Dalibor Rohac: Libertarians and the European Union


EU / Wikimedia Commons

There is much to agree with in Petr Mach's response to my article about the European Union (EU). As he puts it, my defense of the EU is "utilitarian," not a principled one, and I fully accept that it is possible to imagine alternatives to the current political arrangements in Europe that would be much friendlier to individual freedom than the status quo.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mach's text does little to address my main concern, namely that such alternatives might not be on the menu of options available to us at the moment, and that the likely political dynamics of an EU downfall carry a big risk of making the continent, as a whole, less free.

Libertarian Eurosceptics are correct to argue that, ceteris paribus, bad policy at the level of the EU is more damaging than at the level of a handful of nation-states. However, in Europe's political reality, the 'ceteris' are hardly 'paribus.' Victory for the Eurosceptic forces, which could plausibly bring about an exit from the EU or its complete demise, would likely be a victory for protectionism, economic nationalism, immigration barriers, and for Mr. Putin. We should think twice before becoming cheerleaders for such outcomes.