Who is the silliest politician in Europe today?
That’s a tough one, isn’t it? Think of all the supremely qualified candidates: Herman von Rompuy, for example. Is there a bigger gasbag strutting across the stage of European politics at the moment than the President of the European Union? The “global governance” fanatic would be scary if he weren’t so preposterous. (Or maybe is scary precisely because he is so preposerous.)
This would be a tediously long post were I to rehearse to full catalogue of preening, power-hungry, mountebanks and other “friends of humanity” who litter the halls of the European Parliament and engorge themselves tax-free on the backs of Europe’s workers. The combination of unremitting bureaucratic wonkishness with a smug, deeply anti-democratic top-down utopianism is apparently the recipe for Europe’s new species of tyrannical leadership, their having already tried and found wanting the more obvious jackbooted variety.
For my money, though, the most complete epitome of the new breed of anti-democratic hauteur is Italy’s Mr. Bombast, Signor Technocrat, Mario Monti, the departing Prime Minister of that once-great country.
Mr. Monti is leaving because his socialist policies have failed miserably. But, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal today, he is willing to give the Italian people another chance. If, that is, they totally capitulate to his wishes. “I find the idea of a descent into politics horrid,” said the stern bureaucratic. “We need higher-level debate here and so should be talking about an ascent into politics.”
A “higher-level debate,” eh? And what would that look like, Mr. Monti? Why, what any good “debate” looks like in the European Union these days, i.e., a “debate” in which all sides agree beforehand to support the agenda of the ruling junta. Thus Mr. Monti. At a recent press conference, he allowed that he might be willing to through his hat back into the political ring, but only if he had assurances that he would face no serious opposition. The world awaits the unveiling of the “Monti agenda,” but in the meantime he let it be known that “he would be open to being the premier candidate for a political movement that wholly backs his agenda.”
Thanks, Mario. Or, rather, no thanks. The last thing Italy needs no is to further abase itself to the anti-freedom agenda of that sclerotic neo-totalitarian institution, the European Union. Politicians like Monti and van Rompuy find politics “horrid” precisely because the give and take of political life requires the consent of the governed. It requires compromise. The pressure of reality mandates that utopian schemes be tempered by the crucible of real-life economic and social experience. Bureaucrats like Monti and Rompuy—and their name in Europe is legion—find it a “descent” to engage in politics in any ordinary sense because they have been inured to government by fiat. They regard the people as pawns in their game of reconstructing Europe into a super state that might one day rival America.
Alarm bells have been sounding in Europe so long and so shrilly that it is easy to shut out the noise and pretend that no emergency has been declared. My friend Anthony Daniels recently opined that, in Britain today, people care more about their double-glazing than free speech. Something similar might be said of people throughout Europe (and increasingly, alas, in the United States). It’s all part of the terrifying “psychological alteration” in the character of a people that Hayek, in the preface to The Road to Serfdom, describes as the regular effect of “extensive government control.” The fearsome change revolves around a growing habit of dependence. The further we proceed down that road, the more ingrained the habit of dependnce becomes. At some point, however, the people will wake to discover not only that they have bartered away their freedom for the sake of a spurious security but also that economic failure of the entitlement state involves them in a catabolic cascade of failure. That’s what Greece looks like today. Absent real reform, it will be Italy tomorrow and much of the rest of Europe in short order. Mario Monti is a sort of pied piper saying, “Give me absolute power, dispense with the bother of politics, of having to govern yourselves, and I will save you from yourselves.” I wonder whether there are a majority of Italians sufficiently supine to give this ominous charlatan another shot at ruling them?