Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

EU’s political turmoil

Yesterday’s New York Times front page story on the Irish vote against the Lisbon Treaty (a slightly altered version of the failed 2005 EU constitution) was pretty clear: This puts the EU into turmoil. The details aside (how Lisbon was supposed to make the European Union more democratic and streamlined, etc.), the real point is that the EU is very popular with European politicians, but not with European folks, and that’s why most governments don’t want their people to be able to vote the way the Irish did (all others will vote in their legislatures). The elites don’t trust their own people. And when the folks vote the wrong way, the politicians accuse them of ignorance and then immediately look for a "legal arrangement" that can get them out of their fix. What the Europeans have forgotten never learned is that before choosing (never mind legal arrangements), there has to be deliberation, and that deliberation has to be both deep and broad. A kind of civic education--or public diplomacy, if you like--has to take place and this cannot be simply the elites telling folks how to vote. A broader conversation regarding the purpose of the union has to precede the how of the thing. They once had a conversation like this--a couple of generations ago--then assumed that that conversation was enough, and the rest can be a matter of nice diplomatic (read secret) arrangements making sure that every country gets something rather specific out of it. Let’s put it this way: The EU politicians should have a decent respect to the opinions of their citizens that they should declare the purposes that would be fulfilled which impel them to the union. If they cannot do this over time, and be persuasive over time, the EU will remain nothing but this amazing confusion of accords, headed by an arrogant elite in Brussels. A constitution without purpose is not a constitution. There is no European constitution.

Discussions - 3 Comments

What the Europeans have [forgotten] never learned is that before choosing (never mind legal arrangements), there has to be deliberation, and that deliberation has to be both deep and broad.

I'm not really sure what to make of that. I suppose I'll forgive the massive generalization and just point to nearly every political theorist to come out of Europe in the twentieth century in an attempt to convince you otherwise.

The European politicians, like American politicians, are clearly out of touch with their constituents. It's a shame they've twisted the foundational concepts of the EU (perhaps best explained in Habermas' Between Facts and Norms? . . . concepts it seems like you'd agree with from your post, Dr. Schramm) into what the Irish voted (and rightly so, I think) against.

I don't really understand your last two sentences, but they are very melodramatic. Go Irish.

I'm surprised that it's taken so long for this blog to take cognizance of what's been going on in Ireland.

Matt: Regarding the last two sentences (nothing to do with Habermas): A constitution is not merely a set of arrangements, laws, agreements that the majority (or everyone) can agree with and even abide by. A constitution has to have a purpose (beyond necessity, to avoid war, for the sake of peace, for example) in order for it to be authoritative, in order for the details of the arrangements, the compromises, to make sense. It is only when that's clear that deliberation (and therefore a real connection between the people and their representatives, called elites here--for obvious reason) can take place. It is only then that a kind of affection, or respect, for the constitution can be felt by the non-elites (would be citizens).

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