Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | July 3, 2014

The Meaning of Federalism: Federalism is that balance of power that enables unity while guaranteeing diversity

What is Federalism?

Most people do not even think for a moment the true Madisonian meaning of the term Federalism.

Instead they rush to popular fear laden terms for explaining the words Federal and Federalism — full of populism, demagoguery, ideology, nationalism, uncertainty, and doubts.

So in England the debate has become feral … not federal and we need to take a breather and step back to observe in calmness.

So hold on a moment.

Where is the textbook definition in classical Political theory of what Federal actually means and what is Federalism?

Federalism is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a political system which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

It is a dynamic process. An ever improving, always changing — always evolving, state of being, leading to a free Union. A better Union. An open relationship with constraints. A dynamic equilibrium of power sharing amongst nations and federal institutions. An equilibrium that changes over time to fit the historical context and the necessity of the Times at hand…

It never approximates perfection because nobody wants that something which doesn’t exist — except the Brussels hard working bureaucrats.  People unbalanced in their precarious position between animal and vegetable life forms, very much like the wonderful “Good for the Gout” vegetable aptly named Brussels sprout.

Same with the Federalists. They resemble vegetables. Because nobody understands what Federalism is. Do plants have feelings?  Neither do Federalists… but we do feel the pain as some scientific studies have proven about green bushes feeling pain when peed-on by your canine friends’ leaky bladder.

So let us repeat the exercise for as many times that it takes to stick.

Federalism is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a differentiated political order which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

After all my  wise Latin teacher always said; “Repetitio Matter Studiorno” and at least I remember that part because I was loath to repeat anything let alone even look at my Latin books once… but that is another matter. The reason I remember the quote is because he repeated so many times — I had to give up and call a truce.

Federalism is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a differentiated political order which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

It is only that. The political and governance process, of balancing power in a political system which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity, rather than what the fear mongers claim to be a process leading to Central Government of Super Powers that constitutes a model for an ever closer political union or a Soviet style European superstate.

And you can observe the extent to which the maligned and misunderstood political meaning of federalism has been twisted, regurgitated, and caricatured, out of all recognition in what passes for British political debate on matters European these days.

Yet the true definition of Federalism is a model of governance that implies a process of balancing power in a differentiated political order which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

Federalism is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a political system which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

Yet in the strangely beautiful world across the channel the simple world Federalism means the Monster of Loch Ness. The old Neelie devouring paddle boats with old fishermen without even surfacing… It is a different thing from the meaning of Federalism in the continent. Completely different like the abominable Yeti, than what it means in Britain. And because of that — we’ve got troubles. We can’t properly identify our beasts. We can’t even agree about the classification of Unicorn sweetmeats within the European dietary regulations, let alone be allowed to eat haggis or Neelie’s filet. We are seriously miscommunicating about this and it leads to a fight. We disagree on all levels and bicker like any old family. But at least in our families we have the names straight. In United Europe seen from old Blightey — we don’t even have that.

So we are all lost in translation, because it is hard to maintain any meaningful discourse when the political vocabulary being employed by the many sides of the Federal Europe debate, means different things, to different people, and even it means different things to the seasoned political players, in different places, and at different times.

It’s like playing soccer — no just footie, with a blind referee.

Welcome to Babel…

Europe in many ways is just that.

She is a polyglot whore. A modern Babel. A nowhere land. A no country for babes. No country for old men. No country for women – of any age. A Babylon of bureaus. A rich constituency with poor table manners. An unequal and discriminatory oligarchy ruling the serfs. A union of petty kings and princes dressed in dark blue suits and spreading fear via over-regulation and directive mad bureaucrats.

All of that and some more choice epithets can aptly describe Europe today.

And you can use whatever metaphor you find in the books, or you can dream of, in order to describe the “Faulty Towers” that Europe is today. Feel free to do this  — but please don’t call Europe a Federal State because it ain’t.

It is simply a Euromelange trying to find it’s way in the dark groping people’s buttocks as it goes along…

And of course we don’t like to have our ass grabbed by faceless bureaucrats and we all run for the Exit screaming…

Funny with a tinge of sadness — but that is what Europe is today.

A place of sad dark suited men [and women] molesting, maligning, and maladjusting the children of Europe.

What can you do?

The Brussels crowd is not known for it’s good table manners. and that is why Europe has become a place where debate is stifled and unwelcome, when it conflicts with the Eurobureaucrat identity.

And that is wrong.

And all that might hold true for the European Union. But Federal it is not. Europe cannot even approach this idea of Federalism even though many people would have you believe that it is just that.

And the miscommunication has reached funny proportions. This is especially  true where the words “federal” and “federalism” are concerned.

So now as the prime minister of the UK, David Cameron was pushing his boulder size “chip on the shoulder” up the Brussels hill — in an exercise that most continental politicians would sympathize with and at the same time recognise, approve of, and wish to forget, we lost sight of the meaning of the word Federalismus.

We loath the word Federal because “federalism”, in the context of popular, political, and media usage, in Britain, has come to mean the creation and imposition of a European superstate. A soviet Union, centralised in Brussels. Several generations of opportunistic journalists and politicians alike must shoulder the blame for such wilful misinterpretation and misuse. It goes to the heart of the David Cameron’s and every Freedom loving leaders’ political conundrum. But Federalism still is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a differentiated political order which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

Naturally after a century of National Ideology, that fat-lots of good has done for us — the UK government thinks that “European Union should be the priority of nation states wherever possible and Europe only where necessary.” Those of us who advocate the liberal cause will very much concur with this principle of subsidiarity.

This post writer here, reiterates that a European federal democracy, therefore, would mean more regions, more cities, and “fewer” nation states.

Yet that doesn’t compute in Brussels. Not in London’s Whitehall either. The apparent argument between Britain and the rest of Europe is like an argument between deranged monkeys about the respective merits of the metric system vs the imperial one. Or maybe between two ships passing in the night – sending flash signals to each other in foreign languages that none understands. The same words means utterly contradictory or nonsensical things to both of them. And the monkeys just keep eating imported bananas.

Like Brussels and Berlin. Bananas and Bonobos. Add to it the lovely Brussel Sprouts and you have a three course circus of international Diplomacy and Suave dealings, stepping on banana peels all the way to the forum…

Still on dry land, Federalism means the political and governance process, of balancing power in a political system which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

And missing the simplicity of this meaning is that which renders rational political and economic discussion of the European Project within the UK and EU, nearly impossible.

And we haven’t seen the bottom of this yet, because the situation could be made far worse by the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum.

Here is the nightmare scenario. It involves the Krauts — as always but hold on for it. They will enter the stage a little later…

So here we go: Scotland votes for independence – which I would very much regret – and leaves the UK.

You say NO PROBLEM sweet goodbye brothers ad sisters up North. Keep the haggis to yourselves but share the whiskey. And that’s all…

Yet in due course we’ll miss Balmoral and in further due course, there will be a referendum on Europe in the rest of the UK, and much woe will be unleashed, because of that. The “rUK” as it is worryingly referred to in government circles is going toward isolation,  because of the predominance of UKIP and elated nationalist Tory votes in England. Particularly the south-east of England will vote massively for independence from Europe too.

And then we’ll be free from the Brussels Bureaucrats trying to regulate our  Unicorns out of existence.

And that is how the real Nightmares are born… From a small nightmare to a giant whooping beast of a nightmare the Mother of all Nightmares. An elephant going potty inside your head…

As a foretaste have this: Once Britain leaves the European Union the balance of power shifts uncomfortably to central Europe. Berlin celebrates while the “Rest of the UK” —  rUK finds itself in a not so splendid isolation, contemplating glories past.

And the end result in due course will be that Europe is going to tilt towards a fascist European Germanic project… that nobody “sane” would wish to be part of. As I promised — now the Krauts can enter the stage… So the use of “force majeur” will be employed by the “Born Again” Huns, to shoehorn all the European Peoples into lederhossen until they cry “Mama Bear”

It need not come to this, but if the debate is to engage properly then there have to be some Queensberry rules as to the meaning of words. We need less theoretical debate and more practical application and acknowledgment of what Europe can and cannot do, and what Federalism mean — so that the message is brought home to people in a relevant way.

Still Federalism is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a political system which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

And like most families there is some craziness inside. The crazy uncle or aunt with the forty cats, whom we keep hidden in the belfry or the top floor. It is unobtrusive but hell for human rights. And it’s best to bring the odd ones out and introduce them to the in-laws  because we need to bring “diversity” up front and celebrate it’s eccentricity and not hide it behind closed doors, because only then it becomes funny and not sinister.

Same with Europe — let your crazy uncles in the dark suit fixate on the dramatic and unappealing work of metrics and weights measurement regulations, and free them up from dealing with the future of our children — because not only do we know how to do our job, but we don’t trust you either.

Brussels is like having Rolf Harris, Savile and Clifford, all rolled in one, and calling themselves the friendly bureaucrat from Brussels.

Scary eh?

So let’s cut it out.

Federalism is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a political system which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.

Simple as that…

Yours,

Pano

PS:

As Liberal Democrats and proponents of federalism, we must put our heads above the parapet, and recapture and disseminate the true meaning of federalism.

“Federalism is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a political system which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.”

We have to win the vocabulary before we succeed in the vision.

We cannot do that alone.

We should, as Robert Burns said, “see ourselves as others see us”. Europe should be alert more than ever to how others see us – as a force for good in the world, however democratically imperfect – and work with that grain, rather than give up in despair.

The proper definition would constitute a good starting point.

Therefore, let us repeat this in order to remember:

Federalism is the political and governance process, of balancing power in a political system which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity.


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