Tuesday, 2 December 2003

Down with EU

“One-worldism is not an impossible ideal;
but, it is not attainable through the medium of political power.
On the contrary, the organization of the world into a single society can be accomplished
only if people can rid themselves of the fetish of authoritarianism. (…)
It is not necessary to plan or build a world society;
it is only necessary to remove the obstructions to its growth,
all of which are political and
all of which stem from faith in authoritarianism”.
Frank Chodorov

For the most European mainstream politicians and intellectuals (i.e. left and right social democrats) the European Union (EU) represents a sacrosanct idol. You cannot look at it, you cannot touch it, you cannot criticize it. The only thing permitted is to worship it, worship it.

This is not an accident. A secular religious movement arises whenever there is a combination of three elements: · First, a false theoretical concept or ideology indefensible with the means of rational argumentation. In the case of EU it is Egalitarianism. Everyone is equal, everything is the same. The same strawberries, the same buildings, the same men and women.
· Second, an immense desire to put these bad (and sometimes as in the example of EU very dangerous) ideas into practice.

· Third, an attractive banner under which you can sell this package to the public (e.g. freedom).

We have been told all the time that the noble project called EU was initiated to enhance an even nobler end – freedom – on the European continent. Well, what are the results of this liberation process after about 45 years? At the beginning of European integration in 1957 the current member states robbed about 30% of national income of their countries. Now they take away about 50% of average income of their citizens. In general, we can state that the people in Europe are nowadays far less free than they were in the ’50s – the frequency and intensity of violation of individual property rights is far higher.

Regarding this fact, we should redefine the EU as a cartel which has enabled its member states to synchronize, and thus become more effective, in robbing their citizens through harmonization, unification and standardization of political rules (means), i.e. legislative, executive, and judicial practices of direct and indirect violation of property rights, in the whole EU jurisdiction.

However, from a praxeological point of view this development is not surprising at all.

The State is an exclusive and unrestricted monopoly of organized violence in a certain territory. That is, nobody but the official state institutions may use and justify force against their citizens, imprison them or even kill them in accordance with legislative norms. For these compelled “security services” the State collects a charge the amount of which is arbitrary and unilaterally set by the State. This charge is labeled as taxation, which is a second basic feature of the State. The last but not least characteristic of the State is its role of supreme arbiter, judge, over its territory.

As long as there exist various such independent territorial monopolies of legislative, executive, and judicial powers in certain region the people living in this region have the possibility to choose among them, to select the monopoly that best (as far as it is possible regarding the inherent nature of any state) fits their preferences. They can perform at least a restricted free choice.

At the same time, the professional managers of these various states try to attract as many people as possible under their jurisdiction to expand their sphere of power. At least they try to eliminate an emigration of productive women and men from their territory.

To succeed in these efforts they have to offer to potential and current “clients” the best mix (relative to other states) of quality of security services and of the price charged for them. That is, they have to guarantee the highest possible level of protection of private property in exchange for the lowest possible price (taxation). It is absolutely logical, nobody wants to be robbed, and everybody prefers (ceteris paribus) A lower price to A higher one.

After an establishment of A regional cartel of these various monopolies, this kind of competition among them fades away. Under such circumstances a member state increases taxes only in accordance with other members of the political cartel. Thus, the member states do not need to be afraid of an outflow of productive people. There is simply no place to run. No way out. At the same time no member state is allowed to reduce its tax burden unless all other members agree, or unless the central authority endorses it.

Such conditions inevitably lead to lower quality of security services, i.e. protection of property rights, and at the same time to higher taxes and regulation, that is violation of private property by the state(s). To sum up, overall, the individual liberty will gradually vanish.

Let us now take the case of a typical democratic political system. It is absolutely clear to everyone except mainstream intellectuals (who apparently lack common sense) that the bigger the state the weaker the capacity of average citizen (voter) to affect the political process in his country. Vice versa, the smaller the democratic state the stronger influence a single man or woman has on political development.

But maybe that is the true reason why political and intellectual elites long for big states; they love mankind but hate people. They do not want to let people govern. They themselves want to govern them, to reign over them.

The other danger bugged in the forced European (or any other) centralization lays in the possibility of a pan European dictatorship. One can very easily see, that it is far less difficult for a would-to-be dictator to win one general election in one single Europe than to win 30 or 50 independent democratic elections in various politically independent states.

The last point I want to pick up in this brief characterization of the perils of compelled political integration may be formulated as follows: “political integration (centralization) and economic (market) [or in broader sense social] integration are two completely different phenomena”. [1]

In the free market (society of free people) an exchange is carried out only if it is mutually beneficial for all participants and at the same time there is no violation of other people’s property rights. The free market (free society) thus reinforces mutually positive bonds and affinity among men and women and downplays the tensions and hostility.

On the other hand political integration pushes people into business and social relationships that they would not enter otherwise. Thus it not only reduces peoples’ material and spiritual wealth, but also creates and fortifies tensions and hostility among various persons, nationalities, religious groups, etc.

To make Europe free, to enable free trade, free transfer of capital and financial funds, free movement of labor, we do not need to enact 82 thousand pages of supranational EU legislation designed by European bureaucrats. On the contrary we have to abolish all national legislation (political rules) that inhibit free exchange and cooperation among people and/or force them to embark upon exchanges which they would not realize otherwise (under purely free conditions).

States do not act. Thus states cannot integrate. The only entity that can act is man. Only men can integrate (exchange and cooperate). If we want “to unite” Europe, let the people be free, and Europe will “be integrated”.

ORWELLIAN EU DEVOLUTION PROCESS

There is an opinion held by many people – unfortunately also by plenty of libertarians – that in European Union we can nowadays observe two kinds of political processes. One – the process of centralization – is the so called unsound, because it transfers the political power further away from citizens – from various state governments to one European center – and thus also decreases the capability of people to choose among different currencies, tax systems, legislative environments etc., i.e. it diminishes the competition among the European states and so enhances the trend toward less free society. On the other hand there exists the so called good process of devolution, the shift of political authority from the individual central national governments to regions and local governments which on the contrary allegedly brings back the political power nearer to citizens and intensifies the competitive process among various political entities and thus at least hampers the movement toward unfree societies. Some optimists even say that this phenomenon could lead to a state of affairs with a greater level of individual liberty as compared to the present.

But as I will try to explain this conclusion is inferred from superficial empirical observation absolutely detached from the reality which mirrors the predominantly inherent zeal of European politicians and bureaucrats for heavily centralized Europe. In fact both of these phenomena are logical consequences of this strong drive toward a unified and egalitarian single European State. The intent of both is to weaken the power of central national governments and to make the individual regions and local authorities of these countries more economically and politically dependent on a European center.

If some politicians in London, Vienna or Bratislava – usually labeled as the nationalists – criticize the supra-nationalists, they do not do it because they dislike the idea of state interventionism and restriction of individual freedom and free-market economy per se. The reason behind the English opposition toward the EU and its centralization is the same one as that behind the everlasting opposition of London governments against (full) British decentralization and devolution. It is no accident at all that the harshest opponents of international centralization (e.g. EU) are the greatest adversaries of decentralization at the national state level, and that the strongest proponents of international centralization are the most active fighters for the devolution at the national level. Although at first glimpse it seems rather strange (even contradictory), if one is a statist – a man who tries to increase the state power and thus the power of a class of professional state managers – it is an absolutely logical and consistent position.

If someone holds the helm of power in a centralized country at the national level, e.g. as a prime minister of central government or chief of any central (federal) office, each step toward devolution – i.e. transfer of ultimate political control and tax authority to lower levels of government – means he loses a little bit of his hegemony. The same is true for each kind of international centralization based on any international organization or association of which a certain country is a member. The more supra-national centralization the more movement of executive, legislative and jurisdiction authority away from central national governments toward some international center of rule. The less power for the national politicians and bureaucrats and more for the international. Thus if one is a statist without international aspirations or one presupposes that after the formation of an international entity he would be not included in the inner circle of the new ruling class, one will fight against international centralization and at the same time national devolution. One becomes an statist (conservative) nationalist.

If a statist is a bureaucrat or a politician with some international organization, no doubt, he will promote international centralization to increase his political power. This is as much obvious and plausible as the drive of regional and municipal politicians and bureaucrats for national devolution. By transfer of legislative, jurisdictional, and tax authority they are able to strengthen their position at the expense of national central governments. But why do the supranational bureaucrats and politicians support regional and municipal politicians and bureaucrats in their struggles for national decentralization and the latter support the former in their attempts for international centralization? How and why have they become internationalists?

The reason the EU center encourages national decentralization in its member and soon-to-be member states is simple although perhaps not apparent. The EU bureaucrats want to make the national central governments of these states less powerful and so potentially less effective in their opposition against further European centralization. The process of national devolution fulfills exactly this goal. The EU bureaucracy also tries to set up rules that would direct the financial resources from the EU funds directly to the regions and not first to the central governments and only afterwards to regional and municipal authorities. The realization of the last proposal to establish a direct EU tax – EU machinery and their funds are presently financed with direct subsidies from individual member states – would further enhance this tendency. This process of national devolution thus leads to greater independence of the regions and municipalities and their politicians and bureaucrats from national central governments and to bigger dependency on EU institutions. That is why the regional and municipal politicians and bureaucrats (as far as they are statists) are more inclined to support the process of international centralization. It makes their political rivals – national central governments – less powerful. One could say, it is not necessary because the many national central governments are more or less pro-EU, but the public and political mood can change anytime and no one knows what the future will bring. As we can see in the recent example of Ireland there are always islands of resistance.

Thus the only proper libertarian position regarding these two currently ongoing phenomena in EU necessitates not only clear and strong opposition against the European centralization with its apparently mischievous effects on individual freedom, but also an attitude of the same kind and intensity toward the alleged devolution process in EU with its perhaps less visible but with certainty not less harmful consequences. The genuinely libertarian answer leads to permanent support of the Right to secede not only for national states and regions but all the way down to individuals. In the long run, this presents the only possible way to maintain and enhance individual freedom and free-market economy.

IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE FOR EASTERN EUROPE?

The people in central and eastern Europe are told every day (and sometimes even every night) that the EU does not need us; we need the EU. We want to get there, thus we have to apply the political rules valid in EU. And so everybody is applying these rules that will make us a part of a single Europe. Who cares if it is free or not; it is single and everyone is there or is heading there. We cannot afford to stay out. It would destroy us, or to be more precise – they would destroy us.

First, it is not true at all, that the EU bureaucrats and politicians do not need us in EU. Their biggest nightmares show free small countries or regions with low level of taxation and regulation and strong protection of property rights at the gates of the horrible socialistic leviathan.

Almost no entrepreneur would prefer to carry out his business in EU; he would rather do it outside its borders – in a free environment. Almost everybody would like to leave EU to move to these more free central and eastern European states. And if any businessman tried to stay in EU, he would be so hampered by the EU’S unjust and unfree legislation, regulation and high taxes that he would be almost completely unable to withstand the outside competition of the entrepreneurs coming from the territory of these free countries.

That is why the majority of representatives of western European big business support their politicians and bureaucrats in efforts to impose the same mischievous legislative, executive, and judicial practices on their competitors in central and eastern Europe. They defend their ability to compete, their market position.

Second, as I have shown earlier the EU cannot be reconstructed from within. It would be a waste of effort and time. The only solution is to stay outside and abruptly deregulate, reduce taxes, and increase the protection of private property as much as possible, i.e. increase the liberty in our countries.

Martin Štefunko

This paper was presented at a conference on the theme Uniting Europe Without The Union held in Prague, 2-5 November 2001 organized by the Liberalni Institut and Libertarian International.