catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Who is afraid of the big bad Superstate? I am.

with 6 comments

John Quiggin and Henry Farrell (George Washington Uni) have a fascinating piece in the review section of the Fin Review, Friday 10 Nov 06. It is a review of a book by Glyn Morgan The Idea of a European Superstate.  The summary of his case comes from the review, not from the book itself.

Morgan is concerned with the justification of European union. He is a supporter of the Superstate and he is also concerned with the lack of adequate reasons to justify the concept which he regards as a serious shortcoming.

To indicate my position, I am not a supporter of the Superstate and I think there are good arguments against it  although the reviewer report that Morgan has addressed the arguments of Euroskeptics and seen them off to his satisfaction.

He is in favour of the Superstate  to guarrantee European security, as a superpower on a par with the US and any other force that might emerge to challenge for world domination. The power that is required is both economic and military. It is required for the safety and the economic welfare of the people in the community in small ways (terrorism and economic exploitation for instance by Russia vis a vis oil supplies) and in the larger sense for protecting the realm from other predatory superpowers (currently the US, but other dangers can be envisaged for the future).

Turning to justification, he suggests three democratic standards that arguments need to meet.

1. Publicity. Arguments should appeal to reasons that a “bare” citizen could accept. A bare citizen is one who accepts certain basic, minimal principles.

2. Accessibility. The arguments should not be so technical that expert knowledge is required to grasp them.

3. Sufficiency. The proposed arrangement has to deliver the benefits that are claimed for it.

On the issue of benefits, it seems that Morgan does not think that the current EU “dominated by technocrats with shared and diffused competencies” can guarrantee European security. This leads him to make arguments against the kind of Europe that most liberals and leftists want, with devolved decision-making. He is looking for a strong central decision-making body and a powerful military capacity. The aim is to match the US but the reviewers correctly point out that he under-estimates the military capacity of the existing states (for all conceivable purposes short of a war with the US) and he also under-estimates the limits on US power.

The challenge the nation state in favour of the superstate

The key assumption that is apparently shared by Morgan, Quiggin and Farrell is that effective government cannot be delivered by individual nation states that assert their independence from international authority in the old-fashioned way. It is this assumption that I want to challenge, by way of a non-authoritarian theory of national sovereignty which is essentially the theory of the minimum state.

The case against the individual nation state is not argued in the review, though it may be argued in Morgan’s book. My question is, what is achieved by the Superstate that cannot be achieved by individual states? When the European states wanted to create a common market, why did they need to do any more than eliminate border controls on the movement of goods (and maybe people as well)? What is the point of the socialist central apparatus that was created in Brussells?

I am not proposing a zero state position; like Mises and the reviewers I want to see governments with effective capacity. The multi-billion dollar questions concern what that capacity needs to be, or more precisely, what we want to government to do. However, with a minimal state approach at the level of the old nation, what is required in the way of super-national organisation, apart from voluntary and ad hoc arrangements to handle specific issues?

I don’t claim to have the answer to that question, however my concern about the role of international bodies is that they tend to become a forum for national vested interests to push their barrows, in the way that domestic vested interests use the expanding nation state as a vehicle to promote their interests at the expense of the common good.

In other words I think that the common good is served best by the minimum state, and setting up Superstates violates that principle from the go get.


Written by Admin

November 12, 2006 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. It’s too bloated to be truly worthy of fear. It is superior to the alternative, which is economically wasteful and individually imperilling war.

    Europe has been convulsed with war for the past three millenia. Only in the past 60 years, with the advent of weaponry that can wipe out all human life on that continent, has there been steady peace and modest growth, first with relative unity among the major economies in the west, and then with the developing economies in the east. No other mechanism but the promise of EU membership could have compelled post-’89 eastern European governments to curb inflation and otherwise be economically responsible. We might hope for the same discipline for France or Germany, but cheer up it coud be worse – and without the EU it would have been.

    Yes, the EU is absurdly bloated, with its micromanagement of what a sausage is and the thicket of regulations that caused Milosevic to die of boredom. However, if it acts to defuse tensions between fractious peoples it can’t be all bad. The free labour market is commendable. The EU could be used for good, and is unlikely to be effective if turned to evil.

    I see the EU as being like a reformed drunk who has found religion.Sure, it’s tiresome to listen to people bang on about sin and redemption, but the alternative is worse for everyone and is unsustainable.

    Andrew Elder

    November 13, 2006 at 8:58 am

  2. Yay, a Rafe post that’s not about Popper!

    Morgan is afflicted with that terrible disease shared by an unfortunately large proportion of the world – a strong desire to feel that the ‘team’ they are a part of, or identify with, has a muscular military. I use the word ‘team’ as the tribalistic emotions associated with a nation’s armed forces are mirrored in sports – pride in prowess and strength, desire to be on the winning side, delight in superiority, a sense of togetherness against adversaries, wanting to be among the top league, etc.

    People like Morgan should be ignored, or at best ridiculed.

    IMO, the Europeans should aim for a loose republic with as little as possible centralised.

    And Rafe, the phrase is “from the get go”. 🙂


    November 13, 2006 at 8:50 pm

  3. Fatso

    You’re full of bright ideas these days, going to editorial assistance to European statre craft. When i grow I wanna be you, fats. True Dime.

    Fats, can I let you in on a little secret. Most of Europe is now the EU- a comie like super structure run from a shit hole called Brussels.


    November 13, 2006 at 8:57 pm

  4. “When i grow I wanna be you, fats.”

    I look forward to you growing up, JC. I really do.

    “Most of Europe is now the EU- a comie like super structure’

    No, really?!? So my suggestion that they don’t do that, it actually is relevant? Oh my, wonders will never cease.


    November 14, 2006 at 12:16 am

  5. Fats
    The EU is a the reincarnation of the old soviet Union. It was essentially put together by the friogs, initially as a way of tying up the Germans and then with the added objective of the running the show.

    It s structure is totally undemocratic and essentailly run by a bunch of bureaucrats that issue out edicts under the cover of darkness.

    it is a hafeful, freedomless sewer pit and the quicker it does a natrual death the better for all Europeans.


    November 14, 2006 at 12:41 am

  6. “Morgan is concerned with the justification of European union. He is a supporter of the Superstate and he is also concerned with the lack of adequate reasons to justify the concept which he regards as a serious shortcoming.”

    Goodness me. Here is a fellow who needs to take a good long look at himself.

    He puts his lust for the hateful commie setup ahead of the reasons. And then he wants to fish around for reasons to justify his emotional committment.

    And look what he comes up with?

    They don’t want the AMERICANS acting in a predatory fashion towards them?

    He’s a lunatic. So he’s not wanting to gear up and deter the Middle Eastern dictators, he’s not worrying about the EU turning into Eurabia.

    He’s not worried about getting pushed around by China or having Iranian missiles able to reach Europe.

    Its the Americans you have to worry about.

    Damn Europeans are too listless and enfeebled to be able to do anything about these usurpurs.


    November 14, 2006 at 3:07 pm

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