Monday, February 25, 2008

Lib Dems and EU Referendum

Interesting Op-Ed in today's Guardian by Nick Clegg (leader of the UK Liberal Democrats). Clegg argues that there should be an EU referendum, but not over the relatively minor Lisbon Treaty. Instead the question should be whether Britain want to be in or out of the EU!

Clegg is, in my opinion, both right and wrong his argumentation.

I agree that the Lisbon Treaty is a relative minor reform treaty (compared to the Single European Act (1987), Maastrict Treaty (1992) and Amsterdam Treaty (1998)), and that a referendum would be an opportunity for euro-sceptics to misrepresent the treaty and the EU. I also agree that the Lisbon Treaty is a positive reform of the EU, as it will strengthen the democratic decision making process in the EU (by creating a larger role for national parliaments in the EC legislative process, double majority voting in the Council and by giving the European Parliament greater powers through increased used of the 'co-decision' procedure).

However, the Lisbon Treaty is a reform of the EU constitution and should therefore be subject to a referendum in all EU states. The real argument against a referendum is that under the British constitution, where Parliament is supreme, constitutional acts and treaties have not, and need not, be passed by a popular vote (The Acts of Union 1707, Act of Union 1800, European Communities Act 1973 and EC/EU treaties mentioned above, were all passed without referendums).

It is also counterproductive for pro-europeans to revert back to the 'in or out' question. This does not further the cause. Pro-europeans will not be able to address and gain support for democratic reforms of the EU by framing the debate over European integration as a question of 'in or out". Rather we should argue why the Council and Parliament should be equal, why Council decisions should be passed by a 'double majority' and why the national parliaments should play a larger rule in the legislative process. Then we will win the debate!

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Sometimes I just hate computers and the Internet!

For the last 24 hours my life has been made a complete misery after I discovered that my Internet connection isn't working properly. A handfull or so websites are no longer accessible to me, although they are up and running and accessible from other networks.

Being obsessive-compulsive, I've spent most of the night and day trying to sort it out. I've installed anti-Spyware software, downloaded and upgraded the Firmware to my router, reset my browsers. Nothing has helped. I've lost half a nights sleep, haven't spoken to my wife, missed church and a now a birthday party, trying to solve this problem (OK.. I wouldn't have gone to church anyway... but you get the point).

In my anguish and delirium I'm starting to get paranoid. Just take a look at some of the web sites I cannot access, but which all other Internet users seem able to:

- (Danish Broadcasting Corporation (which is well know to harbour left wing journalists)
- (Official website of the Seventh-Day Adventist church).
- (Socialist Party USA)
- (soccerstand?)
- (Nuf said)

What am I to do?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The politics of sports...

Reading recently about baseball in Cuba, I was appalled to learn that the best players from the Havana team Metropolitanos are regularly taken from the team and sent to the other Havana team Industriales. I considered this practice corrupt and an example of what is wrong with the political system in Cuba.

Then I realized that what happens in Cuban Baseball is exactly the same as what happens in professional European sports. In European team sports the best players are also regularly moved from smaller teams to the bigger teams. Wealthier clubs, such as Manchester United and Chelsea, simply buy the best players from other clubs or lure them from away with bigger contracts. The result is that all European sports leagues are dominated a only few teams, just as Cuban baseball is dominated by Industriales and Santiago de Cuba.

In Europe sports are run on free market principles, particularly after the Bosman ruling by the European Court of Justice in 1995, with laws prohibiting any limitations on the free movement of workers and capital. The end result is, however, not that dissimilar from what happens in communist Cuba!

Interestingly, US professional team sports are not run on free market principles as in Europe. Rather the sports are socialized with mechanisms to regulate and limit the power of money, including inter alia: restrictions on player movements, the draft, salary caps, revenue sharing and closed leagues with no promotion or relegation. These mechanisms have helped maintain a healthier competitive balance and greater equality between the teams than in Europe.

The US system is of course essentially capitalist. The leagues and clubs are business whose sole purpose it is to organize sports events for economic profit, but the system of regulations does seem to taken straight out of a Keynsian economics text book. It could therefore be argued that while European sports leagues are models of pure capitalism and Cuban baseball of communism, US sports are maintaining the social democratic ideal!