"The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off."
Tim Garton-Ash wonders if the EU Crisis (his cap C, not mine) is a symptom of a fatal decadence. Personally, I think that Europe's success was built on the 'elites' that it's detractors love to castigate: By 'elites', they often mean 'those elected in a representative democracy'.
The alternative - the virtuous opponents are those who see the opportunity afforded by a referendum. The pressure groups with lots of rights and few responsibilities.
Thankfully, this is all becoming clear now. A new Tory ginger-group called Direct Democracy has been launched. It has been so-named for one of two reasons:
- Because 'the stupid party' just like the sound of it - they don't really know what DD is and would think of a different name if they did?
- Because the new right are coalescing around the view that parochialism - and a lack of coherence - can provide neo-liberals with the breathing space they need. It also hands huge power to press barons (as Will Hutton argues here) who oppose representative democracy precisely because of the way it weakens any progressive consensus.
As long as EU development is subject to local referendums, it will never be coherent. I'd translate 'decadence' as 'a decline of representative democracy.' The case for representative democracy is inseperable from the case for a functioning democratic Europe.
The EU's shortcomings to date - the 'democratic deficit' - have been it's failures to live up to the ideals of representative democracy. Most people that I speak to seem to accept this point - yet I never see it made anywhere. Am I just not reading the right newspapers?
For the avoidance of doubt, advocates of direct democracy should be treated as objective enemies of progress. (I've been dying to use that phrase in public for over fifteen years now). Unless this argument is widely taken up, we can expect a version of Pim Fortuyn in the UK any time soon (to the delight of Simon Jenkins and his proprietor?)
By the way, TGA unearths a fantastic quote in his peice:
[Europe had] what Machiavelli called virtù - "the capacity for collective action and historical vitality".
Referendums remove that capacity at a stroke.