Socialism: Not just for Europeans anymore Chris Doig reviews The New Road to Serfdom By Daniel Hannan (HarperCollins, 2010, 200 pages)
It is a bold decision to name your book from one of the most influential books in liberal thinking. But Daniel Hannan's The New Road to Serfdom is not some second-rate spinoff of Friedrich Hayek's classic. Instead, it applies the messages and the warnings of The Road to Serfdom to the United States of today. Of all people, Hannan has real-world experience with the growth of a powerful ?super-state', having been a Member of the European Parliament since 1999. This period has been a time of intense centralisation, in both political and regulatory terms.
Hannan's main argument is that America has usually been sufficiently decentralised; that the problems associated with a federal government in such a populated area are diminished when decisions are made close to the people that are affected by them. The constitutional and cultural reverence of decentralisation in America results in greater outcomes for efficiency, and indeed for liberty. Yet under the Obama administration, both efficiency and liberty are threatened by the rapid trend towards centralisation-from local to state, state to federal, legislature to executive, national to supra-national, from citizen to authority.
In 1812, Thomas Jefferson wrote of America that ?Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government' and that a cen-tralised state ??will invite the public agents to corruption, plunder, and waste.' This was at a time when the population of America was under 8 million. At present, the population under the European Union is over half a billion people, and the trend is moving towards centralisation rather than away from it.
And such a transformation has been occurring for many years. While easily ridiculed for its often-absurd standardisation policies (think the Eu-rosausage in Yes Minister), the reality of the EU's power is far more sinister. The 2008-09 ratification of the Lisbon Treaty (despite its primary rejection in Ireland and no other countries holding referendums) resulted in the formation of a formal constitution (and thus, the creation of a single legal personality), and made EU legislation legally binding. It is a telling indictment of Europe, says Hannan, that 84% of British law is made in Brussels.
The European Commission is probably the most damning example of the EU's faceless power. Despite having a monopoly on the initiation of legislation, it has no democratic accountability. England's delegate to the EC is Baroness Ashton of Upholland, who was not only not elected to that position, but has never been elected to public office at all. Now, she is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European …