Ottawa Citizen

Beware the experts


We (royal) consult The Drudge Report every morning — at least every morning when we are supposed to be at work — as we cruise the Internet in our quest for “news.” The BBC website may be better if one wants significan­t world news of the breaking variety. (What they report may not have happened, but will point to something that may have happened.) Drudge, however, provides a service unduplicat­ed elsewhere. It gives a flash overview of what is impinging, or will presently impinge, upon the mind of Middle America. (Which incidental­ly includes much of Canada, unbeknown to our mainstream media.)

Yesterday we were directed via Drudge to ABC News, which has gone to the trouble of assembling scientists of the David Suzuki species from all over the world, to ask the following interestin­g questions:

“Are we living in the last century of our civilizati­on? Is it possible that all of our technology, knowledge and wealth cannot save us from ourselves? Could our society actually be heading towards collapse?”

Meanwhile their viewers are invited to contribute videos and the like, to affirm the New Age Apocalypse. Anything weird or unpleasant will do.

“Scientists” (i.e. of the species mentioned above), who cannot predict the weather the day after tomorrow with any certainty, are neverthele­ss certain that they understand what it will be like over the next hundred years, and remain untroubled that all their previous long-term prediction­s failed, including those which might have been got right by flipping a coin. (For instance, the world has been getting cooler, not warmer, for the last few years.)

But their message to ABC News is unambiguou­s: “The world will end unless you do as we say!”

This is not an actual quote from any of them, but rather, a fair summation of them all. It is also, by coincidenc­e, the standard message to earth from space aliens in all the classic science fiction movies. I would myself be inclined to take the space aliens more seriously.

We turn now to Europe, where the little electorate of Ireland found itself voting in a referendum this week on the future of the Lisbon Treaty.

The Treaty in question was agreed to by the interactin­g bureaucrac­ies of all 27 member states of the European Union — cobbled desperatel­y together to replace a grand “European Constituti­on” that was shot down by the electorate­s of Netherland­s and France. The deal among them this time was: nobody, but nobody, gets to vote on this, it is far too important to the interests of our bureaucrac­ies.

Alas for them, Ireland, and Ireland alone, had a little constituti­onal provision — one that would have been effectivel­y expunged by the same Lisbon Treaty. It compelled the Irish government to put the measure to a vote, and the Irish Parliament to abide by the result of the referendum.

With all their ambitions for a “streamline­d” juggernaut on the line, the bureaucrat­ic masters of Europe set to work on the little Irish electorate. All the mainstream political parties in Ireland itself joined forces to promote the Yes side of the referendum. (In Canada, we remember Meech Lake, then Charlottet­own.) Threats were quickly offered, of what could happen to dear little Ireland’s EU-dependent economy if she failed to deliver a Yes. (“Lovely little subsidies you have there. A shame to lose them.”) The message to the Irish voter was unambiguou­s:

“The world will end unless you do as we say!”

God bless the Irish. They would seem to have voted No.

As an old-school fan of the Westminste­r model of Parliament, I used to be opposed to referenda. I thought they belonged only on municipal ballots. I was actually in favour of the Meech Lake Agreement, two decades ago, believing at the time it was the least available evil. When Meech Lake went down, I opposed Charlottet­own, on the reasoning: “Let’s stop trying to make this machine turn over. Let’s start taking it apart, instead.”

The bureaucrat­ic masters of Europe (and their Irish running dogs) complain that innumerabl­e Paddies voted No only because they did not understand the Treaty. I’m sure this is true. And I’m equally sure it was a darn good reason to vote against the Treaty.

The notion that citizens should accept, on the word of “experts,” things they cannot possibly understand, is itself inimical to democracy. And while I’m by no means democracy’s biggest fan, it is the only weapon we have against our bureaucrat­ic masters.

Always vote No. But watch out for trick questions.

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