24 October 2010

Earmarks - no problem if subject to referendum

The heated debate in the USA about the merits (or defects) of the use of 'earmarks' in the allocation of spending would be much less of an issue if all government spending would ultimately be subject to a mandatory or facultative referendum.

Soft-Authoritarianism by the backdoor

"Modern authoritarian movements tend to adopt the strategy of avoiding talking about or even hinting at the coercion they will adopt to deal with those opposed to the supreme rule of the all-powerful state apparatus. They deny that they are fascist movements and instead adopt a slew of fanciful euphemisms for the coercive policies they propose to inflict on their brutalized subjects. You silly fool! They are not robbing people — they are just "asking them to pay their fair share." They are not micromanaging people's lives — they are just "looking after their health and welfare." They are not silencing dissent — they are just "ensuring tolerance" and fighting "hate." They are not trespassing against private property — they are just "managing the economy." They are not enslaving people — they are just "encouraging volunteerism." ('Dropping the mask of Ecofascism', Ben O'Neill, Mises Daily, 19 October 2010)

21 October 2010

Courts as Defenders of Freedom? - Don't bet on it!

Whatever one's opinion about smoking, one should let those who enjoy a puff on a cigarette have their pleasure. Intelligent adults are (hopefully) aware of the dangers of inhaling tobacco smoke. The vendetta against smoking has taken on the character of a quasi-religious crusade during the past years. Legislation has been passed in many countries that reflects this overzealous attitude. We see no reason why it should not be allowed to smoke in places that are clearly designated as smoking zones. People then have the clear option to live and work in these places - according to their own individual judgement about the risk involved. So one would hope that courts are able to protect the individual citizen's right to make this decision. But the decision of Germany's Constitutional Court is a slap in the face of all independently minded people. Yesterday's judgement reinforces Bavaria's rigid anti-smoking legislation by prohibiting even the use of water-pipes in a Turkish-themed restaurant. Separation of Power is a long way from being a reality when politicians can appoint judges at will and the judiciary is not under the slightest form of democratic control.

EU bureaucrats sue member states

The consequences of the lack of democratic control of the EU institutions come to light in this absurd court case to be decided by the European Court of 'Justice': The EU Commission sued the council of ministers because their salary increases were to be capped at 1.85 per cent versus 3.7 per cent indicated by the 'agreed' method of calculation. One has to wonder how this 'agreement' was reached and who is supposed to supervise the process. Without direct democratic control this sort of backroom deal is anything but democratic.

TV Discussions, Chat Shows, Town Hall Meetings

The media are full with chat shows that focus on political issues. Politicians use them as cheap platforms to promote their policies (and at the same time polish their image in front of a large audience). But do these events really add much to the governance of a country? We think that these media events may well have their (limited) use but without giving the electorate the say on the eventual decisions that are made in a country they are a highly ineffective way of arriving at legislation and at worst give the illusion that the public's opinions are considered by the politicians.

EU wants six new taxes for itself

The importance of direct democratic control in the case of supranational organisations becomes evident in the light of news that the EU bureaucracy wants to have authority to levy six (!) taxes in order to finance its activities. These taxes are: (1) Value Added Tax, (2) Air Flight Tax , (3) Petrol Tax, (4) Corporate Tax, (5) Financial Activities Tax and (6) CO2 Tax. If anyone was still left in any doubt about the need for drastic change in the political system in the EU he should now be convinced otherwise.

18 October 2010

FIFA needs a dose of democracy as well!

Revelations that some members of FIFA'S executive committee may or may not have been caught asking for payment in return for them supporting bids to hold the next Football World Championship are a reminder that large organisations such as FIFA need a dose of democracy. As matters stand, the tiered way of running the organisation gives too much power to those running the organisation as the final members - the grassroots clubs and their membership - have basically hardly a say in the affairs of FIFA. Like Boards of listed companies, the people at the top are a closed shop that effectively appoints its new members and elections are at best a fig-leaf for public consumption. Worst of all, while FIFA keeps all the income from the competition the taxpayers of the country holding the World Cup is saddled with the costs of running the event. A similar problem exists with the International Olympic Committee.

17 October 2010

EU wants higher minimum sentences for sex offences

The cause may well be worth supporting. But this does not belong to the responsibility of the EU and illustrates the misson creep that permeates the EU. This problem is also endemic in many other international organizations. As they serve many masters (member countries) no one is really in charge and the insiders running the institutions are effectively in charge. No wonder that they endeavour to increase their area of responsibility and making themselves (and their well-paid jobs) more indispensable.

16 October 2010

Eco-Electricity costs German citizens Euro 13 billion

News that annual subsidies for eco-electricity will cost German consumers and taxpayers the incredible amount of Euro 13 (!) billion demonstrates to what follies political decision-making leads when it is unconstrained by any reference to the will and interests of the citizen.

How can EU be stopped?

Citizens and Governments of the individual member states are watching helplessly as the unelected (or quasi-elected) Officials and Bureaucrats of the EU arrogate more and more power for themselves. For Dirdem the solution to this problem is the introduction of direct democracy at the EU level. This should not just mean that a simple majority of all EU citizens can decide. There will have to be a number of safeguards to ensure that the regional and national sensitivities are protected. At least half of all eligible voters in the EU will have to participate. A minimum of two thirds will have to support any new legislation and a two thirds majority of all member states will have show a (simple) majority in favor. In addition, there needs to be a clear separation of competencies between the EU and the member states. Arbitration in cases of disputes about which level of government should be in charge cannot be left to the present EU Court of Justice (only those carefully vetted by the vested political interests in the EU and member states need to apply!) and in effect is a prisoner of the bureaucratic mindset ('More central power is presumed to be good'). The court must be restructured so that appointments are not backroom deals negotiated by party machines. Judges must be linked to individual member states and subject to some democratic control.

7 October 2010

Michelle Obama 'most powerful woman' - shall one laugh or cry?

The sorry, even ridiculous state, of present-day politics is demonstrated by the American 'First Lady' being elected the 'most powerful' woman by Forbes Magazine. And not only of the USA but the whole world at that! One has to wonder what mysterious powers she must possess - and what she achieves with it. If there is even a shred of actual power in her hands it would mean that the actual will of the citizens is not worth a lot. The episode also puts the media into a bad light as it is only too willing to endow personalities with more prominence than they deserve thus creating the celebrity cult in order to stimulate sales.