Friday, 26 August 2011

European Union matters

Two posts have caught my eye, the second having been sent to me by Edward Spalton - my thanks, Edward.

First, I would refer readers to Mark Wadsworth, who uses a summary by Denis Cooper on the subject of European Council Decision 2011/199EU - well worth a read! It is not surprising that this has not appeared in any detail, if at all, in our media - it is not something our political elite would want us to know, but then we are also aware that the press and politicians are in each others pockets. As the Americans tend to say: go figure.

The second is from German-Foreign-Policy.com and I wish to pick-up something in the last paragraph, namely:
"Because of Germany's austerity dictate, EU and IMF supervisors are, in fact, now ruling Athens. Recently a leading German daily columnist wrote, "for months now, elected Greek representatives have been prevented from making their own decisions on any questions of significance." A parliamentarian publically posed the question, "what was he supposed to do now in Parliament, when, in any case, every decision is going to be taken by the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank."[13] "As a matter of fact," concluded the commentator, "for the time being, Greece will be merely a restricted democracy. The Greeks can vote for whatever they want, but it will not really change anything." (Emphasis mine)

Anyone spot the similarities between Greece and the United Kingdom on elected representatives making decisions on any question of significance? Or the fact that the Greek people can vote for whatever they want, but that it will not really change anything? It should be remembered that the UK's budget has, in effect, to be approved by the European Union - and it should also be remembered that he who controls fiscal planning also controls the country. With regard to the second highlighted emphasis, we should also recall that not one of the present three main policial parties will allow a referendum on this country's membership of the European Union; that they refuse to provide an independent cost/benefit analysis of that membership; and that, basically, they will not even debate the subject.

As an aside, regular readers may have spotted that one of my regular commenters has a good knowledge of matters Germany and no doubt his comment(s) on this post may well prevoke a good 'discussion' in the comments section - stay tuned, as they say... (and don't let me down, TT).




17 comments:

DP111 said...

The main reason that a person went into politics, and particularly the upper reaches of politics, is to acquire and dispense power. They say that power is the greatest aphrodisiac.

Yet we have the bizarre situation, that in the UK, where parliament is supreme, MPs have willingly surrendered their power for 30 pieces of silver - they have reduced themselves to cheating on their expenses.

This must be one of the strangest things that has happened in politics - rather then acquiring power and patronage, politicians have self-castrated themselves.

Why? It is against human nature to refuse power on a plate. What caused this change in the human psyche?

cosmic said...

DP111,

How about being offered the trappings of power, strutting about on the world stage, generally being regarded as someone important, but having none of the responsibility? Rather like being the Chief Executive of a large company, getting the pay and the perks, in line for a knighthood, but not having to take strategic decisions about the company. Oh, and the company can't go bust as normal companies could.

The other thing is, how much power do people like Cameron have? Elected governments come and go but there's a huge permanent government in the EU, the Civil Service, QUANGOs and all the rest. People like Cameron find it very easy (they're powerful) when they increase its reach by new laws, banning this and that etc., but very hard (they're powerless) if they attempt to curtail it.

We don't have a strong constitution to force a government to define the national interest.

DP111 said...

cosmic wrote: How about being offered the trappings of power, strutting about on the world stage, generally being regarded as someone important, but having none of the responsibility?

This is what I find strange, that contemporary politicians have voluntarily handed over power for the trappings of power. In historical terms, this is abnormal. Real power is always preferable to mere trappings, which they would have anyway, as it goes with power.

Real power means the ability to make real changes, patronage, influence, and the knowledge that one is likely to leave a mark.

TomTom said...

Politics is about Power as Absolute as possible. Citizens are supposed to control an actively control. The German businessman Eberhard von Brauchitsch once commented he wanted a true republice - SPQR - where The Citizens controlled the Politicians for the common good.

The problem with Kohl and Merkel is their love of power. Kohl recently lambasted German policy - he would never have accepted Greece in the Euro, it was Schroeder and Fischer of the SPD/Greens that did so. They also weakened the Stability Pact in 2003 when Germany and France were in depression....Italy and Greece went mad and slipped the leash. The Portuguese PM Barroso was livid

TomTom said...

Politics is about Power as Absolute as possible. Citizens are supposed to control an actively control. The German businessman Eberhard von Brauchitsch once commented he wanted a true republice - SPQR - where The Citizens controlled the Politicians for the common good.

The problem with Kohl and Merkel is their love of power. Kohl recently lambasted German policy - he would never have accepted Greece in the Euro, it was Schroeder and Fischer of the SPD/Greens that did so. They also weakened the Stability Pact in 2003 when Germany and France were in depression....Italy and Greece went mad and slipped the leash. The Portuguese PM Barroso was livid

TomTom said...

So anyway, Merkel is without vision and solely obsessed with power. She is accused of replicating the GDR "Block Parties" by having no policy differentiation with other parties. Th press is a System Press relaying the party line sycophantically. Germany has democracy undermined by politicians working as functionaries rather like a production-line worker assembling parts.

The CSU in the coalition has just decided to oppose Eurobonds and the economic government as inimical to national sovereignty.....Slovakia has said Greece should go bust.....

The German political elites are discredited and more and more splinter parties will gain office...Merkel has destroyed the party Adenauer fashioned from the ruins of the Catholic Zentrum party and so there is room on the right for new parties and they would attract SPD voters as the loony Left running that party post -Schroeder alienate voters

TomTom said...

DP111, I think you have to reflect on "pooling" which we hear so much about in term of sovereignty, which the public fails to comprehend is code. The code is that politicians know they are constrained as middling powers in a world of big business and big powers; that they can only get status by federating and piggybacking on other middling powers.

John Bruton becomes EU Ambassador in Washington and is more important than as mere Irish PM....Barroso is more important than as Portuguese PM.....Berlusconi doesn't care,he is rich in Italy and could not be more powerful.

Sarkozy is a short Hungarian gypsy whose step-father is CIA but has an imperial presidency without an empire and feels small against Obama or Medvedev

They want immortality by being part of a bigger production hoping for a bigger part. Who knows what Hague has been offered, what Cameron or Blair have failed to get ?

Who knows how many decisions are "bought" and ho / many are "sold" ?

DP111 said...

Tom Tom

Interesting take on pooling of power among the nations within the EU. This applies to the leaders of the EU nation states. However, it does not apply to our MPs. Our MPs have been given powers by us that are unique in any democratic nation. They are supreme, and no one, not even the Crown can gainsay them. They can take us out of the EU if a majority so wish. So why have they abrogated their powers for nothing but trappings?

The reason I ask these questions is that we have a system that has evolved for our traditions. Yet it is failing us now.

Before we undertake a revolution of the political culture and go towards Localism or Referism, we need to know where we came from, and why we are here now. To me it seems, that it would be better to correct the system we have, which is attainable, then head towards a system, Direct democracy, that no one but a few are aware of, or are likely to support.

TomTom said...

Ah DP111 it is the very same. Look at1st Marquess Halifax in the C17th Century who said The best Party is but a kind of conspiracy against the nation.

and If politicians would think more they would act less.

Herd instinct has replaced individual thought in so many areas of our lives and GroupThink has become a refuge for the Third Rate to advance themselves in the service of a cause.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DP111,c, TT: Interesting conversation you guys are having.....

Power has various levels and not everyone can achieve the pinnacle, so hey, lets widen the field a tad. Thereby can non-entities of the likes of Kinnock and others achieve that which they could not at home. That is basically what TT is saying and I tend to agree. TT is also correct to raise the question who has been promised what and how much......

DP also raises a important point when stating that our politicians have been placed in a position of supremacy - and therein lies the problem; they have been placed in that position without any safeguards against their actions, save once every 4/5 years. Likewise they have also conditioned the public to accept that there is no alternative to two of their parties being the only ones who should be able to be top dog - and we, the people, have let them get away with their ploy.

We know how we got to where we are, DP, and why. The thing we have to do is to stop the present system in its tracks and change it. People have no idea of direct democracy because the present political elite have stifled such knowledge. Now with the internet such knowledge can be spread - and it is this fear that prompts them to try and limit use of the internet.

DP111 said...

WfW, Tom Tom

The herd instinct you speak of, is one that has become so strong in recent times, that it matters not which party of the three we elect. But it was not so a few decades back.

What has happened to our parliament is fairly recent - it has ceased not only to represent its constituents, but shows no diversity of opinion on issues of the day. As I said, this is abnormal behaviour for humans.

How did we get here in so short a time?

I feel that the fault lies not with our MPs but lies in us. And I don't mean in that we vote like sheep in every election and send the same people back.

Many of our ills lie in the social security net created a few decades back. This social security net has grown out of all proportion, and now tries to cater to every possible need. The result is a populace that has no interest in social, political or monetary policy. Why should it when all daily and other needs are met by the state whichever party is in power. This lack of interest in politics and politicians manifests itself even to the extent that we turn our backs on a person knocking on our door, seeking support to enter parliament.

A consequence of the Welfare state, among others, is that over time, politicians and the general public have drifted apart. It has now come to pass that people hold MPs in contempt, and there is an "us and them" mentality. What started out as a safety net, i.e., the Welfare system, a well intentioned policy, has not only created a myriad of ills manifest in the breakdown of society, education and rootlessness( lack of community spirit), but has also led to a society that has created a rift between our representatives and us.

Our parliamentary system is a good one, has evolved for centuries, and suits our psyche and traditions. The current economic recession gives us the opportunity to repair our system i.e., reform the Welfare system, before embarking on the Swiss Direct democracy model. Besides, the latter maybe a monumental task.

cosmic said...

TomTom,

"They want immortality by being part of a bigger production hoping for a bigger part. Who knows what Hague has been offered, what Cameron or Blair have failed to get ?"

That explains why Bruton behaves as he does, but not why Cameron and Hague behave as they do. I think Cameron is best explained by the idea that he wants to be called PM but he hasn't any beliefs, so he drifts along with the current. Hague I see as a broken man.

What we've seen since WWII is governments following a social democratic model, e.g. creating things like the NHS for ideological reasons. To do this required creating huge self-serving machines which are very hard to curb. So by increasing the power of the state, they paradoxically decreased their own power, i.e. ability to change things. The mechanisms to change things are still there, but it would take a very particular person to use them effectively and since the people likely to become PM have done so through the political processes which have created this situation, it's hard to see it happening without some background crisis enabling it. Gorbachev in the USSR comes to mind, basically saying, "This thing isn't working and cannot work and we're kidding ourselves to believe it can". For the UK it would be quite something to have a PM who could say that about the EU, but our problems don't begin and end with EU membership.

What we see in the EU is a political system where politicians are powerless but are there to give a reassurance that the commonly accepted mechanisms of politics apply and the democratic voice is heard. In reality, everything is done by bureaucrats. It explains why they wanted nonentities such as Rumpy Pumpy and Ashton, and not someone like Blair who was quite likely to do too much too soon and bring the whole thing down. However, the government machine doesn't have any sense and can't see when it's sowing the seeds of its own destruction. By disarming democracy it's put a blindfold on and ignored the fact that there are other forces at work.

The EU is really a larger version of the way things have been developing in the UK for decades, which is why the UK political establishment is so keen on it.

WfW,

I don't think it's possible to change things without a crisis which makes the existing system obviously powerless and irrelevant.

cosmic said...

DP111,

"Our parliamentary system is a good one, has evolved for centuries, and suits our psyche and traditions. The current economic recession gives us the opportunity to repair our system i.e., reform the Welfare system, before embarking on the Swiss Direct democracy model. Besides, the latter maybe a monumental task."

Out government came to believe that there were no limits to its power, that its fairly crude instruments could effect any change it wanted. It became a mania for regulation which was self reinforcing because it looked as if they were doing something and created armies of people who depended on legislation for their livelihood.

E.g. David Milliband came out with a proposal to licence sea angling. It was an activity which had gone on for decades, it supports a sizeable industry, there was no reason to suppose it was creating any particular problem such as depleting fish stocks. Why did it suddenly need licensing? He couldn't bear the idea that there was an activity taking place which people enjoyed and which didn't have government intervention with jobsworths and costs inflicted.

Our parliamentary system has evolved, but it has been stepped evolution such as the Civil War and the ousting of James II. I think we may be about to witness another step.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DP & c: You both make important points. I don't think a crisis is the only catalyst to make things change, allthough admittedly it would help. However I do think the people can make change happen as and when they get mad enough - which may be the next 'step' that c mentions.

It may well be a monumental task to change our democratic system, but it most definitely needs to be done - we cannot continue as we are.

That our government believes there is no limit to its power is both a right and wrong statement. They have little power, most having been ceded to Brussels, that that they do have is imposed in an almost dictatorial manner. It is because most dictators believing that there are no limits to their power is usually the point where the people decide to show that dictator that actually there are limits.

DP111 said...

WfW

I'm trying to trace the root of the problem we face. I believe it is the Welfare system, which is truly huge, if one adds the NHS as one of its components, that has corrupted us and the government - that is, the nation as a whole.

The Welfare system has caused a fracture of the family, viz, absent fathers(really discarded fathers), attracted, and continues to attract, all manner of Benefit scroungers from around the globe. It has led to the demeaning and dumbing down of education, so we see all manner of useless degree programmes, the debasement of work as a reward in its own, and all manner of societal ills.

But then, why did the Welfare system start to grow out of all proportion to the nations growth rate/wealth about the time of 1980?

cosmic said...

It would be a crisis in so far as it was something which the current system of government couldn't deny was a crisis and couldn't smooth over with inflation or any of the other means at their disposal and which the things they would be tempted to do would make worse. It would cause the current system to be changed radically. The temptation on the part of the existing powers would be to go for totalitarianism. All its past experience would point that way.

Now if it was accepted that there are some problems the government can solve and some it can't, and yet others the government can only pretend to solve, at the cost of greater disaster, we wouldn't have approached this mess.

It could find it was dealing with a Ghandi figure or worse a Microsoft vs Linux fight. Arguing with a different point of view and one which is clear has a lot of sense to talk and all you have is some dubious authority.


E.g. a severe winter with power cuts, food shortages and people dying and the inescapable fact that many times the money wasted on useless windmills could have been used to avoid most of this. Haven't governments spent their efforts and our money kidding us that they are capable of solving all problems and even taming the weather system?


Now, I don't think our government actually believes it's omnipotent. Canute, who must have been a deeply sarcastic man, gave the lie to that; it's just that since WWII, governments have kidded the populace that they are omnipotent and by and large, the populace has been happy to be kidded. WWII was a real crisis which enabled the power of the state to be extended for reasons people, in general, accepted.

I see the problem as being like a deadly embrace. The government (Lab mostly but also Cons) has kidded the voters that it can solve all problems, which it can appear to do with bits of sleight of hand. Once it goes down that route, it's on a slippery slope. Political parties get into a bidding contest about bribing voters with their own money, or their childrens' money and the nonsense is disguised.

I think we miss having a strong constitution which acknowledges the limits of government and emphasises personal responsibility. I can't see how we go from where we are now to a position where there is a safety net, but an open acceptance that some people can starve in the streets, without an existential crisis.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DP111: You are correct in that which you intimate, ie the Welfare system. But pause to consider, is it not the socialist dream that to those that have not shall be given and to those that have shall be taken -- ie to equalize everyone? Ergo, the Welfare system was but one of the means to that stated aim.

Why did it grow? Maggie knew better than to meddle with something she could not alter without causing a hue and cry and also due to the EU's free movement of people and services. Maggie was great, but she was not the Iron Lady that some make out. If she was - and with her post Falklands majority - why did she, a supposed Eurosceptic, not take us out of the EU? Answers on a postcard, please........

c: you too make good points - and in respect of your last para and how do we get from here to something better....

Remember Remploy? They employ 2,300 disabled people in 54 factories. Now suppose we created a similar company to employ those on the dole to do jobs of social benefit at a reasonable wage? Does that not make sense? We pay those without a job to do a job that needs doing.......

Does that not make sense?

As an aside, what started as a simple idea - a change in our democratic system - is turning into a book.......... Going to be a bloody long part (4) and (5)..... :)