Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, May 30, 2005


This quote is funny:

M de Villiers [leader of the "No" camp] often cites “the English” as an example. “They are a little bizarre, but they have not abandoned the idea of being a powerful nation on their own and they have shown that it is possible to prosper outside the Euro.”

It would be silly to overdraw this. But the French no is reminiscent of the French Revolution. The French revolutionaries, too, looked to England as an example, while at the same time disdaining it. Then, too, events in Paris stunned Europe, and set in motion a chain of events that would sway the whole of Europe. Then, too, conservative forces (the church) joined with liberal forces (the bourgeoisie) and populist forces (the sans-culottes) to overturn an order that was reactionary and out-of-touch.

And oh yes: Outside the euro? Wait, where did the euro come into it? That was part of Maastricht. But given the vagueness of the constitution, given the Euro-elites' habit of fudging and muddling through, the French could hardly have had such a clear idea of what they were voting on. In practice, the vote was partly on "Europe" as a package, the euro included. And victory gave anti-unification forces a new momentum.

France is at the heart of Europe in a way that Britain (and obviously America) is not. So its example matters more. 19th-century Continental liberals, bizarre as this may sound to American ears, looked to the disastrous Jacobin experiment, in France more than to the flourishing republic across the sea, for inspiration. Now the tocsin has been sounded...

I have a sudden urge to go learn French!

(btw: I can't find where, but Villiers has alluded to the fall of the Bastille as a precedent for the French no before, I think...)


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