Sunday, May 11, 2008

Competition in the EU

Commenters often point out that, surely, as a free-marketeer, I must be absolutely in favour of the EU's destruction of national monopolies. I have usually been pretty equivocable, frankly, and EU Referendum sums up, very neatly, why this is so.
The trouble with Randall and his ilk is that, although they are basically "on side", they have never really got to grips with the nature of the EU and its true (and only) agenda—political integration.

In that context, the postal services directives have exactly the same agenda as all the other so-called "liberalising" instruments, whether they are dealing with energy (see here), rail services, telecommunications, or whatever. The intent is to break up national monopolies, not for the sake of it, but in order to recreate then on a European level, under the direct control of the EU commission.

Thus, the attack on national monopolies is not an attack on the monopolies, per se but an attack on nationalism—it is an attack on the nation state, an attempt to reduce the power and influence of the member states. As such, the EU has no rooted objection to monopolies – it is, after all, itself a monopoly. Its apparent enthusiasm for "competition" is simply a smokescreen to gull free-market liberals into supporting its deeper agenda.

However, the great genius of the commission—as I have been wont to observe—is its realisation that it is no longer necessary to nationalise something in order to own it. Basically, it has developed a system of nationalisation by regulation. It you have complete control over an industry, you get all the benefits of ownership without needing the title deeds.
...

Before it can build its European dream the EU must first destroy what exists. We are in the destruction phase. For sure, we must not allow it to happen, but "we" are no longer in control.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: the reason why I am not in favour of the EU's forced "liberalisation".

It is also interesting to note that the "destroy in order to create" mantra was always a big favourite of Communists and other hard-left factions. But, actually, it is fascism that the EU's approach more closely resembles: a totalitarian government using large corporations—state-sponsored corporatism, in other words—in order to carry out its missions is very much a mark of fascist regimes.

5 comments:

ukipwebmaster said...

UKIP is on the case and helping across the country:
http://www.westbournemouthukip.com/post-office-closures.html

Andrew Roocroft said...

Precisely which large corporations are the European Union sponsoring to achieve its end?

It seems to me that the line of reasoning put forward in the post you quoted to be tenuous at best (though I am normally a fan of EUReferendum, when it sticks to criticising EU socialism). It claims, for instance,
"The intent is to break up national monopolies, not for the sake of it, but in order to recreate then on a European level, under the direct control of the EU commission."

What evidence is there that the European Union intends to reconstruct supranational monopolies? I'm willing to accept the claims regarding motivation - that the EU simply opposes national government control - but it does not immediately follow that there is to be substituted EU-wide for national control of certain industries. And, were it true, why would it be any worse than the previous situation, where a monopoly in postal services prevailed in each territory? That the name of the monopoly will differ makes it no better nor worse.

As to the claim that,
"the attack on national monopolies is not an attack on the monopolies, per se but an attack on nationalism—it is an attack on the nation state, an attempt to reduce the power and influence of the member states"
what is the supposed normative implication of this? It seems to me that national governments are no better nor worse than 'supranational' from the perspective of a libertarian; indeed, when the primacy of private property and individual rights is realised, the entire concept of the legitimacy of a governmental sovereignty over property that it did not peaceably come by is erroneous. To think, for instance, that the borders of the UK form some legitimate territorial polity is entirely conservative and unfounded on any principle; if you think otherwise, I'd like to hear what principle you're basing it on. The normal claim, of democracy, is entirely spurious: you have to decide the borders before you can have a democratic vote, since you must ascertain what constitutes the entire population. Amongst nation states, borders must be - and invariably were - settled not by compact amongst rightful owners and non-aggression, but by conquest and conspiracy. To defend them in their current incarnation - as you seem to do with every mention of 'national sovereignty' - is to defend an entirely arbitrary state of affairs; in fact, I suppose it is to actively defend the perpetuation of violation of property;
"Social peace is all very well, but true peace is essentially the quiet, unmolested enjoyment of one's legitimate property, and if a social system is founded upon monstrously unjust property titles, not molesting them is not peace but rather the enshrinement and entrenchment of permanent aggression." -- Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty

Devil's Kitchen said...

Fucking hellski, Andrew! Right, where to start...

I've got a load of work to do and little time to do it in, so I'll make this quite brief and we'll move on from there,OK?

Right, let's start with the Rothbard quote and juxtapose your one above.

""Social peace is all very well, but true peace is essentially the quiet, unmolested enjoyment of one's legitimate property, and if a social system is founded upon monstrously unjust property titles, not molesting them is not peace but rather the enshrinement and entrenchment of permanent aggression." -- Murray Rothbard"

"Amongst nation states, borders must be - and invariably were - settled not by compact amongst rightful owners and non-aggression, but by conquest and conspiracy."

Your point above is, generally speaking, correct and, as such, contradicts Rothbard. All property has, at some point, been unjustly aquired through coercion and thus, if you go back through history far enough, one can point out that no one actually enjoys any legitimacy over said property.

OK, no one can own anything legitimately and thus no one can own anything. It is these kinds of silly anomalies that make me a Consequentialist and not a Rights Theorist, y'see.

Given this tendency towards practicality that I have, I thus tend to work on the idea of national borders that we have in the present day simply because that is where we are right now.

Further, many of the borders, in the West at least, have been (barring short fluctuations) reasonably stable for some centuries.

As such, the peoples contained within those borders have a shared history and inheritance that gives them a particular bond and this shard identity is what some call "the demos".

The demos is the basis of democracy, in that the people voting do so not merely out of personal self-interest but out of a belief that the entity -- demos, nation, whatever -- will become a "better" place/people if they vote for certain policies (they may be wrong or they may be right but nevertheless, that is the perception).

The European countries do not have a shared experience, a demos, and so the European Union does not have any good, ideological basis for democracy.

Democracy is, of course, a flawed system (and each of the practical enactions of democracy have their own flaws) but it does allow us the chance, not to elect the leaders that we like, but to remove those that we feel are bad.

The EU does not allow us to remove those leaders whom we do not like: the ultimate arbiters of the law are not directly electable.

Of course, if you are a Rights Theorist Libertarian, the only logical conclusion that you might come to is that all government is wrong and so the ultimate endpoint must be anarcho-capitalism (or some other system in which no state exists at all).

However, I (a Consequentialist) do not believe that that is practical, and so I must consider practicality.

Given such considerations, we must consider that there are economies of scale but also diseconomies of scale. And these diseconomies happen at a relatively small level, c.f. the NHS (roughly 1.4 million employees).

Now, states do not micromanage at the same level as those who run the NHS are required to do, however, history has shown that there are still levels at which state work in an optimal manner.

In the UK, being a fairly small country, we have little local devolution compared to a country the size of, say, the US.

One might argue that the EU is attempting to emulate the US by having a central federal government, i.e. the Commission, EU Parliament, etc., and then using the national governments (and their local satellites) as enforcing state powers.

However, the EU has made the mistake of attempting to micromanage to an extent which vastly outweighs even the increasing US federal government.

"What evidence is there that the European Union intends to reconstruct supranational monopolies? I'm willing to accept the claims regarding motivation - that the EU simply opposes national government control - but it does not immediately follow that there is to be substituted EU-wide for national control of certain industries."

Monopolies are bad and monopolies cannot exist without state collusion; as such, we should remove from the state the ability to create monopolies.

Now, the state can create monopolies through different ways: they can do it through pure legislation (e.g. the railways) or they can create de facto monopolies by making the barriers of entry so high that it is effectively impossible for another business to enter the market, e.g. the Quatchem example.

But you are correct: there is, AFAIC, no substantial primary evidence that the EU wishes to reconstruct these monopolies. However, I think that there is a case for saying, "based on the evidence that we have so far gathered and knowing these motivations, this is the likely outcome."

Hey, if we return to this argument in 30 years and I am wrong, you can gloat all that you like...

DK


P.S. Have you raised this question of evidence with Richard?

Budgie said...

Andrew Roocroft said: "What evidence is there that the European Union intends to reconstruct supranational monopolies?"

The Euro.

There is no (EU) national market. There is no (EU) national demos - as DK said. There is no EU wide Treasury or taxation. Yet.

Thus making the Euro a political exercise in EU nationalism - an already constructed monopoly intended to politically unite the disparate nations and economies of the EU.

The CAP.

The Common Agricultural Policy is based on an EU nationalist concept of food supply.

The CFP - as above.

Andrew Roocroft said...

DK

Thanks for taking the time to reply; I do look forward to discussing these further with you if you accompany your party's leader to Oxford next week.

To the trivial EU point, firstly: I don't really care - as my post suggested, I don't think the United Kingdom is a legitimate authority, so any prohibition imposed on it by an external party which prevents it from acting violently is better in my mind, regardless of the actor's intentions. I have little interest in conspiratorial leaps when there is no evidence behind them, and, were there evidence, as I said, I see no difference from the perspective of the consumers whether the mail system is run by the EU or the UK - the point of territorial monopoly (ie, competition in mail services definitionally cannot come from outside of the territory) essentially invalidates wider claims appertaining to diseconomies of scale. I also note various tenuous arguments you propose (for instance, suggesting that the US federal government interferes in state affairs to a lesser extent than the EU in its member states - which is plainly false), but I have no real interest in this matters; it is, as a libertarian, of the same level of importance as your invective against Boris Johnson for his prohibition of alcohol on public transport. It seems rather to miss the point - discussing the minutiae of what governmental agencies do or do not do presupposes the legitimacy of their existence.

Onto the substantive disagreement;

All property has, at some point, been unjustly aquired through coercion and thus, if you go back through history far enough, one can point out that no one actually enjoys any legitimacy over said property.

This isn't necessarily true. If property has been stolen from you and you can prove that, you are entitled to reclaim it - regardless of the time lapse between the theft and the reclamation. Those people who are disinherited with deeds to property in what is now Israel are legitimate in seeking to regain their property - strictly on a micro level. All disputes over property cannot simply be dismissed en masse, nor can absurd notions of 'nationhood' or 'national self-determination' be accepted - such as the rights of the 'Venezuelan People' to certain natural resources. Your claim that "all property has, at some point, been unjustly acquired" is entirely without evidence.

Supposing, now, that I accept your argument on this matter - that there has been historical theft of all the property in the United Kingdom, say. If there is somebody that wishes to challenge a particular property right, they ought to be entitled to do so in specific circumstances (proving, of course, that they would have been the recipient of the property if inherited - lineage claims alone, are, I think, insufficient and entirely arbitrary). Supposing there are no sound challengers, then; the ownership of property is momentarily considered to be unowned, and then is legitimately acquired by 'first' use. So, we now have a legitimate owner who personally did not come by his property through theft. But wait! The tax man arrives, and threatens prison unless you hand over your peaceably acquired property. Isn't this more recent theft the act that you are justifying, by claiming that the state is legitimate in threatening violence against 'its' citizenry? Regardless for how long this criminal practice has been occuring, it is no more moral for its being so ingrained in popular mentality.

Given this tendency towards practicality that I have, I thus tend to work on the idea of national borders that we have in the present day simply because that is where we are right now.

This is precisely the type of conservatism to which I alluded. It is necessarily static and unprincipled, and has no answer either to justify the current boundaries of a state, nor to deal with changes in those boundaries. For instance, take the issue of Scottish independence. Suppose that a majority of the people (within Scotland's territorial borders as they presently stand) vote in a referendum to secede; would it be compatible with a libertarian order of non-agression to continue to impose the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom over them?

Now, suppose that the people of Berwick-upon-Tweed decide, in a plebiscite, they'd rather belong to the Scottish country than the English one. Is there anything in libertarian principles to justify prohibiting this?

Now, suppose that one farmer, who decided not to vote in the referendum (since he has extremely acute to the arbitrary geographical territory being treated as a unit), on the appropriately named Devil's Causeway, actually wants to remain part of England, or even create his own, third country. Are his neighbours legitimate in compelling him to accept their majority decision, and, if so, why?

Which brings me to;

Further, many of the borders, in the West at least, have been (barring short fluctuations) reasonably stable for some centuries.

So it is after 'some centuries' that certain borders become legitimate, and then, due to their 'stability'? The Soviet Union almost lasted a century: would those in the Ukraine and Azerbaijan have been illegitimate in rebelling from the unified sovereignty of the Russian Federation in 1989? What of those, say, in the border regions between Germany and France, or Germany and Poland, or Germany and Austria: these are plainly arbitrary lines, and do not pass any test of longevity.

As to whether that ought even to be the criteria by which a state's borders are to be judged legitimate, the notion is equivalent to the statement that the longer an instrument of violent terrorizes the innocent, the more legitimate it is to be considered. So, if Mafia bosses are capable of attaining a stranglehold on some region, by dint of their violently enforced 'stability' they are entitled to keep it, by your criteria.

As such, the peoples contained within those borders have a shared history and inheritance that gives them a particular bond and this shard identity is what some call "the demos".

The demos is the basis of democracy, in that the people voting do so not merely out of personal self-interest but out of a belief that the entity -- demos, nation, whatever -- will become a "better" place/people if they vote for certain policies (they may be wrong or they may be right but nevertheless, that is the perception).

The European countries do not have a shared experience, a demos, and so the European Union does not have any good, ideological basis for democracy.


This is very much unlike your style: it is vague obfuscation, and entirely unconvincing. Not only do you fail to define your criteria (I am always wary when people speak of "shared culture" or "national bonds," that their grandiose rhetoric disguises total imprecision), but you then make untestable assertions about the existence of a "demos" amongst the member states, but one common one not existing amongst the people of Europe.

For instance, what "particular bond" do I have with people in Kent that I do not share with the Normans? Or what do I share with the Gibraltans but not with the Moroccons? I'd like answers, please, that are as precise as the definite national boundaries you endorse.

Democracy is, of course, a flawed system (and each of the practical enactions of democracy have their own flaws) but it does allow us the chance, not to elect the leaders that we like, but to remove those that we feel are bad.

Again, you're prejudging who the 'we' are, in that sentence. On the basis of this, you could make no objection to an EU-wide democratic state (ie, the entire populace of a putative union being ballotted, instead of requiring separate ratification in each member state). If, in every European nation other than Britain, a majority were to approve a new Europe-wide democratic government (of the same type, for the sake of the argument, as the similarly populated US), would they be legitimate in acting upon that, and claiming sovereignty over Britain? If not, why not - without resorting to the word 'shared.'

The EU does not allow us to remove those leaders whom we do not like: the ultimate arbiters of the law are not directly electable.

Notwithstanding that this is not the case in the United Kingdom (the Law Lords are unelected), and the absurdities of defending, from democratic grounds, the current UK constitutional arrangements, this again rather seems to miss the point. Maybe 'we' like different things; why ought 'we' be compelled to accept one common government?

Apologies if this point hasn't been entirely coherent or especially terse, if this comment thread hasn't fallen off your radar yet.