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March of the technocrats

The whisper of fear is there. For some, it's a huge anxiety; for others, a mild nagging, a feeling that something is not quite right. This idea that the euro could collapse.

I am not immune to this fear. I do wonder what this would mean, in reality. Apocalyptic images of car-burning rioters alternate with a more mundane picture of German workers recalibrating cash machines for a new Deutschmark.

I blithely continue with my day-to-day. Then a deeper significance strikes me: We have become captives of the market.

Yeah, okay, that's nothing really new – just look at the last time you asked yourself if you work to live, or live to work. Or how corporate lobbyists influence politicians. But it could just be the case that this ongoing expansion of market power is infiltrating the government at unprecedented levels.

More specifically, the European Union is becoming a technocracy.

As published in Time, Papademos and Monti were installed to restore confidence in the economies of Greece and Italy.

“The markets had spoken, and they didn't like the idea of going to the electorate,” Stephan Faris wrote.

And this is not just happening at a national level. Jürgen Habermas, theorist behind the concept of the public sphere and a leading philosopher of the current age, warned in an interview with German magazine Spiegel of Europe’s politics being driven by markets.

Writer Georg Diez paraphrased Habermas as suggesting that “the technocrats have long since staged a quiet coup d'état” in Europe.

This neo-liberalism was written into the founding principles of the European Union: freedom of establishment and the free movement of capital form cornerstones of the EU legal framework.

Yet social principles are there as well. The European Court of Human Rights, with binding treaty powers, adjudicates at a level corresponding with the Court of Justice.

The question is: Will Europe be able to balance the good of the people with that of the market? Or will the European Union devolve into becoming a mere technical administrator for global capitalism?

Signs point to the latter. Three pieces of PR from the European Commission recently struck me, for their utter economic-administrative banality. The commission, in its regular action to harmonize rules between member states, urged France to set up a passport system for horses born there, requested that Greece facilitate the selling of “bake off” products, and referred Cyprus to the Court of Justice to ensure unrestricted access for EU nationals to buy a second home there.

And seriously, if that’s not technocratic, what is?