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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The ECJ Decision on Gender-Based Insurance: Political, Philosophical and Business Implications

On March 1, 2011, the European Court of Justice, the EU's Supreme Court, declared illegal the widespread practice of charging men and women different rates for insurance, setting in motion an overhaul of how life, auto and health policies are written across Europe. Although tied to commerce, the ruling involves non-economic elements as per the high court's citation of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which enumerates 14 categories on which discrimination is prohibited; sex is the first. A separate provision states that "equality between men and women must be ensured in all areas." Because fundamental rights go to the core of what a political domain stands for, at least in the case of a republic, an implication is that the EU is indeed a political federal state, rather than simply a WTO for Europe. The fact that the states of the EU must abide by the ECJ's ruling on the fundamental rights means that some governmental sovereignty has indeed shifted from the state governments (and their respective constitutions) to the EU.  Like the US, the EU is a federal system of governance characterized at its core by dual governmental sovereignty, which in turn is sourced in popular sovereignty.  Other, less fundamental, implications can also be drawn from an analysis of the ruling.

The full essay is at Essays on the E.U. Political Economy, available at Amazon.