What Happened to Europe?
13/08/2012 Deja un comentario
(…..) The founders of European unity whose ideas led the European movement wanted a “united democratic Europe”. The Europe that emerged from World War II had learned certain things from bitter experience that it was not going to forget. Perhaps the foremost idea was importance of democracy, giving each person not only a vote but a voice. If democracy in the form of regular elections is firmly instituted in constitutions of most European countries, commitment to have preparatory public discussion before making large policy decisions is no less ingrained in contemporary European values. Walter Bagehot defined democracy as “government by discussion”, following a line of political analysis John Stuart Mill had done much to clarify and to champion, and the visionary leaders initiating quest for European unity never wavered in this dedication. Some of policies that were chosen by financial leaders and economic powers of Europe were certainly mistimed, if not downright mistaken; but even if the policy decisions taken by financial experts were exactly correct and rightly timed, important question of democratic process would have remained. The decimation of something as fundamental as the public services that are essential pillars of European welfare state could not be appropriately left to the unilateral judgments of central bankers and financial experts (not to mention the error-prone rating agencies), without public reasoning and the informed consent of the people of the countries involved. It is true, of course, that financial institutions are extremely important for the success and failure of economies, but if their views are to have democratic legitimacy, and not amount to technocratic rule, then they must be subject to a process of evolving public discussion, persuasion, involving arguments, counter-arguments, counter-counter-arguments. If democracy has been one of the strong commitments with which Europe emerged in the 1940s, an understanding of the necessity of social security and the avoidance of intense social deprivation was surely another. Even if savage cuts in the foundations of European systems of social justice had been financially inescapable (I do not believe that they were), there was still a need to persuade people that this is indeed the case, rather than trying to carry out such cuts by fiat. The disdain for the public could hardly have been more transparent in many of chosen ways of European policy-making. Quite aside from the question of democratic legitimacy, there is also an important issue here of political practicality, the practice of “art of the possible” that politics is meant to be. People could be denied their voices, but with democratic institutions they could not be denied their votes in periodic elections. People excluded from taking part in the process of policy-making could not be politically silenced, and in an election after election incumbent governments carrying out the dictates of financial superpowers have been deeply threatened and sometimes summarily removed. And voting rights without the effective policy voices have made it difficult for practical solutions to emerge, with appropriate attention to well-reflected priorities and to acceptable compromises. Public reasoning is not only crucial for democratic legitimacy, it is essential for a better public epistemology would allow consideration of divergent perspectives. It is required for the more effective practical reasoning. It can bring out what particular demands and protests can be restrained in the interactive public reasoning, in line with scrutinized priorities between a cluster of quite distinct demands. This involves a process of “give and take” which many political analysts, from Adam Smith and the Marquis de Condorcet in eighteenth century to Frank Knight and James Buchanan in our time, have made us appreciate better (…..)