What makes a democracy more efficient than a dictatorship? Why did Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal lapse into the economic doldrums? Why were Latin American dictatorships corrupt and lacking in vigour and growth? Why were Latin American currencies being constantly devalued? Why did Zimbabwe printers finally run out of noughts to add to the trillions on its useless paper currency? Why is violence the only means for dictatorships to survive?
It is because dictatorships cannot deal with the complexity of society. Businesses will not invest and workers will not work in an atmosphere of uncertainty. An autocrat can bring in changes overnight. He or she thinks he is being “smart” but it is in the end counterproductive.
Some dictatorships have remarkable growth — but only for an period. They fiddle the currency exchange rates and make their currency so cheap it causes a boom. Then it bursts. Reality sets in. The problem is far greater because a large population has greater expectation and huge disillusions. That is when civil unrest breaks out. A revolution might occur.
Dictatorships like to keep in cahoots with big business. They like to respond to their needs. They have an awe of business. Naively they think that if they please big business the country will all be rich. They are wrong. You can create a slave economy but you cannot make slaves rich. They will demand equality. Bye, bye dictatorship. Nor can you maintain constant growth and a contented population, if you do not allow citizens to have free expression.
Now let us ask the opposite question: Why are Western countries, in Europe, North America and Australasia, the most educated, richest and most productive societies in the world? Why do their currencies dominate world trade?
Doesn’t democracy have something to do with it? Clearly. And it is because they are able to deal with complex issues. The best democracies develop unprecedented freedoms for their citizens. They can criticise anything. They are not violent. And above all, in the very best of them, the citizens know how to exercise individual, associative and governmental SELF-DISCIPLINE.
Conclusion: the less democracy we have, the less we can expect long-term prosperity, contentment, stability and freedoms. Given this elementary lesson of history, what should we expect from a Commission paper that calls itself EUROPE 2020 A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth?
I would hope that it would deal with how democratic European citizens could develop the best examples of our national democracies and social solidarity for Europe. Do the Commission SMARTSTERS deal with this core issue? NO
THE WORD “DEMOCRACY” DOES NOT APPEAR AT ALL IN THE PAPER!
Not very smart! There is one reference to democratic but it is nothing to do with European institutions. Instead they behave just like the disreputable gangs mentioned in the first part of this commentary. They say they will deal with stakeholders. That is another word for lobbyists. So this so-called SMART strategy for sustainable and inclusive growth will end in the dustbin of history in the company of tin pot dictators. The system they describe is an autocracy — that is a system in this case run by a three-party cartel that excludes civil society — surrounded by lobbyists.
Europeans should ask: IS THAT WHAT THEY WANT, EITHER NOW OR IN 2020? It is exactly what the people of the Iberian peninsula, the countries under the Soviet boot in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Greeks under the Colonels wanted to get away from! They thought they were joining a Community of shared valued and enhanced democracy! Instead the Commission paper promises them North Korean style government!
The paper fawningly recommends more powers to the secretive European Council and the Council of Ministers. What sort of INDEPENDENT, smart thinking is that?
“The European Council will have full ownership and be the focal point of the new strategy,” it says. OWNERSHIP!!?? A European institution that calls itself democratic MUST open its doors so the citizens can see and hear those present and judge the quality of their interventions. The citizens should be able to judge their representatives.
If they can’t, then the the citizens are living in some modification, transmogrification or transformation of a dictatorship or autocratic system. Schuman called such shadow democracies “COUNTERFEIT” democracies. He said that a real democracy must be judged by two criteria. It must SERVE the people, not serve the leaders. And secondly it provide the means to allow the citizens and associations to disagree or to agree with any measure that is taken in its name. They should be able to make their own INDEPENDENT analysis.
Civil society, the key element, has been short-changed and short-circuited out of the paper. Is Parliament supposed to take on this job? That is absurd. It has not even set its own house in order. The Parliament has NEVER had an election according to the legal requirements of the original treaties. That says there should be ONE election for all Europeans not 27 national elections for the European Parliament.
For civil society, there are perfectly suitable institutions like the Economic and Social Committee that need to be developed democratically. They have never even had an election at all! It is increasingly URGENT that they should fulfill their mandate to hold elections among ALL organised civil society associations who are implicated in European legislation. A move to give the Parliament powers in this area is anti-democratic because it denies the citizen the right to be represented in a non-party political way as the Founding Fathers wisely decided.
The Commission needs to be reformed so that it is really INDEPENDENT. It should have as Commissioners personalities whose independence is beyond doubt. It should not be stuffed with people who represent only 2 percent of the population. That is massive discrimination and a violation of citizens’ human rights.
Poor and failing democracy at the European level will strangle the European economy. The Commission needs to get back to the drawing board. It needs to learn a bit about history. It needs to review its own history. And it needs to set a strategy not only to save European Democracy but also to save the planet.