Pat Condell: the gathering storm in Europe

December 4, 2011

The British comic treats us to one of his better rants, this time on the coming death of democracy and freedom within the EU and the concomitant growth of transnational bureaucratic dictatorship:

The crisis of the European Union isn’t just financial, though that’s bad enough. The creation of the Euro was supposed to be a lever toward greater political union, and the common currency’s failure has brought about a political crisis that presents Europeans with a stark choice: liberty and self-determination, or wards of an increasingly totalitarian super-state.

Which will it be?


Quote of the Morning, Euro-panic edition

September 12, 2011

From Walter Russell Mead, on the creation of the Euro:

Creating a monetary union without a true federal government is looking more and more like the biggest European policy mistake since Britain and France let Hitler have the Sudetenland.

Visit his blog to find out why.

Looks to be a rocky Monday out there.


The view from Britain: comparing two constitutions, and our coming choice

September 5, 2011

While writing about the frightening proposal by former German Chancellor (1) Gerhard Schroeder for a fully-formed “United States of Europe,” the Telegraph’s James Delingpole made an astute observation about the differences between the United States Constitution and the European Union’s governing document:

In the US, they have a Constitution (one which the current administration would prefer to ignore, but still) which explicitly guarantees the constituent states in the Union the right to forge their own destiny. They can set their own local tax rates, their own speed limits, their position on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and marijuana consumption, and so on. This Constitution is what has made America great and Americans so free: and the two things are very much connected. When, for example, one state falls prey to rampant big government (eg California), there will always be other states offering a different sociopolitical model (eg Texas) – thus enabling free citizens of the Republic to vote with their feet. They will gravitate towards the model which best serves their needs – thus endorsing it – while fleeing the model they find less attractive, thus discrediting it. In this way bad political ideas cannot so easily take root in the US. Not at least so long as the Constitution is respected.

In the European Union, however, the Constitution serves exactly the opposite purpose. It is designed to give the constituent states as little freedom as possible to decide their own destinies; all decisions are deferred upwards to the controlling central authority; and when member states make the “wrong” decision, the EU superpower simply goes ahead and does what it wants regardless.

To give an example of this top-down control, the Library of the House of Commons in the UK estimates that fully half of Britain’s laws come, not from the democratically elected Parliament in London, but as directives handed down by the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels. Schroeder’s proposal, rather than creating a “more perfect union,” would instead cement into place a dictatorship of the nomenklatura.

One can’t help but notice also, and as Delingpole obliquely does above, that the Obama administration would very much like to institute that same Continental Model here — witness the actions of the EPA, the NLRB, and the FCC, just to name a few.

Keep that in mind come November, 2012. We won’t just be choosing a president, but the character of our union.

Footnote:

(1) And also a Putin crony. That should tell us all we need to know.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Truth to Power: “Just who the Hell do you people think you are?”

November 27, 2010

First it was Conservative Daniel Hannan shredding then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the European Parliament. Now we’re treated to Nigel Farage, Member of the European Parliament from the UK Independence Party, ripping the EU leadership a new one for their statist, anti-democratic arrogance in the Irish financial crisis. Sit back, my friends, and enjoy:

Rock on, Brother Farage!

LINKS: Roger Kimball, who thinks MEP Farage asked an excellent question.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


An infantilized society

September 7, 2010

The economic troubles in Europe are leading to public unrest, as EU governments try to pare back their bloated public sectors, in some cases trimming wages and benefits, in others by delaying access to them. In France, plans to save the national pension system by raising the retirement age from 60 (!) to just 62 has lead to a massive strike of over one million people:

French strikers disrupted trains and planes, hospitals and mail delivery Tuesday amid massive street protests over plans to raise the retirement age. Across the English Channel, London subway workers unhappy with staff cuts walked off the job.

The protests look like the prelude to a season of strikes in Europe, from Spain to the Czech Republic, as heavily indebted governments cut costs and chip away at some cherished but costly benefits that underpin the European good life — a scaling-back process that has gained urgency with Greece’s euro110 billion ($140 billion) bailout.

In France, where people poured into the streets in 220 cities, setting off flares and beating drums, a banner in the southern port city of Marseille called for Europe-wide solidarity: “Let’s Refuse Austerity Plans!” The Interior Ministry said more than 1.1 million people demonstrated throughout France, while the CFDT union put the number at 2.5 million.

(…)

French protesters are angry about the government’s plan to do away with the near-sacred promise of retirement at 60, forcing people to work until 62 because they are living longer. The goal is to bring the money-draining pension system back into the black by 2018.

As debate on the subject opened in parliament, Labor Minister Eric Woerth said the plan was one “of courage and reason” and that it is the “duty of the state” to save the pension system. He has said the government won’t back down, no matter how big the protests.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon reminded the French that it could be worse: In nearly all European countries, the current debate is over raising the retirement age to 67 or 68, he said. Germany has decided to bump the retirement age from 65 to 67, for example, and the U.S. Social Security system is gradually raising the retirement age to 67.

That sense of perspective was missing from many of the French protests, where some slogans bordered on the hysterical. One sign in Paris showed a raised middle finger with the message: “Greetings from people who will die on the job.”

Nothing like Gallic hysterics, eh?

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised at this: statist societies like France and much of the EU use ever-expanding government-provided benefits as bribes to buy social peace, making dependents out their citizens and, in effect, infantilizing them. It’s no wonder, then, that the public then throws a tantrum when the state is forced to cut back.

But before anyone indulges in some schadenfreude at French expense, bear in mind that President Obama and his progressive allies want to take us down this same statist, dependent, and infantilized social-democratic road. (And, to a lesser extent, big-government Republicans have been willing to accommodate them.) We’re already seeing that with the growth of public sector unions in the US and their outlandish benefits*.

While Europe seems to be in for a season of unrest, the problem isn’t yet so bad in the US and, importantly, many people agree that it is a problem in the first place. Hopefully we can make the necessary reforms before we have our own mass tantrums.

*(For the record, I’m a member of a quasi-public union, and apparently it’s one of the dumber ones; we’ve never received the over-the-top wages and benefits the other unions do. I tell ya, it ain’t fair…)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


When bureaucrats get bored

June 30, 2010

Boredom must be a real problem for bureaucrats, especially in the European Union. How else does one explain jackassery such as this?

EU to ban selling eggs by dozen

Shoppers will be banned from buying bread rolls or eggs priced by the dozen under new food labelling regulations proposed by the European parliament.

Under the draft legislation, to come into force as early as next year, the sale of groceries using the simple measurement of numbers will be replaced by an EU-wide system based on weight.

It would mean an end to packaging descriptions such as eggs by the dozen, four-packs of apples, six bread rolls or boxes of 12 fish fingers.

The Government appeared to have been caught out by the change, but yesterday Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, signalled Britain would now step in to prevent the rule being enforced.

MEPs last week voted against an amendment to new food labelling regulations that would allow individual states to nominate products that can be sold by number rather than by weight.

Individual countries are currently allowed to specify exemptions but the new rules under discussion make no such provisions.

The changes would cost the food and retail industries millions of pounds as items would have to be individually weighed to ensure the accuracy of the label.

That last should read “…needlessly cost the food and retail industries millions of pounds…” Sure, standardization has some benefits, but how much will EU consumer benefit as compared to the expenses born by the companies (which they’ll pass on to consumers)? Is it really worth it?

And why even bother? What pressing Union-wide need was there for this rule? Doesn’t Brussels have anything better to do? Doesn’t the European Parliament care about this further micromanagement of daily life by a distant bureaucracy?

I think we know the answer to that.

PS. And America is on the same path.

(via Dan Mitchell)


Death rattle of the Euro?

May 31, 2010

A group of British economists have urged the Greek government to abandon the European Union’s currency and default on its €300/$365 billion debt to save its economy:

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), a London-based consultancy, has warned Greek ministers they will be unable to escape their debt trap without devaluing their own currency to boost exports. The only way this can happen is if Greece returns to its own currency.

Greek politicians have played down the prospect of abandoning the euro, which could lead to the break-up of the single currency.

Speaking from Athens yesterday, Doug McWilliams, chief executive of the CEBR, said: “Leaving the euro would mean the new currency will fall by a minimum of 15%. But as the national debt is valued in euros, this would raise the debt from its current level of 120% of GDP to 140% overnight.

“So part of the package of leaving the euro must be to convert the debt into the new domestic currency unilaterally.”

Greece’s departure from the euro would prove disastrous for German and French banks, to which it owes billions of euros.

This could make the US banking crash look like a minor fender-bender by comparison. And if Greece flees the Euro and walks away from its debt, could Portugal, Italy, and Spain, three other major debtors, be far behind? And what about the political stability of the EU itself? Germans are already angry and resentful at Greek profligacy; how will they react to having the hundreds of billions in Greek bonds they hold repudiated?

Twenty years ago, we watched the Berlin Wall suddenly come down and the Soviet empire collapse almost overnight. We may be watching something similar with the European Union.

RELATED: Soeren Kern examines what a collapse of the Euro would mean for the United States.