Is the EU too democratic?

Burma cancels damYesterday the Slovaks voted “No” to the Greek bailout. Quite reasonably, the poorest country in the Eurozone could not see why it should bailout a country where the average wage and pension provisions are far higher than their own. The result is continuing financial turmoil and uncertainty as the markets get frustrated by the lack of visible action. The meeting between Merkel and Sarkozy over the weekend ended with a statement along these lines: we have a plan to save the Eurozone but we can’t tell you what it is yet. There is a growing sense of impatience amongst the pundits and commentators whose general consensus runs something like this “European leaders are behind the curve. We need fast, decisive action. Why can’t these things be done more swiftly? Why is there not more leadership?” Notice that this line of argument is only a short step from a complaint that the EU is too democratic. After all, Napoleon or Hitler could have sorted this mess out in a trice. Is this laborious process of asking everyone what they think and getting a consensus a waste of time?

Consider this interesting counter example from the other side of the world. The military rulers in Burma have decided that they will cancel the construction of the Irrawaddy Dam. This is a slap in the face for China who was funding this 3.6bn hydroelectric project. Campaigners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have been protesting against the dam for months, since it would inundate dozens of villages, displace at least 10,000 people and irreversibly damage one of the world’s most biodiverse areas. Why did the Burmese military junta change their mind? It was “against the will of the people”.

A dictatorship responding to the will of the people? This is democracy without voting. We could call it  “non-suffrage democracy”. Yes, I know that sounds as stupid as “bubble free champagne” or a “water free ocean” but it does suggest an interesting catataxic twist. We can call the people Level 1 and the government Level 2.  Clearly the normal way to transmute from one level to the other is through voting. That may be one way but it is not the only way, and in the case of the Eurozone crisis it may not even be the best way.

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