Posted by Lexington Green on May 29th, 2005 (All posts by Lexington Green)
As predicted, the French rejected the EU Constitution. Early reports say it was a whopping 57.26 percent voting “non”.
Bravo to every Jacques and Jeannette who jammed a finger in the eye of the enarques and the whole rest of the out-of-touch elite in France. This is almost as good as the purple fingers in Iraq. It is a step in the right direction.
Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who wrote the thing, said countries that reject the treaty will be “asked to vote again”. Maybe he should be asked to take advantage of this opportunity to remain silent. How about, no means no, Valery? How about a Plan B? How about something different for Europe than a gray, lifeless, undemocratic, unaccountable bureaucracy lodged in Brussels sucking what life remains out of the old continent? How about a “Europe of fatherlands”, as De Gaulle wanted? How about not pretending that Denmark and Portugal and Malta and Italy are all really part of one country when they aren’t? How about a plan that will accommodate reality? Back to the drawing board, I hope.
The fact that anti-Americanism drove much of the vote doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t want people to like us nearly as much as I want them to be able to govern themselves the way they see fit, have real elections with real consequences, and get the benefits and bear the consequences of those decisions. If the French don’t want capitalisme sauvage or anglo-saxonisme or hyper-liberalisme, OK by me. They are free to have as much socialism as they can get away with. It’s their country. And with this vote it will stay their country for a while longer. Good.
On to Holland.
UPDATE: I think this is the first time I have been quoted in Le Monde, or translated into French by anybody. Thanks to Jonathan Curiel for the heads-up.
UPDATE II: I have been reading Lord Acton’s essay “Political Causes of the American Revolution”. He wrote it in 1861 and the “Revolution” he is talking about is what we have come to call the Civil War. Anyway, he is discussing the drafting and ratification of the US Constitution. The difference between that episode and this business in Europe could not be more stark. The Americans were intensely concerned with the precise language of the Constitution and what powers would be granted to each element of the Government and what powers would remain with the states, etc. They really believed that the Constitution would be a body of law that they would all have to live under. The Europeans hardly ever seem to talk about the actual text of the document. It is all symbolism, and scare tactics and vaporizing about the “idea of Europe”. But, I think at some level the fact that this was a badly drafted, vague and overbroad document had something to do with its rejection. The French are attached to their way of life. They want to know what will happen to it. They want clear answers. This document did not give clear answers. Whether I happen to like or agree with their “social model” or not, as free people living in a democratic society, they are entitled to those clear answers. And they were not getting them.
UPDATE III: My friend Stockholm Expat Pundit (“SEP”) wrote with some thoughts: “It is very clear that the EU is a project marketed under false pretenses. At every point the public is told this is not going to be the United States of Europe with a capital in Brussels. But the facts suggest the opposite. … Naturally people are suspicious of a secret agenda.” But he mentions that the EU will cause the Swedes, probably, “to get rid of onerous state monopolies controlling the retail sales of alcohol and pharmaceutical products. Europe will be better off economically as goods, labor and capital flow more freely.” Of course the voters in France were opposed to exactly this. SEP however is concerned that if the EU “were to lose momentum and fall on its head, the resulting mess would not be good for world stability.” He closes with the question “[A]re there countries that are too big or too diverse to function democratically? The moment the USSR liberalized its political system, all the scars of history were torn apart.”
I too am in favor of political and economic coordination in Europe. But not something done, as you say, under false pretenses. And it should be accountable and it should have transparency and it should be democratic and it is none of those. Moreover, THIS Constitution is an atrocity and should be rejected. Europe is not a bicycle, it will exist whatever happens, but they need to go back to the drawing board. The American Constitutional ratification experience was one of open and strong public debate about the document, what it would mean, etc. This conversation in Europe is too abstract. The leaders there do not trust the public. They despise the public. That is obvious. And it is becoming mutual.
I don’t think that Europe is too big or too diverse to be democratic. It needs true federalism. Local democracy, with delegated and delimited powers, clearly defined, at the Union level is what they need. They need a better document which accomplishes that. Whether it is called a Constitution or a treaty is another question. The latter would probably be better.
Update IV. My friend Alberta Anglosphere Pundit (“AAP”) sends a link to the blog of Corine Lesnes, the author of the Le Monde article. I can’t read the French, but as AAP correctly notes: “Clearly she’s keeping an eye on the evil doings of folks like powerline and chicagoboyz. I think she found your enarque slur too good to pass up. Probably shocked that you knew the term!” Oh, some of us Americans do know a little bit about France.
UPDATE V: Wretchard agrees that Europe needs a better proposal, that merely saying NON won’t stop this thing: “The real challenge for Europeans, especially Eastern Europeans and the British, is to articulate an alternative vision for the Continent. The European vision needs a second party in order to make up a debate.” The “antis” should get together and agree what they’d like to see and start preparing an alternative draft. You can not, for long, defeat something with nothing. An “alternative vision for Europe” needs to be proposed, so that “Europe” as an idea is not the sole possession of the Brussels and Paris elites. I just don’t know off hand who should be doing the drafting of Proposal B.
UPDATE VI: On further reflection, a new EU treaty (not a Constitution) should at minimum (1) dissolve the Brussels bureaucracy, (2) create a free trade zone, (3) expressly state that it is NOT dedicated to an “ever closer union” but that Union level institutions are limited strictly to their enumerated powers, etc. Since the EU in some form is not going to go away. It is time for the sensible people to take the offensive, define what the EU ought to be, and start pushing to make it into what it ought to be. Maybe the UKIP should take the lead on proposing an alternative treaty? Keep it short. Five or ten pages. That should be plenty. Call it the New European Union Treaty NEUT. Short for neutered or neutralized. New Europe, which I think is better thought of as the Old Warsaw Pact, plus the UK, plus the Netherlands could be the main proponents. UK + NE + OWP = a coalition to counterbalance France, Spain, Benelux, etc.
If the people who do not like what the EU is becoming just keep waiting for these elections and hoping they win — eventually they will lose. These guys will just hold elections over and over until they win. An alternative has to be proposed and ratified instead. Time to take the war to the enemy. It is the only way to win this thing once and for all.
UPDATE VII: Good post on Samizdata on this issue. Bonus feature: I am castigated for making “naive” and “impromptu” suggestions in the comments. I must have a stiff drink now, and recover from this drubbing.