Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Pyrrhic Victory

The French have spoken. Chances are they objected to the EU not because it was a liberty-crushing bureaucratic Leviathan, but because it wasn't giving them enough tax loot. Still, that distinction - while crucial in principle - doesn't matter much right now. The obtuse, 300-page-plus EU Constitution has always been a waste of paper; the French voters just made it official.

Or did they? When the people fail to dance to the government's tune, the government hardly ever changes the tune. It changes the people instead. In Britain, Tony Blair is trying to weasel out of calling a referendum of their own, and will most likely try to sneak the Constitution past the Brits via the Parliament. Other EU tributaries, even France, may choose to do so rather than face the prospect of public embarrassment that comes with a "No" vote. They could keep calling votes till the desired result is achieved, but there is always the risk of failure.

A couple of years back, the residents of Northern Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington, DC, rejected overwhelmingly their government's proposal for a sales tax increase. The tax hike was supposed to fund roads and rapid transit (a problem particularly affecting the area, with tens of thousands of government drones heading to work and back to their hives every day), and was supported heavily by big business interests and the media. Yet the end result was well over 55% against.

Less than a year later, the Virginia legislature passed a slate of unprecedented tax hikes, including a sales tax increase.

Anyone still thinks democracy works? I pity you.

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