The European Union: On the Road to Serfdom

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The French Finance Minister, Laurent Fabius, has "called…for the creation of an u2018avant garde’ of European states to press ahead with deeper integration."

As the Telegraph reports,

"Leaving aside the sometimes abstract debates between federalists and sovereignists, these countries could spearhead concrete projects." The advance group could "build a bridgehead" in key spheres such as defence, economic growth and harmonising social policy, he said.

Note the word choice by Minister Fabius: federalists and sovereignists. There are those who want a federal Europe, and those who want to retain the sovereignty of the independent states which make up Europe. Fabius is on the side of a federal Europe.

Despite these public statements, the Telegraph adds that French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (the boss of Mr. Fabius)

squashed German proposals for a European federation with a central government and defended the role of the nation state. But he also backed a European constitution and an indirectly elected EU president, ideas which were interpreted by Euro-sceptics as milestones on the path to a European superstate.

It is difficult to see where the Euro-sceptics had much interpreting to do. Proponents of a European superstate, for the most part, have ceased trying to hide their proclivities.

If anything, the comments by the French Finance Minister, and the French Prime Minister’s backing of a European constitution and a president, indicate that the French are not opposed to the creation of a European superstate in principle. No, they are opposed to a European superstate designed by someone other than themselves, in this case, the Germans.

To test this theory, examine the German proposal for what is euphemistically known as "European integration." The Telegraph reports that

Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, has reignited the debate over the future of the European Union by calling for the creation of a European government and a reformed and more powerful two-tier European Parliament.

The ideas are contained in a draft party document proposing radical changes to the EU institutions, which Mr Schröder believes are necessary to make an expanding community more democratic and effective. His Social Democrat Party confirmed last night that the plans, leaked to Der Spiegel magazine, had been drawn up under his supervision.

The article adds that," the Germans are pushing for a legally binding EU constitution that will define once and for all which powers lie with Brussels, which with national governments and which with regional politicians."

Memo to Europeans and intelligent persons the world around: putting it in writing settles nothing.

Many American states aped the contemporary European penchant for "putting it in writing" by enacting "civil codes," supposedly to make a law for everything and replace the ancient common law. The idea was that "putting it in writing" would eliminate any confusion which might result from judges applying the law without benefit of legislative pronouncements. As it turned out, of course, these "civil codes" do nothing but add a layer the to the judicial task. In addition to applying the law as decided in prior court cases, judges must also apply the words of the civil code. No matter how clear these words might be, they cannot cover all cases, and hence must be interpreted to fit the circumstances of particular cases and avoid injustice. "Putting it in writing," in the form of "civil codes," has only served to make the law more complex.

Where constitutional law is concerned, after the revolution against England, the United States (plural) operated under a constitution known as the Articles of Confederation. When these were found unsatisfactory to the nationalists and northern manufacturing interests, they were scrapped — in violation of their express provisions governing amendments — in favor of a new constitution, this time actually entitled "Constitution of the United States." That was in 1789.

Lest one object that the American states were never sovereign and independent in the way that France and Germany are today, it must be noted that the states which joined together in the Continental Congress to win independence from England were indeed sovereign and independent states. The Treaty of Paris, signed by King George III, which ended the American Revolution in 1783, explicitly recognizes the American states as such (in the international law sense of formal recognition). These sovereign states then entered into the Articles of Confederation, and later entered into the Constitution.

Despite the fact that the First Amendment to the constitution of 1789 provides that "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," in 1798, John Adams (the second president of the USA) signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts. In particular, Section Two of the Sedition Act provided

That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

"Putting it in writing," then, was no guarantee. Despite the plain language of the First Amendment, the Federalist Party criminalized political opposition to the regime. Only nine years into the life of the federal regime created by the constitution ratified in 1789, the federal government had monstrously overstepped its bounds. One of the publishers punished under the Sedition Act was Benjamin Franklin Bache — the grandson of Benjamin Franklin. Bache died shortly after his release from prison.

The Sedition Act expired by its own terms on March 3, 1801. By that time, the Federalist Party had been swept from power, and Thomas Jefferson’s party let the act die, as the act had only been passed to persecute Jefferson and his party.

Prior to his election in 1800, however, Jefferson wrote the Kentucky Resolution of 1799 and the Virginia Resolution of 1798. The resolutions of both states note that the states to be sovereign and independent. On December 3, 1799, the Commonwealth of Kentucky

RESOLVED, That this commonwealth considers the federal union, upon the terms and for the purposes specified in the late compact, as conducive to the liberty and happiness of the several states: That it does now unequivocally declare its attachment to the Union, and to that compact, agreeable to its obvious and real intention, and will be among the last to seek its dissolution: That if those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact, by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, annihilation of the state governments, and the erection upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence: That the principle and construction contended for by sundry of the state legislatures, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism; since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the constitution, would be the measure of their powers: That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under colour of that instrument, is the rightful remedy: That this commonwealth does upon the most deliberate reconsideration declare, that the said alien and sedition laws, are in their opinion, palpable violations of the said constitution; and however cheerfully it may be disposed to surrender its opinion to a majority of its sister states in matters of ordinary or doubtful policy; yet, in momentous regulations like the present, which so vitally wound the best rights of the citizen, it would consider a silent acquiescence as highly criminal: That although this commonwealth as a party to the federal compact; will bow to the laws of the Union, yet it does at the same time declare, that it will not now, nor ever hereafter, cease to oppose in a constitutional manner, every attempt from what quarter soever offered, to violate that compact:

AND FINALLY, in order that no pretexts or arguments may be drawn from a supposed acquiescence on the part of this commonwealth in the constitutionality of those laws, and be thereby used as precedents for similar future violations of federal compact; this commonwealth does now enter against them, its SOLEMN PROTEST.

On December 24, 1798, the Virginia Resolution stated, in part,

That the General Assembly doth also express its deep regret, that a spirit has in sundry instances, been manifested by the federal government, to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that implications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases (which having been copied from the very limited grant of power, in the former articles of confederation were the less liable to be misconstrued) so as to destroy the meaning and effect, of the particular enumeration which necessarily explains and limits the general phrases; and so as to consolidate the states by degrees, into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable consequence of which would be, to transform the present republican system of the United States, into an absolute, or at best a mixed monarchy.

That the General Assembly doth particularly protest against the palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution, in the two late cases of the "Alien and Sedition Acts" passed at the last session of Congress; the first of which exercises a power no where delegated to the federal government, and which by uniting legislative and judicial powers to those of executive, subverts the general principles of free government; as well as the particular organization, and positive provisions of the federal constitution; and the other of which acts, exercises in like manner, a power not delegated by the constitution, but on the contrary, expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments thererto; a power, which more than any other, ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed, the only effectual guardian of every other right.

That this state having by its Convention, which ratified the federal Constitution, expressly declared, that among other essential rights, "the Liberty of Conscience and of the Press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified by any authority of the United States," and from its extreme anxiety to guard these rights from every possible attack of sophistry or ambition, having with other states, recommended an amendment for that purpose, which amendment was, in due time, annexed to the Constitution; it would mark a reproachable inconsistency, and criminal degeneracy, if an indifference were now shewn, to the most palpable violation of one of the Rights, thus declared and secured; and to the establishment of a precedent which may be fatal to the other.

Recall that Jefferson also authored the Declaration of Independence, which prominently declared that

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

In other words, men are created equal, and possessed of certain natural rights. In order to secure their natural rights, the states created the Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation, and finally the Constitution. These various governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed. A government can have power — unjust power — without the consent of the governed. But that was not the aim of the American Declaration of Independence, and so Jefferson authored the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions to protest the unjust federal trampling of the First Amendment.

Later, in 1861, when a number of American states withdrew their consent from the government of the Constitution, declaring that the federal government had violated the Constitution — by the imposition of exorbitant tariffs on some states to benefit other states, and by the selective enforcement of federal laws pertaining to slavery — and that the federal government was seen as intent upon further violating the constitution in the way in which it would approach the slavery question (i.e., slavery could be dealt with, even abolished, constitutionally, but that did not appear to be the intent of the Northern states and their Congressmen), the federal government refused to let them go peacefully.

No matter what one might think of the morality of slavery, it is a separate question whether the federal government has the power to force a state to become or remain a party to the constitution. Assuming that the people, acting through their representatives in the government, wish to do something, the question remains to be asked whether the government has the power to do such a thing. This is the notion of limited government. In America, as observed in 1865 by Richard Yates, the Republican governor of Illinois, limited government was largely destroyed by the war which Abraham Lincoln started in 1861.

Abraham Lincoln raised troops to force the people of these states to accept the will of the more numerous and more politically powerful states. In doing so, Lincoln expressly denied that the states were free and independent. In a bit of bizarre rhetoric, he declared the union of the Constitution (ratified in 1789) to be "older than the states" — despite the fact that states such as Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maryland were settled in the 1600s.

In response to Lincoln’s call for troops, other states — Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina — declared that they had withdrawn their consent to the constitution. The federal government, they declared, had usurped its powers in calling for troops to force other states to submit to the federal government. Another state — Maryland — would very likely have seceded as well if Abraham Lincoln had not imprisoned 31 of its legislators, the mayor of Baltimore, as well as many Baltimore policemen, and numerous newspaper editors and publishers. Marylanders were subjected to midnight searches of their homes, all in the name of "preserving loyalty."

After a bloody, destructive, four year war, in which 620,000 men died, the states whose case rested upon the consent of the governed were defeated. The American elites relegated the notion of federalism — shared powers between the states and the federal government in a federal system — to the scrap pile. From then on, the federal government has steadily expanded its role as central and sole authority in all things.

The American plan of government was in writing. The constitution created a government of limited, delegated powers. During the American Civil War, and ever since, the writing has been ignored.

It is not that the politicians of Europe have not learned the lessons of American history. The reason for the rush to European union is that Europe is dominated by collectivists.

Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor who wants Europe to put its separation of powers in writing, is a Social Democrat. A social democrat, much like an American Democrat, believes in collectivist, state action ratified at the ballot box, i.e., socialism through democracy. Liberty and property are things of the past; they stand in the way of enlightened leaders doing good things for everyone.

The French ministers — Jospin, the Prime Minister, and his Finance Minister Fabius — are members of the Socialist Party.

Collectivists simply cannot enact their schemes so long as people are free to flee. The ability to vote with your feet is a check on tyranny. As Europe moves toward "deeper integration," i.e. toward the creation of a European superstate, the checks on tyranny gradually will be removed.

"Getting it in writing" will not make Europe better-off. The French, Germans, English and Dutch must realize that they are better off without a federal government over their sovereign heads, provided, of course, that they value their liberty and their property.

Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2001 David Dieteman

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