Roger’s Rules

The E.U.'s new ovigenerating potion, or the painless way to dispense with freedom and democracy without really trying

I am perfectly happy to acknowledge that the word “democracy” has become a semantically challenged, often mendacious, epithet, liberally applied whenever a cosmetic rhetorical boost is needed. The word has, for those susceptible to the drug, agreeable egalitarian, or at least non-elitist, connotations, and what began in the realm of political deliberation has gradually oozed outward to infect all manner of social activity. Whitman spoke of “Democratic Vistas”; today, we have “democratic education” (i.e., low standards), democratic motorcycle racing, even democratic footwear.

But I digress. Behind (quite far behind) the promiscuous application of the adjective “democratic” to mean “activities or objects I endorse” lies a deep political desideratum, which revolves around tempering power with accountability and promulgating the rule of law (as distinct from the rule of the lawgivers, also known as “whim”). One of the most depressing aspects of the rise of the Leviathan that is the EU bureaucracy is spectacle of arbitrary, unaccountable power on the march. It is, as yet, a soft march, more of a shuffle, really, but it is underway everywhere, trudged out not by by self-proclaimed dictators, as in days of old, but by self-appointed functionaries in the best bureaucratic tradition.

Back in December, I wrote in this space about the Lisbon treaty, the cynical reprise of the ignominiously defeated EU constitution that, since the EU masters could not entice enough people to vote for it, was simply renamed and shoved down the people’s collective gullet by fiat. Today in the London Times, under the splendid title “And for our next lie . . . the great EU betrayal,” William Rees Mogg ponders the “relatively simple” but “deeply disturbing” facts surrounding the adoption of the Lisbon Treat. In the wake of the defeat of the EU Constitution, various governments, including Great Britain, promised that a referendum would be held on any future European constitutional treaty. Pollsters showed that any such referendum would bring a crushing defeat. Solution: skip the referendum. That, anyway, is what Gordon Brown’s government did. Rees Mogg quotes Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, former President of France, who proudly described how the process works: “Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly . . . all the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.”

You have to admire the accuracy even if you deplore underhandedness. Giscard d’Estaing was describing to a “T” the EU’s standard operating procedure–a procedure that exudes contempt for the democratic process and, even more, contempt for the former voters over whom functionaries like Giscard d’Estaing aim to rule.

Iain Duncan Smith may have been a strikingly ineffective leader of the Conservative Party in Britain, but in retirement he has shown himself a canny observer of the political process that led to the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. “I do not know why we dance around as though this were a silly game,” Duncan Smith said.

The truth is that the heads of state and governments of all the countries that negotiated the constitutional treaty have said to each other, ‘We have got in a real mess over this. We allowed the public and politicians who are not responsible members of the government to play a part.’ European bureaucrats have known for years that the way to get things done is never to ask the public . . . because the answer will inevitably be no.”

So: the bureaucrats cannot get what they want from the people, ergo they circumvent the people and rule by diktat.

Query: what species of existential anaesthetic have they introduced into the water that the vast majority of people accept such usurpations of their prerogatives with indifference?
We all know about Dolly, the cloned sheep. Has some nefarious political scientist gone a step further and contrived a sort of ovigenerating potion that transforms men into wool-free sheep?

Rees Mogg warns–or promises: I am not sure which–that the actions described by Giscard (proudly) and Duncan Smith (disgustedly) threaten to alienate British voters. “If the EU cannot trust the people,” he concludes, “the people cannot trust the EU.” He is assuredly correct about that: the people cannot trust the EU. Two questions remain, however: 1) are the people really aware of this fundamental perfidy? And, if so, 2) what are they going to do about it? A few months ago, Prime Minister Gordon Brown traded away large areas of British sovereignty. Result: a few editorials by chaps like Rees Mogg. Meanwhile, Giscard is serving as president of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, an EU boondoggle. The top marginal income tax rate in Britain is nearly 50 percent. Guess how much Giscard pays?