Governments of “experts” proposed in Italy and Greece could be good at taking emergency decisions, but would deepen European citizens’ diffidence towards ever more indirect democracy. To avoid this, politics must reclaim its role.
The proposal – since withdrawn – by outgoing Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for a popular referendum on austerity policies mandated by the European Central Bank definitively underlined that the real problem regarding the rescue of the euro is far more political than economic, and that the consensus of Europe’s citizenry will be required sooner or later.
In Europe, referenda have unfortunately shown that the citizenship of individual states are often reluctant to become European citizens. Take Denmark in 1992, when the Maastricht Treaty was voted down; or France and the Netherlands in 2005, which both rejected the draft of the European Constitution. Also worth remembering was Ireland’s initial 2008 refusal of the Lisbon treaty.
The real political crisis today concerns models of indirect democracy. They give citizens only the right to vote, while delegating all decisions to elected politicians.
These elected officials, wherever one turns, seem incapable of making decisions for the common good.
The State is the coldest of all monsters
Instead, they are the passive subjects of lobbyist pressure in a heavy atmosphere of corruption and defend various vested interests in such a way as to make both majority and minority unavailable to indispensable mediation.
But when citizens feel that the tone of their lives and the premises of personal freedom are being jeopardized by political shortcomings, violent reactions emerge, which unsettle the functioning of states themselves.
As a result, Nietzsche’s thinking makes its way to the forefront. In his masterpiece, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he wrote: “The State is the coldest of all monsters. It lies coldly; from its mouth comes this lie: I, the State, am the people.”
Moreover, according to Kelsen, only in direct democracies is the social order actually created by the holders of political rights, who exercise their will in popular assemblies that are held, as they once were at the beginning of Athenian democracy, in the Agora.
This same principle helped inspire the Occupy Wall Street movement as well as the nonviolent “Indignadosé movement the world over, focused at the moment on Greece. In the scheme of things, this is the real revenge of the Agora.
Even more serious is that fact that the ECB (or the International Monetary Fund) are now dictating the rules and regulations of austerity policies without ever having been conferred the sovereignty to do so. This anomalous (technocratic?) control over the economies of member states can yield three possible outcomes.
The Agora vendetta
The first, and by far the most troubling, is that a number of states are forced to leave the eurozone, creating the kind of global financial chaos that is feared, as President Barack Obama noted during the G20 meetings, even by the United States, a country that for nearly identical reasons finds itself in serious trouble.
The second consists, unimaginably, of a euro cut in two, with the stronger half belonging to those states with more ordered economies, such as Germany and northern European countries; and the weaker half tied to the countries of southern Europe, at risk of default.
The third hypothesis would resolve all the current problems. It calls for working to complete Europe’s original political design, as a “free and united” entity, to paraphrase the Athens Manifesto. This in fact was the intention of Europe’s founding fathers.
Reaching this goal means that blind financial-technocratic governance, which so far has produced nothing but inequalities among the citizens of individual member states, yields the playing field to politics, which uses deliberated democracy to create a truly European citizenry to which all people belong, based on the values of parity and equality that I’ve already spoken of repeatedly.
This is the only solution that avoids “the Agora vendetta” and the only one that abolishes the disparities among the citizens of member states and that consolidates, in the context of a federal Europe, an authoritative and non-dispersive presence.
Such a Europe, along with the United States, China, and emerging nations, could sit down at a table and lay down new rules to fend off and fight the disasters and anxieties that the process of globalization has created.
Translated from the Italian by Christopher P. Winner