Last week’s summit in Brussels highlighted the fiscal deficits of Europe and the damage political activism will inflict on that continent’s economy. Voices of caution seem to have fallen on deaf ears, and the summit has done little to reassure the markets or persuade account holders to keep cash in their accounts as millions of euros disappear from banks across the Mediterranean. While the summit might have brought to light the extent of the damage economic deficits can have, one must not forget that the political posturing we saw last week is only possible because of Europe’s other crippling deficit.
Europe’s democratic deficits are just as morally distasteful and ruinous as the economic deficits. The President of The European Commission is José Barroso, who never had to stand in a public election for the position. The twenty-seven commissioners who represent the constituent nations of the EU are all unelected. Unelected officials run entire countries, not just governing bodies. The Prime Minister of Italy and Minister of Economy and Finance, Mario Monti, has not featured on a ballot since he took office in November 2011. After coming to power Monti put together a cabinet of academics and eurocrats, not one of whom has been elected. Once one remembers that Monti once served as a European Commissioner it is not hard to see why he doesn’t seem to care that he is running a country in crisis without a democratic mandate. Greece is currently being ruled under a technocratic government, headed by Panagiotis Pikrammenos.
While the powers that be in Europe claim to embrace democracy they are highly selective when deciding which results of elections or referendums they choose to recognize. When the Irish voted against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 the EU’s response was not to accept the wishes of the Irish, but rather to make the Irish vote again. After Hungary approved a popular constitution that embraced democratic reforms, the unelected European Commission threatened to repeal financial assistance and sue.
Whatever future meetings of European leaders yield, it will be the will of an unelected elite and not the wishes of the masses that will dominate future policy. Both the economic and democratic deficits facing Europe are too culturally engrained in the political culture, and there is no will for reform. We should not expect surpluses any time soon.