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Contemporary Misconceptions of the Democracy We Live In

Winston Churchill in Downing Street giving his...

In the past two weeks, two events have dominated the news coverage on the European continent. One was the new bailout deal agreed by the now removed Greek government with the European Union, especially through the help of Germany and France. The honorable attempt of Mr. Papandreu to call a referendum was quickly silenced and he is no longer in office.

The second was the recent step-down of Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The only reason this occurred was that his own government passed emergency fiscal measures under pressure from the European Union, especially France and Germany. I do not argue that many may rejoice at the news, neither do I defend Mr. Berlusconi.

It seems we live in a new era of democracy, where the same states that uphold the principles of the Treaty of Westphalia whenever they feel threatened, ignore those principles when they want to defend their own interests. I draw parallels here, because in the contemporary situation financial and economic sovereignty is just as important as territorial sovereignty was in 1648.

A simplified map of Europe after the Peace of Westphalia

I do not wish to express an opinion which would be considered rash. I therefore leave the reader to make their own conclusion from the following thoughts I deem important in and applicable to the current situation. I will only point out the context in which the quote should be considered. *Hint: watch for the bold type*.

The European Union is founded on and operates within democratic principles.

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends

that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” –Sir Winston Churchill

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar” –John Stuart Mill

John-stuart-mill 1

Image via Wikipedia

To prevent the weaker members of the community from being prayed upon by innumerable vultures, it was needful that there should be an animal of prey stronger than the rest, commissioned to keep them down” –John Stuart Mill

All measures taken in the financial and debt crisis are to protect the nation from bankruptcy.

The nation did not need to be protected against its own will. There was no fear of its tyrrannizing over itself. Let the rulers be effectually responsible to it, promptly removable by it, and it could afford to trust them with power of which it could itself dictate the use to be made”. –John Stuart Mill

What is the species of domestic industry which his capital can employ, and of which the produce is likely to be of the greatest value, every individual, it is evident, can, in his local situation, judge much better than any statesman or lawgiver can do for him. The statesman, who should attempt to direct people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enogh to fancy himself to exercise it“. –Adam Smith

The citizens of Europe freely agree to be part of the European Union

Men being, as has been said, by Nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this Estate, and subjected to the Political Power of another, without his own Consent“. –John Locke

Firstly, that there are no instances to be found in Story of a Company of Men independent and equal one amongst another, that met together, and in this way bean and set up a Government. Secondly, it is impossible of right that Men should do so, because all Men being born under Government, they are to submit to that, and are not at liberty to begin a new one“. –John Locke

As citizens, we should have a say in what is going on.

As every individual, therefore, endeavors as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention”. –Adam Smith

…during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called War; and such a war, as is of every man against every man“. –Thomas Hobbes



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