The victims of state arrogance, arbitrariness, inefficiency, slowness, underhandedness and the like can hope: On April 11, 2018, the EU Commission presented a legislative project to enable victims of such machinations to defend themselves with a class action lawsuit. There is talk of “actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers.” And since we are all consumers of state services, and this in a highly collective, i.e. necessarily nationwide manner, the new law will undoubtedly also apply to states.
The EU authorities themselves have probably not even noticed this yet. For them, it’s about protecting the consumer against such evil companies as VW with its cooked-up diesel exhaust values, or Nutella whose quality standards vary too much, or Google with its too extensive use of data, or Microsoft with its too arrogant abuse of its monopoly power. But if we take seriously the fact that everyone is equal before the law, states must also be judged by these criteria. And they won't come out of it too well.
Compared with state monopoly power, Microsoft appears at worst to be a rather forceful schoolboy. When it comes to peace and order, i.e. the vital needs of a society, states don’t simply try to outstrip competing security providers, they just ban them altogether. And not only that, they boast loudly and call it what it is: “monopoly on the use of force.” Imagine Microsoft blaring out: “monopoly on the use of software!”
Or the misuse of data collection in today’s increasingly perfected surveillance state, compared with which Facebook, in the worst case, appears to be a somewhat curious scamp. The strategy, professionally pursued by the state, of creating a transparent citizen is the absolute opposite of data protection and privacy. Cynically, states have particularly extensive data research approved by secret courts, which are set up by none other than themselves. Imagine the outcry if Facebook were to proceed in that manner!
Or what about the issue of unequal treatment of state-owned and private companies, against which certain quality differences of Nutella are downright ridiculous. Imagine the arrogant serenity with which state schools, state hospitals and other state services are financed from taxpayers’ money, while private schools, clinics and other private services are compelled to pay precisely these taxes – just imagine Nutella...
Or finally, discrepancies in declarations, such as they occur in notorious newspeak state terminology, whereas in the worst case VW appears to be a slightly overoptimistic communicator. If states use such elegant terms as ‘taxes’ or ‘levies’ for their raids on people’s money, ‘military service’ for ongoing forced labor, or ‘school’ for forced brainwashing, then one really wonders what the actual problem with VW is.
Perhaps Switzerland (the country I come from) should join the EU in spite of everything. Then we would also have a law for a class action lawsuit against the Swiss Confederation.
Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published in issue no. 183, June 2018.