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More Freedom in an A La Carte EU

by on February 11, 2013

Plurality is great for individual freedom in Europe

The first reduction in the EU’s budget and David Cameron’s pledge for re-negotiation of the British relationship with the EU, have been reviewed from many angles. The reality is that nothing much happens at any radical speed in the EU. Various commentators are however right. The EU is at cross-roads. Will it renew confidence and go back to its founding principles or will the Leviathan break its “social contract”?

The EU has many more positives than negatives. It has brought peace and prosperity to a once chaotic continent in a state of nature which was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (Hobbes Leviathan). Countries like individuals have given up some of their liberty to come together in a “social contract”. This contract brought about common agreed standard behaviour and set of laws. The EU has, however, forgotten (similarly to monarchs of the 17th & 18th century) that it is not an absolute ruler. The Leviathan’s goal is “to protect life, liberty and property of its people”. People are born free and have the right to remain free. In the EU’s terms this means protecting peace, free-trade, property, and the rule of law. The EU has no reason to reach any further. Reaching further would lead to society giving up more liberty than it needs to. Reducing individual freedom to a potential dictatorship of the majority.

A majority of people would agree with youth unemployment guarantees, a financial transaction tax, a minimum wage or even a living wage, and a 40 hour maximum working week. However, not all would agree (many wouldn’t). It is unfortunate that democracy is not perfect and that we can’t think of a better alternative. So it is up to the minority to create a majority though debate and interaction.

Yet the beauty of the EU could be that it could allow people to vote with their feet. The EU could be John Locke’s United States. If an individual does not agree with a law in their country of residence, they should have the opportunity to move to another country in pursuit of happiness. By promoting the right overall conditions in the EU, through enforcing the social contract but also allowing for plurality, leaving one country for another does not need to be a nasty or haphazard experience. An “a la carte EU” with countries controlling their own policies in a European framework would give the individual most freedom.

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