It was inevitable, of course, that my slightly throw-away post on Our New Coalition Overlords' meaningless EU "referendum lock" should be commented on by the redoubtable Nosemonkey.
Psst... the Lisbon self-amending thing is nonsense, based on a misunderstanding of Article 48.
This is designed for very minor amendments (primarily small changes of phrasing to prevent misunderstandings in application, should these arise), and has numerous checks and balances in place. Read it for yourself here.
It’s also very difficult to change the treaty. It would require:
- consultation with the Commission and European Parliament (and in some cases the European Central Bank)
[Consultation by whom? I am sure that the Commission—the only body that can initiate EU law—are more than capable of consulting with themselves. And the European Parliament is a toothless distraction—DK]
- a majority vote in the European Council
- the formation of a Convention to examine the proposed changes
- a conference of representatives of the governments of the member states to examine these the Convention’s findings
- a “consenus” to be reached (implying unanimity under existing EU working methods)
- ratification by all member states according to the requirements of their own national constitutions
- if, after 2 years, not all member states have ratified the amendments, they are to be re-assessed
In addition, Article 48.6 explicitly states that this “shall not increase the competences conferred on the Union in the Treaties”.
In other words, Lisbon has a self-amending clause, but not one that could confer more powers on the EU. For this, a new treaty would be required – and under ongoing EU rules, this would still require a unanimous agreement from the member states.
But let's not let facts get in the way of hyperbole, eh?
Indeed not. But we have also seen how the EU is in this project for the long term, and what seem like insurmountable odds when listed above are, quite demonstrably, not.
We know this because larger, more disruptive and more bureaucratic undertakings have been successfully undertaken by the EU machine—not least the formation and ratification of the Lisbon Treaty itself. Sure, there were hiccoughs along the way (as far as the elites are concerned), but the Lisbon Treaty is substantially the same as the EU Constitution in all meaningful aspects.*
EUReferendum further enunciates the pointlessness of the Coalition's fig-leaf referendum legislation, in typically trenchant language... [Emphasis mine.]
The terminal flaw in the initiative is that its authors fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the EU and how it works. Thus, they blather about requiring a referendum whenever there is a proposed transfer of power, in which context we are promised a referendum in the event of another treaty.
Where the understanding fails is that the treaties are more in the nature of enabling acts, which hand over rights to make legislation in particular policy areas, or "competences". The actual transfers of power come when the EU exercises those rights and actually makes the legislation, be it regulations or directives or whatever.
Thus, "lock" or not, the transfer of powers will continue regardless, most often with the approval of the Tories who are as a matter of policy wholly supportive of the "project". But then, they have never understood the EU – and never will. Their corporate stupidity is famous throughout the land, and it is not going to change now.
It is a simple fact that the range of EU competencies is astonishingly wide, and are prone to mission creep: an EU competency in "green" issues, for instance, becomes a plausible excuse for EU meddling in energy generation policy.
In passing laws to combat "climate change", for instance, the EU can put massive taxes on coal-fired, carbon-emitting power-stations, mandate that power companies must pay huge carbon-emission fines (of about £6 billion per annum, currently) or insist that member state governments subsidise "renewable energy".
Thus, whether or not energy generation is officially an EU competence (and, offhand, I cannot recall whether it is—although this is, as I say, immaterial), it effectively becomes one through EU measures designed to combat "climate change".
Of course, as far as people like Nosemonkey are concerned, this is A Good Thing; for whilst NM is not a huge fan of the EU as currently constituted, he is a believer in supra-national governments.
In 17th century Britain and 18th century France and America, the call was for no monarch to be above the law. In the 21st century the call should be that no government—or, to be precise, no state—should be above the law.
I’ve long argued that this is one of my key reasons for favouring some form of supranational governmental structure:I for one would welcome legal restrictions on the ability of the state to interfere in our lives through unjust laws. I would like there to be lines in the sand, over which no government can step.
The trouble is, rather obviously, the age-old question of quis custodiet ipsos custodes—who guards the guards themselves?
Let us take, for instance, the United Nations—which is, arguably, the nearest thing that we have to a world government or final arbiter of international relations. Does this organisation break the law that it sets for others? Well, possibly (just search for UN whistleblower)—and its agents most certainly do (as I have pointed out many times, UN officials seem to specialise in pimping and otherwise sexually abusing vulnerable children). And the UN is certainly ineffective (although some might see this as a good thing).
In any case, the point is that a supra-national government is going to be no more inclined to obey "the law" than any other powerful body. Laws are, in any case, made by governments; retrospectively making past actions legal, for instance, is something that governments are rather fond of (New Labour did it a number of times—most famously in making the wholesale slaughter of animals in the food and mouth epidemic a legal act after the fact). Further, the bigger and more powerful the governmental body, the more difficult it is to enforce any kind of laws against them anyway.
These are all points that I have brought up in person with Nosemonkey: eloquent though he is, I have yet to receive replies that satisfy me. I'll admit, I'm a hard person to carry when one is talking about giving any kind of government more power but I simply don't see that a massive government is any less likely to break laws than smaller ones: in fact, given that it is far harder to constrain a larger force than a smaller one, I can see larger governments being considerably more likely to arrange things to their liking than not. "All power corrupts," etc...
In any case, when Richard at EUReferendum maintains that the EU does not aim to be a super-state, he is probably correct.
The first and foremost requirement of any campaigner is to "know your enemy"—Wellington's finding out what is on the other side of the hill, and all that. And the most crucial thing you will ever learn about the EU is that it is not a super-state, has no ambitions to become one and will not become one. But it is, increasingly, a super-government—and that is where it intends to go.
Primarily, the EU is a means by which the political élites in each of the member states by-pass the democratic institutions in their own countries, imposing their rule without the inconvenience of people participation. That is why the construct is so popular and enduring. The élites have created their own government without the interference of the pesky people.
In short, the EU is not an external agency imposed on us by foreigners (the UKIP/little Englander paradigm) but a conspiracy in plain sight, so glaring and obvious that it is ignored by all. It is the mechanism by which the political élites of Europe by-pass democracy and keep themselves in power. Thus, the EU is what the power élite in the British establishment impose on their own people—replicated in each country of the Union of Elites.
As you know, your humble Devil is far from enamoured of democracy—for it is simply a way of entrenching the tyranny of the majority into the political system—but it does have the advantage of enabling the people to get rid of governments that they do not like.
(This system of democracy is, of course, slowly but surely destroying the West: the entitlement culture and quite deliberately tutored ignorance engendered by government education programmes mean that the demoi of the developed countries consistently vote for more money and services for themselves, whilst ignoring the fact that the state has no money but what it extorts from wealth creators—hence the fact that almost all Western countries are social democracies up to their eyeballs in unsustainable levels of debt.
At the same time, taxes and regulations on business—although, since our states are at least partly corporatist and large companies are able to buy themselves loop-holes, the lion's share of these burdens fall on the SMEs that provide the vast bulk of employment and wealth creation—have become so burdensome that economic growth has slowed to minute percentages.
As such, to take Britain as an entirely typical example, the government is caught between a Scylla (of huge debt, which, including future liabilities, renders the state effectively bankrupt) and Charybdis (of a population continuing to vote for universal service provision requiring high taxes that stifle economic growth). This country is, to use technical term, fucked.)
Unappetising and, let's face it, near-indistinguishable as our reasonable options for government are, democracy does allow us to remove one bunch of corrupt bastards and replace them with another, very slightly different, bunch of corrupt bastards.
The EU has no such mechanism. The only body that can initiate EU laws is the EU Commission, and the EU Commission are appointees—they are not directly voted for and they often do not represent anything that the demoi actually desire in a government.
If you doubt me, simply look at some recent British Comissioners: Neil Kinnock—a Labour Party leader decisively rejected by the British people twice times in elections—and Peter Mandelson, an engaging but poisonous little weasel who had to resign twice from government for corruption.
Do either of these appointees make you believe that our elected representatives are sending the very best quality people to serve on the EU Commission? No, me neither.
One of the things that government is very good at is maintaining a positive narrative—often through recurring state-sponsored events, parades, bank holidays and other nationalist "bread and circuses"-style distractions.
For instance, As EUReferendum points out in a hugely interesting post, far from helping the British people during the Blitz, the state—where it did not actively endanger its people by, for instance, refusing to let people shelter in Underground railway stations—failed to help the hundreds of thousands who were injured and rendered homeless. Similarly, during these horrific days, the RAF were of little help, and yet the state has been able to maintain the fiction of the heroic Few saving Britain from invasion.
After the tube trains have finished running for the night, it remains policy to lock the stations and mount police guards to keep people out. And the police did as they were told by their bosses.
In a few stations, though, there were people sheltering overnight. This is so unusual that a Guardian columnist actually writes about it in his paper – he is one of the lucky ones. But it is only because the people turned up en masse with crowbars and swept the police aside. They broke into the stations and secured shelter, in defiance of the authorities and their prohibitions. The people decided and, shortly afterwards, the government caved in and lifted the prohibition.
It was the same elsewhere on other issues. Shelter management and organisation was set up not by the government but by volunteers. When the government decided to put its own people in, they were swept aside. Local vicars, WVS volunteers, and many others, started making sense of the rest centres, and gradually order—and humanity—prevailed. And, in each case, the government fell into line.
Indeed. In this pattern, Richard sees hope for a way out of the shit state that our democracy is in—in the form of a people's revolution.
In other words, the collapse of society was averted—and the safety of the people assured—more or less, not by a beneficent government but by people power. It was their endurance, their good sense, their organisational skills and perseverance that saved the day—not the dead hand of a corrupt, inefficient, lethargic public bureaucracy.
That is why the Battle of Britain still matters now. The carefully crafted official myth perpetuates and sustains the political status quo, a centralist, statist, top-down myth that suits both the left and the right wing of British politics. It is the myth that government is a force for good, that it works and that it has the interests of the people at heart.
The real message, therefore, is the one that needs to be taken up and replicated—because it is totally relevant to today's conditions. And that is stark: no one is going to come to our rescue and save us from the messes the government has created—any more than they did in 1940. We are going to have to do it ourselves. When the going gets tough, the only thing that matters is people power.
This may well be the case—and I am seeing, on blogs and in comments, an ever-increasing frequency of calls for some sort of revolution. Alas, I do not share Richard's optimism about its likelihood—although I do share his faith in human beings, as autonomous individuals, in general.
However, it is the concept of autonomy that leads to my lack of faith: I don't believe that the vast majority of people in this country are autonomous in any meaningful sense—and certainly not as regards their political ideas.
Because it seems obvious to me that successive governments took careful note of what happened during the Blitz: as Richard puts it, "in each case, the government fell into line". Now, I may get accused of conspiracy here, but I think that the state learned there—and that lesson was not that people could do it for themselves (and so the state should remove itself from their affairs) but that, if allowed, people would do it for themselves.
And if they did so, then the power of the state was reduced—and this must never be allowed to happen again.
And no, I don't think that this driver came mainly from the politicians—they are, in the main, too stupid, venal, ignorant, vain and (surprised at their good fortune and knowing that it cannot last) concerned with lining their own pockets.
No, such an agenda could only be pursued by the Civil Service—that body of shadowy mandarins that Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance, for one, has identified as a core enemy of any libertarian movement.
Can't you see it? Imagine Sir Humphrey Appleby, crying indignantly, "the people cannot be allowed to organise themselves! There would be anarchy!" And now, more silkily, "besides, the people don't want to be bothered with all the administrative tedium of governing themselves. They want to be guided by the government into leading fulfilled and happy lives." And, decisively: "And the government, Bernard, is us."
I'm sure that it all began with the best of intentions—the National Insurance (although that was, as we know, corrupted long before it even became a reality), the child support, the tax credits and, most crucially of all, the state-sponsored schooling—but what a panicked government found was that all of the fenceposts for a system of societal control were already in place. All that the post-War government needed to do was to connect them and the people would cage themselves.
With the government having controlled almost all sickness and unemployment insurance since 1911 and most schooling since 1880 (with control tightening in a series of Education Acts in 1902, 1918, 1944, 1964 and up to the present day), it was relatively easy for the post-War government to extend itself into the provision of almost all healthcare, education and insurance—thus tightening its grip on the people through near-universal service provision.
Milton Friedman famously said...
I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible. The reason I am is because I believe the big problem is not taxes, the big problem is spending. The question is, "How do you hold down government spending?"
one of the prime reasons for holding down government spending—apart from the fact, as we see today, that governments spend profligately and unwisely—is that money, especially vast amounts of it, is power.
Of course, universal service provision enabled the government to demand, legitimately, far more money from taxpayers whether those taxpayers used the services provided or not. And so we have taxes rising steadily, from some 8% of GDP in 1880 to the situation that we have today—in which the government spends over 50% of all of the wealth generated yearly in this country.
By the end of the Second World War, many people were dead and the Friendly Societies (as an example of people having organised their own lifestyle insurance) had been all but wiped out (largely thanks to private corporates and the British Medical Association) for some thirty years.
As a result, the concept of voluntary collectivism and self-help was fading rapidly in the public consciousness—ably helped along by the narrative of the government as saviour of the British people from the Nazi threat (largely through the fetishisation of Churchill and other national bodies, such as the RAF).
With the state now in charge of the schooling agenda of well over 90% of British children (and, through regulation, influencing the curricula of the rest), the narrative of the state as protector—a benign body in loco parentis—was not difficult to seed.
As the narrative became more obvious, the teaching profession (already largely people by left wingers) became even more saturated by socialists, Communists and other statist cheerleaders. As the state ramped up Welfare payments from being simply a basic payout in extremis to being a cushion for lifestyles choices, the entrapment of the masses became complete.
And so here we are, where those who value liberty over security are in the minority (vocal though they may be in this blogging medium), oppressed and milked by the vast mass of state-aid recipients through the ballot box—behind which stand the politicians who are only too happy to buy the votes that keep them in their cushy jobs.
Revolution? Don't make me laugh. There will be no revolution in our lifetimes, either at the ballot box or in the streets.
The bovine population have been educated—nearly from birth—to believe that the state is the people's friend, and that the way in which we do things now is not only the most efficient but also the most morally correct way to run a society.
Those who are in receipt of handouts will not vote for their withdrawal, and will vote for more if they can—indeed, such is the tax burden that even those who are working could simply not afford to live were their state life-line removed.
And most of those who are not in receipt of such monies have been educated all of their lives to believe that said "benefits" are a moral certitude and that to even consider other systems a heresy.
This attitude is, of course, predicated on a patronising middle-class contempt for the "working classes"—by which, of course, they mean the non-working classes—who, like Sir Humphrey, they see as being so stupid, ignorant and feckless that the chances of said working classes being able to organise a piss-up in a brewery, let alone create ordered community insurance for themselves, is a concept to be treated with a bray of hollow, cynical laughter.
The sad pity being, of course, that as the people become ever more used to the handouts and the state molly-coddling, and ever less able to even conceive of the kind of self-help that was in such abundance only a century ago, this mirth is ever more justified.
As for trying to change this state of affairs, it is difficult enough to try to organise and motivate a band of the willing—let alone fighting against a majority of the unwilling. So you'll forgive me if I feel that the outlook is bleak, and that the only path that our societies tread is that of decadence and decline, finally fading into senescence and death.**
* There is one crucial difference, though, which people such as James Higham and his friends at the Albion Alliance don't seem to understand: unlike the EU Constitution, which was designed to replace all previous treaties, the Lisbon Treaty is an amending treaty.
As such, it references and requires all previous treaties to be extant, and the mechanisms by which those treaties are enacted in member countries also must be in force. As such, the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act would remove us from the legal obligations of the Lisbon Treaty in a way that would not have been possible under the EU Constitution.
** And I haven't even covered the role of the corporates and the media in all of this...