From Why Vote Leave, by Dan Hannan, loc 739:

Lobbyists love the EU, intuiting from the moment they arrive that it was designed by and for people like them. There are some 25,000 lobbyists in Brussels, some in-house, some working for several clients, some representing pressure groups or regions, most representing big business. Figure Five shows the industries that have invested most heavily in purchasing face-time, but it is only fair to record that Big Oil and Big Pharma have their equivalents on the other side: Greenpeace and the WWF spent a million euros each during the same six-month period, and Oxfam managed 300,000 euros (a pretty good investment when we consider the vast millions it gets from Brussels in grants). What all these lobbies have in common, whether industrial or environmental, is a preference for corporatism and back-room deals. The EU has a special name for the procedure by which it makes law: ‘comitology’. Committees and technical experts meet and make trade-offs out of the public eye. Such a system is an invitation to lobbyists and pressure groups to reach arrangements behind closed doors that might not look very pretty if the details were known.

And from loc 1290:

Since then, the European project has returned to what is known as the Monnet Method. The EU’s canny founder, Jean Monnet, was the ultimate networker. He understood that politicians came and went but bureaucracies were permanent. The key to success, therefore, was to stack the incentives in such a way as to encourage officials to pursue an integrationist agenda. Some political scientists call this process ‘functionalism’ –although, as so often, that word has many different academic meanings.

From Zizek’s Trouble in Paradise, pg 35. As he goes on to say on pg 107, “the ‘eternal’ marriage between democracy and capitalism is nearing divorce.”

These elites, the main culprits for the 2008 financial meltdown, now impose themselves as experts, the only ones who can lead us on the painful path of financial recovery, and whose advice should therefore trump parliamentary politics, or, as Mario Monti put it: ‘Those who govern must not allow themselves to be completely bound by parliamentarians.’ 

 What, then, is this higher force whose authority can suspend the decisions of the democratically elected representatives of the people? The answer was provided back in 1998 by Hans Tietmeyer, then governor of the Deutsches Bundesbank, who praised national governments for preferring ‘the permanent plebiscite of global markets’ to the ‘plebiscite of the ballot box’. 

Note the democratic rhetoric of this obscene statement: global markets are more democratic than parliamentary elections since the process of voting goes on in them permanently (and is permanently reflected in market fluctuations) and at a global level –not only every four years, and within the confines of a nation-state. The underlying idea is that, freed from this higher control of markets (and experts), parliamentary-democratic decisions are ‘irresponsible’.

This is a worryingly plausible account of how outwardly post-democratic regimes in former liberal democracies could seek legitimacy. From pg 107:

The paradox is that, precisely because it lacks democratic legitimacy, an authoritarian regime can sometimes be more responsible towards its subjects than one that was democratically elected: since it lacks democratic legitimacy, it has to legitimize itself by providing services to the citizens, with the underlying reasoning, ‘True, we are not democratically elected, but as such, since we do not have to play the game of striving for cheap popularity, we can focus on citizens’ real needs.’ A democratically elected government, on the contrary, can fully exert its power for the narrow private interests of its members; they already have the legitimacy provided by elections, so they don’t need any further legitimization and can feel safe doing what they want –they can say to those who complain, ‘You elected us, now it’s too late.’

A powerful polemic by Paul Mason in the Guardian arguing that the post-democratic character of the EU is intimately connection to the reemergence of fascism across Europe:

All this suggests that those of us who want Brexit in order to reimpose democracy, promote social justice and subordinate companies to the rule of law should bide our time. But here’s the price we will pay. Hungary is one electoral accident away from going fascist; the French conservative elite is one false move away from handing the presidency to the Front National; in Austria the far-right FPÖ swept the first round of the presidential polls. Geert Wilders’s virulently Islamophobic PVV is leading the Dutch opinion polls.

The EU’s economic failure is fuelling racism and the ultra right. Boris Johnson’s comparison of the EU with the Third Reich was facile. The more accurate comparison is with the Weimar Republic: a flawed democracy whose failures fuelled the rise of fascism. And this swing to the far right prompts the more basic dilemma: do I even want to be part of the same electorate as millions of closet Nazis in mainland Europe?

The EU, politically, begins to look more and more like a gerrymandered state, where the politically immature electorates of eastern Europe can be used – as Louis Napoleon used the French peasantry – as a permanent obstacle to liberalism and social justice. If so – even though the political conditions for a left Brexit are absent today – I will want out soon.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/16/brexit-eu-referendum-boris-johnson-greece-tory

From Europe Entrapped by Clause Offe, pg 13. If this analysis is accepted then I find it difficult to see how a leftist commitment to the EU can be sustained:

(a) Competitive advantages can be expected from economies of scale, given the increase in market size and the reduction in transaction costs; 

(b) While regulation is by no means absent at the EU level (but is codified in tens of thousands of pages of legal text specifying standards of products and rules for the protection of consumers, workers, and the natural environment etc.), the advantage from the point of view of investors is the unitary mode of regulation that uniformly applies to all agents across all markets in the EU, thus excluding country- specific distortions and protectionist barriers. While the market is not deregulated, regulation is depoliticized.

(c) Since the EU is not a democratic polity with an elected and accountable government and parliamentary budget rights, the political sovereignty of member states is significantly reduced, as is the probability that regulations and programs contrary to business interests will be adopted at the supranational level. 

(d) With open borders allowing the mobility of capital and labor, goods and services, a rivalry (or political competition) among member states is institutionalized, which serves as a constant warning to the government of each of them (as well as national trade unions) to refrain from political demands, moves, and measures (such as tax increases or increases of labor costs and social expenditures) that run the risk of chasing investors out (or encouraging the inflow of “unemployable” or low- skilled migrants).

An excellent piece on Democrat Audit looking at the role of the ‘reasonable technocrat’ in the unfolding of the crisis in Europe. It’s important to analyse the moral underpinnings of technocratic discourse, looking at what makes it plausible and important to those who see the world in this way: a self-congragulatory pragmatism, regarding oneself as a ‘very serious person’ able to take tough and necessary decisions, based on an accumulated expertise that the impressionable public lack:

Can the EU afford to follow the will of turbulent, wavering people?  For some, the answer is: no. They propose to hand over decision-making to ‘reasonable technocrats’ instead. This not only promises to save people form their own short- sightedness but would also be preferable over the (impossible) promises of ‘populist’ or the take over of political extremists.

Effectively the ‘reasonable technocrat’ is a second coming of Margaret Thatcher’s (and, more recently: Angela Merkel´s) TINA politics. If ‘there is no alternative’, ‘necessary action’ must be taken. It is arguably the core feature of the above mentioned advocacy coalition to refuse to call their core beliefs on economics into question. All to avoid frightening the markets.

But has democracy proved itself being incapable of coping with the crisis? Maybe one should ask what a ‘reasonable technocrat’ actually looks like. A reasonable politician may always be urged to follow the wishes of their voters and thus might make wrong decision. In contrast, the reasonable technocrat is bound to a specific theoretical paradigm and therefore runs into the danger to make logical but callous decisions. However, it may be hard to tell the reasonable from the unreasonable technocrat, the one who follows personal interests, affiliates with elites or entertains an ideological world view rather then the impartial assessment of the rational expert.

Putting too much trust in experts (reasonable or not) is always dangerous. For it may herald the hollowing out of European democracy and the marginalisation of the original constituency: the people. Back in 2012, the European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi was determined to ‘save the Euro at all costs’. If these costs include the viability of European democracy, one might ask: what was the Euro saved for?

http://www.democraticaudit.com/?p=15318

 

It’s probably 12 years since I first heard this song. It’s been on my mind today as I’ve been thinking about recent events in Europe. It’s one of those songs that indexes my unfolding life, as I recurrently come back to it and find something slightly new each time. The depressing thought I had earlier was how much less abstract it seems now than it did a decade ago:

Is this what we deserve? 
To scrub the palace floors? 
To fight amongst ourselves, 
as we scramble for the crumbs they spit out? 
Frothing at the mouth about the scapegoats that they’ve chosen for us. 
With every racist pointed finger, I hear the goose steps getting closer. 
They no longer represent us. Is it not our obligation 
to confront this tyranny?