Arnold Kling  

Unanimity, Consent, and the Lisbon Treaty

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Tyler Cowen writes,


Some deluded soul in the EU read a copy of John Calhoun instead of Buchanan and Tullock's Calculus of Consent. Hadn't they remembered the history of 17th and 18th century Poland and decided that a unanimity rule is a bad idea?

What strikes me as remarkable is that if a majority of Irish voters had said "yes," then this would have constituted Irish consent. If the majority of Americans voting in a referendum were to say "yes" to joining the European Union, would that meant that all of us have consented to do so? The procedures for amending our Constitution are rather stricter than that.

I would like to see government by consent look more like fast food by consent. I would like to be able to change providers of government services as easily as I can change from McDonald's to Burger King.

I realize that there are many obstacles to having this sort of choice, at least the way we are used to government working today. I can stay right where I am and switch from Mickey D to BK. But to change local governments, I have to sell my house and move to a different city. To change state governments, I have to move even farther. To escape the federal government, I would have to move even farther still.

Conceivably, the government that I most want to live under is located in Brussels. But the decision of whether I live under that government ought to be one that I can make for myself, rather than have it made for me by a majority of people living in any location in particular.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (4 to date)
Matt writes:

It is not government's fault that it is a mostly monopoly, but we can ask it to be an efficient monopoly.

I want to buy government in small bites, I want my DMV fees by the mile derived, purchased with my ATM.

I want to buy garbage pick-ups in smaller chunks.

Let me buy my own electricity in real time.

Quit asking me to make long term pension promises every time I do a small deal with local government.

Finja writes:
Conceivably, the government that I most want to live under is located in Brussels.
That's a joke, right? Guess why they tried to be smart this time and wouldn't let 26 of member countries' citizens vote on the Treaty of Lisbon.

For most Europeans, they never chose to live under the Government in Brussels, and quite a lot would actually rather not...

This whole process is a joke - a very bad one... And I'm definitely pro-Europe.

Multiple states serving multiple customers in a single territory (like BK or Mickey D's) would be realistic if government were just about delivering services. But the concept of jurisdiction is a necessity to the existence of the state: the state is simply a group of people with an official monopoly on coercion within a certain boundary.

So what you seem to want is property that exists outside the state, so that you could change your state like an ISP or phone company. The problem is that for that to work, there would have to be some law upholding property outside the legal systems of these multiple (optional) states, and that law would have to be more or less uniform. Without this, you basically have primordial feudalism, right? Armed gangs protecting your property and charging you a fee.

Another problem would be that the law would change every time you walked out the door. Any other solutions to these problems?

VentrueCapital writes:

Bandwagon Smasher those are excellent questions! May I recommend David Friedman's book The Machinery of Freedom, or have you read it already?

I'd also suggest that international law is an example of

some law upholding property outside the legal systems of these multiple (optional) states.

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