Skip to comments.The French Say Non! The more Europe changes… (Recommended reading!)
Posted on 06/01/2005 1:16:31 PM PDT by quidnunc
The more Europe changes, the more it remains the same, the mores the pity. Now the French have rejected the proposed European constitution and encyclopedia (it was almost 500 pages long) by a decisive 55 to 45 percent of the vote. The outcome should not have surprised: Its 448 articles would make even Arkansas overworked constitution with its mere 83 amendments seem coherent.
Didnt anybody tell these masterminds in Brussels that a constitution should be a broad outline not something that reads like a tariff schedule or a railroad timetable? Apparently not.
Its a rule of democratic politics, and not just on this side of the pond: Complicated propositions turn people off. If the voters cant understand a proposal, theyre not likely to approve it, and sure enough the French didnt. One can scarcely blame them. It wasnt easy to tell just what they were voting for or against, especially after the French political class "explained" it.
At least since the French Revolution, verbosity has been the besetting sin of continental pronunciamentos. Note the opaque prose of Frances Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789: " in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all ."
Compare that soporific prose to the simple but profound thesis of the American declaration of independence a decade earlier in 1776: "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, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness ."
No wonder that document is still recited reverently while its French imitation has been largely forgotten. Just as this rejected "constitution," which is really no more than a pastiche of earlier treaties, will soon be relegated to some Hall of Historical Curiosities. Its back to the drawing board for Europes ever-busy planners.
Our colleagues on the continent may be all atwitter over the result, or rather non-result, of this latest election, but its hard to see what all the fuss is about. This dud of a referendum is supposed to be a crisis? Its not easy keeping count, but the French have gone through a Revolution that ended in a dictatorship, five republics, three monarchies, a couple of empires, an occupation or two, a fascist puppet state, assorted reigns of terror, and numerous constitutional revisions and rejections. (Have we skipped anything?)
After all those twists and turns, its hard to think of a democratic vote against this flimsy product of the eurocracy in Brussels as a CRISIS! Surely Europe will go on as before: floundering. Just as it would have gone on if the result had been the opposite. In that case, the morning-after pronouncements would have been just as overly dramatic and just as meaningless. A continent that produced opera isnt given to understatement; the Europeans leave that sort of thing to the English, who now have another reason to reconsider Tony Blairs whole European project.
The attempt to scare French voters into voting Oui seems only to have made a Non irresistible. Where is this great disaster Jacques Chirac and widely distrusted company warned would follow if the masses rejected this European constitution? The sun rose the next morning, and nobody was denied his coffee and croissant.
After this "crucial" election, Europe is still both united and divided by a wispy web of treaties and trade agreements subject to constant interpretation and negotiation in short, all the soft authoritarianism of bureaucracy. Despite all the talk about how Europe finds itself in crisis, it isnt.
The politicians and pundits may be issuing cries of alarm, but the Europeans, or at least the French, dont seem the least alarmed. Relieved might be a better description of the popular mood. Or even elated, if the post-election rallies of the opposition are an indication. For this time the people showed up their elite, instead of their elite showing them how to vote. It must have felt good, for there are few elites more elitist than the French variety. Its not just at the United Nations that French leadership is insufferable.
Remember Dominique de Villepin, the diplomat with all the airs of the self-published "poet" he is? Hes going to be the next premier, capping his inconsequential careers at both the foreign and interior ministries. How perfectly French. The man is the very image of refined futility. Nothing seems to succeed in France like nothing.
Much of the post-election analysis seems all about how the extremes of left and right united against the European Unions proposed constitution, but it may not have been so simple. The center also seems to have rejected it. Not just the fearful old but the cautious young seem to have gone against the elites instructions. While the Socialist Partys hierarchy campaigned for the constitution, one poll showed that 56 percent of the partys membership voted against it. The gap between Europes people and its pols becomes unmistakable. In case anybody missed the point, the Dutch were due to follow the French lead in their referendum today.
Europe remains as it long has been: divided. Anti-Americanism and anti-semitism can hold a continent together only so long before the traditional seams start showing between those at the top and the bottom, as they did this weekend. The result was not a crisis but an anticlimax á la française.
All the talk of a new European identity keeps running into the same old European reality: Nobodys heart beats quicker at the sight of the EUs flag of 12 gold stars circling on a blue field, not the way Brits are stirred by the Union Jack or Frenchmen by the Marseillaise. The European Union is scarcely a union. How could it be with 12 official languages? And among those, the unofficial lingua franca is English, as it is in much of the rest of the world.
Heres our nomination for the moral of the story: A constitution does not a people make. Its the other way around. We the People make the Constitution. Americans were Americans long before we were formally united by a constitution that even now is recognized as a masterwork, and whose object was a more perfect Union. But even if Europeans do eventually adopt some kind of free-trade agreement all gussied up as a constitution, complete with an anthem and a foreign minister, they will still remain French, Dutch, German, Italian, British, et European al. Divided they stand, or rather slouch.
Frances near-landslide rejection of the proposed European constitution on Sunday was splendidly, joyously, and magnificently French the voters did the wrong thing even while doing the right thing. They voted boldly against the Euro constitution under the deluded impression that it was a manifesto for free trade, free markets, and Anglo-Saxon ultra-liberalism.
If it had been all of those things, NR would have been tempted to favor it we would, incidentally, have rejected the temptation for reasons advanced below but it was none of them. It had the same mildly approving references to market liberalism that have been in every European treaty since the Treaty of Rome, none of which has prevented the growth of the great sprawling regulatory octopus in Brussels. But this document improved on all its predecessors in its regulatory overreach. Its several hundred pages of detailed proposals were a wish-list of pressure-group items all the way down to the constitutional right of the unemployed to a free job-placement service.
We sympathize with that gallant band of French free-market liberals who see the defeat of the Euro constitution as a symbolic defeat for their own hopes of Anglo-Saxon modernization. But it aint so. And they would soon have discovered the fact most painfully if the measure had passed. Let them ask themselves: If President Chirac favored it, how could it have been a progressive document?
If the Euro constitution wasnt a manifesto of free-market progress, however, what was it?
Well, in the first place, it was a mess. A constitution is supposed to define (and limit) the powers exercised by different branches and levels of government. Such an aim should have been paramount in a constitution that is supposed to be the governing document of 25 previously independent nations. But the EUs own officials were repeatedly unable to explain which bodies would enjoy which powers under its provisions. Needless to say, if the constitution ever were to go into force, the resulting constitutional confusion would give enormous influence to the already ambitious European courts to write a real constitution granting ever-greater powers to Brussels and themselves.
(National Review editorial, June 1, 2005)
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I guess I'm dreaming........They'll still rule using a homoginization of Zimbabwe's, the unratified EU mess, and a list of cool ideas from Chad.
That's almost as long as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which simplified trade in North America by listing 4,983,371 exceptions to free trade.
"It must have felt good [to the French voters], for there are few elites more elitist than the French variety. Its not just at the United Nations that French leadership is insufferable."
Great line... LOL
Ya gotta love that phrase, ha ha ha.
Great read! Thank you for sharing.
Its not a document that outlines the structure and limitations of government; its a document which imposes slavery on the entire European Continent.
I would not expect something calling itself either "Arkansas" or "Democrat" let alone "Arkansas Democrat" to produce this fine commentary.