Krupp's Eye
Taking German Chauvinists Down a Peg

The Meaninglessness of the European Parliament

Felix Salmon:

[T]his year’s Munk Debate looks set to be simply depressing. The invitation has the details: the motion is “be it resolved that the European experiment has failed”. And I’m reasonably confident that the “pro” side — Niall Ferguson and Josef Joffe — is going to win.

That’s partly because Ferguson has the public-speaking chops to dismantle his meeker opponents, Peter Mandelson and Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Ferguson is likely to go strongly for the jugular, while Mandelson and Cohn-Bendit will noodle around ineffectually, hedging their conclusions and sacrificing rhetorical dominance for the sake of intellectual honesty.

You can see this, already, in the invite. Each speaker is introduced with a one-liner; Ferguson says that Europe is conducting “an experiment in the impossible”, while Mandelson says that Europe is, um, “getting there” and that the world is “very impatient”. Cohn-Bendit is weaker still: his quote, “We need a true democratic process for the renewal of Europe, in which the European Parliament has to play a central role,” seems to imply that Europe really is doomed, since there’s no way that the European Parliament is going to play a central role in anything, except perhaps an expenses scandal.


[I]f by “the European experiment” we mean the euro, that’s been a disaster, and virtually everybody in Europe would have been better off had it never existed.

In this, curiously, the broad European population was much more prescient than the educated and political elites, who in large part imposed the euro on their unthankful and unwilling countries. Mandelson is a key member of that elite, and he was wrong about the euro and about the advisability of the UK joining it. It’s going to be very hard indeed for him to persuade an audience of Canadians that this time he’s right. Or, for that matter, that they should in any way welcome the prospect of a monetary union with Iceland.

Iceland, by the way, is considering adopting the Canadian dollar, since its population is against joining the EU.


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M. Möhling

Christian, why indeed would Joffe et al share views on topics that seem totally unrelated, while you and any self-respecting progressive do that, too? Is the end nigh and all animals have become equal? Some of them acting up? Anyway, psychologist Jonathan Haidt has an idea on why that is:

The fundamental rule of political analysis from the point of psychology is, follow the sacredness, and around it is a ring of motivated ignorance.
He argues that we all tend to merely rationalise our moral intuitions ex post. He's written a book about it, The Righteous Mind--Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. This has been rightly derided as simplistic, as he doesn't apply Occam's inverted razor, as he should--as any self-respecting intellectual knows, no hypothesis is fun if makes do with the the fewest assumptions possible. What's a shyster good for if he makes himself understood?

> The "European experiment" consists precisely
> in setting a political framework to this process
It certainly does, but why must it happen in the most cumbersome, corrupt, and corrupting way, with technocrats enacting monthly regulation ten-thousandfold, impossible to be grasped and controlled by parliamentarians?

> The only alternatives would be either to undo
> globalization (which would make us all poorer
> both economically and culturally)
Exporting jobs and know-how gets us cheap goods for all at the expense of some; proles and lower middle class. Not so fair and pretty consequential. It would be encouraging if smarty pants could help themselves to the realisation that globalisation is both beneficial and destructive, a notion difficult to grasp for moralists rationalising their noble hearts' content.


What is it that makes people like Joffe move towards the radical fringes on topics (Global Warming, Europe, Islam(ophobia), ...) that look totally unrelated to me. Is it the constantly being miffed of old men about a world that never asked them for permission before changing?


@Cocodrillo: Good point, but I think that Josef Joffe has given up on this whole plausibility thing when he joined the axis of good.


Well - let's go back to 1859 and have a debate with the motion "that the U.S. experiment has failed". I suppose it will be pretty easy to defend the pro side... At least, Europe will come out of its crisis without a(nother) civil war.

And more seriously speaking: It is obvious that, due to economic and societal denationalization, there is a fast-growing interdependence between European countries (and between the countries of the world in general). The "European experiment" consists precisely in setting a political framework to this process. The only alternatives would be either to undo globalization (which would make us all poorer both economically and culturally) or to try to deal with all the problems arising from it with the means of traditional intergovernmental organizations. However, this last solution would be much more undemocratic than a European Union whose legislation is already now enacted not only by the Council of Ministers, but also by the freely elected European Parliament. It is very easy to critizise the uncomplete political framework of European Monetary Union, but if we are talking about the "European experiment" in general, I wonder what plausible democratic alternatives Joffe and Ferguson are going to offer.

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