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Libertarians and the European Union: A Rejoinder to Petr Mach

September 27, 2014 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

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.

It is naïve to think about a demise of the EU while ignoring the agendas of political groups that are pushing forward the Eurosceptic agenda. While Mr. Mach is a committed libertarian, he’s in a minority. There is already a lot of talk about Red UKIP, following the party conference in South Yorkshire, at which the left-leaning members held a fringe meeting. Or, take Italy’s Five Star Movement, for example, which belongs to the same parliamentary group in the European Parliament as Mr Mach’s Svobodní, and which advocates public investment into energy efficiency, a ban on stock options, and promises to fight socially harmful businesses such as “distributors of bottled water.”

Bad economic policy is not the greatest danger posed by illiberal Eurosceptics.”

If that sounds relatively innocuous, the manifesto of Marine Le Pen’s National Front offers some bolder ideas. It calls for “strategic planning of the re-industrialization,” under the auspices of the prime minister, using insights of leading academics, representatives of business, and of the government. “This policy is to take place in parallel with the introduction of reasonable border protection against unfair international competition (targeted tariffs and quotas),” according to the manifesto. Other policy ideas include the regulation of banking fees, unspecific policies aiming to “establish an equilibrium between independent business and large supply chains,” or international bans on financial derivatives.

For the sake of completeness, one could also discuss the policy ideas of Syriza, the Greek left-Eurosceptic group whose platform is based on a wholesale rejection of the ‘austerity’ allegedly imposed on the country by the Troika. But bad economic policy is not the greatest danger posed by illiberal Eurosceptics.

What unites most Eurosceptic parties, notwithstanding the libertarian rhetoric of some of them, is their opposition to immigration—and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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