Friday 4 July 2008

Government and consent

The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776, is still an evocative document:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The first attempt to institute this government between the thirteen states on a surer footing was the Articles of Confederation, 9 July 1778, but showing even more structural weaknesses than the present day European Union.

The Americans were quicker on the uptake than the Europeans, so on 17 September 1787 the Philadelphia Convention agreed upon the Constitution of the United States of America:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”


Yes, with distractions like the War of Independence, it took the Americans about a decade to lay the democratic and federal foundations for the rise to economic and military world power.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.


What has Europe to celebrate this 4 July 2008?

Ralf Grahn


  1. Ralph

    The USA often appears as a potential template for the evolution of closer European integration.

    I think the USA does offer interesting historical analogies but it also provides a distraction, often exploited by populists of various nationalist flavours.

    Europe is Europe, not America so perhaps we (Europeans) should not slavishly follow their precedents?

    One feature of abiding virtue in American constitutional evolution has been the brevity of its authors. Simplicity and economy of language have been bywords in the creation of their literature and European political elites would do well to follow that lead.

    I would like to think that rational informed consent was the normal means of achieving consensus but more and more I am coming round to the viewpoint that Europe needs a series of crises and shocks to break the entrenched cycle of lethargy. The heads (of various hubristic leaders of large member states) need banging together in order that common sense might prevail.

    When are the likes of Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown, Berlusconi, Zapatero et al, finally going to understand that Europe together boasts real potential as a global leader but acting is isolation they are doomed to play peripheral bitpart roles on the world stage?

    It would seem that for the immediate future, the orthodoxy presented by member (Nation) states will endure but very slowly (too slowly for me) larger member states are beginning to fray at the edges, witness events in Scotland in the UK, Catalunya and Euskadi in Spain.

    Unfortunately it takes a (relatively) long time for each newly created smaller entity to establish its own credentials and define a role for itself and its inhabitants.

    Eventually the inherent efficacy of smaller more immediate geo-political entities and their increased autonomy becomes apparent and the benefits flowing from this geo-political concept spreads a little further.

    On a European scale all we can hope for at present is that the Lisbon Treaty does finally wither away obliging the would be architects of closer European integration to radically rethink their approach.

    A brief statement of shared European values; such as the rule of law, a society based on secular principles, the right to assembly and free speech, freedom from discrimination and a few other basic tenets of liberal democracy might not come amiss?

    Something all Europeans can concur with and utilise as a means to begin creating a sense of common purpose and unity, arising through the democratic vessel of simultaneous pan-EU plebiscites.

    You never know, said process could even initiate a nascent sense of vague European identity; something concrete to begin the process of politicising the European arena.

    Finally we might just begin to see the emergence of a currently non-existent persona - a politician boasting genuine pan-European appeal?

  2. Peter,

    After reading your comments, I felt that the response merited a post of its own.

    This way, I hope that more readers will turn to your thoughts.


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