Saying PU to the EU

Choosing liberty over socialism

By Dave Kopel, research director, Independence Institute, & Carlo Stagnaro 

12/21/00 1:35 p.m., National Review Online

n the end, after all the brave and bright words, they did nothing. This is fortunate for Western Civilization.

European politicians had promised that they would revolutionize the European Union at their recent meeting in Nice. Luckily, they didn't — or, better, they couldn't. Americans tend to think of European unification as a harmless cause — something to reduce tariffs and to keep France and Germany from starting wars with each other. But far from creating a true free-trade zone, the EU has become a very serious aggressor against civil liberty in Europe.

Most European politicians today tell their constituents that Europeans need yet another level of government — the EU superstate — in order to improve their wealth and unleash their human potential. On the other hand, the great German economist Wilhelm Roepke stated that the European tradition has always followed the path of liberty and decentralization. Central planning, big government, and domestic and foreign interventionism would be contrary to the truest and deepest spirit of Europe. One of the most important reasons that Europe was able to leap ahead of the rest of the world in the Renaissance and after was because many European governments were less intrusive and rapacious than their counterparts in other areas of the world, and were less threatened by technological and social change.

In the past, Europe was a patchwork of thousands of colors. After the birth of the nation-states, the colors mostly vanished and only a few could be distinguished. The Euro-enthusiasts are now willing to have one gray hue that hides the infinite differences between both individuals and peoples on the continent.

Those who oppose the European Union — the Euroskeptics — have said all of these things for a long time. Finally, even the mainstream press has begun to recognize they were right.

Right now, the European Union Commission requires the unanimous consent of all its member states to take action. The Nice meeting was supposed to replace unanimous consent with majority rule. France, Germany, and Italy pushed for majority control, but the smaller nations refused to submit.

The European Union Parliament is elected by the people, but the real power resides in the European Commission, whose members are nominated by national governments. The Commission's regulatory bureaucracy is already imposing its will, and increasing the burden of government, on people all over Europe. Majority rule for the EU Commission would have worsened the problem; in practice, it would have been even easier to force the Franco-German vision (not exactly a formula for limited government) on the whole continent.

If majority rule had been adopted, it would have soon led to something very close to a dictatorship. The bureaucracy would virtually be a tyrant, with intrusive regulation its most powerful weapon. Moreover, when government and decision-making processes are centralized, corruption costs are at their lowest and there is no respect for local diversity.

If the aggressive promoters of European integration were to gain the majority, Europe would become even more socialistic than it already is. This is the real reason why European libertarians and most conservatives have been so happy with the failure of the Nice meeting. Of course this hasn't stopped European politicians' hunger, and nobody believes that the EU has taken a knock-out punch. But the politicians will be forced to run a little more slowly than before, and may begin to understand that, although people don't love national sovereignty, free individuals hate any kind of supra-national sovereignty even more. They will fight any attempt to establish it above their shoulders and without their consent.

The defense of national sovereignty against the European Union is not a sign of chauvinism. It is the only path Europe can follow in order to avoid socialism. While the European Union is growing socialist, many individuals and the communities on the continent have chosen the path of liberty. They will fight the Leviathan with every means, in defense of their own lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

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