Even those of us who are not big fans of the Star Wars enterprise are usually familiar with a few famous lines from the movies. The most famous (and most misquoted) line is undoubtedly “No. I am your father”. Other classics include “May the force be with you” and “Do or do not. There is no try”.
My own favourite quote however comes from “Star Wars: The empire strikes back”, and it is one that I think really sums up the attitude of the leaders of the European Union. Appropriately enough, it is a quote from Darth Vader: “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further”.
The European Union has a deal with its member states, and indirectly with the people in those memberstates. This deal is described in the Lisbon Treaty, a treaty which acts as a sort-of constitution for the union.
The problem is, the European Union sees no problem in breaking the Lisbon Treaty whenever they deem it necessary.
Daniel Hannan wrote an excellent blog post on this topic (Hannan is an author and a Eurosceptic member of the European Parliament). He points out that in the past few years, the EU has broken its own rules more times than anyone can count. The most serious of these infractions are undoubtedly the bailouts given to the mediterranean European countries and to Ireland: Article 125 of the Lisbon treaty clearly states that bailouts (to countries, not companies) are illegal.
After this crisis, the Lisbon Treaty – and any succeeding treaties – as well as any promises made by the EU can only be considered null and void. The EU has decided that preserving and expanding the powers of the ruling elite – which is exactly what the bailouts accomplished – is more important than following the rules.
In simple terms: The EU’s goal is the preserve and expand its own power - the power of the small, mostly unelected elite that controls the EU. No right, no value and no principle can be allowed to stand in the way of this goal – it is an end that justifies any and all necessary means.
What does that sound like to you? Because to me, it sounds like the founding principles of a totalitarian regime. Power above all! Rights are conditional and granted only with the permission of the elite, who retains the right to suspend them at any time and for any reason. Like Darth Vader, the EU alters the deal with the member countries and their citizens whenever it pleases them.
Economically, the Eurozone appears to be slowly improving. I personally suspect that this is very temporary – none of the structural changes necessary to prevent another crisis have beeen made, and so another crisis is likely just around the corner. But let’s assume the crisis is over – let’s just play with this hypothetical scenario and see where it leads us:
If the crisis is over, what lessons will the EU learn from it? What are the takeaways?
First of all, the main takeaway is that if there is ever a problem, the best way to solve it is by essentially suspending democracy and overruling the will of the people. This is what the EU did through the Troika – sending unelected bureaucrats to take over the management of economic policy in several countries. National parliaments lost their power, which was transferred to the troika.
The lesson that is being learned by Brussels is that centralisation works, power concentration works; and the needs & desires of regular, average joes can be ignored without there being any negative consequences (from the POV of the Brussels elite).
Secondly, if you’ve made a deal – like a treaty or something – and the deal becomes uncomfortable for you, then alter the deal and pretend like the original deal never existed. Few people remember this today, but just a few short years ago, the EU’s big headache was Ireland and its unwillingness to sign the Lisbon Treaty. Ireland – my favourite country in Europe (for non-political reasons mostly) – stood its ground and insisted that in order for the Irish government to sign away any more powers to the EU, this would first have to be approved by the Irish people in a referendum. The Irish people rejected it, so the EU forced them to vote again (yes, on the very same treaty!). The Irish, under the threat of massive retaliation, voted Yes the second time.
The next time, the EU won’t use that strategy – why force a country to vote twice on a treaty (a public relations disaster, as you might imagine), when you can just change the rules as you go along and pretend the old ones never existed?
If anyone thinks that this legacy doesn’t matter – that these crisis measures were all temporary and won’t ever be repeated, at least not unless there is another severe crisis – you would be wise to consider the aftermath of World War II: During the war, manufacturing was largely centrally planned and goods were rationed – somewhat similar to how things work under a communist system. Plenty of socialists (and bureaucrats in general) argued even before the war was over that the “planning boards” that had controlled war production should stay in place even after the war was over. Since central planning worked during the war, why shouldn’t we keep it around? What is good for war is good for peace, right? I have heard socialists who to this day make that argument in favor of central planning – “that’s how we won World War II”.
In the same way, if centralisation & totalitarian government works during recessions, why shouldn’t they work during booms? There is an answer to that of course (the EU and its centralization is the very reason why the crisis happened in the first place), but it’s easy for bureaucrats to ignore that and rewrite history – it’s not like that hasn’t happened before; to this day most people think Keynesianism & FDR ended the Great Depression.
We already have a Fiscal compact that will continue to operate, no matter the state of the economy, which allows big countries like Germany to influence the fiscal policy & budgets of the smaller countries.
Rahm Emanuel famously said (I’m paraphrasing) “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. Trust me, the EU and its powerhungry elite is not going to let this crisis go to waste. The legacy of this crisis is at the risk of ending democracy as we know it in Europe. The EU may have started off as a free trade zone, but it is time we understand that that’s not what it is today; and that its ambitions go further than what any of us signed up for when we joined.
The European Union is a supra-national Darth Vader, and it is altering the deal. Now, we can only pray that it doesn’t alter it any further.
Or, we could leave.
The choice is ours.
Thank you for reading.