European central planners have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to direct democracy. That was once again demonstrated with the forced resignation of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. He made the radical and un-European suggestion last week of letting the Greek people have a say on the next installment of a 440-billion-euro bailout package.
Papandreou's exit paves the way for an interim government more friendly to the European Union's collective interests. Lucas Papademos, who many expect will take over as interim prime minister, is none other than a former deputy chief of the European Central Bank.
But, this radical Greek idea of democracy appears to be catching on in Europe. Just a week before the debate about a Greek referendum, British Prime Minister David Cameron put down an insurrection in Parliament from backbench Conservatives, who wanted a California-style referendum on Britain's continued membership in the 27-country EU.
We reached out to Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament and lead supporter of a British referendum on the EU, to explain why this democracy idea was so popular with the pesky voters of Europe. He was in California recently to deliver the keynote speech at a Heritage Foundation event.
"The whole problem with the EU project is that it's a top-down, state-driven process," Hannan explained. "No one can argue against the referendum on principle, which is why they make the argument that it is a distraction from the debt crisis."
To which Hannan emphatically replies, "The EU is a large part of the European debt crisis."
Californians will recognize Europe's problems, which started when nations ceded more and more sovereignty to "the self-proclaimed experts" in Brussels. Civil servants became entitled, imposed costly regulations and increased the number of government employees.
Hannan faults the politicians, who should have managed the bureaucracy, with becoming susceptible to "civil servant capture." That's his term for when politicians campaign on one platform only to appease the bureaucrats once in office.
We can't help but connect the European battle for direct democracy with the public employee unions' recent attacks on California's initiative process. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to ban citizen initiatives during primary elections. Europe offers a lesson in why it's so important to protect our right to petition. In Hannan's words, "States with citizen movements just don't realize how lucky they are."