The EU Commission’s survey on the future of Europe is big-government confirmation bias

When EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted out a survey on the future of Europe on May 9 (Europe Day), my expectation was that I would be able express my opinion. Where else would I let representatives know my feelings about free markets, decentralisation and limited government? I soon discovered that my views weren’t really an option.

A closer look at the questions asked

Europe is in crises. Scrap that: the European Union is in crisis. Even EU leadership has identified this problem to a certain degree, and it’s looking for answers. However, we’re quickly discovering that the solution doesn’t involve a re-evaluation of what this political project has done so far, but rather an expansion of what it is already doing.

Through a total of 12 questions, the European Commission wants to establish how EU citizens feel about the future of the European project, but the options provided are phenomenally telling in regard to what the EC wants you to answer.

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These are just a few examples of the blatant confirmation bias that the Commission is displaying. Despite the fact that people can add their own answers, the options presented all demand more action by the European Union. Question 8 even begins all possible answers with “more”, implying that it’s the Union that needs to invest in research on health, the number of physicians or the need to fund affordable medical treatments. Given the track record of socialised medicine in countries like the UK, with long waiting lines and mediocre treatment at best, it shouldn’t be an ambition for large government institutions to become even more involved in health care.
Question 10 gives us wonderful action plans like “stimulate economic growth”, “harmonise social rights” or “increase welfare benefits”. We’re also being blessed with the option of “jobs for everyone”, presumably suggested to the Commission by 20th century Russia… Does it ever occur to the eurocrats in Brussels that economic prosperity first needs to be created by individuals, before it can be redistributed by government? This is so emblematic of the nature of government itself: while entrepreneurs and creators come up with solutions and create value, bureaucrats think of problems presented by innovation. The recent draft strategy on artificial intelligence provided an excellent visual representation of this phenomenon.

Asking the wrong questions

Back in October, the Commission published a public consultation on the “fair taxation of the digital economy”. I personally answered said questionnaire, and found it difficult to even have the option to claim that there should be no such thing as a digital tax. Questions included the following:

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Once again, the phrasing of the questions leaves little to no doubt that a solution at an EU-level is needed, and by the nature of the way the questions are worded, pragmatic and generally apolitical citizens will be tempted to agree with the Commission. And of course, the EU now has two directive proposals on the table both for a temporary solution on digital taxation and for laying down ground rules for corporate taxation in the digital sector. Would lawmakers have been on the same footing, had the public consultation asked the questions differently (provided these questionnaires are even taken into account, which they unlikely are)?

Suppose the questions had been framed in the following manner:

Original EC question: “What is the best level to address current problems related to taxation of the digital economy?

  • International level
  • European Union level
  • National level
  • Other (please specify)

Altered question: “Who should make the decision to deprive productive companies of considerable parts of their profits?

  • There should be no digital taxation
  • Municipal level
  • Regional level
  • Other (please specify)

Original EC question: “The long term solution might take some time until it is implemented. Do you believe that a targeted temporary solution should be adopted until a more comprehensive solution is reached?

Altered question: “The implementation of a digital tax is a possibility. Do you believe that a measure against productive companies in the digital sector should be taken before we even know if citizens or member states approve of the idea?

The EU will only integrate and centralise more

Here is what the EU’s Commission is telling us with this survey: there will be no re-evaluation; there will be no back-paddling; there can be no alternative to the continuation of European integration and centralisation. Nobody in the Commission is weighing in on the question of centralisation vs. localism. The European Union doesn’t debate the merits of both sides of the argument because it rejects the ideas of limited government and free markets as being relevant to its discussion. This phenomenon isn’t unique to this survey: every public consultation process in the EU asks how the specific measure should be implemented, rather than whether or not  it should be implemented in the first place.

We need a consistent case against European integration because, if we don’t, there will no longer even be multiple choice answers on our questionnaires, but only a single box. Assuming, of course, that there will be surveys at all.

This article was first published by Values4Europe.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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