Vive la France!

On May 29th, French voters rejected the European Constitution, so kicking all establishment Pols in the eye; a resounding 55-45 said "Non." A couple of days later, Dutch ones did the same by an even wider margin. Right result, wrong reasons.

I may be the only writer on Strike The Root who ever cast a vote for or against the European Union. It was in the UK in 1976, and is the last public vote I ever cast for anything; the issue was about whether Britain should join what was touted then as the "Common Market" and I was fooled, and I chose "Yes." I was deceived not about the virtues of bigger markets, but about the claim that the development of a unified Europe had much to do with a "market."

It is entirely typical of the political class that if they need the endorsement of voters, they will portray the measure in terms the voter is likely to approve, whether those terms actually have anything to do with the measure or not.

I was at the time deeply ignorant about free-market theory and had never heard the L-word, but had done some traveling and could see with both eyes closed how absurd it was to have to show papers to bureaucrats every time one crossed a national boundary, and "declare" certain goods in one's own possession so that money could be surrendered. The "common market" sales pitch promised that all that would go, if Britain were to join, so of course I voted Yes.

Reality has yet to catch up with the promise. Three decades later, it's true that most goods can now cross European borders without tariffs, and that people can do the same with less formal paperwork than before. What might have taken 30 days took 30 years, but the big deception was that the whole purpose of the exercise was and is not to liberate 400 million people from ridiculous bureaucracy but to enslave them in yet another layer of government, on top of the ones they already have.

A large bureaucracy has developed in Brussels . A parliament, of sorts, is at work in Strasbourg . A currency, the Euro, has been sold to many but not all of the electorates--and has done surprisingly well against the US Dollar, given the heavy socialism of the governments that gave up their individual powers to print money. But the purpose of it all is to reduce the liberty of individuals to play one government off against another; to spread assets and incomes, for example, so as to optimize or eliminate taxes. That is why two dozen sets of Pols are talking to each other; that, and the lucrative career opportunities opened up by the possibility of a supra-government with teeth. (Today, it has only gums.)

The proposed Constitution would have extended the Union (Eastwards) and extended the power of the Euro-Feds; creating for example a Presidency and a Foreign Secretariat, a kind of superpower in preparation. You can almost hear those Pols salivating at the thought; the collapse of the Soviet Union left a vacuum and they are rushing to fill it.

But the French and Dutch said No. Good; it will at least postpone the evil day and possibly give Europeans time to reflect that, like me, they have all been hornswaggled. Government is a truly terrible idea, and bigger government is worse yet.

The reasons that probably most influenced the French are, alas, less savory. Yes, there is a kind of dumb resentment against untrustworthy politicians doing things Jean Francois doesn't understand--fine--but mostly they dislike the idea of more Turks competing in France for their jobs. As the Union extends Eastwards, low-wage Poles and Slovaks et al are free to seek work anywhere, and of course that's upsetting to existing workers whose wage may well have been held well above market rates by the trade unions, quite powerful still in France . Then there is xenophobia where Moslems are concerned, and Turkey has a lot of them and Turks (as gastarbeiter) have already become numerous in neighboring Germany . There's a strong resemblance between all such bigotry and the kind in America that opposes immigration. Even in Holland, fears of a Muslim invasion are understandable, for the Dutch Empire in Indonesia is now coming back to bite them, just as the British one in India, Pakistan and the Caribbean has been doing since the 1960s. It's all politically incorrect, but it's very real.

The thought even crossed my mind that profound hypocrisy is at work. Labor is free to move, but in "Old Europe," unemployment rates are kept around 10%, so very few jobs can be found, which limits the inflow of foreigners from "New Europe" in the East; so the Pols can claim to favor free markets while the xenophobes are protected from competition enough to support the ongoing rush to a new, central governing structure. That's the scam that just came unstuck.

So I greet the news from Paris with mixed feelings; the probable intention of the naysayers was to reject a free market in labor, yet the outcome will be to postpone the further destruction of all freedoms by yet another government body. Such is politics; always a compromise, a mixture, never a clean result such as is rendered millions of times every day as free people make sovereign decisions about what to buy and sell.

Democracy makes a truly pathetic alternative to market liberty.

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