The French may have spurned the European Union’s Constitution for the wrong reasons, but overall their instincts were sound. That the pro-free market Dutch have seconded the “non” vote with a resounding “nee” ought to give pause to the “collectivist super-state’s” illiberal American supporters, the most notorious of whom are concentrated in the Bush State Department and National Security Council.
As I pointed out in 2001, the EU endeavors to herd Europeans by stealth into a supranational European State and… block off all the exits. This it intends to achieve by rigid central planning and harmonization of laws across the continent. In the absence of political and economic competition, the bureaucrats of Brussels will be free to rule and regulate; tax and inflate the money supply at will. This is what the rejectionists, including the cheese eating surrender monkeys, have defeated…for now.
The sovereignty of European non-members is already constrained by the EU’s burgeoning jurisdiction. But if ever its constitution goes into effect, the EU will assume unlimited powers—its laws usurping all laws enacted by national parliaments—and will concentrate these in few, unelected, grubby hands. (The Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Constitution, which will subsume the Charter, have been drafted without the consent of the people they will irrevocably bind.)
Dissembling Eurocrats justify this usurpation by claiming the EU would prevent wars in Europe. How exactly would they achieve this noble end? Why, by substituting the nation-state with deracinated, supranational institutions. They assert that national identity causes bigotry and bloodshed, hence, in Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s words, “We have no desire to return to the nation state of old.” Other neo-communists such as Romano Prodi have seconded the sentiment—and their quest to engineer a single European identity.
However, in his examination of the “The Tainted Source of the Idea of European Union,” classical liberal philosopher David Conway finds little to laud. The idea of the EU Conway traces to the writings of Friedrich List in the first half of the 19th century. “[A]s far as List was concerned, the main reason for European states to enter into such union was not to prevent war between them. It was, rather, to enable them better to wage economic war against other more economically advanced states, in List’s day [and today], Britain and the USA.”
Like the bureaucrats of Brussels, “List’s vision of European union was less Anglophobic than anti-liberal.” His ideas were seized upon by the Nazis—they referred to List when outlining their aspiration to create a European economic and monetary union. A July-1940 memorandum, written by the Reich Chancery, elaborates on a vision for a united Europe in which economic development is strictly supervised by the state and in which a fixed rate of exchange is mandated. (All the better to manipulate the money supply to fund the central government’s profligacy. States can’t fight inflation because they are forbidden to adjust interest rates). The Nazis also cited “lasting peace…freedom, prosperity and security” as the impetus for European union.
“Now, it does not follow,” cautions Conway, “simply from the fact that the Nazis envisaged and favored the creation after the war of a European economic community that the present European Economic Community is simply a continuation of the Nazi project. Even if it is no more than pure coincidence how closely postwar Europe has come to resemble what the Nazis wanted for it,” quips Conway, “it remains unmistakably true that, from its postwar beginnings to the present, the principal advocates and architects of European union have been uniformly animated by collectivist objectives that are deeply anti-liberal in spirit and form.”
Let us count these illiberal ways: “The EU already has rights to legislate over external trade and customs policy, the internal market, the monetary policy of countries in the eurozone, agriculture and fisheries and many areas of domestic law including the environment and health and safety at work.” And the EU intends to “extend its rights into … justice policy, especially asylum and immigration.” If the Dutch—still reeling from the murder of anti-immigration activist Pim Fortuyn and Vincent van Gogh’s great-great-grandson—decide to curb immigration, the EU commissariat will be there to thwart them. (Fortuyn’s successor, Geert Wilders, has been forced into hiding by the familiar suspects.)
The “harmonization of judicial practices,” warns Bill Jamieson, will see the introduction of an “EU-wide arrest warrant… which will allow extradition from one country to the other for offenses such as ‘xenophobia.’” Habeas Corpus is also on the new constitution’s chopping block. The aim is to allow arrests without charges or due process (ring a bell?). All in all, new Charter-minted economic, social, and cultural “rights” will expand the Super State’s policing and prosecutorial powers.
And shrink markets.
The rhetoric about the free flow of goods, labor, and capital across borders is as credible as the verbiage about union for peace. The EU has mandated strictly regulated markets, privileging labor interests over those of capital, and instituting oppressive socialist labor laws and “unfair-competition” regulations that have hiked labor costs and resulted in structural unemployment.
Take The Czech Republic. Joseph Sima, associate professor at the Prague School of Economics, describes the fate of his country since joining the EU as having gone “From the Bosom of Communism to the Central Control of EU Planners”: There’s the added dead weight of thousands of meddling mandarins, there’s the imperative to change local laws to fit EU decrees; to hike taxes, even liquidate duty free shops. There’s the burden on nascent businesses of prohibitive health and safety standards. (The right to work is not an EU-approved birthright.) There are subsidies and grants of monopoly to farmers. A regime of licenses now restricts entrepreneurial activity and blocks entry into assorted occupations. On hand to subdue any Czechoslovakian Martha Stewart is an army of SEC gendarmes, also by EU edict. As he photocopies his paper, Sima is reminded of the Association of Authors’ special copyright shakedown fee he must shell out at the copier—EU orders! (Corporeal property rights are barely protected under EU reign.)
What unites the “No” camp, from socialists to right-wingers, is the recognition that the EU would hasten a loss of sovereignty and national identity. Euroskeptics evinced independent thought—they rejected the absurd claim that this collectivist colossus would advance their interests and refused to be coffined by it. The French and Dutch gave Brussels the boot. But they also signaled unceremoniously to the treacherous, EU-propping elites in Paris and The Hague to stop subverting the people’s will. Their passions may well be shared by “Yes” voters: nations that ratified the EU were often denied a referendum—their “representatives” in parliament sold them into statism without giving them a say.
All in all, Europeans seem to grasp what Americans refuse to. Liberty is associated with a dispersion of political power, never its concentration and centralization. Adding an overarching tier of tyrants—the EU—to European governments will benefit Europeans as a second hangman enhances the health of a condemned man.
©2005 Ilana Mercer