Towers of Babel come in all the sizes and all the colours
I was reading a piece called ‘Why we should be wary of Parliamentising EU legislation’ earlier today. If you’d said to me in those heady days of 1968 that one day an Italian would write stuff like this, I’d probably have said “Yes, and Benito Mussolini is living in Alpha Centauri and has recently learned to fly”.
But there the article sits, suffused in respectability on a widely-read mainstream EU site, its introduction alone telling you that the content is unlikely to impress:
‘Regardless of the parliamentary rhetoric celebrated in the Treaties, parliamentarism cannot give a feasible answer to the two main systemic constraints within the EU: the demographic asymmetries between its member states and the national differentiation between the latter’s citizens. Given these systemic constraints, it would be unacceptable to recognise only the European Parliament as the source of governmental authority in the EU, if not as the source of the EU’s democratic legitimacy.’
Or – if I can just put into words what Sergio wrote – ‘Democracy doesn’t work beyond a certain size of unit’.
I’d agree wholeheartedly with that, citing the US, Russia and China as obvious examples of the problem. But I’m at a loss to understand where the author ends up. For instead of suggesting that superstate is bad, he writes this as some kind of closing:
‘Between the intergovernmental union and the parliamentary union, there is an ocean to sail. Because of a lack of comparative knowledge and an abundance of intellectual indolence, the partisans of parliamentarism have become prisoners of their own rhetoric. A rhetoric that is not sufficient for unmasking the fallacy of intergovernmentalism. Without a new political theory, it will be impossible to find an original solution to the dual nature of the EU.’
Surely it is Sergio Fabbrini who is guilty of ‘intellectual indolence’ here: for his mind is not open to acceptance of the idea that community is a better unit – that small creative is more vital than big process – and that it is a cultural, not political, solution we need. The econo-political solutions on offer lack both originality and a contemporary social perspective. They are, in turn, State collectivism and Global neoliberalism. Community mutualism has a better track record and is far more socially democratic….without being in any real sense socialist, because it has a much more humanely entrepreneurial perspective.
I must confess that I am now fed up of the word ‘systemic’. Five years ago it was ‘markets’. Both terms try to promote the idea that somehow there are factors working above people. This is bollocks: systems and markets are nothing more than collections of people responding to stimuli and revising their behaviour accordingly. The best one can hope for is the creation of a culture that reduces dysfunctional revisions to a minimum.
It’s been my good luck and occasional misfortune over four decades to know dozens of very successful entrepreneurs. Only a tiny proportion of them did what they did for the money. They did it for fun, because they knew that they were good at it; and on the whole, they were fiercely loyal to their long-term staff. Given an uncomplicated reason to contribute to the community around them, all the ones I liked joined in enthusiastically. For they instinctively grasped the need to give the widest possible franchise freedom from dog-eat-dog survival.
If we cannot rise above that sort of survival, then we need a new species name – because ‘sapiens’ is clearly out of place.
Both Collectivism and Neoliberalism have failed to keep us civilised. As the old Russian gag has it, “Under neoliberalism man exploits man, and under Collectivism it’s the other way round”. Those thinking about the State of the world do not lack a political perspective: on the whole, they lack a hierarchy of importance.
For me, the the hierarchy is as simple as this:
- Educating the individual to think for himself
- Giving that individual a respect for the community that engenders a sense of personal responsibility
- Allowing people who get 1 and 2 to give all the help they can to creative endeavours designed to feed the enlightenment and well-being of the community.
It’s what we call a culture.
The idea that either the State or the Company are more important than communities, families and individual citizens is utterly ridiculous. That and that alone is what we all need to appreciate.