The Corner

A Threat To Democracy?

Writing in National Journal Clive Crook contemplates the Irish ‘no’ vote:

The argument that political and economic interdependence erodes the practical value of national sovereignty–for many, an article of faith–is vastly overstated. Globalization and distinctive national preferences can coexist quite happily. The United States has comparatively low taxes and a small public sector; Sweden has high taxes and an elaborate welfare state. Both are open economies. Those differing national preferences can continue indefinitely–until governments, pursuing international political convergence as a goal in its own right, choose to lean against them. To be sure, there are areas where cooperation is valuable or even essential, such as measures to promote trade (mutual recognition of domestic regulation) and to control greenhouse gases. But even here, important distinctions need to be made. At one extreme, cooperation can be ad hoc, voluntary, limited to specific goals, and careful to leave maximum discretion to the participating countries. At the other, cooperation can express itself in the creation of supranational institutions with broadly defined purposes, legal powers over the partners, and an encompassing vision of a new political identity. The first of the poles is, so to speak, cooperation among unilateralists. At the other stands the European Union. What Europe’s citizens have learned from experience is that visionary forms of multilateralism widen the separation between political power and the popular will, and are a far more potent threat to democracy than is globalization. It is not the implacable logic of economic integration that sets the desires of the Irish, the French, the Dutch, and the rest at zero. It is Europe’s governments, jointly pursuing an unwanted idea.


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