Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Economist ─ the Anti-Federalist Paper

The year is 1787 and Charlemagne, the delegate from Rhode Island – overlooked by the history books – returns to his island state after the closure of the Philadelphia Convention, where the framers of the US Constitution have replaced the decade old Articles of Confederation (1777), subject to ratification by nine states.

Charlemagne’s paper (The Economist) does not agree with the federal vision of the Founding Fathers. On his return, he sketches a few preliminary thoughts for his coming Anti-Federalist Papers. He rejects polygamy, marrying all one’s colleagues, nationalism, European level democracy and soggy corporatist versions of Rhineland capitalism.

Luckily, the leading lights among the framers saw into the future, and Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay explained the reasons for federal government in The Federalist Papers.

If it was possible to legislate an American “demos” and a republican, federal system into being in 1787 to replace the sovereign states – without precedents – it begs the question why extending democratic governance to the European level should be insurmountable in the 21st century.

Charlemagne may be right about states being tetchy about being outvoted, but it is a false dichotomy. A federal system is based on citizens: sovereignty of the people (except in Britain).

As citizens we are outvoted daily, at local, regional and state level, although majorities rule and minorities are protected. Adding the EU level would not make much difference in our daily lives, but the advantages of a united foreign and security policy, and defence, should be obvious.

We already have EU citizenship. Only full political rights in a system of representative democracy are missing.

Silently I wonder what the WW1 and WW2 fate of Britain would have been, if the Founding Fathers had lacked continental vision, or if the former colonies had bought the anti-federalist arguments, failing to ratify the Constitution.

Charlemagne needs to take a leap of more than two centuries to catch up with Europe’s global challenges. Let us hope that the coming posts at least set out on this journey.

Source: Charlemagne’s notebook: The secret selfishness of federalists (28 December 2009)

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Read Coulisses de Bruxelles, by Jean Quatremer, and other great euroblogs listed on multilingual Bloggingportal.eu, our common “village well” for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs.