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Democratic Legitimacy under Conditions of Regulatory Competition: Why Europe Differs from the United States


Scharpf,  Fritz W.
Problemlösungsfähigkeit der Mehrebenenpolitik in Europa, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Scharpf, F. W. (2001). Democratic Legitimacy under Conditions of Regulatory Competition: Why Europe Differs from the United States. In K. Nicolaidis, & R. Howse (Eds.), The Federal Vision: Legitimacy and Levels of Governance in the United States and the European Union (pp. 355-376). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-53DE-8
Addresses concern over the so‐called ‘democratic deficit’ in the EU in comparison with the USA. The author deduces that there are two reasons for the political salience of this alleged deficit: the pragmatic reason that the EU's institutions are inadequate for a union with fifteen members and an expanded range of competencies (and will become unworkable when it is enlarged by the joining of the Eastern European countries); and the trilemma of the democratic welfare state. This is that EU member states cannot want to shed their welfare‐state obligations without jeopardizing the bases of their democratic legitimacy, they cannot want to reverse the process of economic integration, which exposes national welfare states to regulatory competition, and they cannot want to avoid regulatory competition by shifting welfare‐state responsibilities upward to the European level. The chapter focuses primarily on the third part of this European trilemma. It begins with a brief theoretical discussion of the preconditions of democratic legitimacy, then it explores how these are affected by European integration; it concludes with an examination of European policies that could strengthen national efforts to cope with the constraints of regulatory competition.