Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Sometimes I like the Christian Science Monitor, but this editorial on the French No is ridiculous. After a bit of blather about how other issues than the constitution affected the vote (do Europhiles realize that this argument is condescending?) they conclude:

Brussels would be making a big mistake if it deemed France's objections not relevant. With the Dutch also expected to vote "no" in a referendum on Wednesday, and the British leaning against, it's time for the EU to reconsider how best to seek its goal of an ever closer union. [my emphasis]

"How best to seek" its goal? Apparently , the goal itself is not in question. But what if Europeans don't want "ever closer union?" What if the current degree of integration is enough for them? What if, perchance, they would prefer to move in the other direction, towards more national autonomy? If that's what the No voters were saying (and it surely is), this formulation shuts out their grievances from square one.

The EU began five decades ago as an economic club, designed to curb nationalism in the wake of two world wars and to foster economic growth at the same time. It's done remarkably well at both, but cracks are appearing in the peace and prosperity model.

Remarkably well?! The euro zone is one of the most economically stagnant regions in the world! True, in the 1950s and 1960s, economic growth in Europe was dazzling, but that's ancient history. Now European economies are shutting the young out of the job market while walking towards a fiscal/demographic cliff.

And why curb nationalism? Sure, it has its dark sides. But a little love of country is healthy. A positive patriotism would be far better than the nastier sentiments that have been circulating in Europe lately, in particular an increasingly poisonous anti-Americanism.

This isn't to say the integration process should stop. The great magnet of EU potential membership has forced welcome democratic and economic change in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Turkey.

The magnet of EU membership may have contributed to the transition from communism to democracy in Eastern Europe. We don't know the counter-factual. I'm at a loss to imagine what "welcome... economic changes" the Monitor has in mind. But in any case, this argument is exhausted. Eastern Europe is already on board, and Western Europeans don't want to expand further. The credible promise of membership depends on a willingness to embrace ever more members. That willingness is no longer there, and this argument for unification (and it was the only decent one they had) is obsolete.

And while France may lament jobs lost to companies moving to cheaper Eastern Europe, that loss is dwarfed by the number of jobs created by French trade with those countries.

Do they have any evidence of this? Could they provide a link? Being a free-trader, I'm inclined to like this kind of argument, but this instance of it seems implausible-- in particular because it refers to jobs created in France, which seems like an oxymoron.

No, the integration trend should not stop. But the doubters must be heard, must believe they're being heard, and must receive convincing arguments countering their concerns. Obviously, that hasn't happened yet.

The doubters have heard the arguments for integration already. They've seen through them. Arguments for Europe as a path to peace and prosperity were made thirteen years ago in defense of Maastricht. History since then has torn them to shreds. Integrationists must listen, must acknowledge what they've listened to, and must be able to admit when their arguments have been beaten. Obviously, that hasn't happened yet.

But what gets my goat is: why is an American publication like the Monitor carrying water for the EU? I would have expected to see a wretched editorial like this in a Brussels press release. Why should an independent newspaper in Boston be channeling this pathetic propaganda?


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