Caesar says ‘No

Thomas Cool, May 31 2009 

Gaius Julius Caesar left quite an imprint on the European continent, with the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar as lingering evidence. For the EU elections it will be a good exercise to ask ourselves what Caesar would have said about the Lisbon Treaty. In our democracies there is no room for dictators like the original one but each and every person now has the independence of thought and the power to express a vote, and thus is a Caesar by heart and intention. I would like to invite all of you to take that responsibility, feel the weight of geopolitics and history, be proud and to consider the European continent and its future, and to consider, indeed, what Caesar could have suggested. It clearly would not do if millions would react with ‘What is good for Caesar is good for Europe’ and thus we must focus on some essentials. What we need is something that rings a bell with the millions of independent voters on our continent.

Ireland is the only country in the EU left that can block the Lisbon Treaty via the referendum this Autumn. At the same time, Ireland is hit hard by the economic crash so that there will be a tendency to flock to the protection by the EU. The EU elections in June are not specifically about the Lisbon Treaty but may indicate a mood swing. Hence it still is a time to get the essentials right. My reading of Caesar is: it remains better to block the Lisbon Treaty, and Ireland can recover from the crash without special support from the EU.

The dire straits of the Irish economy derive foremost from the own economic policies, both before the crash and during it just now. Some may say that this is easily said with hindsight. However, even if it is true only with hindsight, it remains true, and thus it cannot be denied that economic policy in the future must be robust. Ireland is responsible itself. The main contribution of the EU in the past was to break some stagnating molds and conventions, sweethening the change with euro’s, but clearly, once you are aware of that, you can become master in your own house and get going from there. I would favour that the EU steps in with much support for the Irish economy so that people could vote on the Lisbon Treaty with less worries on their mind, but such help actually would not be needed as the Irish should rather get their act together.

My suggestions for economic policy are – and see my website for the analysis: (a) Create an Economic Supreme Court on a par with the executive, legislative and judicial constitutional branches, with the power to veto the budget if it would contain misleading information, (b) Set the minimum wage cost equal to the minimum wage net income, eliminating the tax void, (c) Reduce VAT to 1% and rely on income tax, (d) Avoid surplus debt but impose taxes for the rich, using the dynamic marginal tax rate, (e) Restructure personal finances first and thereby restructure bank finances indirectly, (f) Use working time reductions, in some sectors perhaps with one day a week, instead of unemployment, to weather the storm for the period into the recovery.

The Lisbon Treaty is irresponsible. The key point to note is that there are two Europes: (1) the EU located in Brussels and Strasbourg, with 27 members excluding Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Turkey and Russia, and (2) the Council of Europe located in Strasbourg, with 47 members including Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Turkey and Russia. The current EU started with economic co-operation and integration, and for some people with the political ideal of a United States of Europe on the horizon. The EU is a success for both the economy and the political stability in Western Europe. The Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 however changed the situation. We now need to do the same trick with Russia and Turkey, working towards economic co-operation and thereby providing for a solid base for peace and prosperity. Thus we should have less political EU and more economic Council of Europe.

The Lisbon Treaty is a disguised Constitution that eliminates much of national sovereignty and that puts emphasis on political integration instead of economic co-operation. It is counterproductive since it creates an artificial wedge across the continent that will provoke political bickering and national resentment. The EU will never be a single United States of Europe but the Lisbon Treaty is a grand step in that illusion and it creates a stage where illusionists can start dividing our hearts and minds. For example, we already see curious discussions about whether Turkey ‘really’ belongs to the EU, with all kinds of reverberations for the Turkish peoples already living in the EU, and currents on religion and race. Instead, the map of the Council of Europe nicely captures the area of the common history of Europe. With those common ties and the challenges facing Eastern Europe and Russia we ought to focus on those issues.

It is fairly clear that Caesar would say ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty. Interestingly, Ireland was never incorporated in the Roman Empire, though, when that was falling apart, Patrick turned it into almost an ideal province that kept civilization alive. Let us hope that Ireland performs again.

Thomas Cool (1954) is a Dutch economist and candidate for President of the EU, for the Dutch political party Social Liberal Forum. This article  expresses his political opinion. 

Economic information on the Irish tax void can be found here.

More papers on the economic crisis since 2007 can be found here

Earlier papers for the general public since the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 are (with some delay available in English on the web):

Unemployment Solved ! A breakthrough in economics, 1996 ewp-get/9604002 
A constitutional amendment for an Economic Supreme Court, 1996 ewp-get/9604003 
Enable Russia to help itself, 1996 ewp-get/9604004 
Will the West repeat Versailles ?, 1998 ewp-get/9808002
The moral imperative for the West, 2000