EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the June 20, 2005, issue of National Review.
Social reality is malleable. What it is depends on how it is perceived; and how it is perceived depends on how it is described. Hence language is an important instrument in modern politics, and many of the political conflicts of our time are conflicts over words. This truth was abundantly illustrated by the history of Communism and by the triumph of Communist Newspeak, not merely in the Soviet Empire and China, but in university departments all over Europe and America. Open almost any British sociology textbook from the Seventies and you will read that human society divides into “classes,” that the “proletariat” is engaged in a continuing “struggle” with the “bourgeoisie,” that the “bourgeoisie” controls the “means of production,” and a thousand other inanities that are not descriptions (since they correspond to nothing observable) but spells, cast at reality in the urgent need to transform it into the Marxist fairyland.
The malign spirit of Marxism has now fled from the European landscape, having stunted the growth of the disciplines on which it alighted, but leaving the rest to grow–so we hoped–in more humane and natural ways. Unfortunately our hopes were premature. For no sooner had Marxist Newspeak evaporated than Eurospeak–the official language of the European Union–came in place of it. Turn to that extraordinary document on which the future of Europe now depends–the official constitution of the European Union–and you will again see language used as it was used by the Communists, not to describe reality, but to subdue reality to a ruling purpose.
Take the critical term “subsidiarity,” with which the constitution promises to protect the vestiges of national sovereignty. This term invariably occurs in the vicinity of a seriously damaging question, namely: What remains of the democratic forms of government achieved by the nation-states when the EU takes charge of their legislation? The answer is that we must apply the “principle of subsidiarity,” according to which decisions are all to be taken at the “lowest level compatible with the project of Union.”
What is this lowest level, you may ask, and who decides which decisions are to be taken there? The only possible answer to the second question–namely, the EU apparatus, including the European Court of Justice–removes all meaning from the first. To say that the nation-states have sovereignty in all matters that they are competent to decide, but that the EU apparatus decides which matters those are, is to say that the nation-states have no sovereignty at all, since all their powers are delegated. In other words, “subsidiarity” effectively removes the sovereignty that it purports to grant. . .
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