From Hercules to Pareto: Of bathos, proportionality, and EU law

Marzal, T. (2017) From Hercules to Pareto: Of bathos, proportionality, and EU law. International Journal of Constitutional Law, 15(3), pp. 621-648. (doi: 10.1093/icon/mox055)

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This article is a critique of the legal reasoning of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in its free movement case law, which relies mainly on the principle of proportionality. The Court initially presents free movement cases as involving fundamental clashes between conflicting considerations of the highest order, most often between market freedoms and non-economic interests (including the preservation of the competences of member states, fundamental rights, national policies and EU-wide values), and thus frames its role as that of a balance—a truly Herculean task. However, the Court does not actually solve these cases by balancing. Instead, it (implicitly) resorts to an alternative, technocratic framework, through which it reduces the cases to technical issues of pure fact and, on the basis of Pareto efficiency, limits itself to weeding out objectively superfluous regulations. The reasoning of the Court is thus characterized by a certain form of bathos: it abruptly and radically shifts from a Herculean balancing of values framework to a seemingly innocuous and purely factual review of Pareto efficiency. It ambitiously, and yet awkwardly, combines an exalted appeal to values with the objectivity and irresistible innocuousness of efficiency review. It is nevertheless doubtful whether the Court’s argumentative structure is at all persuasive: value statements are reduced to declamatory devices of no operational importance, while the Court’s recourse to Pareto efficiency only serves to hide the (obviously) controversial implications of its free-movement case law.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Marzal, Dr Antonio
Authors: Marzal, T.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Journal Name:International Journal of Constitutional Law
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1474-2659

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