European Union

There Is No Libertarian Case for the European Union

There is, however, every libertarian case for secession from the European Union.


Dalibor Rohá? wrote an interesting Reason piece where he argues that despite all its flaws, the European Union (E.U.) is the best real scenario that European libertarians can have and, therefore, should accept it. Rohá? enumerates many of the E.U.'s weaknesses—and they are all on spot—but then argues that this European Union is better than no union because the real alternative to the E.U. is not 28 independent libertarian states but some kind of authoritarian dystopia in many if not all states.

It is pleasing that Rohá? makes a coherent argument for the E.U., not the usual false dichotomy offered by right-wing politicians: Brussels or Moscow.

Rohá? is an outstanding and inspiring libertarian scholar. However, in "The Libertarian Case for the European Union" I find his reasoning unpersuasive and lacking basic counter-arguments to his case.

It is true that the E.U. is overregulated, the euro is a disaster, the structural funds lead to corruption, the Common Agricultural Policy is unsustainable, and spending is absolutely wasteful as Rohá? not only mentions but himself has authored in many of his criticisms of the E.U.

Yes, it is also true that the E.U.'s budget is just about 1 percent of the gross national product of its member states. But, to date, I haven't seen any Euroskeptic claim otherwise. The budget of the E.U. is not the main argument for withdrawal; It is not even one of the main arguments. This is a straw-man.

"The continent clearly needs a massive, 1970s-style deregulation, as well as stronger institutional safeguards against the unchecked growth of economically destructive rules in the future," writes Rohá?. Not only would this be plainly illegal as the Treaty of Rome in its very first line commits to an "ever-closer union" it would be nothing short of a miracle to go through the 170,000 pages of acquis communautaire with all the 28 member states re-negotiating every paragraph, facing interest groups at the E.U. level first and then again at home when de-transposing the repealed directives and regulations from the member states' law. E.U. law works fundamentally differently from US law. It is emphatically not enough to have a majority in the Parliament—which itself would be nothing short of a miracle where the eternal Europhile coalition of socialists, conservatives and liberals calls all the shots. (Note also the word "acquis"—these powers are acquired from the member states and are not to be returned.)

Rohá?'s historical and legal account is also mistaken. He never mentions that an alternative exists: There is a European Economic Area, a European Free Trade Association, and bilateral treaties with the E.U. Rohá? makes a powerful case for a free-trade area but the E.U. is a customs union and a political union, not a free-trade area. The Common Customs Tariff lists more than 10,000 items and member states are prohibited to make free-trade deals with any part of the world. The E.U. might have made more sense in the era of Wirtschaftswunder but those days are long gone. Europe is stagnating while other parts of the world are growing. Any seceding state could make any of the two basic arrangements with the E.U. which would help them tremendously.

But what is more worrisome is Rohá?'s flawed utilitarian case for a non-libertarian policy. Libertarians generally embrace jurisdictional competition and Rohá? himself wrote on it. In his current piece, Rohá? opts for a Madisonian argument of sorts where centralization can do away with wicked socialist ideas of the States.

Maybe Hungary would be even more socialist outside the E.U. than it is now. Maybe some other state too. But over the long run, libertarians say, it is better for the government to be closer to the people and for it to have a competition.

There is no libertarian case for the European Union just like there was none for the Comecon. Seceding states would be able to arrange free-trade deals with the entire world in addition to the current 28 Member States and four EFTA members. They could easily deregulate by simple parliament majorities. They would not be forced to bail-out bankrupt projects like the euro. Their governments would be more accountable and could not excuse themselves on behalf of "Brussels."

There is every libertarian case for secession from the European Union.

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  1. Velmy dobr? Petr, sto procent souhlas?m.

    1. Czech your language privilege, Snark.

  2. Their governments would be more accountable and could not excuse themselves on behalf of “Brussels.”

    Bingo. This is why politicians, particularly spineless oafs like David Cameron, are in favor of the EU. It allows the politicians back home to maintain their power and prestige, but they outsource all of the actual decision making and therefore cannot be held accountable for the bad decisions of Brussels.

    1. Yep, and in turn, Brussels, far removed from its subjects, seems largely untouchable.

    2. Yep, it’s why our political class loves regulatory agencies. An unelected bureaucrat now writes the laws, and in many cases enforces them.

      Boom, now they can go back to banging interns gerrymandering districts.

  3. In the end, the majority of Scots proved themselves to be just like the majority of people everywhere in 2014.

    They want all the free shit they can possibly get their hands, but with absolutely no personal responsibilty or sacrifice attached.

    1. And to think, there were people who actually thought they’d vote for independence.

    2. the “freem shit” meme is so stupid
      the 2012 election is over, goober

      1. Yeah but 2016 is coming up!

        1. Don’t forget 2014. You better believe people will be voting for free shit in less then 2 months time.

          1. We are the leftoids. We will assimilate your culture and loot your people. You will be adapted to serve as a voter constituency. Resistance is ignorant and racist.

      2. Well that’s exactly what you and your ilk live for.

      3. Except the free shit thing is very real. I grew up in a society that’s a progressive dream, and this is the caliber of people it creates:…..riticism-3

  4. There Is No Libertarian Case for the European Union
    There is, however, every libertarian case for secession from the European Union.

    This isn’t just true in the EU’s case. Quite nearly every polity in the world larger than a city-state would better serve it’s tax livestock by disintegrating.

    I think there is, however, rational case for every individual’s secession from every state.

  5. Sometimes seems to me that the basic flaw with all governments is that by being a self-defined monopoly, they are immune to market corrections. Businesses can have just as awful bureaucracies and stasis, but they can also go out of business. That either removes the cancer from the market, or it scares the bad business into reforming itself. Government has no such incentives. US federalism was some help in the beginning, but the bankruptcy feature was never present, and teh national government has taken so much police power to itself, and locked in states with its bribery, that federalism is all but dead.

    The EU doesn’t even have the glimmer of federalism. The only hope they have is for some nations to leave, regardless of treaties. Just leave. But none of them have the balls for that.

    1. “The only hope they have is for some nations to leave.”

      That’s true of every one except Germany. The EU is great for libertarianism; we are seeing an Atlas Shrugged scenario play out with Germany.

  6. . . . the real alternative to the E.U. is not 28 independent libertarian states but some kind of authoritarian dystopia in many if not all states.

    So – he doesn’t know anything bout the EU then? Because its looking like it well on the way to installing that authoritarian dystopia.

    Member parliaments *must* implement EU directives without comment, change, or vote.
    Rules on how curved bananas can be to be sold directly to the consumer
    Rules on what is a ‘jam’, what is a ‘jelly, and what is a ‘preserve’.
    Rules on disposal of used vehicles that has caused a marked increase in the number of abandoned vehicles
    Rules on the disposal of electronic waste that now see the stuff shipped down to Africa for processing – where these rules do not exist.
    European Arrest Warrant – you can be arrested and extradited for suspicion of committing an act that may not even be a crime where you’re at *and* find yourself in a Greek or Italian court in the process.

    1. Talk about a big-ass non-sequitor: without the EU, every government in Europe would be an authoritarian dystopia.

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  8. Mach is a small-l libertarian applier who should not conflate his views with those of the Libertarian movement. The large-L civic Libertarians have had continental integration–with secession/autonomy protections–as policy since movement inception in 1969.

    Thanks for the article. For info on actual people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues worldwide, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ … …

    1. This feels like Trotskyism in more than just name.

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