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French philosopher on fixing the EU

Diqiucun_Cunmin
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7/6/2016 4:04:37 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
http://www.thinkovery.com...

I actually watched the video a while ago, but I need to do some translating for users who don't speak French, so I waited till now, since I have more time.

This is from a French political philosopher, commenting on the EU's problems. You probably won't agree with everything in this video, but there are interesting ideas in the video that I'd like to highlight.

Firstly, he stresses that the EU was not supposed to be a federation of states, and that the image of the 'United States of Europe' was fallacious. The point of the EU is to create co-sovereignity amongst its members, and not to subordinate member states under some supranational power.

As for the mission of the EU, he states that the EU aims to protect and preserve two main 'syntheses': democracy on the one hand - making the people feel as though they are the creators of laws, and don't just have random laws imposed on them - and universal values on the other hand, fundamental, inalienable rights represented in the video by an image of the Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen. The current problem is that there are contradictions between the two 'poles', as evidenced in the refusal of Swiss citizens to construct a minaret, contrary to the European Council's requirements.

The final point he makes - and the one that motivated me to share this video - is how the two poles can be 'harmonised'. This role is played by the public sphere, which currently operates on only a national level, and not a supranational one in Europe. (He seems to imply that this is the reason behind the current problems with the EU.) One of the best ways to achieve this is through what he calls 'the road of lights'. Public opinion has now taken on a different meaning that it used to in the times of Kant and Sieyes. Whereas the phrase now refers to a mere statistical aggregate of private opinions, what the sense adopted by Sieyes and Kant was rather different: public opinion is, in the Kantian sense, the 'public use of reason'.

I think this is a rather interesting thesis. I'm not very familiar with political philosophy, so there may be some intricacies behind the idea of public opinion that I overlooked or misunderstood, and I'll be happy to be corrected by other members about this. But I find his redefinition of public opinion to be very appealing. Public opinion is formed through the exercise of reason, and not through polls which only serve to gauge the sum of private sentiments. It is this public opinion, and not 'public' opinion in the modern sense, that ought to guide government decisions.

What do you think? Do you agree that public opinion has took a wrong turn in modern times, that we ought to revert to its Kantian conception? Do you think this will fix the EU, or whatever city, region or nation you reside in?
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Skepsikyma
Posts: 8,289
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7/6/2016 8:55:58 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 4:04:37 PM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
http://www.thinkovery.com...

I actually watched the video a while ago, but I need to do some translating for users who don't speak French, so I waited till now, since I have more time.

This is from a French political philosopher, commenting on the EU's problems. You probably won't agree with everything in this video, but there are interesting ideas in the video that I'd like to highlight.

Firstly, he stresses that the EU was not supposed to be a federation of states, and that the image of the 'United States of Europe' was fallacious. The point of the EU is to create co-sovereignity amongst its members, and not to subordinate member states under some supranational power.

As for the mission of the EU, he states that the EU aims to protect and preserve two main 'syntheses': democracy on the one hand - making the people feel as though they are the creators of laws, and don't just have random laws imposed on them - and universal values on the other hand, fundamental, inalienable rights represented in the video by an image of the Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen. The current problem is that there are contradictions between the two 'poles', as evidenced in the refusal of Swiss citizens to construct a minaret, contrary to the European Council's requirements.

The final point he makes - and the one that motivated me to share this video - is how the two poles can be 'harmonised'. This role is played by the public sphere, which currently operates on only a national level, and not a supranational one in Europe. (He seems to imply that this is the reason behind the current problems with the EU.) One of the best ways to achieve this is through what he calls 'the road of lights'. Public opinion has now taken on a different meaning that it used to in the times of Kant and Sieyes. Whereas the phrase now refers to a mere statistical aggregate of private opinions, what the sense adopted by Sieyes and Kant was rather different: public opinion is, in the Kantian sense, the 'public use of reason'.

I think this is a rather interesting thesis. I'm not very familiar with political philosophy, so there may be some intricacies behind the idea of public opinion that I overlooked or misunderstood, and I'll be happy to be corrected by other members about this. But I find his redefinition of public opinion to be very appealing. Public opinion is formed through the exercise of reason, and not through polls which only serve to gauge the sum of private sentiments. It is this public opinion, and not 'public' opinion in the modern sense, that ought to guide government decisions.

What do you think? Do you agree that public opinion has took a wrong turn in modern times, that we ought to revert to its Kantian conception? Do you think this will fix the EU, or whatever city, region or nation you reside in?

I don't agree. I don't think that most societies adopt democracy so that they can make better decisions, so much as they adopt democracy to ensure stability (because if people are deprived of political power completely, their only recourse is to violent action.) The problem with the EU is that the body responsible for creating laws is undemocratic, and that the EU has an ugly penchant of holding referendums and then just ignoring the results which don't suit them. This, rather predictably, leads to a large amount of people loathing the EU. That won't be fixed unless the entire structure is fixed.

The problem with this redefining of public will is that it acts as if there is some objective set of 'reasonable principles' that people agree on. There aren't; there are a whole lot of people who disagree about a whole lot of things. So the next question is, who decides if the public is being reasonable or not, and how do we know that the person deciding that is themselves being reasonable. Humans, in my opinion, cannot be omniscient. We can never know with 100% certainty that any set of beliefs is true or right. That's at the root of the ideal of free speech. So if this is put forth as a 'fix' to the EU, it will probably just make most people hate it even more, because they understand the arrogance of any political body setting itself up as the arbiter of what constitutes rational discourse.

The idea of universal human rights is also, I think, misguided. Different nation-states have different cultures, standards, and whatnot. I think that it's better to respect that, than to force hamfisted human rights codes down their throats from afar. The Swiss case is the perfect example: they shouldn't be building minarets in Switzerland. Nobody seems to consider the possibility that the Swiss have a good point.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
OlaNordmann
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7/6/2016 9:25:58 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 8:55:58 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
The problem with the EU is that the body responsible for creating laws is undemocratic, and that the EU has an ugly penchant of holding referendums and then just ignoring the results which don't suit them. This, rather predictably, leads to a large amount of people loathing the EU. That won't be fixed unless the entire structure is fixed.

Please elaborate. I don't live in a EU country so I might be a bit ignorant on the matter, in any case I'm sorry if I'm missing something obvious.

I also keep hearing this argument over and over again that the European union is unelected and undemocratic, and maybe it is, maybe I'm missing something, It just puzzles me because from what I understand it doesn't seem to be the case. Both the council and the parliament are all comprised of civil elected officials from each member state, are they not? One can make the argument that the commission aren't elected, but they're supposed to independent and uninfluenced, so it kind of makes sense in that regard. The commission prepares and evaluates consequences from all level of society before they propose initiatives. They don't vote or have a say on anything.
Skepsikyma
Posts: 8,289
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7/6/2016 9:42:16 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 9:25:58 PM, OlaNordmann wrote:
At 7/6/2016 8:55:58 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
The problem with the EU is that the body responsible for creating laws is undemocratic, and that the EU has an ugly penchant of holding referendums and then just ignoring the results which don't suit them. This, rather predictably, leads to a large amount of people loathing the EU. That won't be fixed unless the entire structure is fixed.

Please elaborate. I don't live in a EU country so I might be a bit ignorant on the matter, in any case I'm sorry if I'm missing something obvious.

I also keep hearing this argument over and over again that the European union is unelected and undemocratic, and maybe it is, maybe I'm missing something, It just puzzles me because from what I understand it doesn't seem to be the case. Both the council and the parliament are all comprised of civil elected officials from each member state, are they not?

The Commission is not, the Parliament and Council are. The Commision can make laws, and the Council and Parliament can discuss and amend those laws. The Comission alone possesses what is known as 'legislative initiative.'

One can make the argument that the commission aren't elected, but they're supposed to independent and uninfluenced, so it kind of makes sense in that regard.

Sorry, but lol. That is a completely unwarranted assumption. Almost painfully so. The idea that any political body will be inexplicably immune to corruption is just not worth basing a system of government on.

The commission prepares and evaluates consequences from all level of society before they propose initiatives. They don't vote or have a say on anything.

They alone posses legislative initiative. The EU Legislature can do nothing without their blessing.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
OlaNordmann
Posts: 87
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7/6/2016 10:22:41 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 9:42:16 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
Sorry, but lol. That is a completely unwarranted assumption. Almost painfully so. The idea that any political body will be inexplicably immune to corruption is just not worth basing a system of government on.

Laugh all you want. I didn't say they are immune to corruption in any sense, I'm saying - looking at the entire process in legislation involved - it really doesn't matter whether that the commission is comprised of civil or EU elected officials. Nationally elected members would be far more interested to act in its nations self interest NOT in the European interest as a whole. That's an important part too, but that comes into consideration at a later point when the bill has been drafted.

Let me ask this.. The branch of government that draft proposed bills in your country, are they elected by their citizens? In most countries they are not. They aren't even politicians.
Skepsikyma
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7/6/2016 10:32:55 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 10:22:41 PM, OlaNordmann wrote:
At 7/6/2016 9:42:16 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
Sorry, but lol. That is a completely unwarranted assumption. Almost painfully so. The idea that any political body will be inexplicably immune to corruption is just not worth basing a system of government on.

Laugh all you want. I didn't say they are immune to corruption in any sense, I'm saying - looking at the entire process in legislation involved - it really doesn't matter whether that the commission is comprised of civil or EU elected officials. Nationally elected members would be far more interested to act in its nations self interest NOT in the European interest as a whole. That's an important part too, but that comes into consideration at a later point when the bill has been drafted.

You are assuming purity of intention here with no reason to do that. That is a mistake when it comes to political analysis. It's why we abandoned pure monarchy and aristocracy in favor of controlled democratization. To paraphrase the general principle, in order to design a well-functioning system, you must assume that men will abuse the power which you give them, because eventually somebody in that position will. The commission is an unchecked body from which much political power flows. That is an immense structural flaw in the EU for obvious reasons.

Let me ask this.. The branch of government that draft proposed bills in your country, are they elected by their citizens? In most countries they are not. They aren't even politicians.

No, you have this entirely wrong. Legislative initiative lying completely outside of the legislative bodies is highly abnormal. If it's so common, cite some examples. In my country, only Congress may propose laws. In most parliamentary systems, Parliament holds legislative initiative.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
OlaNordmann
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7/6/2016 11:40:51 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 10:32:55 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
No, you have this entirely wrong. Legislative initiative lying completely outside of the legislative bodies is highly abnormal. If it's so common, cite some examples. In my country, only Congress may propose laws. In most parliamentary systems, Parliament holds legislative initiative.

Right of initiative do not make "draft bills". They vote on them. They are usually written by unelected expert executive branch or committee, but it differs from country to country.

http://www.house.gov...

I don't like to repeat myself but elected officials aren't any more immune to corruption either way. US lobbyism is a perfect example for this. The most important part is that there are policies in place to detect and dismantle corruption. I don't know how the European Commission is comprised of, but I'm sure It's far more complicated than a boys club. From what I can gather it looks like nominee suggestions are made from each EU country and is needed for approved by the European Council. From there each nominee has to appear in front of the European Parliament for another approvement and explain why they will be a valuable asset.
Skepsikyma
Posts: 8,289
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7/7/2016 1:33:08 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 11:40:51 PM, OlaNordmann wrote:
At 7/6/2016 10:32:55 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
No, you have this entirely wrong. Legislative initiative lying completely outside of the legislative bodies is highly abnormal. If it's so common, cite some examples. In my country, only Congress may propose laws. In most parliamentary systems, Parliament holds legislative initiative.

Right of initiative do not make "draft bills". They vote on them. They are usually written by unelected expert executive branch or committee, but it differs from country to country.

http://www.house.gov...

Anyone can write a bill. I could write a bill. You could write a bill. So the distinction is ridiculous. What I cannot do, what you cannot do, is have the right of initiative, which does not mean 'the right to vote on bills' (that's part of deliberation and amendment processes), it means the ability to take that proposed bill and start it on its journey towards becoming a law. It's the ability to alter the legal framework of society, which is why it is so restricted and so vital.

I don't like to repeat myself but elected officials aren't any more immune to corruption either way. US lobbyism is a perfect example for this.

No, it isn't, unless you can prove that they would not be more corrupt if they were unelected. Nobody is immune to corruption, but democratic elections lessen corruption.

The most important part is that there are policies in place to detect and dismantle corruption. I don't know how the European Commission is comprised of, but I'm sure It's far more complicated than a boys club. From what I can gather it looks like nominee suggestions are made from each EU country and is needed for approved by the European Council.

The suggestions are made by the member states; it is essentially a political appointment. The president has some small influence over this process. Afterwards, the candidates are not vetted individually, but the candidates are approved as one entire group by the Parliament. This gives very little democratic control when it comes to removing individual members, as you'd basically have to force them to send you an new commission each time, and there is seldom the political will for any sort of prolonged standoff of that sort. The Council doesn't really enter into it outside of the abstract (they are each appointed by an executive government of a member state, which together constitute the Council.)

From there each nominee has to appear in front of the European Parliament for another approvement and explain why they will be a valuable asset.

Not true, the Commission is approved as a body, not on an individual basis.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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7/7/2016 2:56:14 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 8:55:58 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 7/6/2016 4:04:37 PM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
http://www.thinkovery.com...

I actually watched the video a while ago, but I need to do some translating for users who don't speak French, so I waited till now, since I have more time.

This is from a French political philosopher, commenting on the EU's problems. You probably won't agree with everything in this video, but there are interesting ideas in the video that I'd like to highlight.

Firstly, he stresses that the EU was not supposed to be a federation of states, and that the image of the 'United States of Europe' was fallacious. The point of the EU is to create co-sovereignity amongst its members, and not to subordinate member states under some supranational power.

As for the mission of the EU, he states that the EU aims to protect and preserve two main 'syntheses': democracy on the one hand - making the people feel as though they are the creators of laws, and don't just have random laws imposed on them - and universal values on the other hand, fundamental, inalienable rights represented in the video by an image of the Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen. The current problem is that there are contradictions between the two 'poles', as evidenced in the refusal of Swiss citizens to construct a minaret, contrary to the European Council's requirements.

The final point he makes - and the one that motivated me to share this video - is how the two poles can be 'harmonised'. This role is played by the public sphere, which currently operates on only a national level, and not a supranational one in Europe. (He seems to imply that this is the reason behind the current problems with the EU.) One of the best ways to achieve this is through what he calls 'the road of lights'. Public opinion has now taken on a different meaning that it used to in the times of Kant and Sieyes. Whereas the phrase now refers to a mere statistical aggregate of private opinions, what the sense adopted by Sieyes and Kant was rather different: public opinion is, in the Kantian sense, the 'public use of reason'.

I think this is a rather interesting thesis. I'm not very familiar with political philosophy, so there may be some intricacies behind the idea of public opinion that I overlooked or misunderstood, and I'll be happy to be corrected by other members about this. But I find his redefinition of public opinion to be very appealing. Public opinion is formed through the exercise of reason, and not through polls which only serve to gauge the sum of private sentiments. It is this public opinion, and not 'public' opinion in the modern sense, that ought to guide government decisions.

What do you think? Do you agree that public opinion has took a wrong turn in modern times, that we ought to revert to its Kantian conception? Do you think this will fix the EU, or whatever city, region or nation you reside in?

I don't agree. I don't think that most societies adopt democracy so that they can make better decisions, so much as they adopt democracy to ensure stability (because if people are deprived of political power completely, their only recourse is to violent action.) The problem with the EU is that the body responsible for creating laws is undemocratic, and that the EU has an ugly penchant of holding referendums and then just ignoring the results which don't suit them. This, rather predictably, leads to a large amount of people loathing the EU. That won't be fixed unless the entire structure is fixed.

The problem with this redefining of public will is that it acts as if there is some objective set of 'reasonable principles' that people agree on. There aren't; there are a whole lot of people who disagree about a whole lot of things. So the next question is, who decides if the public is being reasonable or not, and how do we know that the person deciding that is themselves being reasonable. Humans, in my opinion, cannot be omniscient. We can never know with 100% certainty that any set of beliefs is true or right. That's at the root of the ideal of free speech. So if this is put forth as a 'fix' to the EU, it will probably just make most people hate it even more, because they understand the arrogance of any political body setting itself up as the arbiter of what constitutes rational discourse.

The idea of universal human rights is also, I think, misguided. Different nation-states have different cultures, standards, and whatnot. I think that it's better to respect that, than to force hamfisted human rights codes down their throats from afar. The Swiss case is the perfect example: they shouldn't be building minarets in Switzerland. Nobody seems to consider the possibility that the Swiss have a good point.
I see where you're coming from and from the perspective of social stability I'd say I'd partially agree, as before. But I don't think what he's suggesting is that we'll let people have their opinions, and let the EU officials arbitrate on whether they're reasonable or not. Rather, he intends to create a European public sphere where all parties can come together and reach a consensus through careful deliberation and debate. So it is rational discussion that guides EU action rather than straw polls. This doesn't mean that there is no grassroots participation; on the contrary, the Swiss can participate if they wish, and for all we know, the public sphere could reach the conclusion that building minarets isn't a good universal value to enforce, and that guarding European tradition outweighs the Muslims' 'religious freedom'.

If anything, I think this will fix the current issues they have with holding referenda and conveniently ignoring the results they don't want. If reason is not on their side, then they have no way to ride roughshod on public opinion and will be forced to alter their decisions accordingly. It's still idealistic, and the guy didn't go into the details of implementation in the video, but I think this is still a pretty good goal for which to strive.

As for the issue of universality, I agree that there can be considerable variation in political culture, but then the member states of the EU are relatively close in this regard, particularly after Brexit (and if Turkey is prevented from entry). I think they can still agree on values that all of them hold dear. I might be wrong about this though...
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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7/7/2016 3:03:21 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/6/2016 10:32:55 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
Let me ask this.. The branch of government that draft proposed bills in your country, are they elected by their citizens? In most countries they are not. They aren't even politicians.

No, you have this entirely wrong. Legislative initiative lying completely outside of the legislative bodies is highly abnormal. If it's so common, cite some examples.
That's the way my government works actually. We have what we call an executive-led system: an Executive Council (ExCo) approves laws to be sent to the Legislative Council (LegCo) for debate and voting. While half of the LegCo seats are democratically elected, the ExCo is not: in fact, it is appointed by a single man, the Chief Executive (who also isn't determined by popular vote). So, when a law is first drafted, it must first be read and agreed upon by the ExCo, which sends the draft to the LegCo for three readings. After the third, the legislators vote on the law, which, if passed, is then sent to the Chief Executive for signing and then to Beijing for final approval.

The system has been working fairly well so far. Though a few pro-democracy legislators have called it the hegemony of the executive, it has raised relatively few concerns among people in general. What most people want is for the Chief Executive to be elected, rather than the process of legislation to be changed.
In my country, only Congress may propose laws. In most parliamentary systems, Parliament holds legislative initiative.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...