06 September 2005

Irreversibility

An interesting point in The Telegraph (a week or so old, but I just came across it at EU Referendum.)

The EU textile quotas that are causing all this trouble lately were introduced in haste back in June. Viewed in the cold light of day, they were particularly badly implemented (leaving aside the fact that they were a stupid idea in the first place), and it might seem reasonable to try to reverse them.

The interesting issue, however, is Qualified Majority Voting. The regulation was passed under QMV, which requires 232 out of 321 votes, AND a majority of countries, AND countries constituting 62% of EU population. link

To have prevented the measure would, therefore, have required 89 out of 321 votes, or countries constituting 39% of EU population. To reverse the measure now, however needs 232 votes and 62% of population - vastly more than would have served to block it in the first place. The unwise decision, therefore, is practically set in stone.

While I've looked at organisational features before, this implication of "supermajority" type voting hadn't occured to me. In general, since I see legislative productivity as a bad thing, making it more difficult to pass legislation (via things like QMV) would strike me as beneficial. But this "trap" effect of supermajority votes could have nasty side-effects. If it is very much harder to reverse a measure than prevent it, there is greater incentive to use deceit or panic to achieve political aims. In an ordinary-majority system, it is still easier to prevent measures than reverse them, but a body "insulted" by being bamboozled by a minority into passing what it later regards as a bad law is likely to take revenge by reversing it.

But with supermajority voting, even a majority will be unable to do so. When combined with the lack of popular oversight and accountability of the EU institutions, that produces a huge incentive for dishonesty, artificial hysteria and generally bad politics.

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