Italians Vote Against Austerity

So, the Italians did basically the same thing as the Greeks did back in June: they cast a protest vote against EU-imposed austerity. The protest was actually even stronger in Italy, a fact to be taken very seriously by anyone who respects and appreciates the fact that the people delegate power to their elected officials – not the other way around.

The problem for Italy, and for Europe in general, is that not everyone appreciates the sovereignty of the people. From the EU Observer:

The European Commission has urged any future government in Italy to keep on implementing deficit-cutting measures, despite the fact that over half the electorate voted for anti-austerity parties. “Last Friday the Italians were speaking quite clearly about debt-reduction commitments as well as a series of other commitments. These Italian commitments remain in force and the commission expects compliance,” commission spokesperson Olivier Bailly said on Tuesday (26 February).

Take another look at those words: “the commission expects compliance”… Listen to them. What attitude toward the people do they convey?

There is only one word for it: totalitarianism. When government expects the people to comply with its will, democracy has lost. It may still exist pro forma, as a shiny showroom item in the hallways of politics and power. But its role as the conveyor of the will of the people is long gone. Only when the people give the right answer to the question posed by the government, is their voice allowed to echo through the legislative chambers.

The Italian election was about the question: should government continue to raise taxes and cut spending? The EU Commission expected – demanded – an affirmative answer, so when the Italian people defied the will of the Almighty Commission in Brussels, the Commission got irritated. More than likely, they are already deeply involved in the negotiations to piece together an administration that, contrary to the will of the people, will continue with the destructive austerity policies.

That would be the only administration that the EU can accept.

Back to the EU Observer:

[Mr. Bailly’s] comments come after elections in Italy – the eurozone’s third biggest economy – failed to result in a majority for the upper house of the country’s parliament. The centre-left coalition of Pier Luigi Bersani, who had pledged to continue Monti’s work, won the lower house by a whisker. The resulting stalemate has put former comedian Beppe Grillo, who ran on an anti-austerity ticket and has called for a referendum on euro membership, in kingmaker position.

In some sense, this is like Jay Leno starting a political party that manages to wedge itself in between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Grillo does have some serious support, and he might actually use his political power to try to weaken Italy’s ties to the European Union. The power of the EU will very likely win that struggle, but if Grillo’s party and the other anti-austerity parties are given little to no influence over the fiscal policies in Italy over the next couple of years, things could easily turn for the worse.

This Italian election is yet another challenge for Brussels and its disdain for the will of the people. Its first reaction reveals that it has learned nothing from Ireland, Greece, Spain and other countries where people have voted against the EU in one way or another. On the contrary, its reaction has been to try and seize even more power over fiscal policy – the issue that defined the Italian election.

It probably won’t get that power, at least not officially, so the Eurocrats and EU-friendly politicians in member states are doing their best to close ranks after this show of defiance from the Italian people:

The commission’s Bailly … admitted that Monti’s reform path had yet to produce results. It would be “an illusion” to think that 15 months of reforms – Monti took over in November 2011 – would would lead to “joy, happiness and jobs.” Staying with austerity would eventually lower debt, which is a “brake” on growth, he added.

If that was the case, the American economy would be shrinking at the speed of sound. Yet it is growing two percentage points faster than the European economy – not a fantastic growth rate by any standards, but nevertheless a fact worth noting.

And now for the austerity choir:

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Italy’s reforms are “crucial” for the entire eurozone, while Guido Westerwelle, the foreign minister of pro-austerity Germany, said Rome must “continue the solid policies of reform and consolidation.” Others worried about the political implications of the vote. European Parliament President Martin Schulz noted that “what happens in Italy affects all of us.” He said that unpopular reforms are being associated with the EU capital. “I take it very seriously that a lot of Italian people expressed a kind of protest against measures which are [seen] in Italy publicly as measures of the European Union. We should here in Brussels take this very, very seriously,” he explained.

And do what? Make the austerity measures look Italian?

It remains to be seen what government eventually is formed in Rome, but the very fact that the Eurocracy comes out as one voice and demands more austerity, regardless of what the people wanted, is a sign that Europe’s history of parliamentary democracy is in the balance. Austerity – a fiscal policy strategy to save the welfare state in times of recession – is worth more to the tax-paid elite in Brussels.

This is bad news for Europe. It is not far-fetched to conclude that Europe as we know it will not survive the EU. The only hope is that for each national election where the EU tries to dictate the outcome, more and more people will demand an orderly retreat from this totalitarian super-state project.