, who teaches Law at the University of Ghent. In his speech he presented the concepts of “nomocracy” (rule of law) and “teleocracy” (central planning) and the evolution of political systems and regimes related to those two concepts in the history of Europe. At the end, he applied the conclusions to argue if for libertarians it was more appropriate to defend a reform of the EU from inside, or maybe it was a better idea to claim our countries to abandon it and make it to collapse.
Within his argumentation he more or less reached the conclusion that if he were a French libertarian, he would never defend to leave the EU, because France has strong possibilities to evolve into a “national socialist regime” (sic). On the contrary, if he were from UK, he said, probably he would advocate for breaking up with the EU, as Britain has more classical liberal background and history than France.
Not bad as a first approach. But nothing said yet about the real disadvantages or advantages (if any) of the European Union. Let´s go.
I am very critical with the EU. You can read my opinion here, here, here and here (in Spanish). I totally disagree with almost 99% of the things that the European Union and the European Commission do, decide or legislate (nothing said about that house of idiocracy and corruption, the European Parliament). I am strongly against of their bureaucracy, the increasing number of Quangos and European Civil servants, the Common Agricultural Policy, the Framework Programmes, the waste of public funds… In fact, I am against of 99% of what the EU nowadays does or represents, their stupid regulation that just damages European business and citizens. I would rejoice seeing collapsing in flames the Berlaymont building in Brussels (and you will read this in my -coming soon- book). However, and in spite of all of the above, I do not advocate for its extinction. And I consider that other libertarians should not either.
But this is like with politics: being a libertarian who does not defend blowing up that “socialist” conglomerate of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats means not to be pure enough. It´s like when you blame democracy in front of someone else. You are a kind of sinner. Well, I am getting used to that, but even though let´s try to explain it.
The European Union (since its origins as EEC) has brought to Europe the greatest free trade, free movement of people and free movement of capitals area in the history of mankind. Any of us has benefited from this, and with the exception of the Balkans (not anymore I hope), Europe has lived the longest peace period in history. The eastern countries, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, were willing to join it and many did. Even some of the post-war Balkan countries did. And in Ukraine people is currently in the streets protesting against their Government, demanding to stay away from the autocratic Russia and to tight links with the European Union (on this in particular topic I have been pissed off by many libertarians who state that they don´t understand why Ukrainians want to join “the hell” of EU, ignoring that they might be in the hell right now. Make a favour yourself and read this and this, last one is from a leftist “occupy-style” movement).
You can argue that in order to have this "free movement" area you don´t need the European Union. You just need to have international agreements and that´s all. Yes, that´s for instance the EFTA, or the Schengen Area. You do not need to be in the EU to be in the Schengen Area, or you can be in the European Union without being in the Schengen Area. But try to move for working and living to a non-EU country and you´ll see (and feel) the difference. This international agreement for free movement of people, goods and capitals is what the European Union was intended to be in its origins. The problem is that our politicians did not stop there. They are politicians, so they felt the need to build a fourth layer of Government over our heads (local, regional, national and now… continental). With all what that implies: spending, bureaucracy, stupid regulation, corruption… Around the European Union have also arisen a full Universe of public-budget leeches (companies, organizations, agencies, subsidies hunters, etc.) which add a high price cost to the freedom of movement. The regulation originated by the European Union that tries to control everything in your life is the consequence of having 32.666 civil servants and workers, and 700+ MEPs who have to justify their salaries and the benefit of not paying income tax. So simple like that. But sorry to say, from this point of view the European Union does not difference itself at all from any of your/our Governments.
So, what do we do? How do we solve this? Well, to burst the European Union into pieces and starting from the beginning seems not a very clever idea, I must admit. In the moment this happens, with nationalism growing up all around Europe (including UK), the rise of protectionism within the EU boundaries and, the worrying increment of xenophobic and racist parties and movements from East to West of the continent, well, we are lost. I do not really think that going back to the old boundaries, tolls, frontiers, border crossing controls and bureaucracy to live and work abroad would really help Europe in the current situation, trust me. “If the goods do not cross borders, armies will do it”. And they´ll do it. You choose.
From what I have explained so far, it seems that the European Union has only one “positive” thing, and a lot, hundreds or thousands of negative ones, while our national Governments seem to be the “panacea”. Well, not really. The EU has also other benefits, for instance, its transparency. In the EU, contrary to what happens in your Country, you can trace how every single Euro is spent (until it arrives to the hands of the subsidies hunters in your corrupt countries). The transparency of the European Union is actually one of the things that help us to criticize their money waste. Nobody can deny this. Try to find the same find the same figures published by your local, regional or national Government, mainly if you are from the south of Europe. Good luck. Besides you can find published the statistic of your nation and other nations, and also Brussels try (with more or less success) to control that you liar Government do not alter them to hide the reality. They also control that your Government does not violate the law, and that´s something, even if sometimes (or most of the time) the law is stupid. Did you ever wondered “who watch the watchmen" in your Government? Well, Brussels does it. Or tries to. Or is supposed to.
Now let´s go to the panacea, your national isolated country with your national “isolated and not controlled by anyone else” Government. Obviously you´ll see the benefits. You can see them now: UK is trying to ban porn in the Internet. France wants to ban prostitution. And Spain, after the withdrawal of this stupid law by the European Commission due to the criticism, banned the refillable oil bottles in restaurants. Nothing to say about Hungary and Greece, where the far right is winning momentum. Or France. Yeah, we can rely on our national Governments, it´s clear.
In particular I am really astonished with the veneration of some libertarians with the UKIP (mainly those from outside the UK). Just because they have a disrespectful clown (sorry, he is a clown) in the European Parliament calling nazis to Germans, “wet rag" to Van Rompuy or "delusional idiot" to Barroso while criticising the EU, it does not make them laudable. The enemies of my enemy are not my friends. They also mention sometimes things about taxes or libertarian thinkers, but that does not make them libertarians. What is pretty clear is that they are strongly against the free movement of people, being near the limit of xenophobia, and that should be enough to scare anyone (I personally saw and heard in January Nigel Farage in BBC claiming that the Romanians and Hungarian would invade the UK and pull the salaries down while collapsing social services; a very libertarian argument, yes). They also claim, as some of the Tories MPs also do, that if Britain were alone they could have negotiated a Free Trade Agreement with the US long time ago. That might be true, or not, nobody knows. But what is true is that in order to negotiate anything you have to count on your negotiation power (if you don´t want to lose the negotiation) and going alone you have less negotiation power. Anybody who has been in a negotiation knows this. Besides there is this trunking effect (sorry, I am becoming too technical now). Now, if any nation negotiates a FTA with the EU, simultaneously that nation has free trade with 28 nations in one shot, not having to negotiate 28 different agreements. The same is for the nations inside the EU, as maybe they are not so attractive to have FTA with other nations alone by themselves.
I mean, everything has pros and cons, and every aspect should be analysed in conjunction with many others, not isolated, to form a solid and trustworthy opinion. My opinion? Well, I am not impartial. I benefited from the EU in the sense that I was able to move to Germany for living and working without having to comply with any stupid immigration law. Therefore I can not blame the EU for that. I have friends from all over the world who are really struggling to be able to remain here, in the EU, because their visas expire. A lot of personal dramas.
In my humble opinion I consider that we should fight and lobby to reform the EU, to dismount its size and bureaucracy, to close its satellites, to populate an even more real free movement area for people, goods and capitals and to convert Brussels in just, just, a policeman of the European Governments which promotes fiscal competence to attract investments, encourages productivity, reduces (not increases) regulation, boosts liberalization of internal markets and alleviation of bureaucracy, etc. etc. etc.
Impossible? Dreaming? Well, not more than considering that the extinction of the EU will give us more freedom or economic prosperity. I know that this is a lost battle with my libertarian colleagues (another one) but I had to try it. Nevertheless we can still meet around some beers and blame the Government, the State and the Politicians. It does not help too much but relieves our souls.
No seriously, think about it.
I would like to finish this reminding everybody in general and the EU in particular, that whatever happens in the future with the EU, if finally in the next European elections radical parties take power in Brussels, if UK leaves, if EU collapses and we enter into a new darkness period in this continent, it will be the sole responsibility of the current European Commission, the current MEPs of the European Parliament, and every of the more than 32.000 EU workers, together with their Agencies, Organizations and public-funds addict satellites. It will be your sole responsibility and you will be guilty for it. Because you will have provoked it with your incompetence, your greed and your power ambition. Shame on you.
P.S. “Switzerland is not in the EU and it is a prosper nation”. “I want to be like Switzerland”. “Our goal is Switzerland”. If this is going to be your answer save it because you missed the point totally..
P.S.2. I did not talk about the Euro, Eurozone and Euro-crisis because that would give for a full article (or several) itself.