The military historian Anthony Beevor (author of this and this) has a good op-ed in today’s New York Times. Beevor notes that Blair is facing the biggest political challenge of his life with a referendum on the EU Constitution, with 70% of the electorate opposed to it:
The decision over the Constitution is probably the most important Britain has faced since World War II. I will vote against it for several reasons. Most important, a genuinely democratic constitution, like that of the United States, defines the limits of power of the state over the individual. Yet the draft European Constitution is almost entirely about amassing power for a superstate. It is antidemocratic, dangerous and throughly out of date.
Beevor also has strong and sensible criticism of the Brussels regime:
And above all, a European superstate is out of date at a time when globalization demands flexibility. No wonder German and French industries are terrified of their inability to compete with the Asian economies. Perhaps the most depressing characteristic of the Brussels Mentality is its urge to meddle. It is a prime example of what I call the first law of bureau-dynamics. The desire to regulate becomes self-perpetuating, because bureaucrats who are not seeking to introduce further controls are clearly not doing their job.
Strikes me as odd that the New York Times would publish a criticism of bureaucratic meddling. How un-progressive. But there it is.
On the same page there is a good critique of the “Chunnel”, which is now ten years old but has little reason to celebrate. The thing has been losing lots of money. The author attributes this to the failure of Britain and France to “forge closer links.” But this metaphorical language doesn’t really capture what he describes more aptly in the rest of the article. There are plenty of “links” between the countries. Air and sea travel work fine. There was no need for an immense infrastructure project built at taxpayer expense to satisfy a non-existent demand for rail travel. The French excel at these types of grandiose grandes projets. (Sylvain, did I spell that right?) These vast, expensive schemes are not meant to serve any vulgar end like economic efficiency or utility, but rather are meant to be overt symbols of the overarching wisdom and power of the French state.
The EU itself is a similar thing, but on the largest possible scale. The EU is not about what it actually, concretely is and does. It is about what it symbolizes. It is a gigantic piece of performance art. You are supposed to squint at it and imagine that there is an “idea of Europe” which is the essence, the deeper reality, behind the surface of a fantastically expensive, intrusive, initiative-strangling, unaccountable bureaucracy.
Let’s hope the Brits (and anybody else who is voting on it) wake up and reject this monstrosity while they still can.