Friday, October 19, 2007

A Letter from Limburg

The Mentality of Gangsters

Prime Minister Balkanende agreed to the reform treaty, and hardly a critical word has appeared in the Dutch press. Balkenende is quoted as saying that he "had a good feeling" about it, and that "Europe had come out of it stronger".

All the left wing press could think of to mention were critical comments from the VVD leader, Jules Maaten, who said it was "Europe at its worst" that "idiot compromises" and "medieval decision-making" should result in Italy gaining an extra seat because it complained, Bulgaria getting to call the euro the "evro" and Austria being allowed to keep German students out for another five years.

The right-wing press seems almost gleeful, commenting that it all makes the EU more decisive and democratic, while (the NRC) commenting that as from 2014 not all countries will necessarily have an EU commissioner and that an internal voting mechanism will play a more important role. So much for European democracy.

Still, it would seem to be pretty much lost on the Dutch, and particularly Dutch politicians. Recently, in response to EU criticism about the lack of democracy in the election of officials, despite much opposition from both within and outside the government, the Dutch experimented in Utrecht with an elected mayor.

Normally this is a completely closed procedure where even the names of the candidates are kept secret, but in an amazing piece of irony that I think would have been all too familiar to Putin and his former KGB colleagues, two candidates were offered for public choice … both of them from the same (PvdA) politicial party. Needless to say, even the Dutch public were not fooled, and some 6 percent of the population turned out to vote.

The planned election of a mayor will continue in Eindhoven, it has already started and too late to stop, but meantime the Dutch government has pulled the plug and announced there will be no more funding for mayoral elections. So much for Dutch democracy.

Most people are familiar with Lord Acton's famous quote about all power corrupting, even if they forget who said it, or that it was directed against the Pope. But for the illumination and amusement of one and all, I offer a lesser-known version of his memorable citation:

And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
You have been warned.

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