“Poland and some other East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries have been par­tic­u­larly un­will­ing to aban­don their na­tional iden­ti­ties. In Poland’s case, this na­tional iden­tity was tied to pub­lic re­li­gios­ity – a re­li­gion un­will­ing to be con­fined to the pri­vate sphere an

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

So far this is pol­i­tics as usual. Ex­am­ples of it abound. In the United States in the 20th cen­tury, Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt, fac­ing a Supreme Court of en­trenched con­ser­va­tives, tried to ex­pand the court’s size and pack it with his own sup­port­ers. He lost. In Bri­tain in the decades af­ter World War II, the state-owned BBC had a mo­nop­oly on broadcasting and had been staffed by Labour gov­ern­ments. Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ments ac­cused it of be­ing hos­tile to them, and at­tempts to change ac­cu­sa­tions of cen­sor­ship.

These sorts of ar­gu­ments are en­demic to democ­ra­cies with gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cra­cies. The pub­lic mood changes but the bu­reau­cra­cies’ ide­ol­ogy re­mains in­tact. A bat­tle en­sues. Com­pet­ing fac­tions all point to dire con­se­quences if their views don’t pre­vail, but a vi­able if not al­to­gether ac­cept­able so­lu­tion is nor­mally found.

What makes the Pol­ish sit­u­a­tion dif­fer­ent is the threat­ened in­ter­ven­tion by the Euro­pean Union bu­reau­cracy and the vo­cal hos­til­ity of Ger­many to the new gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies. This in­cludes threats to sus­pend Poland from par­tic­i­pa­tion in some EU func­tions and var­i­ous hos­tile claims about the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment.

This not only raises the stakes but also goes to the heart of lib­eral democ­racy. At the core of lib­eral democ­racy is the right of na­tional self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. Self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to the­o­rists of lib­eral democ­racy like Locke and Mon­tesquieu, in­volves some sort of demo­cratic process, a con­cept with a wide va­ri­ety of in­sti­tu­tional struc­tures, all of which have at their core some sort of elec­toral process. There is no ques­tion that Poland’s cur­rent gov­ern­ment was elected in a le­git­i­mate vote, and in that sense, it rep­re­sents the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the peo­ple. The im­plicit claim made by its op­po­nents is that in i mple­ment­ing this man­date the gov­ern­ment vi­o­lated the Pol­ish Con­sti­tu­tion.

I am re­minded of An­drew Jackson’s re­sponse to a Supreme Court rul­ing with which he dis­agreed, when he sug­gested that the court should have to en­force its own rul­ing be­cause his gov­ern­ment wouldn’t. Jackson



were met

with un­doubt­edly vi­o­lated the essence of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, but the re­pub­lic sur­vived.

Given that Poland’s gov­ern­ment emerged as an act of self­de­ter­mi­na­tion, and given that the ac­tions it has un­der­taken are not un­prece­dented in the an­nals of lib­eral democ­racy, it is strange that the EU and Ger­many should be so ag­gres­sive in rais­ing an alarm over Poland.

There are a num­ber of rea­sons. First, the EU has a core ide­ol­ogy. One part of it is a com­mit­ment to free trade. The other is a com­mit­ment to a so­cial or­der that is pri­mar­ily sec­u­lar, that seeks to over­come na­tional dis­tinc­tions and that is in­tol­er­ant of in­tol­er­ance. By this I mean that it em­braces the doc­trine that the state must not only per­mit vari­ances in pri­vate life but be pre­pared to en­shrine them in a le­gal sys­tem of com­pul­sory tol­er­ance. The com­bi­na­tion of a com­mit­ment to free trade and a com­mit­ment to pri­vate choices be­ing en­shrined as part of pub­lic pol­icy in­evitably finds cer­tain va­ri­eties of lib­eral democ­racy un­ac­cept­able. Na­tion­al­ist ex­clu­siv­ity, ero­sion of sec­u­lar­ism by re­li­gios­ity and a re­luc­tance to turn pri­vate free­dom into some­thing ex­plic­itly cel­e­brated by the state are re­jected.

The Pol­ish gov­ern­ment’s mis­fea­sance is not re­ally about courts or broadcasting. Rather, it is about Poland de­vi­at­ing from the EU’s ide­ol­ogy. The Pol­ish gov­ern­ment has op­posed un­lim­ited im­mi­gra­tion into Poland by Mus­lims, ar­gu­ing that it would change the coun­try’s na­tional char­ac­ter. In other

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