Kai Weiss considers Lord Acton's timely essay "Nationality" to better understand our current political fevers.
Returning to my house in France after a prolonged stay in England, I was at once struck on reading the French press by how differently the current economic, and indeed existential, crisis in Europe is conceived on either side of the Channel, at least by the commentariat. For the British, the problem has been caused by an overweening but incompetent centralizing political class and bureaucracy that saw in the common currency a means to extend its own power, a currency union not being long viable without a political union: a union that in the circumstances would have to be mandated bureaucratically rather that democratically. And indeed, the European political class has long sought to escape from the tedium of democratic interference.
For the French, on the other hand, the problem has been caused by rogue banks that have been allowed by governments to operate without proper control or regulation. It is hardly surprising that the solutions favored are rather different: the British favor a dissolution of the political powers of the European Union, the French an extension of them.
From my own British perspective, what is so remarkable about the French commentary is its lack of concern about constitutional checks and balances. There seems to be very little worry, at least among those who write in the newspapers, about the exercise of unbridled power by supposedly beneficent authority. For example, in Le Monde for 27 June, there is an article by an eminent jurist, Mireille Delmas-Marty, under the headline, “Let us create a European magistrature: It is necessary to fight against fraud.”
In essence, the article proposes one legal system for the whole of Europe. We read:
It has become clear that we will only solve the present crisis
by strengthening integration, that is to say political Europe.
But political Europe can be reduced neither to the governance
of the Euro nor to a European tax system. It must also consist
of the fight against the fraud that systematically empties the
coffers of the European Union.
This is a remarkable passage, not least because it manages to skate over the obvious fact that systematic fraud is not a mere deformation of the European Union but very nearly its raison d’être, and that an organization whose auditors have never once, in its entire history, dared to sign its accounts as being a true and accurate representation of its financial situation is unreformable except by abolition, by far the surest, easiest and most efficient solution.
Even more remarkable is the unexamined assumption that administrative uniformity is the answer to the crisis, an assumption so obvious to the author that, in her opinion, no reasonable person could doubt it. ‘It has become clear…’ says the author, without deigning to say to whom it has become clear. Le tout Bruxelles, perhaps? In fact, it is clear to precisely the kind of people who overrode their populations’ subsequently vindicated misgivings and imposed the Euro upon them, thus creating the crisis in the first place.
The author is unconcerned about the legitimacy of the source of the proposed uniform laws of Europe. For her it is not even a proper question to ask. She admits that it is unlikely that all the states, by which she means the governments of all the states, of Europe (the people simply don’t come into it), will agree to such a legal system, but continues:
Conversely, it is possible to use the route of ‘strengthened
co-operation’ recently invoked by the German Chancellor,
Angela Merkel: ‘We must not rest stationary because one or
other state is not ready.’
If the language does not send shivers up your spine, I suggest you apply for a job in Brussels.
The author calls on France to assume leadership:
If France launched the process, it would be easy to find at least
eight other states in favor of going ahead.
The corollary of this would seem to be that it would be equally easy to find a number of states (not to mention peoples) not in favor of going ahead; but they could safely be overruled, at least until the great Yugoslavian denouement at an unspecified date in the future.
Well, one article is only one article, you might say; it does not make policy. But it helps to create or strengthen the Zeitgeist. On the same page is an article by two leaders of the European Confederation of Unions titled “A new social contract to strengthen cohesion and solidarity in the Union.” The linguistic resemblance to Pravda is probably not coincidental.
Here we learn that:
Such a contract must be founded on three pillars: social
democracy – that is to say, importantly, respect for collective
bargaining – economic governance at the service of lasting
growth and good quality jobs, and lastly economic and social
justice (by means of policies of redistribution, taxation and
In other words, you can have any policy you like, so long as it is ours. (They do not demand a one party state, merely a one policy state.) There is not a word about political freedom in the article, nor about the permanent need for flexibility according to circumstances, nor anything about the role of economic liberty both as a moral ideal or as a stimulant of economic growth. Nor does it ever occur to them that the protection of some is the defenselessness of others. You cannot discriminate in favor of everyone.
The authors are as much in favor of uniformity in taxation as Le Corbusier was in favor of uniformity in architecture. No country in Europe should be permitted a different tax regime from any other (all taxes should be high, of course), because such competition is inherently unfair: it works to the disadvantage of drones everywhere. Again, the authors seem unaware of how their proposals might be received in Ireland, where their implementation would mean penury for decades, since low corporation taxes, along with its unfairly excellent and unprotected workforce, are its principal, though by no means certain, hope of salvation.
Reading Le Monde I feel like Lincoln Steffens, in that I have seen the future. And in Europe it is fascism.