That’s why they call it ‘democracy’

by Henry on June 16, 2008

There’s been a lot of outrage expressed by other Europeans (and by “some members of the Irish elite”:http://splinteredsunrise.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/are-you-listening-jose-manuel-barroso-javier-solana-peter-mandelson-your-boys-took-one-hell-of-a-beating/ )at the Irish vote on Lisbon. Some of this seems fine to me – obviously it is perfectly reasonable to feel annoyed, or even angry, when people vote for what you feel to be the wrong option. Some of the anger, however, seems to me to rest on an unjustified implicit or explicit belief that the Irish were somehow obliged to vote Yes in the referendum. Below the fold, I lay out all the serious reasons I can think of for why you might think the Irish were positively obliged to vote Yes, and why I don’t think that any of them hold (I imagine that there will be vigorous disagreement from many commenters, but reckon that this disagreement will be more useful if the bases of argument are clearer). The emphasis here is on ‘serious’ reasons – I’m not going to get into the “it’s because they don’t like Johnny Foreigner, you know”:https://crookedtimber.org/2008/06/14/irelands-lisbon-vote/#comment-243747 stuff, which doesn’t seem to me to deserve proper attention or rebuttal.

(1) The ‘pacta sunt servanda’ argument. This claims that because Ireland has signed an international agreement, it must ratify it. When I was thinking possible claims through last night, I thought that this argument was probably too weak for anyone to advance in debate. I was wrong – according to the “FT”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/89f7c0f6-3afd-11dd-b1a1-0000779fd2ac.html this morning, Giorgio Napolitano, the Italian president has opined that “Now is the time for a courageous choice by those who want coherent progress in building Europe, leaving out those who, despite solemn, signed promises, threaten to block it.” This is nonsense. States frequently sign treaties that they then can’t ratify because of domestic opposition. At most, there is an obligation on the _Irish state_ to make its _best good faith efforts_ to secure ratification. As it happens, the main party in the Irish government did make extensive efforts to get the Treaty passed. These efforts weren’t wonderfully competent; but they obviously were sincere. But in any event, there is no obligation whatsoever on Irish voters (or voters elsewhere, if they get a choice) to rubber stamp decisions that their government has agreed to in the IGC – the idea behind a free vote, after all, is that you actually have a choice, and the idea behind separating initial signing of a Treaty and ratification thereof is that not all treaties signed by international negotiators will be agreeable to the folks back home.

(2) The ‘selling out the European demos’ argument. Here, the claim is that Ireland owes an obligation to the European people (or, to use the term beloved of academics, the European demos) to go along with its collective choice and ratify the Treaty. This lies behind the claim that a minority of a minority of a minority has blocked the vote and its variants. The problem with this line of argument is twofold. First – there is a nearly-unanimous scholarly consensus on the ‘European demos’ – unfortunately that consensus suggests that the beast doesn’t exist. Academics happily waste reams of paper arguing about what it would look like if it did exist, or how one might best coax it into existence &c, but nobody serious thinks that it is already out there. So, the claim that Ireland owes it to the demos to vote yes is effectively a claim that Ireland should vote yes to help push along a political process that may, or may not, bring this mysterious creature into the realm of being. This is pretty weak beer. The second problem with the European demos style of argument is that European politicians, for all of their claims on behalf of the Plain People of Europe, seem remarkably averse to asking aforementioned people what they actually want, for fear that they would give the wrong answer.

(3) The ‘as long as it doesn’t frighten the servants and horses’ argument. This is most concisely and elegantly stated in the recent work of Andy Moravcsik, who claims that most of the work that the EU does is the kind of policy that you see being delegated to specialized entities in the member states, so that no-one should feel too worried about what form delegation of powers to EU entities should take, and that consulting the voters about it is a serious mistake. More generally, many people argue that people should delegate the discussion of detailed questions of institutions and policies, such as those involved in EU Treaties, to political elites who can understand them much better.

The problem with this set of claims is that the issues of EU Treaty change _seem_ technical, but in fact involve deep seated constitutional change. In other words, they define many of the basic parameters in the member states in a very intimate way, determining which issues are handled by markets, which by member states, which through EU decision making, and which through supranational judges. Many democratic states, including Ireland, require referendum approval for constitutional changes – those which don’t usually have some kind of supermajority requirement for change to go through. Unless you believe that people shouldn’t have a direct voice in shaping the political system they live under (or, like Moravcsik, you believe that welfare state reform etc require that people need to have the hard choices made for them by others), you shouldn’t agree with this argument.

(4) The ‘eaten bread is soon forgotten’ argument. Here, the claim is that since Ireland benefited from various financial transfers from the EU when it was poorer, it should shut up and go along with the Treaty now. It is certainly true that Ireland benefited significantly from regional aid and structural funds in the past, although the economic consequences of this were rather less important than many Continental Europeans might like to believe. But the claim that this creates a specific obligation on Ireland to accede to the Treaty is about as credible as the mutterings from warbloggers about how France’s failure to go into Iraq demonstrated its ingratitude for WWII. The benefit and the purported obligation aren’t obviously connected. I think that there would be a far better case for this argument if, say, Ireland, was trying to reduce regional aid now that it was a net payer rather than beneficiary thereof – but regional aid is not the issue under discussion.

It may be that I am leaving some line of justification out – in any event people may also reasonably disagree with how I dismiss what seems to them as reasonable objections – but this should at least provide a better basis for argument.

{ 118 comments }

1

Kevin Donoghue 06.16.08 at 5:58 pm

There should also be an argument of the following form: the EU cannot (really cannot as opposed to will not) do X, which is clearly a good thing to do, unless the treaty is ratified.

The trouble is the Yes campaigners really don’t seem to have anything to insert in place of X to make this argument. That’s their biggest problem I think. It’s all very well to say that the text needs to be long and boring, but surely there must be some simple reason why it’s needed in the first place?

2

Jared 06.16.08 at 6:00 pm

Slightly OT question: How much do you think voters felt obliged to vote No because they saw that theirs was the only referendum, and therefore the only opportunity for an electorate to stop the technocrats? That is, loyalty to a perceived anti-Euro demo, the reverse of your #2. And how legitimate is that logic?

3

not even an mba 06.16.08 at 6:07 pm

I guess this is OT too, but is this outrage similar to the outrage expressed by American elites when the nations they spread democracy to elect governments that are not American friendly?

4

Kevin Donoghue 06.16.08 at 6:25 pm

Jared, AFAIK there were no exit polls done so we don’t know why people voted No, but certainly Eurosceptics from various countries made sure we knew they were depending on us. It’s a perfectly sound reason for voting No.

not even an mba: Oddly enough some Americans do take the view that since the Irish economy has benefitted from US investment, we really shouldn’t sound off about the evils of bushisme. It seems that Irish prosperity is 80% due to the US, 80% due to the EU and our own contribution is minus 60%. Shit, that may even be about right.

5

lemuel pitkin 06.16.08 at 6:28 pm

is this outrage similar to the outrage expressed by American elites when the nations they spread democracy to elect governments that are not American friendly?

Seems closer to the anger American elites feel at opposition to free trade agreements. In both cases, the “yes” position presents itself as a touchstone of modernization and reason, with the opponents atavistic, ignorant xenophobes, and enjoys overwhelming support from national politicians, intellectuals and the press. Yet the “no” position still manages to win very broad public support.

6

Major Alfonso 06.16.08 at 6:34 pm

If I can be quite honest I agree with all that you say, but don’t agree that this line of argument is really abroad and/or relevant. If anyone is asserting that the Irish voters failed in some duty to vote yes, it is out of impotent anger. I don’t think it carries too much rhetorical weight.

Jared’s question @2 is more relevant because it was a real, live, argument put across during the campaign. My response to that is this:
The treaty is an agreement amongst soverign governments, their systems for ratifying it are not for us Irish to decide. Neither is it the business of Europe how we ratify it. The interface with other signatories is our government in Ireland. The result of the referendum means that government is unable not unwilling to ratify it. Now Patricia McKenna and other no campaigners seem to believe our ratification/non ratification is more legitimate and add to their arguments, that put to a referendum, other countries would reject it. But that’s not what we were asked at the ballot box. We were asked to amend the constitution to enable the governments ratification. Nothing more or less. That has to trump any consideration as to how other sovereign countries conduct their affairs.

My question, one I’m not yet resolved on is:
Feeling that the Yes campaign has not communicated to you what it is it is advancing, disregarding what may think of the No campaign, should the default position be to vote No and protect the constitution; or to recuse yourself because you aren’t really capable of deciding one way or another and a No vote is likely to have a deep and far reaching impact.

7

toby 06.16.08 at 6:45 pm

Generally, the attitude of the Irish government at least is to seek a period of reflection.

I think when you lose an election, the feeling “The people have spoken – the bastards!” is a natural one, no matter how people dress it up in fancy language.

The Irish concerns which antagonised different groups are:

– Tax uniformity
– Militarisation
– Abortion

Actually, “European super-state” did not emerge as a particular coherent negative of the No-voters. Concerns about sovereignty was expressed (as far as I understood the No campaign) as concern about Irish control of the above issues.

Even the No campaign, in its call for a “better deal” seem to expect a second referendum for a revised Treaty. That is certainly one way forward, another is for a bilateral treaty with Ireland and the rest adopting Lisbon (the Irish do not want that, nor do the British).

I think that the drive for a European “Something” (Constitution, whatever) is not over, and if the EU is seen to make some concessions to Ireland then it will roll forward again.

8

toby 06.16.08 at 6:54 pm

Let me add to the preceding that (as someone said) immigration was the elephant in the room during the referendum debate.

It was not mentioned in the campaign, but anecdotally I know half a dozen people who voted No specifically because they hate the sight of black or Eastern European immigrants now working many of the lower paid jobs here. Irrationally, they blame the EU for that. At its root, its a rejection of modernity and a wish for the tribal monoculture of Ireland in years gone by. It has been made more potent by the fact that the economy seems to be crashing.

Personally, I am nervous about a mix of Sinn Fein’s strident nationalism and that irrational xenophobia. Its a mixture that could cause real problems. Hitherto, Sinn Fein have never played the race card, even when they could. Its something for which they should be given great credit… but a new leadership might see things differently.

9

Righteous Bubba 06.16.08 at 7:07 pm

I know half a dozen people who voted No specifically because they hate the sight of black or Eastern European immigrants now working many of the lower paid jobs here. Irrationally, they blame the EU for that.

The blame may be irrational without knowing the individual circumstances, but isn’t internal mobility of labour a plus to the EU? If you only want Irish people working Irish jobs – and I’m not endorsing that position – maybe you don’t like the EU.

10

Ray 06.16.08 at 7:37 pm

Replying to jared, #2 –
actually, my ‘No’ vote was largely motivated by a feeling that it was wrong of the EU to sidestep the Dutch and French votes against the constitution by reframing it as a treaty.

11

Finnsense 06.16.08 at 8:18 pm

Point number four is closest to how the people I lunch with feel. I think you’ve mischaracterised the actual argument though. The argument made is based on the proposition that many Irish voted against the treaty not because of what it contained but because of general anti-EU sentiment, brought about by an awareness that there are costs as well as benefits to being in the EU. Now, if that is true then it does seem reasonable to chastise those Irish who voted in that way given the significant advantages they have received as members over the years.

If you wish to argue that the Irish voted “no” for other reasons, and they might have, then this argument is obviously misplaced. Nevertheless, it is more understandable in context.

12

Chris Dornan 06.16.08 at 8:23 pm

Of course the Irish can vote no, unless it is a North Korean election. While they are quite entitled to do it it feels to me like a pretty irresponsible way of using their votes. If I really thought there was a genuine cohesive grievance then fair enough but I am just not convinced that there was enough to justify the mess that it has created. Again if anything good would come of the mess–an EU more comprehensible and connected with its citizens then fair enough. I suspect folks rather take it all for granted and yes it does seem ungrateful.

So yes, they can vote no and I will always respect them for it. Just not very much. (I count myself half-Irish, BTW, and it isn’t intended [nor is it] a reflection on Irish people, just my feelings about this vote.)

I really think that it shouldn’t have been put to a referendum. A little more on this here.

13

Joe Mansfield 06.16.08 at 8:31 pm

None of the arguments you propose would ever make any difference to an Irish voter, frankly given the fact that most of the voters were happy to admit that they couldn’t understand the Treaty itself I doubt that a measurable percentage would claim to be able to understand any of your four points.

The best (and only) compelling reason for Irish voters to have voted yes was that the Lisbon Treaty was the best deal the Irish were ever going to get, with a possible nod to the idea that Lisbon was likely to be the best that the rest of the EU was going to get too. Ignoring whether the Treaty was actually any good, it was negotiated under Irish leadership of the EU and what is almost certain right now is that there will be some sort of post-Lisbon deal and that deal will almost certainly be “worse” for Ireland.

Certainly if any of the arguments of the No side were true then the malicious Eurocrats that they said would steal our taxes, conscript our children and murder our parents (or whatever) under Lisbon Mark I are absolutely not going to draft a Lisbon Mark II that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy.

14

magistra 06.16.08 at 8:37 pm

There are two other reasons why the Irish might be ‘obligated’ to say Yes. One is the people who voted ‘No’ solely because of completely erroneous beliefs about the effects of the treaty e.g. that Irish men would thus be obligated to join an EU army. (If there were people who voted ‘Yes’ solely out of equally baseless beliefs, however, they should have voted ‘No’).

The other reason is that the prospect of joining the EU has been one of the best ways of encouraging eastern European countries to make progress towards liberal democracy, as Peter Preston in the Guardian points out, but a paralysed EU isn’t going to let any more countries in.

15

Kevin Donoghue 06.16.08 at 8:51 pm

Finnsense,

The question Henry raised was whether there is a good argument that we were positively obliged to vote Yes. Even if your lunch companions sincerely believe that we have only just woken up to the fact that there are costs as well as benefits to being in the EU, that (faulty) premise regarding the feckless bog-trotting micks does not amount to an argument.

“EU membership has costs; this treaty is going to cost us; therefore we must vote for it.” Even if lunch was washed down by vast quantities of alcohol you should have been able to do better than that.

16

not even an mba 06.16.08 at 8:56 pm

Kevin Donoghue @ 4,
I was under the impression that the Celtic tiger phenomenon was a result of Ireland’s own policies as opposed to american/EU interventionism. Having big US based multinationals open shop in your hometown doesn’t mean doodly squat about the US administration.

I guess I was just curious if anyone else saw any analogies re: “Ireland owes it to the EU to ratify” and “those Middle Eastern ingrates electing Hamas and Hezbollah and Iranian puppets”.

17

James 06.16.08 at 9:09 pm

What I like about argument number four is that it effectively says that having been dishonourable enough to support European ntegration only for the goodies, Ireland should now be honourable enough to keep supporting it after the dough has stopped – in other words, once bought one should stay bought.

18

s.e. 06.16.08 at 10:37 pm

Sandy Levinson

“I tend to think that anyone who views him/herself as a “democrat” should, at the end of the day, support some kind of popular ratification procedure instead of the inevitably elite-driven legislative process.

No, what is really questionable–stupid might really be the mot juste–is the decision by the Europeans to stick with unanimous ratification; this, by definition, gives the least among the European countries a right of absolute veto, which a slender majority of anti-European Irish were delighted to exercise, regardless of the desires of the rest of the continent.”

19

dsquared 06.16.08 at 10:59 pm

No, what is really questionable—stupid might really be the mot juste—is the decision by the Europeans to stick with unanimous ratification; this, by definition, gives the least among the European countries a right of absolute veto

but this is hardly a peripheral or unknown feature of the EU, and if it hadn’t been there, then there would never have been anything remotely approaching the Lisbon Treaty, because none of the 1990s reforms would ever have passed if countries like the UK thought that they were losing their veto.

20

Mrs Tilton 06.16.08 at 11:49 pm

toby @8,

Sinn Fein have never played the race card, even when they could. Its something for which they should be given great credit

Similarly, the local skinhead troops here have never beaten the bejesus out of me for being a foreigner, even when they could (possibly because I am such a very pale foreigner). I think they should be given great credit for that.

21

richard 06.17.08 at 2:30 am

a slender majority(1) of anti-European Irish were delighted to exercise, regardless of the desires of the rest of the continent.”(2)

cute quote. 2 niggles:
(1) as Henry notes, democracy’s all about majorities, slender or otherwise.
(2) data on “the desires of the rest of the continent”? Absolute numerical majorities, or majorities per constituency? Do we know that the French or the Dutch would have ratified Lisbon, having rejected their own referenda? Or is the rest of the continent just those newer member states over in the East?

22

astrongmaybe 06.17.08 at 2:59 am

a third niggle @21: the glib use of “anti-European” here is inaccurate (as many people have pointed out – Irish public sentiment, whatever the vote on the Lisbon deal, is one of the continent’s most “pro-European” and pro-EU) and slightly chilling, as a harbinger of a kind of nasty Euro-McCarthyism.

23

Ed 06.17.08 at 5:36 am

If the European elites really want a European constitution, then they should call for a convention directly elected by Europe’s voters, to create a constitution for a state that the member states would surrender sovereignty to once they ratify it. In other words, a real constitution for a real state.

European federalists have been trying to create their federation through stealth covered with bureaucracy, and we’ve reached the limits of that approach. One reason for the stealth approach, I suspect, is that the best argument for a European federation is that it is needed to allow the continenet to stand up to the United States, but just stating that falls into the “not before the servants and horses” category.

24

novakant 06.17.08 at 5:41 am

Of course there is no “duty” to vote Yes, but it is perfectly legitimate to scrutinize and criticize the reasons for voting No, especially if many of those reasons are only tangentially related to the actual content of the treaty or, worse, are based on blatant misrepresentations and lies. I’m all for a healthy debate on where the EU should be headed, but such a debate can only be fruitful if we are talking about the actual matters at hand rather than voicing general grievances.

In the same vein, it is unhelpful to denounce everything short of a referendum as “undemocratic”. Rather, the normal democratic decision making process – namely, an elected government proposes legislation, subsequently there is a lot of public back and forth in parliament and in the media, and then it is passed or rejected based on a majority vote – should serve as a model for the EU. It is true that the EU has been lacking in transparency and democracy, but that is due both to the procedural need for unanimity and the lack of interest exhibited by the general public.

If we want to achieve a more political, transparent and democratic EU, a majority based decision making process as proposed in the Lisbon treaty is crucial. If we keep holding on to the concept of unanimity with national interest as the driving force, it will either be “the elites” doing backroom deals to reach a compromise or no progress at all, because it is illusory to think that referendums in 27 different countries will ever come up with the same result. We need to find some middle ground here and ironically the Lisbon Treaty was our best bet in this regard.

25

Finnsense 06.17.08 at 6:34 am

Kevin,

Read what I wrote and then read your reply again. I think you’ll find you’ve mischaracterised my argument.

What you get right is that the Irish were not “obliged” to vote for the treaty. They can vote as they wish and I haven’t heard many people say otherwise. What they have said is that the Irish are behaving selfishly in vetoing the treaty. That may be right or wrong but no-one is saying the Irish are obliged to behave well.

26

mikey 06.17.08 at 7:14 am

Intellectuals because of their training tend to think in terms of logical blocks or inferential chains and enthymemes etc; the great unwashed do not. Their thought tends to become crystallised in archetypal images which have their own validity but can be dismissed with an airy wave by the intelligentsia. Conscription? Where did that come from? Race memory from the Great War or what. Does it represents a reality viz. a pan European army, embassies and all the trapping of a giant federation or another ‘playa’. In what national parliament has this been discussed? In a situation with qualified majority voting however logical that may be are we not gradually as a small nation going to be drawn into the slipstream of old Franco-German rivalries? Is what I am constantly hearing on France 24 – Euro France led force in Chad a straw in the wind? Prix a discuter as they say.

27

banned commenter 06.17.08 at 7:58 am

_et Dolore magna, aliquyam’erat sed diam voluptua, at vero eos_

Et accusam et. Justo duo, dolores et ea rebum stet clita kasd gubergren (no ‘sea takimata’) sanctus est lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor.

28

h. 06.17.08 at 9:36 am

With your dismissal of the (3) “servants and horses” argument, you seem to be saying that every single European country has got it wrong except Ireland, since those other countries aren’t holding referndums. That’s a rather arrogant position, to say the least.(I’m not sure what you mean when you say most countries at least require a “supermajority” – if you mean a parliamentary vote requiring something more than over 50%, I think you’re wrong.)

It’s not so self-evident that people should always have a “direct voice in shaping the political system they live under”. We’re living in a period of constant evolution of the EU. From a practical point of view, events have shown how impractical it is to have referendums every time a country’s constitutional relationshp with the EU changes. The referendum question is more one of tradition: some countries have them, others not so much. In the UK there have been myriad constitutional changes over the years that haven’t required referendums. There wasn’t one over reform of the Lords for example. This whole question of direct consultation is a red herring: EU treaties are signed by popularly elected representatives, after all. I’m not sure why that’s not enough.

29

John Smyth 06.17.08 at 9:45 am

The real elephant in the room has been the presence of Bertie Ahern [and his Mahon Tribunal troubles]on the Irish electoral scene for the last year. It was clear to everyone in Fianna Fail that no serious campaigning on a Yes vote could be done by the government parties until Bertie either came up with a credible explanation for the Tribunal allegations or he stepped down as Taoiseach. Had he stepped down last year, the government would have had a full year of campaigning, rather than about 6 weeks.

As an aside, the No vote highlights the contradiction that the same Irish electorate that rejected the Treaty voted overwhelmingly [in last years general election] for political parties that either directly negotiated the Treaty [FF] or who supported it from the opposition side (FG, Lab).

30

Martin Wisse 06.17.08 at 9:50 am

The ‘as long as it doesn’t frighten the servants and horses’ argument.

Ironically, I bet that exact same reason is why people voted no in France and Holland in 2005 and again this year in Ireland, because they are told it’s all too complicated for them to understand and should leave it to the professionals and quite rightly distrust these sentiments.

31

Martin Wisse 06.17.08 at 10:00 am

Also ironic: the way the “yes-men” here are argueing that the Irish are too racist or undemocratic or stupid for voting no is another reason votersa all across Europe take great delight in voting no, when they get the chance.

32

h. 06.17.08 at 10:19 am

They won’t get the chance. Ireland = only country to hold Lisbon referendum.

33

Jack 06.17.08 at 10:24 am

The voting that gave Ireland a political class it disagreed with should also be questioned.

For point 1, it is clearly frustrating for other countries not to be able to negotiate effectively with Ireland.

For point 2 I don’t think that it is unreasonable to hope that Irish voters should consider Europe as a whole in their deliberations.

For point 3 it is clear that a lot of Irish people really did not understand the treaty they were voting on. While given that situation the response may well be rational it is disappointing that it should have played a major part in the outcome.

For point 4 it isn’t the regional aid alone, it’s the free trade and toleration of the tax regime too.

None of this is in contradiction of anything Martin Wisse said.

34

engels 06.17.08 at 10:29 am

Unless you believe that people shouldn’t have a direct voice in shaping the political system they live under (or, like Moravcsik, you believe that welfare state reform etc require that people need to have the hard choices made for them by others), you shouldn’t agree with this argument.

Isn’t this a bit of an exaggeration? Absent referenda Irish citizens would still have a direct voice in the development of their constitution. They would be free to speak their mind in public, to petition their MPs, to organise protests, and so on. What they would lack would be the direct power to take decisions, having only the indirect power to elect decision-makers.

To put it slightly differently: I might delegate some decisions about my legal affairs to my lawyer. This wouldn’t mean that I wouldn’t have a direct voice in these decisions.

35

H. 06.17.08 at 10:42 am

If every EU country put every EU treaty to referendum, then no treaty, whatever its content, would ever pass into law. The chances of getting majorities in all 27 countries would be minuscule, verging on nil. Shouldn’t this fact alone provoke pause for thought as to the wisdom of referendums?

36

dsquared 06.17.08 at 10:56 am

or, alternatively, of EU treaties?

37

H. 06.17.08 at 11:11 am

Yeah, I saw that coming!

Not really, because my argument isn’t based on the EU per se, but on the notion of treaty-based organizations involving many countries.

38

engels 06.17.08 at 11:15 am

To second what others have said, the idea that anyone thinks that Irish citizens weren’t entitled to vote in whatever way they felt was right appears to be a straw man to me.

Just having the right to take a certain decision does not make you immune from legitimate criticism if others feel that you have not acted responsibly.

For example, others might feel that when taking their decision Irish citizens ought:

(1) to have weighed the general interests of the collective project of which they have chosen to be a part alongside their own sectional interests
(2) to have acknowledged some responsibility for prior commitments made by their elected representatives
(3) to have ensured that illegitimate sentiments (such as xenophobia, as conjectured above) did not influence their decision

Note that it is not claimed that any of these considerations ought to have determined the Irish decision, but that they ought to have been given due weight. If it is felt that they weren’t, then that could provide justified grounds for censure.

I won’t say whether or not this would be fair. However, being a citizen of country (UK) which over the years has done as much as any other to sabotage the EU project I think I can appreciate some of the ill feeling that this decision will have caused.

(And to be clear I am not interested in getting into a general pie fight about the merits of Europrean integration. I just feel that the post and some of the ensuing discussion mischaracterises the opposing view somewhat.)

39

toby 06.17.08 at 11:18 am

From today’s Irish Independent, which has some survey results:

– Young people voted ‘No’ by a margin of two to one.

– The vast majority of women voted ‘No’.

– A large number of people who do not vote in general elections voted.

– People who did not understand the treaty voted ‘No’.

– The huge influx of immigrants into the country was a factor in the ‘No’ vote.

– More than 70pc of ‘No’ voters thought a second treaty would be negotiated.

Note second last item. Immigration was NEVER discussed during the referendum debate by either side (at least I don’t recall it).

It also shows the No campaign were smart in demanding a “better deal” for which they would not be responsible. After Denmark were given a second go for Maastricht and Ireland for Nice, the argument that it would be very hard to re-negotiate this one did not convince many people.

I am surprised at the number of women voting no because many women-oriented social change was brought in on EU prompting. Wonder if that correlates with the anti-immigration vote.

40

Z 06.17.08 at 11:24 am

Shouldn’t this fact alone provoke pause for thought as to the wisdom of referendums? or, alternatively, of EU treaties?

Very well put. I sometimes have the feeling that the political elites of the various member states produced something straight out of their common Weltanschauung, not realizing that this shared worldview is in fact rather extreme compared to what ordinary citizens think. The result is a (mostly sincere, I think) plea of the political representatives saying that this or that treaty is the “best we can get”, the offspring of a lengthy negotiation which has produced a frail consensus while constituencies in this or that country reject it (often for contradictory reasons). What to do then? In analogy with the way nation-states were built out of disparate regions, I’d say “build a very concrete European project which is massively beneficial to the ordinary European citizen” (a European welfare system perhaps) so as to give concrete meaning to the European demos. Then ask this demos what it thinks.

41

Tony 06.17.08 at 11:31 am

And we would have gotten away with it – if it wasn’t for you pesky kids!

42

john m. (not the other guy who has appeared recently) 06.17.08 at 11:35 am

Just to reiterate a critical point, again being ignored by those calling for\defending ratification versus a popular vote. Ireland’s politicians in general can negotiate and ratify treaties without holding a referendum, and have done so throughout the history of the state.

However, if any treaty (or indeed internal law) is held to affect the constitution they HAVE to hold a referendum. So, the decision to have a vote was not in order to replace ratification with more “democratic” process but in order to satisfy constitutional requirements. While people may then determine their vote based on anything up to and including the alignment of the planets, the simple fact is that any treaty that affects our constitution is by definition NOT the same as any other treaty\law generally entered into by the Government. The whole point of the constitution is that it can ONLY be amended by popular vote not by politicians – however complex the specific issues involved.

So the Lisbon vote is a perfect example of Ireland’s political and legal structure functioning exactly as it was intended, whether you like the outcome or not. Furthermore, all EU members who have dealt with Ireland up to this point are well aware of this constraint within Irish law and to get upset over something which Irish Politicians have no choice about is very disingenuous at best.

43

h. 06.17.08 at 12:35 pm

Yeah, I get that the referendum was a legal necessity in Ireland, and I question the wisdom of such a law, since if everyone had such a legal requirement, the EU would be unworkable, as would any broad association of nations sharing some aspects of sovereignty.

I’m not sure why a referendum is considered somehow more democratic than a parliamentary vote of elected representatives.

44

Jim Livesey 06.17.08 at 12:41 pm

To lend some credibility to the idea that the vote against Lisbon was mobilised by genuine anxieties about real European issues you might like to look at this set of entries to his journal by a Cork-based lawyer. Clearly most voters are not this informed, but the fundamental reason for this person’s decision was not any particular feature of the treaty but a dissent from the pattern of institutional development this treaty would have contributed to. Link below
http://www.irish-lawyer.com/journal/

45

Mrs Tilton 06.17.08 at 1:14 pm

Jack @33,

For point 4 it isn’t the regional aid alone, it’s the free trade and toleration of the tax regime too

So let me get this straight, Jack. Because Ireland has been the recipient of significant EU aid in the past, it is now morally obligated to make its tax regime subject to French approval?

46

Tim Worstall 06.17.08 at 1:22 pm

“since if everyone had such a legal requirement, the EU would be unworkable, as would any broad association of nations sharing some aspects of sovereignty.”

??

The WTO sorta works with each country having a veto.

47

Bruce Baugh 06.17.08 at 1:22 pm

Egad. The arguments in favor being presented here go a long way to making Hayek seem quite prophetic in The Road to Serfdom, and to making votes against seem very sensible indeed. “Leave it all to the experts” is a lot more appealing when you belong to the experts’ class, I’m thinking.

48

H. 06.17.08 at 1:26 pm

The WTO sorta works with each country having a veto.

They don’t all have referendums, though!

49

richard 06.17.08 at 2:36 pm

Irish citizens ought… to have acknowledged some responsibility for prior commitments made by their elected representatives

No. Or, rather, if they disagreed with such prior commitments, they ought to register that disagreement. Perhaps in an election/referendum.

I’m not sure why a referendum is considered somehow more democratic than a parliamentary vote of elected representatives.

Stated in such abstract terms, I guess I can see the reason for not being sure. Referenda tend to be direct votes on issues, however (often with one of the options being veto/stop), while an election is an opportunity to buy a pig in a poke, or to choose if you want worms or bugs on your sandwich. Imagine if elections had a “stop” option: how attractive would that be?

50

gr 06.17.08 at 3:09 pm

“Some of the anger, however, seems to me to rest on an unjustified implicit or explicit belief that the Irish were somehow obliged to vote Yes in the referendum.”

I don’t recall anyone making that claim in previous threads. The Irish obviously have a right to vote in whichever they want. But others, especially if they are affected, have the right to criticize their decisions as stupid or misguided.

If my recollection is accurate, the people criticizing the Irish vote in previous threads were primarily voicing their disagreement with the standard view that the Irish vote is a great win for ‘democracy’ in the EU. This appears to be the standard way of justifying the ‘no’ vote. However, that justification strikes some as unconvincing. It might be helpful if Henry addressed that issue instead of arguing against invented claims that no one ever made.

51

engels 06.17.08 at 3:10 pm

Richard, my point–again–was that the weight of non-binding commitments made by a representative on your behalf is not negligible, even if it may not be decisive in a given case. As a response to that your remark doesn’t make a lot sense to me. Would you care to try again?

52

engels 06.17.08 at 3:15 pm

#45 The point a few people have made is that no-one appears to have claimed that the Irish people were ‘morally obligated’ to vote a particular way. Reasons have been been advanced as considerations to which they may have failed to give sufficient weight.

53

engels 06.17.08 at 3:43 pm

Also, many thanks to those who are providing the obligatory flaky rhetoric about ‘modernization and reason’, The Road to Serfdom, etc as well the mandatory absurd comparisons with Iraq and Palestine. No CT comments thread would be complete without that kind of thing.

54

richard 06.17.08 at 3:44 pm

engels, sure. Yes, I know you said it shouldn’t determine the vote. My point is, I consider the due weight to be zero. I concede this may be a point of difference in our respective political philosophies. I believe we can disagree.

55

engels 06.17.08 at 3:56 pm

Richard, of course you are entitled to disagree; I was just hoping that since you do you might say why. Don’t you think it’s at all plausible that I ought to consider–when I am deciding whether to ratify a treaty–that my government has already provisionally committed us to it by signing it, and so I might be (very slightly?) more likely to vote ‘Yes’ then I would if I was considering the question ab initio?

56

Kevin Donoghue 06.17.08 at 4:20 pm

Yeah, I get that the referendum was a legal necessity in Ireland, and I question the wisdom of such a law, since if everyone had such a legal requirement, the EU would be unworkable, as would any broad association of nations sharing some aspects of sovereignty.

Not really. The EU would simply have to determine what powers the member states were willing to transfer to it and learn to live with that. The problem is that the EU comes back every few years asking for a bit more power. Sooner or later the response was bound to be negative.

If some EU members want to share more aspects of sovereignty than others there is nothing to stop them. Their legislatures can even pass an Act of Union voting themselves out of existence if they want to.

57

lemuel pitkin 06.17.08 at 4:25 pm

So is it basically true or not, that the Lisbon treaty the Irish just voted against was essentially the same as the European Constitution the French and Dutch voted against last year?

Is there some reason not to regard these as three referendums on the same question?

58

richard 06.17.08 at 4:50 pm

Engels, I’m trying desperately not to get drawn into a discussion of the proper relationship and implicit contract between a citizen and their government, partly because I’m not qualified to pontificate on the matter. Nonetheless, your question as stated seems to appeal to some sort of universally-applicable support owed by citizens to their governments, which I deny. There might be a higher probability of your agreeing with your government’s commitments than your disagreeing with them (particularly if you happened to vote for the people currently in power), but I do not think you are obliged to give even a moment’s thought to supporting your government in perpetuating what you feel are mistakes, or overstepping bounds that you feel your government has previously negotiated successfully. If anything, you are required to vote honestly with your conscience on each issue presented to you, your vote serving as a signal to your government about the direction you wished it would take. No?

59

Jack 06.17.08 at 5:17 pm

Mrs Tilton @ 45
Henry was downplaying the EU contribution to Irish economic success and placing it in the past and my point was meant as a qualification rather than a rebuttal.

However since you mention it, there is no reason to presume that Ireland’s benefits, past and present, from the EU are to be without corresponding commitments and it is reasonable to expect that the precise nature of those would have been to some extent determined in negotiating the Lisbon treaty.

If the government is to be ignored so easily, what does that say about the nature and value of sovereignty as a consideration?

60

engels 06.17.08 at 5:31 pm

Richard, yes, your vote signals the direction you believe the government should take. But that belief should be informed by the commitments the government has made, even if you weren’t yourself involved in making them.

I am pretty sure you should give ‘a moment’s thought’ to ‘supporting your government in perpetuating what you feel are mistakes’ for similar reasons that you should consider keeping a personal commitment that you now believe to be mistaken. Having committed yourself ought to count for something, even if you ultimately decide that other things are more important, surely?

61

richard 06.17.08 at 5:42 pm

Engels – that right there is the rub: the slippage between “your government” and “yourself.” That’s the point I’m reluctant to get into, which, however, makes me retch and gag. The whole thing smells of a Hobbesian “sovereign,” and I’ve never met one of those… and if I did, I think I’d distrust it mightily. But I can’t defend that distrust here, today.

62

engels 06.17.08 at 5:43 pm

And #60 is too abstract try thinking about the practical consequences of a state whose people repeatedly voted down treaties which its diplomats had signed up to. Such a state would become impossible to negotiate and other countries would begin to take it less seriously in treaty negotiations.

So yes I do think that whenever someone–the citizenry or the congress or whoever–decides on whether to ratify a treaty the state has signed they ought to bear in mind that they are already provisionally committed to it. Conversely, when diplomats negotiate and sign a treaty they ought to have a reasonable expectation that it will be ratified.

63

engels 06.17.08 at 5:55 pm

Richard, I’m pretty sure there’s no such “slippage” in what I have written above. Where do you think I equivocate between “your government” and “yourself”?

64

Ray 06.17.08 at 6:05 pm

Why is voting to support decisions made by your government similar in kind to keeping a personal commitment?

65

astrongmaybe 06.17.08 at 6:08 pm

…the practical consequences of a state whose people repeatedly voted down treaties which its diplomats had signed up to. Such a state would become impossible to negotiate and other countries would begin to take it less seriously in treaty negotiations…

Shouldn’t the diplomats simply resign, acknowledge they were completely out of touch with popular opinion, unable to represent the population, and retire to their estates? And does the ‘provisional commitment’ of the population apply to all foreign policy decisions or only to formal treaties?

66

Bruce Baugh 06.17.08 at 6:15 pm

I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve been involved both professionally and personally in situation where some or all of us decided, “On due reflection, in light of more experience and information, we’re going to change what we’re doing. The people who made the earlier decision did so in good faith-” and this was in fact the case, I’m not talking here about dealing with deception or incompetence or whatever “-but we don’t agree any more with the judgment that led up to it. So this is how we’re going to go about changing our course.”

Voting against something seems as good a way as any to signal a desire to change course. Surely we aren’t obligated to, for instance, keep supporting slavery, opposing female suffrage, and seeking control over Alsace and Lorraine just because such were once commitments of our states.

67

Sebastian 06.17.08 at 6:34 pm

“Conversely, when diplomats negotiate and sign a treaty they ought to have a reasonable expectation that it will be ratified.”

Isn’t this a big part of the problem? This treaty was negotiated in the manner it was largely to avoid the rejection the Constitution had already experienced by the French and Dutch without significantly altering the content. It wasn’t taking the lack of ratification of the French and Dutch very seriously except insofar as it created a structure that would avoid such votes (not particularly treating those rejections as signalling the need for a substantive change, only cosmetic changes in how it was to come in to effect). It seems almost like bad faith from the governments involved.

68

engels 06.17.08 at 6:49 pm

Ray – It’s not, and I didn’t say that it was. What I said was that the reasons for doing so in both cases looked similar: that there is reason–often not a conclusive one–to keep to a commitment one has later decided was mistaken.

Astrongmaybe – Yes, I think it would apply to any commitment to a third party made by officials acting on behalf of the state if it later went to a referendum.

69

engels 06.17.08 at 7:24 pm

(Example: Gordon Brown promises that on Shrove Tuesday 2020 the people of Britain will send the people of America an official gift of a giant pancake. In 2020, I am Prime Minister and have the power to decide whether we do so. Perhaps I don’t think it’s such a good idea after all. But when making my decision, surely I will keep in mind the fact that Gordon Brown has already committed us to it? And if officials should reason this way when taking decisions about state policy, why should it be different when the body of citizens has to take such decisions?)

70

Ray 06.17.08 at 7:32 pm

There is a reason to keep to a commitment _one has made oneself_, even if one later decides it was mistaken.
I could understand keeping to a commitment made by a friend, even if one would not have made it oneself – though there the reasons are very different.
But my government is not myself, and is not my friend. Avoiding some embarrassment for Ireland’s foreign minister… it doesn’t weigh on the scales. Not at all. And if it did, it would be a very different thing to keeping one’s word.

71

Bruce Baugh 06.17.08 at 7:36 pm

There’s also a significant gap between any one-time commitment and sweeping changes to one’s status on an indefinite basis.

72

engels 06.17.08 at 7:39 pm

So Ray in the example in #69 you don’t think I would have any reason at all to keep Gordon’s promise if I personally felt it was mistaken? For heaven’s sake, there doesn’t even have to be a moral reason (although I’m pretty sure there is), it could just be a prudential one. Honestly?

73

Ray 06.17.08 at 7:57 pm

Engels, in the example you give, you are the Prime Minister, deciding whether or not to honour a commitment made by a previous Prime Minister, a commitment made in his official capacity. The prudential reason in that case is to make it more likely that your su
I _don’t_ want Irish officials to get the idea that they can negotiate on my behalf, and I will agree with whatever they say, just because they said it. The prudential reasons work in the opposite direction.

74

Ray 06.17.08 at 8:01 pm

missing text: the prudential reason is to make it more likely that your successors will honour the promises you make, in your official capacity.

75

engels 06.17.08 at 9:17 pm

in the example you give, you are the Prime Minister, deciding whether or not to honour a commitment made by a previous Prime Minister, a commitment made in his official capacity. The prudential reason in that case is to make it more likely that your su
I don’t want Irish officials to get the idea that they can negotiate on my behalf

I think the most important prudential reasons, in both cases, have to do with the reputation of your state for promise-keeping, its bargaining power in negotiations, etc.

If your goal is really to undermine the effectiveness of the Irish diplomatic service’s to negotiate treaties on the behalf of Irish citizens then I suppose your position is consistent. But I doubt that many people share that view.

76

engels 06.17.08 at 9:40 pm

But I now have the feeling that I’ve hijacked this to argue one rather marginal point at great length, so I’ll leave it there.

77

Ray 06.18.08 at 7:36 am

The key bit is this – “the reputation of your state for promise-keeping”
The diplomatic servise has _no right_ to make promises about changes to the Irish constitution. None whatsoever. The job of the diplomatic service, in the case of treaties that change the consitution, is to negotiate the best deal they can _and then submit it to the citizens of Ireland for their approval_. This is not a secret, it is something the diplomatic service, and the people they negotiated with, knew ahead of time. If they ever start to act as if they can make promises, then they need to be disabused of that idea. Their humiliation in front of their peers would actually be a bonus.

78

Jack 06.18.08 at 11:35 am

Ray, the diplomatic service had the backing of the government and almost all the opposition so you can’t simply wash your hands of the negotiations.

They were carried out by your representatives so either you’ve reneged on your obligations or you’ve done a bad job of choosing your representatives. Those representatives are not a technocratic elite in the DFA either, it is the political parties that are in the frame here.

Even had that been the case it would still matter what had been negotiated.

79

Ray 06.18.08 at 11:50 am

Actually, I can wash my hands of the matter.
The legal position is simple. The government has a right to negotiate, and a right to put the result of that negotiation to a referendum but it has no right to change the constitution. The fact of their negotiating places me under no obligation to accept the deal they negotiated.

Even if you could argue that the government were mandated to take part in the negotiations (and they weren’t), and even if they had been told what kind of concessions they could negotiate (and they weren’t told that either), and even if this was the best treaty possible for Ireland, the EU, and the future of the human race, at no point did I, or anyone else in Ireland, take on an obligation to vote for it.

80

banned commenter 06.18.08 at 11:59 am

_…or youthfully’ve donna a badminton jobs of choosing youngsters repaired_

Why, I’m surprise thermal electrocardiograph theorizers leases workshop bungling of corrections megahertz baseband postcard.

81

Ray 06.18.08 at 12:05 pm

If it makes things easier to understand, it’s the difference between sending Jack to market and saying
(a) “Sell this cow for as much money as you can get”
or (b) “Find out how much money you can get for this cow”
(b) places you under no obligation to accept the best price Jack finds.

(especially since I didn’t ask Jack to go to market in the first place and he knows, because he’s been told before, that he can’t go selling my cows without my express permission, no matter how many magic beans he’s offered)

82

belle le triste 06.18.08 at 12:57 pm

ray = objectively giant-symp

83

Jack 06.18.08 at 1:16 pm

Ray, either you have a problem of identity theft that needs urgent attention or under b) Jack has not sold the cow but he has come back with a bid of six beans and despite previously saying anything better than five would do you’ve turned it down. The cow remains unsold but you have wasted everyone’s time and damaged your reputation.

If Lisbon were truly the best possible treaty for Ireland, the EU and the human race I think you would have an obligation to vote for it.

84

Kevin Donoghue 06.18.08 at 1:55 pm

I don’t think the cattle-market analogy helps much. I would go along with the idea that if you hire a broker to sell something you are under a moral obligation to give due consideration the best offer the broker can get, even if it’s clearly understood that there was never any legal obligation to accept it. There is surely an obligation not to waste the bidders’ time.

But what’s involved here is not like that at all. It’s more like this:

Taoiseach Biffo: Here is a treaty which involves giving up some sovereignty and we think it’s worth it.

Sean Citizen: If I reject it, your chances of getting good jobs in Brussels like the one Charlie McCreevy got will be impaired, won’t they?

TB: Please don’t think we have allowed that vulgar consideration to influence our judgement. We are mindful only of the national interest.

SC: Sorry Biffo, nothing doing.

I’m not sure Sean Citizen got this one right, but I don’t think he was under any obligation whatever to buy a pig in a poke. Which if we’re talking about livestock, is the kind of animal the Lisbon Treaty actually resembles.

85

Ray 06.18.08 at 2:01 pm

“despite previously saying anything better than five would do”

When did I say this?

You’re making the same mistake as engels. I can not be damaging my reputation for promise-keeping if I didn’t make a promise. I’m not failing to live up to a prior commitment if I didn’t make a commitment. Saying “Find out how much” is not the same as saying “I will sell for at least x”.

86

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 2:10 pm

I must say, to me the notion that the people are obliged to respect the wishes of their representatives, rather than the representatives being obliged to respect the wishes of the people, has more than whiff of the Brechtian “dissolve the people and elect another” about it.

There may be prudential reasons to give weight to the judgement of your elected representatives — indeed, I assume this was a main reason for most of the “yes” votes. But as for moral obligations between the governement and the people, my understanding of democracy is that they run in one direction only.

(Note: that’s government; not law, not nation. if the treaty had been adopted, people would of course have an obligation to respect its terms.)

87

Jack 06.18.08 at 2:13 pm

If you haven’t made a UDI from the Irish state,then when you last voted.

My main point was that if you are being well represented, then the no vote is a breach of good faith. If you are not then you have an identity theft problem.

88

engels 06.18.08 at 2:22 pm

The key bit is this

Ummm, no that’s not the “key” bit. That’s just one phrase which taken out of context can be used to construct an uncharitable misreading of the argument which I have expressed quite clearly throughout this thread.

For the final time: when voting on ratification you had a duty give consideration to the provisional commitments which your representatives had already made on behalf of your state.

Anyway the ratio of repeated misunderstanding to genuinely enlightening argument has now got pretty low so as I said I’m not going to spend any more time on this. Feel free to continue to accuse me of having made obvious “mistakes”, etc, of course…

89

engels 06.18.08 at 2:24 pm

But as for moral obligations between the governement and the people, my understanding of democracy is that they run in one direction only.

You might consider whether the example given in #69 leads you to question this. This being the internet, I confidently predict that the answer will be “No!”

90

Ray 06.18.08 at 2:25 pm

Even assuming I voted for a party that was involved in the treaty negotiations, I didn’t tick the box on my ballot paper that said
“I promise that I will vote for the next EU treaty you negotiate, provided it guarantees me at least five (5) magic beans”

91

Ray 06.18.08 at 2:36 pm

Engels, for the final time, “No”.

Gordon Brown and Bertie Ahern can make any promises they want. I’m not obliged to vote to support those promises, or to view them as a commitment made by me, provisional or otherwise.

92

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 2:42 pm

when voting on ratification you had a duty give consideration to the provisional commitments which your representatives had already made on behalf of your state.

But what makes you think “No” voters didn’t do this? I imagine that the vast majority, at least of thsoe who supported parties in favor of the Treaty (and wasn’t that almost all of them) did give that consideration.

As for your example at 69, it depends. If I were elected on a “No pancakes for Americans — they’re too fat already” platform, then no, I certainly would not want to be bound by the prior commitment. In any case, the arguments would be practical, not moral — the *duty* of government is solely to the people it represents, not to its predecessors.

Anyway, it is precisely because states do have an interest in honoring their commitmeents, that is so important to be clear when, in fact, a commitment has been made. If an agent acts beyond their mandate, that does not oblige the principal to retroactively grant them the authority they usurped.

93

engels 06.18.08 at 2:45 pm

I’m not obliged to vote to support those promises,

I didn’t say you were.

or to view them as a commitment made by me, provisional or otherwise

I didn’t say you were.

But what makes you think “No” voters didn’t do this?

Nothing much, which could be why I never advanced such a claim!

94

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 2:53 pm

But what makes you think “No” voters didn’t do this?

Nothing much, which could be why I never advanced such a claim!

So you’ve been going on and on and on about how person X ought to do Y even though you have no reason to doubt that person X is already doing Y? You’re a funny man, Engels.

95

Ray 06.18.08 at 3:01 pm

engels, maybe it comes down to this, from your #62
“I do think that whenever someone decides on whether to ratify a treaty the state has signed they ought to bear in mind that they are already provisionally committed to it”

I don’t think ‘provisionally committed’ has any real meaning in this phrase.
The negotiators can agree to bring a treaty to the people in a referendum, but they can’t make any commitment re. the results of that referendum. They can make commitments about their own actions, but they have no legal or moral rights to make commitments, provisional or otherwise, about my actions.
I have no obligation, moral or prudential, to honour commitments they had no right to make.

96

engels 06.18.08 at 3:49 pm

Ok, one last attempt at a canonical statement:

Under normal circumstances, when anyone takes decisions on behalf of a State, they are obliged to give due consideration — but not necessarily to adhere — to commitments to third parties previously made by officials acting legitimately on behalf that State, even if they were not themselves involved in making them. This applies not only when officials set State policy but when citizens do.

(I’m not saying this claim is necessarily right, but the vast majority of objections so far raised to it here have imo involved misconstruing it. Of course it might not apply in this case but imo no-one has yet made that argument convincingly either. And that is my last word on this thread.)

97

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 3:59 pm

But Engels, by making that claim here, you are clearly implying that you do *not* think due consideration was given in this case. Otherwise, why are you bringing it up?

98

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 4:04 pm

… or in other words, we are “miscontruing” you as saying something relevant to the topic.

99

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 4:05 pm

… or in other words, we are “miscontruing” you as saying something about the topic at hand. Sorry if what you intended was just irrelevant pedantry.

100

engels 06.18.08 at 4:06 pm

No, Lemuel I’m “implying” that. I brought it up because it is relevant and I find it interesting.

101

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 4:06 pm

(oops.)

102

engels 06.18.08 at 4:06 pm

‘I’m not “implying” that’

103

Jack 06.18.08 at 4:08 pm

Lemuel, it is a gross oversimplification to say that responsibility runs only one way between government and individual. For example we have some commitment to obey the law even if it is imposed by a party we didn’t vote for.

Ray, if you didn’t vote for a party (or belong to a trade union or trade body) that supported ratification then you are in a small minority or a non-voter. The vast majority of Irish voters have voted for a party in favour of the treaty within the last month.

104

Sebastian 06.18.08 at 4:26 pm

“The vast majority of Irish voters have voted for a party in favour of the treaty within the last month.”

But since party-voting is a rather broad thing, that said very little about Irish voter’s support for this Constitutional change unless the main rallying plank was the Constitutional change. And my impression from all the talk about the government just woke up to the idea that it had to campaign to rally around the treaty is that it was not in fact such a rallying plank.

105

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 4:42 pm

it is a gross oversimplification to say that responsibility runs only one way between government and individual. For example we have some commitment to obey the law even if it is imposed by a party we didn’t vote for.

Government =/= law.

106

engels 06.18.08 at 4:49 pm

Lemuel, you need to work on your blogging style. Your are not really showing any understanding what is what is being discussed here, I’m afraid.

107

engels 06.18.08 at 4:58 pm

(Particular moral judgments frequently take the form, “You did X, and X is wrong.” If we are discussing such a judgment, it is not “irrelevant pedantry” for me to say: “setting aside the question of whether you really did X, here’s why I think that X is wrong”…)

108

lemuel pitkin 06.18.08 at 5:09 pm

Lemuel, you need to work on your blogging style. Your are not really showing any understanding what is what is being discussed here, I’m afraid.

Oh, fuck off.

109

engels 06.18.08 at 6:17 pm

Can I interpret that as a promise that you are going to stop barging into discussions I am having with other people and badgering me with transparently silly arguments? Thanks if so…

110

Ray 06.18.08 at 7:14 pm

“Under normal circumstances, when anyone takes decisions on behalf of a State, they are obliged to give due consideration—but not necessarily to adhere—to commitments to third parties previously made by officials acting legitimately on behalf that State, even if they were not themselves involved in making them.”

Minor point – if by ‘give due consideration’ you mean ‘be aware of/consider the implications of’, then fine. If you mean ‘give positive weight’, then no.

Major point – the only commitments that officials could legitimately give in this case were to hold a referendum, and to campaign in favour of acceptance. Any commitment to amend the constitution would have been illegitimate.

111

MSS 06.18.08 at 8:54 pm

Jack, at #103, responding to Lemuel:

it is a gross oversimplification to say that responsibility runs only one way between government and individual. For example we have some commitment to obey the law even if it is imposed by a party we didn’t vote for.

Of course, the nature of representative government is we accept that public laws we individually disagree with can nonetheless be binding upon us.

But that’s not the issue here. The treaty was a proposed law, and the Irish voters decided they did not particularly wish to be bound by this (proposed) law.

112

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113

weserei 06.18.08 at 10:51 pm

@112: There seem to be other ways of addressing “the Yes side” (being mostly Europhilic and pro-Lisbon but also pro-constitutionalism and with some fondness for referenda, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to call myself now) and this particular argument.

In voting for a candidate or a party, what we say is that we like them better than the other guys that might win. Or, if we think the outcome’s predetermined for whatever reason, to say that they’re better than all the other guys. That is, it’s not necessarily indicative of thinking the person you’re supporting knows better than you about everything.

And accepting representative democracy is either not a real choice (because there is almost certainly no way to achieve it without the support of the political class and/or the military, neither of which groups is generally into direct democracy), or a decision that we have better things to with our lives than spend a few years getting a law degree and then voting on some damn bill on highway appropriations or whatever every wekeend between buying groceries and getting the kids to football practice and fizing the toilet. So: letting the PPE majors who actually like this crap (myself included) do most of the day-to-day work also doesn’t mean trusting their judgment above one’s own.

So I don’t see a sense in which voting for someone implies thinking them better at task of lawmaking, not only in general but in the specific case of a particular law. To be sure, their thoughts on the subject are worth listening to–but the Yes side couldn’t be bothered to say much more than “the sky will fall unless you vote Yes.” Which it hasn’t.

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banned commenter 06.19.08 at 6:57 am

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Ray 06.19.08 at 7:29 am

I do like that munging of 112. Is that automated or lovingly hand-crafted?

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banned commenter 06.19.08 at 8:00 am

Ad 811: en’i mira, sao oak ‘i patriots et dilutes courtiers. Dined sins number.

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weserei 06.19.08 at 11:50 pm

abb1: I’m not saying that they are trustworthy. I’m merely saying that, even if you think your representative is a Totally Incorruptible Man of Conscience, you still aren’t giving them a 100% endorsement on all issues whatsoever.

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Henry 06.20.08 at 12:47 am

All magicoautomated thanks to the Eater of Meaning.

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