Customer Review

4 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor defence of the EU, 14 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Whats Wrong with the European Union and How to Fix it (Paperback)
Simon Hix is the Professor of European and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He chaired a working group for the Cabinet Office during the Convention drawing up the EU Constitution.

Hix sees three problems with the EU: policy gridlock, lack of popular legitimacy and the democratic deficit. He notes, 'In substantive terms ' the EU is closer to a form of enlightened despotism than a genuine democracy.' Yet he calls its political design 'pure genius'. He also thinks that 'the US has an ideal political-economic model', which gives some idea of his political nous.

In response to the EU's problems, he proposes to change the European Parliament's procedures for choosing its president and committee chairs, to make the Council's proceedings more open to the public, and to have a more open contest for the Commission's president. He explains patronisingly that through these reforms, 'citizens will begin to understand and engage with EU politics.'

He also mentions that the EU is 'a driving force of global economic and political integration'. He calls for the liberalisation of labour markets, welfare states, public services and energy industries, although he admits 'the downward pressures on public spending, corporate tax rates and wages that result from market integration and liberalisation'. He notes, 'one group in society that has benefited enormously from European integration is the economic, political and social elite.'

His proposed reforms completely ignore these economic realities, but these, not the EU's institutional failings, explain why public support for the EU has fallen since the early 1990s to just 50% across the EU and 30% in Britain.

Hix rejects the Lisbon Treaty, writing that 'the new treaty reforms are unlikely to bring the EU closer to the citizens, and may even undermine the legitimacy of the EU further if a second attempt to ratify a new treaty is rejected. And, even if the new treaty is ratified and eventually enters into force, the minor institutional changes are not significant enough to enable the EU to overcome policy gridlock or make the EU more democratically accountable.' But his minor procedural changes would do no better.

Of course, like all EU fans, he opposes referendums, calling them 'a crude and ineffectual mechanism for expressing citizens' preferences on policy issues'. Hardly ineffectual - the Irish No to the Lisbon Treaty indeed 'undermined the legitimacy of the EU' - in fact it has changed everything.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Mar 2010 16:18:45 GMT
G. Barnes says:
I feel moved to write in defence of Simon Hix's work after reading the above review. This is a serious analytical attempt to examine the underlying democratic deficit as perceived in the European Union. To rate such a comprehensive, and academically important analysis as being 1 star out of 5 because you personally do not agree with the conclusions is to ignore the essence of academic debate. I do not agree with Andrew Moravcsik's perspective on Liberal Intergovernmentalism, that does not mean that i would not rate his work as being serious, scholarly, and of a positive contribution to the debate. This book should be seen in the same light - an academic piece offering deep empirical analysis with a set of supported conclusions that you may or may not agree with emotionally, but are challenged to engage with rationally.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Sep 2010 16:51:31 BDT
Good points - but I did hope that I was engaging rationally with Hix's conclusions.
I do not think that his book is anywhere near as good as Alan Milward's books, though I also disagree with Prof Milward's conclusions.
Surely reviewers are allowed to disagree with the author's views and to say why they disagree?
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