May 27, 2005

Why the Likely Non?

It's becoming increasingly clear that France will vote no to the EU constitution this coming Sunday. Yes, B.D. has proven to be an immensely poor prognosticator in the past, but I'm pretty sure that's the way it's going to go. For one, the nasty recriminations are already starting to flow. Witness, from the FT (subscription required):

France's Yes campaign descended into recrimination yesterday amid pessimism that voters will reject the European constitutional treaty in a referendum on Sunday. Valery Giscard d'Estang, the former French President and author of the European constitution, yesterday blamed the government's lack of conviction on Europe for the failure to halt the advance of the anti-treaty campaign.

Just days before France holds its referendum on the European treaty on May 29, polls shows an almonst daily increase in the No vote. Paris Match, the weekly magazine, yesterday published a survey showing 54 per cent against the treaty.

In an interview with Les Echos, the French financial newspaper, Mr. Giscard d'Estaing said France's political leaders were "used to the idea of Europe", but he said they were not deeply motivated by it. "When we meet difficulties they often blame Europe. So how can we be surprised then that the French have a bad idea of Europe?" he asked.

Mr. Giscard d'Estaing said it would have been better for politicians to say out of the campaign, leaving academics, business and the media to do the job. "We know that in France referendums almost automatically slide towards becoming plebescites [on the government]. It would have been better for the public powers to keep their distance, to avoid that temptation."

The standard reason we often hear that the European project is endangered (of which the Constitution is such a critical part) is that it is viewed as a pet project of the political elites, seeking to impose a supranational Brussels Eurocracy, issuing diktats willy-nilly to the skeptical masses who, on the Left, are suspicious Thatcherite liberalism will be shoved down their collective throats, and on the Right, are concerned that ancient repositories of national gloire and patrimoine risk bespoilment amidst all the worrisome supra-national centralization. There is some of all this, to be sure. And relatedly, but in more general vein, it is worth seeing how Anatole Kaletsky puts it a bit differently in The Times (London):

What people are voting against is not just one or other particular clause of the constitution, nor even its general tenor, whether this is too liberal or insufficiently so. The real bugbear is the idea of any unified constitution that attempts to impose a single system of government on the whole of Europe and purports to harmonise away the political philosophies, economic preferences and social traditions developed in different nations over hundreds of years.

But if Giscard d'Estaing is right, and the reason the Yes camp is having such a hard go of it is the unpopularity of the current government, what more does that tell us about why the EU Constitution might bite the dust on Sunday in France? Well, in large part, it's the economy stupid, per Anatole Kaletsky:

The people of France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands may be angry about globalisation or ultra-liberalism or immigration, but this reflects a deeper malaise. Their living standards are falling, their pensions are in danger, their children are jobless and their national pride is turning into embarrassment and even shame. In sum, they feel that their countries, which numbered among the world’s richest and most powerful nations as recently as the middle of the last decade, have gone to the dogs under the leadership of the present generation of politicians. And, at least in the economic sense, they are absolutely right.

The relative economic decline of “old” Europe since the early 1990s — especially of Germany and Italy, but also of the Netherlands and France — has been a disaster almost unparalleled in modern history. While Britain and Japan certainly suffered some massive economic dislocations, in the early 1980s and the mid-1990s respectively, they never experienced the same sort of permanent transformation from thriving full-employment economies to stagnant societies where mass unemployment and falling living standards are accepted as permanent facts of life. In Britain, unemployment more than doubled from 1980 to 1984, but conditions then quickly improved. By the late 1980s it was enjoying a boom, the economy was growing by 4 per cent and unemployment had halved. In continental Europe, by contrast, unemployment has been stuck between 8 and 11 per cent since 1991 and growth has reached 3 per cent only once in those 14 years.

This dreadful economic performance is more than enough to explain the political angst among Europeans. But what does it mean for the future of Europe? If Europe’s economy remains paralysed, then the federalist project is clearly dead, as are all hopes of further significant EU enlargement. But if the economy recovered, the disillusionment with EU politics might quickly vanish.

Incidentally, Kaletsky thinks the only way to resuscitate the European project is to devalue the Euro and lower interest rates to so as to jump-start real, sustainable economic growth through the big, motor economies of Euro-Land. But I'll leave that issue for another time and focus instead on a post-mortem (hopefully not an embarrasingly premature one!) of the likely No vote Sunday. Like so often in history, I suspect the reason the EU constitution will be voted down in France on Sunday is due to multiple variables, a confluence of factors--not necessarily one dominant monocausal narrative.

To recap, then: the Left views EU-Land as an Anglo-Saxon encroachment on their cherished (and embarrasingly scelerotic) social welfare state. The nostalgic Right misses things like de Gaulle's timarchic evocations of France's force de frappe and wonders worriedly about what servility to the Bruxellian yoke would mean. Yes, of course, the economy looms large too. It has been stagnant for years, and chronic unemployment rankles, humiliates, angers even. There are also the problems associated with integrating immigrants from North Africa and points beyond. Such efforts at integration have gotten trickier of late, as violent events in iconic havens of libertinism like Amsterdam have showcased. It's not far-fetched in the least to see more nativist backlash taking root in the years ahead. This too will likely have unfortunate economic ramifications. And, lest we forget, there is d'Estaing's point about the No's gaining strength because the vote is basically a plebescite on Chirac's government. No surprise, that. Chirac has increasingly become a discredited figure, peddling a transparently cheap version of neo-Gaullism (along with his old cohort Dominique de Villepin proferring whimsical, Boucherian-like dandyism, mixed with doses of theatrical neo-Napoleonic grandeur--meant to be taken seriously so as to pass for a real foreign policy). Corruption charges persistently nip at and dog Chirac too, of course. And much like another discredited figure, Gerhard Schroder, Chirac resorted to a paltry anti-Americanism (so soon after the death of 3,000 from that country in the largest terrorist attack in history); mostly because he had little but this diversion to peddle to his disillusioned public so as to distract them from a moribund economy, their manifold doubts about centralization of power in Brussels, their immigration fears, the specter of a political life in growing decay with charisma-less mediocrities like Lionel Jospin on the Left and too charismatic neo-fascists like Le Pen on the Right. (Worth noting, despite all the negativity, leaders like Tony Blair who took the harder road still end up, ultimately, being rewarded by their publics. People smell out character and conviction; just as they smell out opportunists and cads).

So here we are. We might say it has been an ugly few years for France, set to get worse as the discord and recriminations and confusion stemming from a referendum defeat on Sunday looms so large. I can't say I'm surprised, truth be told. More and more, I think of France more as a country to visit simply to enjoy the great wines (yes, they are better than their Californian cousins), the surf of Biarritz, the sunny decadence of the Riviera, the "elegant third world" (Baudrillard's memorable description of how Los Angelenos view old European cities like Paris) of that most beautiful of capitals, the Grand Marnier soufles, a good drink at the old Ritz bar off Place Vendome. But I don't look at her as a real leader now or in the forseeable future. Intellectually, militarily, culturally, or otherwise. C'est triste, non? Do I have any hope for the future? Yes, Nicolas Sarkozy assuming the Presidency and instituting some form of 'shock therapy' along the lines Kaltesky suggests. But we're not there yet. And would the French people even be bold enough to go along with such an ambitious project? Or will they instead continue to languish amidst the quaint comforts of their perennial labor strikes, their risible 35 hour weeks (that's less than half a typical week in large swaths of Manhattan, friends!), their bloated pension system? Developing, as they say. And pour le pire, at least in the short term, alas.

Posted by Gregory at May 27, 2005 03:52 AM | TrackBack (7)

I don't think the British public thinks of Tony Blair in terms of "character and conviction". Blair made a morally principled and articulate stand against the majority of his own party on the Iraq war; but until then he had been associated with slipperiness and spin.

Blair survived the recent elections partly because of the lack of quality opposition and partly because the electorate recognizes him as a fiscal moderate.

Blair's antiwar opponents tried to paint his support for war as part and parcel of his general dishonesty. Fortunately, Blair's manifest conviction on the subject seems to have blunted this attack, and the election ended up demonstrating that fervently antiwar voters are a smallish minority.

Posted by: sammler at May 27, 2005 08:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Anti-Americanism was one of the forces driving federalization --- there was a perceived need for a unified Europe because, confronted with the US hegemon, only in unity could Europeans hope to control their future. The Iraq disaster has demonstrated that the US is not as all-powerful as once thought, and that the radical step of European unity was no longer necessary.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 27, 2005 12:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak, no offence, but that has no place in reality.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at May 27, 2005 01:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


P's position may be correct, even if it has "no basis in reality". What matters in the case of a plebiscite is not the reality, but what voters think reality is. If voters in Europe think our adventures in Iraq have weakened us so that we are no longer a threat requiring the EU, that's interesting to know. I would like to know the sources for the assertion. (Is it links, or would I have to live in France to know, or read a book?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at May 27, 2005 02:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I live in the UK and from where I'm sitting, if it features at all, the idea that French voters believe there is no need for a unified Europe as Iraq proves the United States isn't as powerful as they thought, and therefore not worth counterbalancing (which is what I read as put forward), would be well down the list, behind:

- Fear of 'neo-liberalism' (ie Capitalism)
- Fear of further Muslim immigration from Turkey (given it is likely to join the EU upon the implementation of the Constitution)
- Fear of further economic decline, particularly thanks to outsourcing to Eastern European countries with lower labour costs etc etc

These and the other main motives behind the upcoming (likely) French rejection of the constitution are well documented, I think it's safe to wager that the influence of America and its actions are if anything a boon to pro-constitution forces rather than those who are against. Being Anti-American isn't the be-all and end-all of European politics unsuprisingly enough.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at May 27, 2005 03:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg (or anyone else who may know):

Does this make sense as an additional factor--

Given the fact that the EU constitution is so long and complicated that few have read it and fewer understand it, voters are being asked to vote not so much on this particular constitution as on the idea of blindly accepting government of and by obscure bureaucrats, trusting functionaries to lay down rules that are fair and make sense.

That is, is a vote for "no" really a vote for a more democratic process?

Posted by: byrd at May 27, 2005 03:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't mean to dismiss any of the ideas raised here about the French vote on the EU Constitution; I'm sure many of them are quite valid.

One can't help but reflect, though, that requesting popular approval of a document as lengthy and complex as the EU Constitution is just asking for trouble. How many of the people voting on it have read it? How many have even studied a summary of the thing?

You can say the French people are to blame for not deliberating more carefully about such an important subject, or -- as I'm sure many members of the French buristocracy believe -- that entrusting something like this to a popular vote is almost Anglo-Saxon in its foolishness. The alternative is to believe that the length and complexity of the Constitution, irrespective of its contents, makes it unworthy of support.

Across the Atlantic a document far briefer and less specific, indeed maddeningly ambiguous on many points and not ratified by popular referendum at all, has served as the legal foundation of a continental empire for well over two centuries. The substance of that model is what Giscard and the EU should have used when they set out to draft their own Constitution.

Posted by: JEB at May 27, 2005 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

if anybody speaks french here, you may be interested in reading this:

points of view of "oui" and "non" voters

Posted by: zuavo at May 27, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The people of France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands may be angry about globalisation or ultra-liberalism or immigration, but this reflects a deeper malaise. Their living standards are falling, their pensions are in danger, their children are jobless and their national pride is turning into embarrassment and even shame. In sum, they feel that their countries, which numbered among the world’s richest and most powerful nations as recently as the middle of the last decade, have gone to the dogs under the leadership of the present generation of politicians. And, at least in the economic sense, they are absolutely right.

I think the "economic malaise" thing tends to be exaggerated somewhat, especially once you look beyond Italy and Germany. I've recently let my subscription to the Economist lapse, but my rough recollection is that out of these 4 only Italy and Germany have experienced sustained economic stagnation. Not sure about the Netherlands, but France has done alright in terms of economic growth. (As in, negligible or negative economic growth.) As far as unemployment, the big three countries have problems but the Netherlands does not.

Posted by: Guy at May 27, 2005 05:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oops... the parenthetical comment "(As in...)" should have come in after the comment about Italy and Germany, not after the comment about France.

Posted by: Guy at May 27, 2005 05:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The EU elites have entirely misread the public. The prevailing mood in Germany, Italy, Holland and France is one of frustration and disappointment with the political class. Kaletsky is right that unemployment and stagnation explain much of this, but my colleagues and friends in France and Italy also indicate a strong belief that the elites are focused on grand ambitions in the international sphere, to the exclusion of domestic needs.

It's a bit like the mood we saw in the US in 1991-92 and to a lesser extent in the runup to the NAFTA debate. Ordinary Europeans who do not work for multinationals or for the EU do not have any interest in the grand project to make the EU into a superpower rival to the US. They want what most people in most countries want: greater economic security.

I suspect that continental west Europeans perceive, correctly, that to the extent the EU elites pursue their chimera of an economically-competitive EU that can and will stand up to the US, there will be less economic security for ordinary Europeans.

The people get it: can't challenge the hyperpower without becoming more like the hyperpower. Setting out to preserve distinctly unAmerican nature of the EU against a supposedly rapacious US hyperpower, the EU elites will have to scale back EU social policies.

The illogic of the EU's amerophobic mission is coming around to bite them in the ass. Most Europeans are simply asking why it's not enough for Europe to be quietly prosperous, peaceful and a minor player on the world stage. Can't blame 'em.

Posted by: thibaud at May 27, 2005 06:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


"More and more, I think of France more as a country to visit simply to enjoy the great wines (yes, they are better than their Californian cousins)"

Not true, unless you confine your selection to the very top of the market.

Yes, the great bordeaux are far superior to California red wines, but most French wine under $30/bottle today is crap. Standards have fallen, there's too much production generally, and a lot of French wine wasn't very good to begin with.

Otherwise, I agree with your analysis. I'm sure most Europeans would gladly choose to be left alone and reasonably prosperous over international grandeur, given that the latter requires greater austerity and US-style liberal economic policies.

Posted by: thibaud at May 27, 2005 06:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re. economic stagnation, look beyond the GDP growth stats and focus on people's perceptions of economic security. Imagine you're a mid-level cadre in a French company. Whatever your function - F&A, IT, HR, design - if you're not a front-line, customer-facing professional, your job's vulnerable to offshoring, either to Poland or Hungary or Czech. (Note that France is, after the US and UK, expected to offshore more jobs than any other nation in the world in the next five years).

Now imagine that you read of EU leaders' wish to liberalize the services market as well, enabling Polish accountants, programmers etc to compete freely with you and your potentially redundant colleagues. And also that many EU leaders want to extend the EU to Turkey as well!

Isn't it understandable that most Frenchmen think the EU project has gone a little too far, too fast?

Posted by: thibaud at May 27, 2005 06:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can't agree with you on that, thibaud. Standards in the French wine industry have actually improved substantially in recent years, in large measure due to the pressure of competition from New World winemakers and investment from outside France. There is much more good French wine at reasonable prices, and relatively less overpriced plonk, than there was a decade or so ago. This is also true about wine from most other major wine regions.

Which is not to say there is no overpriced French wine, some of it right at the top of the market. Also, at the top of the market wine quality is a highly subjective thing. The best Bordeaux are only ready to drink after many years in bottle, which is fine if you have money to burn and lots of time to wait. If you don't, and you aren't buying bottles to lay down for when your kids get married, wines from other regions including California are often better value.

Posted by: JEB at May 27, 2005 06:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great analysis. I had read these editorials earlier, and I agree with your take.

You might be interested to know French wines are mostly California grapes now, due to a blight a few years back.

Posted by: TallDave at May 27, 2005 07:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB - I've yet to see any good French wines

One other problem I've encountered with French wines is that even when a particular vintage and terroir yields a good wine, the overall consistency sucks. You purchase a case, and 4-5 of the bottles are undrinkable. In contrast an moderatel-priced case of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo or Ribera del Duero will get you 12 good and very drinkable bottles.

Posted by: thibaud at May 27, 2005 07:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sorry, cut off second half of first sentence above - amend to "I've yet to see any good French wines but I'm open to suggestions."

Posted by: thibaud at May 27, 2005 07:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excellent summary of French "non" voters' attitudes by Jon Henley in today's Guardian:

Posted by: thibaud at May 27, 2005 07:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The people get it: can't challenge the hyperpower without becoming more like the hyperpower. Setting out to preserve distinctly unAmerican nature of the EU against a supposedly rapacious US hyperpower, the EU elites will have to scale back EU social policies."

I agree with most of what you say, only that regardless of the EU's grand (and ridiculous) strategy of competing with the US, they WILL have to substantially scale back social policies, no matter what. They are simply unsustainable. It's not a question of "if", but more "when" and "how painful will it be".

In the past I have been a great supporter of the EU project, but I now want to see it fail, at least for the foreseable future. With the present crop of EUrocrats and national European leaders, I see nothing but delusions of grandeur and disaster ahead for Europe. They way things are going, EUrocratic (along with UNocratic) is going to rehabilitate the mostly negative connations of "byzantine".

Posted by: Mike at May 27, 2005 07:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In France two kind of people are against Europe
- "Souverainiste" who are almost Nationalist they come from the right
- the left,especially working class, not the elite, they think that Europe is too liberal (meaning in France too much capitalist)
In fact people who are for "Oui" said that we must be stronger against USA and China.
But French dont' want to be stronger if it's means to be like USA, i mean too much capitalist, most of people prefers to stay quiet, not working hard, with social earnings ... and be not like USA.

- Wine is not soo important for France the main industry is France is about transport
- Planes (Airbus, Dassault, EADS)
- Cars

Posted by: JLS at May 27, 2005 08:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, the French vote is related to "America" (not necesserily the real one). France is defining itself in relation to America.
What is funny is that both sides do argue with the need to "resist" to Americanization. The "nonists" say that the constitution is neo-liberal, ie capitalist, ie American. The "ouiists" say that the constitution is the only chance to transform the EU into a unity that will can fight American influence.
As a German, who has not the right to vote in this fundamental question, I will be grateful it the French reject the constitution. And I don't care for the reasons. Why I am against? For a simple reason. This is anything but a constitution. It's a bureaucratic monster that nobody understands. Inacceptable.

Posted by: ulrich speck at May 27, 2005 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I see the no vote as a good thing. Long-term, democracy only works if the public has a say in important decisions. It may take more time for a truly supranational body to exist but it will ultimately be more stable. Although Chirac didn't anticipate this outcome, France benefits from this referandum since it has brought intense energy to the political process which all democratic countries require.

Posted by: TRM at May 28, 2005 02:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's certainly true, as you note, Gregory, that there are multiple reasons for a "NON", if that's what ends up happening, as I agree seems likely.

But I'm a bit suprised that you and everybody else seem to miss the most important point about a NON -- laid out a bit more casually than usual @ --

which is that, if it DOES happen, a NON vote will raise MAJOR issues about the whole E-U-nification project ...

and that, in turn, will throw Europe into the same type of structural turmoil the US and the umma Islamiyya -- albeit for different reasons,and in different ways -- have been experiencing since 2000 / 01.

You correctly imply that Europe has been a bit of a "global conflict" backwater in recent years, but that has certain advantages, horrific exceptions like the Atocha train bombing aside.

But if the E-U-nification project does indeed start to founder, Europe is now going to become as de-stabilized as the US and Arab / Muslim world,

and THAT would be a VERY bad thing.

Re wines, the points about the inconsistency and poor quality of French wines under $30 are COMPLETELY correct.

Hello from San Francisco, where your old Georgetown pal Sean Burns told me about your blog.

Posted by: David at May 28, 2005 04:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorta OT, the movie Mondo Vino covers the argument (though skewed to the "terroir" folks) about the traditional (mostly French) craftsmanship approach to wine embracing "terroir" or of the earth, meaning that you're supposed to be able to taste the difference between an upper and lower slope grapes in the same bottling run.

My winemaking friends tell me that the "California Revolution" (which also includes the Aussies, Kiwis, and Chileans who all came about them at around the same time) emphasizes modern production methods, including rigid controls using scientific measurements to produce a wine of uniform quality. French winemaking still runs on the gut and nose of the master vintner, with the result that quality varies widely, sometimes superb, and sometimes miserable. It's also expensive. Italian and Spanish wineries have adopted the "modern method" to produce lower cost and more uniform (and higher quality) wine and are hurting French Winemakers inside the EU. I have enjoyed most inexpensive Chilean, Aussie, (especially) Kiwi, Californian, Italian, and Spanish wines. Nearly every moderately priced (less than $30) French Wine I've tried has been awful, harsh like turpentine. Two Buck Chuck was better and I'm serious.

This in a nutshell seems to be France's problem ... too much tradition and resistance to modern methods to make their workforce more productive and efficient and their products more uniform in quality. There is no inherent reason why France could not produce say electronics the way Toyota produces sedans. Look at Nokia in Finland and Erricson in Sweden. It's mostly just culture IMHO. If the Scandis can produce world class mobiles, there's no reason why the French can't do it in other areas.

I suspect the No vote is mostly cultural as well, driving on the forces of inertia and tradition and the refusal to adapt to modernity. In this case it may be fortuitous, since gee the EU constitution looks like a sure-fire means of smothering any initiative, growth, or freedom out of it's countries.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at May 28, 2005 05:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

jim rockford: full fiancee ran camera for the mondo vino movie. did you enjoy it? or was it too biased in favor of the "terroir"-ites in your view? please be honest...i won't take offense!

Posted by: greg at May 28, 2005 03:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For the record, I believe in terroir, as long as it is not used as an excuse to shun modern viticulture and production methods and palm substandard wine off on consumers. Admittedly this is a rather large qualification.

France in one sense has had the same problem nearly all wine producing countries have had to contend with, an undiscriminating public. In countries like the United States this meant a public that mostly did not drink wine or drank it only rarely. In Australia it meant a public used to fortified wines. In France (and Italy, Argentina and several other countries) it meant large numbers of people who drank large quantities of locally produced wine, and a much smaller number of wealthy French and foreign consumers who bought expensive "name" wines in years they were good and years they were not.

All that has been changing for some years now. The French are drinking less wine, for one thing. Foreign markets can buy wine from many places that compete in three ways: price, quality, variety. The top of the market has changed, in that many affluent consumers willing to pay top dollar for wine are not willing to wait many years for their purchases to be ready to drink -- or to be overcharged for wines from weak vintages, a particular problem for Burgundy.

Having said all that, there is a ceiling on how enjoyable wines produced without regard to terroir can be. Winemakers in Italy and throughout wine's New World (basically all producing countries outside Europe) have increasingly recognized this; for some producers, for example small-production wineries in California, Long Island and Oregon it is becoming a commercial necessity. Consistent quality is what today's larger wine market wants, but the market is not static, and the distinctiveness that careful attention to terroir can produce will have more market value in ten years than it does now.

Posted by: JEB at May 28, 2005 05:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Chirac resorted to a paltry anti-Americanism...Tony Blair who took the harder road still end up, ultimately, being rewarded by their publics"

This is a tremendously biased view of things. Others would say that Chirac was the only one to NOT toady to the US policy of striking futilely in the wrong direction, and that Tony Blair is very widely regarded as a slimy lying toad, but the current crop of UK politicians are no better.

"More and more, I think of France more as a country to visit...the sunny decadence of the Riviera"

This is a marvellously superficial view of France, translating physical attributes into metaphysical deep-seated social illnesses at the flick of a pen. Very trite, provides no illumination at all.

Posted by: grahamc at May 30, 2005 01:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"'When we meet difficulties they often blame Europe. So how can we be surprised then that the French have a bad idea of Europe?' he asked."

Yo dude, welcome to the club.

Posted by: Bruce Giese at May 30, 2005 03:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Superficial? Perhaps.

But, really, all the illumination one needs on France's situation is to note that the French simultaneously complain about high unemployment and reject "Anglo-Saxon" liberalism.

2004 Unemployment Rates:
Australia: 5.1%
Britain: 4.8%
Canada: 7%
France: 10.1%
Ireland: 4.3%
New Zealand: 4.2%
Untied States: 5.5%

Posted by: Warmongering Lunatic at May 30, 2005 03:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"all the illumination one needs"

If one doesn't actually want to see past one's nose.

Posted by: grahamc at May 30, 2005 06:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeb starts to make a good point but doesn't follow through. The proposed EU constitution is about 300-400 pages long (I have seen different estimates). The US constitution, the oldest constitution in effect, is about 11 pages long. A good constitution is a document laying out the outlines of government. No outline should be 300 pages long. Who in their right minds would want to be governed by document that they had not read and did not understand?

If approved, the primary effect of an EU constituition would be arteriosclerosis of government, a hardening of the governing arteries and limiting what government can (and cannot) do to such a degree that the government will lose all flexibility to respond to changing conditions in the future. Whatever government forms and structures are ensconced in the proposed consititution will remain in place forever. The rule by the bureaucrats will be complete. Think the US tax code multiplied by a factor of ten, or perhaps one hundred. Only the high priests would be able to understand, interpret, and navigate it. Ordinary people with jobs and families would have to trust in their high priests.

It is my view that the proposed EU constitution would be a disaster for Europe, and that we should rejoice that the French killed it. We should also hope that the Dutch do the same in their vote. The fact that the French rejected it for the wrong reasons is immaterial.

Posted by: Greg at May 30, 2005 03:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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