Here and Over There
Jørn K. Baltzersen
by Jørn K. Baltzersen
1787 a union of free and sovereign states was established on North
American soil, replacing the union based on the Articles
of Confederation. In 1957 the Treaty of Rome was signed, and
the European Community was established. The European Coal and Steel
Community was established already in 1952.
in 1787 was quite limited is now the world's only superpower with
little left of the original limitations on government power. In
1952 we had a limited coal and steel community. Now, we have the
European Union. The project of European integration does not seem
to have an end.
are told that the union of the United States of America and the
European Union are two so very different phenomena. Perhaps they
are more similar than we like to think?
I often hear that the European Union was established as a voluntary
union, while the United States of America "is" and "was"
established as a union from which one could not secede. Who teaches
these people history? Let's consider the dictum that history will
repeat itself. In the summer of 2002 I attended a lecture by former
federal German Chancellor Dr. Helmut Kohl at the Konrad
Adenauer Foundation in Berlin. He described the European Union
as a railway engine. The speed can be adjusted, but there is no
stopping or turning around. Moreover, secession is not an option.
The question is if we already have reached the point where secession
is not an option, i.e., there is no getting off.
actually many people rightly believe that the European Union is
a voluntary union. The European Union does not have military power
on its own to crush secessionists, but how long will that last?
The union on the west side of the North Atlantic was established
as a voluntary union and remained so until Abraham Lincoln was let
loose on the sovereign states. How long will it take for something
similar to happen on the east side of the North Atlantic? No one
today believes that a Member State of the European Union will try
seceding. Nowadays, most European national governments are interested
in getting into the union sadly, including Estonia and Cyprus,
countries with sound policies on free trade and bank secrecy
staying there, or getting even more integrated. But what will happen
when an attempt of secession is made? I think the answer depends
a whole lot on when it happens. Or perhaps the ghost of Abraham
Lincoln has a stronghold over Europe as well as over the United
States of America; thou shalt not secede from a union of democratic
we hear about the differences between Europe and the U.S., the national
differences in Europe come up. Well, it is true that most European
nations have much longer pre-union history than did the states that
unified in America. Moreover, the languages are completely different.
Although groups in the United States have had little or no knowledge
of the English language, it has always been the dominant language
of the union. When it comes to being, e.g., first of all Greek and
then European, this is not dissimilar to how it was in the early
days of the American union. For instance, Virginians were Virginians
critics of the European Union in the U.S. one often hears that the
problems of Europe are a result of the European tradition of being
ruled from above. Well, are they trying to tell us that Americans,
who let the federal government tell them what size their toilet
tanks can be, are not ruled from above? There is a democratic deficit
in the European Union, we hear from time to time. There is too little
accountability. Unaccountable bureaucrats have too much power. The
solution, we are told, is more democracy. So the democratically
elected European Parliament must have more power. What happened
in the United States when the people were guaranteed the right to
vote for U.S. Senator? Was it for the better? It seems that in our
present day world many problems of government amount to too little
democracy, and so we order more democracy. This is a perilous approach
1994 Norway had a referendum on joining the European Union. The
European Union was turned down in this advisory referendum. Perhaps
even more interesting than the EU debate itself was the debate on
whether to respect a simple majority in the referendum. Members
of the Norwegian Parliament were actually considering voting against
membership even if the people had voted for. These were decried,
and requirements for qualified majorities were generally argued
to be in place to ensure that a popular majority is behind the decision,
and that it is not just based on an arbitrary majority in Parliament.
The fact that the Constitutional Convention back in 1814 to a great
extent based its work on a proposed constitution containing a requirement
for a two-thirds majority referendum for constitutional amendments
does not fit in the democratism of today, and hence, such facts
are ignored. People who believe that every plebiscite should be
respected, should be asked: what if the issue were the abolition
of property rights?
to bureaucrats: they are not only in the Berlaymont building in
Brussels, they are in Athens, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, and in the
other national capitals of the European Union. There are not many
EU bureaucrats compared to all those working for national governments
around Europe. Similarly, the tax money that goes through the EU
organization is little compared to that which goes through national
governments. As Paul
Clark has pointed out, the EU organization is much smaller than
the federal government of the United States. So why not embrace
the European Union? Of course, the EU itself does not have much
means to force members into compliance, and not all members comply
equally, but harmonization is going on, and one should not underestimate
the power of the "gentlemen's agreement excuse" for implementing
EU regulations through national governments.
Dieteman, among others, has pointed out, the ability to vote
with your feet is a check on tyranny. As the European Union moves
into deeper and deeper integration, there will be less and less
institutional competition. The European Community was at the time
of the first Norwegian referendum on joining about trade. The Norwegians
said no. The Brits said yes. Not long ago I heard a Brit saying
that they were fooled. They were told that it was about trade, but
now it's about a lot more.
of what the European Union is about is assuring equal terms of competition.
If France has a minimum wage and Portugal does not, this is unequal
competition. If Germany has protection of labor "rights" and Greece
does not, this is unequal competition. One could push this further
by saying that if Sweden has a VAT or GST of 25% and Denmark a VAT
of 24%, this is unequal competition. This is a total perversion.
As Tibor Machan has pointed out in his
article on Ryanair's Charleroi affair, business is not some
kind of fair distribution process.
Prime Minister recently told the new members from Eastern Europe
that they had better start taxing their rich. Officially, there
is no tax harmonization in the European Union, yet, save harmonization
of VAT or GST. However, it is obvious that the socialists of Europe
in their hearts demand an income tax of what they would call "civilized",
i.e., it must be considerable, and it must at least be proportional.
Of course, a progressive tax is better. What these socialists do
not understand, or at least give the impression that they do not
understand, is that even with a proportional system rich people
pay more than average. There is today no tax harmonization, and
there is no EU income tax. Those United States of America were once
without a federal income tax. Will history repeat itself? Is it
already repeating itself?
European Union has set up a Charter
of Fundamental Rights. It was a part of the Treaty of Nice.
The Irish turned this treaty down in a referendum. Of course, there
was another referendum within short time, and the Irish accepted
it. Hence, there will be no new Irish referendum on the Treaty of
Nice. This is sort of like when a Southerner tells us in Gods
and Generals; if we lose, we really lose; if they lose, they
just go home [wording not exact]. The charter welfare state "rights"
and the charter is made in a way that seems to give the impression
that the politicians believe popular issues to be important, but
at the same time give no obligations at all. Property rights are
for instance stated in an article with such provisions that the
article is rendered meaningless.
a new European
Constitution is in the mold. To think that professional politicians
would set up something that actually would limit the powers of politicians
is quite naive. Moreover, the proposed constitution is not a single
document. It consists of several documents, and the Charter of Fundamental
Rights is one of them. I have heard several people argue that this
proposed constitution is bad handiwork, it were better if it looked
more like the U.S. Constitution. Well, to be frank that hasn't been
such a great success. Although Europe has a lot of history from
which the United States can learn, more than they have up until
now, I believe Europe also has something to learn from the history
of what was meant to be a constitutionally limited federal republic.
Moreover, what force is magically to transform a society just by
setting up a constitution like the American one?
listened to a lecture by a Member of the European Parliament last
November. He thought the proposed European Constitution was perhaps
not a good constitution for a nation, but still a good constitution
for a multi-national organization such as the European Union. I
think Europeans of today have big problems comprehending how similar
the European Union is to the Union on the other side of the North
Atlantic about 200 years ago. Of course, there are differences.
The world has advanced technologically. We now live in a democratic
and egalitarian age. We didn't then. There are lots of other differences,
but we need to focus on the similarities to avoid repeating the
errors of history.
proposed Constitution for the European Union has a provision for
metacompetence. The European Union itself is not to decide what
issues it can meddle in. Doesn't that sound like the enumerated
powers clause of the U.S. Constitution? What significance does it
have now? In addition comes a flexibility clause in the proposed
constitution, which opens for unanimous usurpations.
U.S. Constitution guarantees a republican form of government to
the states. So if Norway were to join the United States, we would
have to abolish the monarchy. If we join the European Union, we
would not have to do so. However, the European Union demands democracy
for all Member States. There is a similarity. The U.S. demands a
republican form of government. The EU demands democracy. The proposed
EU Constitution preamble opens with a quote from Thucydides; "Our
Constitution ... is called a democracy because power is in the hands
of not of a minority but of the greatest number." There is probably
one little country in the heart of Europe that will have to change
the basic principles of its government to be allowed to enter the
European Union, namely the Principality
of Liechtenstein. The EU demands democracy, and liberty must
process of reaching an agreement on the EU Constitution failed under
the Italian EU presidency last year. The Spaniards were among the
opponents not willing to compromise enough with the majority of
Member States. Now, we may see a new attitude from Spanish politicians.
Sadly, for quite some time I think we will see the European Union
falling into deeper and deeper integration.
time to time I hear the argument that the European Union must serve
as a global check on the power of the United States of America.
First of all, both the United States and the European Union represent
Western civilization. They have more in common than they like to
think. The philosophical cradle of American capitalism was in Europe.
The best thing Europe could do is to return to these sound roots.
How is it at the same time to serve as a balance against the United
States? The other, but unsound, option is to turn to more and more
socialism, but how is Europe then to compete? By the U.S. doing
conception that because there is one large power in the world everyone
else should unite to balance that power is perhaps a nice thought,
but what would be the result of that? Probably that we see larger
and larger political units, giving less and less institutional competition.
In the end voting with one's feet will no longer be an option, because
there will be no place to go.
K. Baltzersen [send him mail]
is a senior consultant of information technology in Oslo, Norway.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com