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A Temporary Form of Democratic Surplus

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Ever heard of social imperialism? That’s an old name for the aggressive foreign policy of governments wishing to deflect attention from the fact that they are unable to solve domestic problems. If you just cannot quite get yourself to repair a public pension system, or a public health system, well, then you might consider invading a few foreign countries to improve things over there. The late Kaiser Wilhelm II was a pioneer of social engineering. In our day he has found emulates all over the western world. Unable to solve our public-debt problem or to equilibrate our governments’ budgets, we liberate foreign populations from their autocratic rulers and bring them the blessings of democracy.

The remarkable thing is that very same countries that today are bent on spreading democracy with the sword have less than perfect democracy at home. For example, the Republican Party in the US recently had difficulties with the vote count in several primary referendums. On the other side of the Atlantic, in the European Union, we have the tradition of repeating referendums until we get the correct result. Irish voters needed three referendums until the ratified the Lisbon Treaty. We also have another cherished tradition of never ever letting unreliable people get to vote in the first place. The German population was never asked to ratify the Euro or the various power-grabs of the Commission in Brussels. The French, too, were not asked to vote again after they turned down the Lisbon Treaty in May 2005.

The proverbial cherry on the western-democracy cake was delivered just this month. The European Parliaments Legal Affairs committee, whose mission is to safeguard the “integrity and trustworthiness of the legal framework as a whole in Europe” has voted 14-12 on a copyrights issue, even though the committee has only 24 members. This has been aptly called “a temporary form of democratic surplus.” Is it a fruit of the Lisbon Process, initiated twelve years ago, which aimed at turning the EU into the most innovative region of the world economy?

Jörg Guido Hülsmann is senior fellow of the Mises Institute where he holds the 2018 Peterson-Luddy Chair and was director of research for Mises Fellows in residence 1999-2004.  He is author of Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism and The Ethics of Money Production. He teaches in France, at Université d'Angers. His full CV is here.

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