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The EU and the American Conservative Establishment - A Remark

Lawrence Auster, commenting upon the heartening news that opposition to the EU's Treaty of Lisbon, itself merely a repackaging of the constitution rejected by the French and Dutch, is surging in advance of the Irish referendum, observes of the conservative establishment:

I've said this before but I have to say it again. Could there be anything more despicable than American "conservatives" who constantly bleat about FREEDOM, saying that FREEDOM is the greatest thing in the world, that FREEDOM is what America is all about, that we must constantly be on guard to defend FREEDOM, that we must have mass non-Europen immigration to show our belief in FREEDOM, and that we must spread FREEDOM everywhere, even to alien peoples completely unsuited for it, yet who have remained STONE COLD SILENT about the onset of a totalitarian superstate in the cradle of our own civilization?

While there have been occasional voices of opposition to the European Project, and that in most of the mainstream organs of conservatism, it cannot be gainsaid that political conservatism, in deference to the political and foreign policy establishments of the country, within which elite conclaves support for the EU is regarded as akin to support for the Voting Rights Act or something similar, has simply gone along to get along. Much could be said about the reasons for this, but I prefer, at this time, to be oblique: the European Union stands as an invincible proof that economic and political inefficiency are indispensable prerequisites to the survival, not merely of traditions of liberty in the West, but of our broader civilization itself.

Comments (34)

Larry Auster calls the EU "a totalitarian superstate"...which is just one example of many why I no longer read Larry Auster (of course, he also banned me from commenting, which I take as a badge of honor). I do think it is interesting to think about Maximos' last comment -- the original EC did much to promote the economic development of Western Europe but has morphed into the EU. While the EU is NOT a "totalitarian superstate", it does impose all sorts of silly petty regulations on member states and is trying to do more than guaranty "the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital." I suspect the real problem in Europe has more to do with immigration* than the EU's over-reach (although lax immigration coupled with "the freedom of movement of people" can be a recipe for trouble).

*This is Mark Steyn's concern, to name just one conservative who has said a thing or two about Europe.

I can concede that the phrase "totalitarian superstate" is somewhat hyperbolic; what I cannot concede is that the EUs' running roughshod over the panoply of particular economic customs and regulations, many of which were genuinely popular, was anything other than authoritarian - as authoritarian, in fact, as all of the cultural meddling in which the Brussels superstate engages. Economic integration begets de facto legal integration, which, in turn, begets political integration.


I would love to have you write a longer post on this sentence: "Economic integration begets de facto legal integration, which, in turn, begets political integration." Certainly this has been the case in the U.S. -- but from my neo-con perspective I see much that we have gained from all this integration (i.e. the end of slavery and Jim Crow in the South, the growth of the "Sun-Belt" and before that the settling of the American west, general prosperity for all Americans through interstate commerce, etc.) and not much that we have lost (e.g. I know the paleos like to lament the decline of cultural diversity in the U.S. but I have traveled a bit in the continental U.S. and it seems to me that states like Illinois, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina still retain all sorts of particular quirks and unique local qualities; although I agree that sometimes those unique qualities get noticed by others and adopted my the masses -- for example I used to look forward to a chicken on a biscuit sandwich everytime I went down to Chapel Hill, now I can get this delicacy at McDonald's!)

Anyway, I wonder how true it is that as countries around the world continue to trade with one another (and become more economically integrated) we'll see more "political integration"? And I wonder what will this "political integration" look like -- if it means the fall of tyranny in China, the Middle-East, Cuba, etc. and/or the spread of Christianity then this is a program for political integration I can get behind!

Proto-totalitarian is better--not there but on the way.

The EU is neither in the interests of the peoples that inhabit it nor of the US.

[T]he European Union stands as an invincible proof that economic and political inefficiency are indispensable prerequisites to the survival, not merely of traditions of liberty in the West, but of our broader civilization itself.

That's going in the Book of Great Quotes!

Leave it to a "neocon" to reduce localism and particularism to the question of a chicken biscuit sandwich. (Not far, in fact, from Meilaender's embarrassingly shallow critique of Crunchy Cons, a while back.)

I agree that it sounds hyperbolic to call the emerging EU superstate "totalitarian." But the question is, is it true?

Of course the EU is not totalitarian in every respect. But it is totalitarian, and is rapidly becoming more so, in one key respect: freedom of speech. Europe’s “anti-hate-speech” laws make it virtually impossible to say anything critical about the Islam menace. Even the mildest statements can result in arrest, fines, the loss of employment. The EU is handing Europe over the Muslims, while using the power of the state, which is about to become a superstate, a superstate not subject to any democratic accountability, to silence any dissent.

I think this is accurately called totalitarian.

The best place to keep up on the development of the totalitarian superstate of Europe, and particularly on on its controls on speech, is Brussels Journal.

As for Jeff Singer, here is the entry where I excluded him from VFR. Evidently he thinks I’m obligated to keep corresponding with someone who calls me a “hack.” The conservative Web is filled with people like this.

For what it's worth, Roger Scruton's no fan of the EU. I've just finished his book A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism and he's pretty tough on it, for a number of reasons.

Europe’s “anti-hate-speech” laws...

Yes, the EU is totalitarian in that respect. It is perhaps the most important respect, and it is important to note that many conservatives in America have no coherent response to this menace because they a)do not understand the nature of the Islamic presence, and b)do not understand that they are enabling EU abuses by supporting the EU on economic and/or strategic grounds.

The EUSSR: Google it. Only 40,000+ hits. It's entering the lexicon.

And here is Srdja Trifkovic on "The European Union, A Prison of Nations."

Economic integration begets de facto legal integration, which, in turn, begets political integration.

This proposition would be at the core of my own argument as to why libertarians should be suspicious of globalization. (Yes, another in the series of posts I keep mentioning that exists only platonically on "Why libertarians should oppose ______.") Libertarians should be suspicious of political centralization. What libertarian should be happy, for example, with the many stupid regulations even on business in our own country at the federal level. NOt only are they highly questionably constitutional (gotten in by the blatant abuse of the commerce clause and in clear defiance of the 10th amendment), they are exactly the sorts of things every liberal should hate: Federal regulations on how big your bathrooms have to be if you serve the public, what bases you can and can't "discriminate" on in hiring, and on and on. In the end it will indeed be federal hate-speech laws, and when they come at the federal level, they affect everybody. I'm entirely with Auster here on the EU's hate-speech laws. It's a very serious issue. And the more centralized the political power, the greater the political power over a greater number of people, and the harder it is to vote with your feet. That's something that shd. concern anybody with libertarian sympathies.

I don't know exactly what the legal situation is with the EU and immigration, but I have a friend who is Danish (American now, but born Danish, and visits her parents in Denmark pretty regularly), and she tells me that it is in no small part because of the existence of the EU that Denmark has so many Muslims. Evidently movement around in Europe is greatly facilitated by the EU, even for immigrants, legal or illegal, and this makes it much harder for individual nations to enforce their own immigration laws. She tells me that if they can get across Gibralter from Morocco, they can pretty much go anywhere. I don't know if this is literally, strictly legally, the case, but it is certainly her impression as a person with European ties. This, too, should be cause for concern. I have no doubt myself that the EU will facilitate the Islamicization of Europe.

Actually, I would think that the facet of the EU that is most troubling is how it is governed without any direct answer to democratic control. It is simply raw power, constrained only when national blocs decide to constrain it acting in concert. Since that only happens sporadically, the general trend (and very strong it is indeed) is for continually more power to shift into the EU hands. They have in a mere few years achieved more raw power than the federal government in the US has grasped since FDR.

Can anyone explain WHY the EU is promoting being taken over by Islam? Presumably, while Islam was still a small minority (and mostly of illegal immigrants), it had no inherent capacity to sway political speech in their direction - so why is it going that way? Even now it is still a minority in most EU nations, though no longer a small minority.

As regards the reasons for European acquiescence in Islamization, there is the Eurabia theory, as articulated by Bat Ye'or and adumbrated by the blogger, Fjordman. An interpretive matrix comprised of such speculations on the geopolitical ambitions of the principals of the EU and analyses of the post-Marxist cultural radicalism of the European political and cultural establishments will have some explanatory power.

Spiritually, however, it almost seems as though the Continent has become rather thanatophilic.

Some quotes from Trifkovic's article:

On May 11, I gave a speech at the Counter-Jihad Summit in Vienna. As our readers are well aware, “racism and xenophobia” in the EU-speak have long included the nebulous thought-crime of “Islamophobia”—and my speech could be construed as paradigmatically “Islamophobic” by the drafters of the EU Framework Decision, and accordingly acted upon by the future users of the European Arrest Warrant.

Interestingly, under the Framework Decision, anything that is said at a John Randolph Club conference here in the United States may be deemed illegal and actionable under the European Arrest Warrant, if the offending speech or statement is posted on a website (such as www.chroniclesmagazine.org) that is downloadable within the EU, or if some supposedly “racist and xenophobic” material written by one of our editors or contributors is distributed by mailing Chronicles to a subscriber or an institution in the EU. This would be actionable under the Framework Decision as “public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material containing expressions of racism and xenophobia,” potentially subjecting the author to arrest in any EU country on a warrant issued by a judge in any other EU country.
Orwell was prescient but his date was wrong, a quarter-century premature.

Trifkovic's report is chilling, and suggests that what I wrote earlier in the week of the British, and the nature of the response their plight necessitates, is also applicable to Europeans more generally:

If Europeans possess even a faint ember of the will to survive, they will one day bring their nations to a standstill, economically and politically; they will render their nations, and even the Continent, ungovernable, unless and until the alien and unassimilable Others are encouraged to return whence they came; and should their demands be refused by the anarcho-tyrants who dispossess them to their personal profit and ideological self-stroking, some of the latter will end their wretched lives as did Mussolini, swinging from lampposts. Perhaps these words are harsh, even incendiary. But until Europeans acknowledge that politics-as-usual will not avail them, until they tender the non-negotiable demand that their dispossession end definitively and absolutely, they will be dead souls, waiting only for the end certain and complete.

When Europeans rise, en masse, to dare those who pretend to authority on the Continent to arrest and imprison tens of thousands for performing the patriotic duty of warning against the Mahometan menance, their actions will signify the existence of a survival instinct; but unless Europeans are willing to assume some measure of risk in resisting their dispossession, they will accomplish nothing. Without sacrifice there is no national salvation.

Is not the EU already also redistributing a lot of money to various causes? Should this not bother conservatives who are concerned about freedom?

By the way, there was some kind of fairly protest against the Islamicization of Europe in Brussels, was there not? They were forbidden to have the protest but had it anyway, and by my recollection, the police came and arrested people using some rather...unpleasant techniques that were quite unnecessarily painful even when protesters were not resisting arrest. You probably saw the pictures on the Internet.

Alas, yes. Europeans must be willing to make this routine, until governing them becomes all but impossible.

Steve Nicoloso,

I was making the case that American states, cities and towns actually do exhibit a fair amount of cultural diversity and particular characteristics that HAVE NOT been swept away by interstate commerce and the central power of the federal government. Just think about the land -- the deserts and mountains of Tucson create a very different living experience for someone than the flat Midwestern plains and Lake Michigan of Chicago (where I live). I was also making the tangential point that interstate commerce can (and does) bring the particular cultural practices of a state, city or town to the rest of the country. Obviously, a chicken biscuit sandwich is merely one small example of this phenomenon (which I applaud).


I would love to read your post on libertarians vs. globalization. I think the point you make about our own experience with the federal government and the states has merit. However, I think it would be hard to justify allowing a business or other public organizations to exclude folks from participating on whatever basis (e.g. "no blacks", "no Irish" , etc.). At least there is a tension between the desires of "little platoons" that want to exclude certain classes of individuals from their full participation in civic life and the desires of those excluded individuals to participate.

As for what is happening in the EU, take the following from Auster:

"Europe’s “anti-hate-speech” laws make it virtually impossible to say anything critical about the Islam menace. Even the mildest statements can result in arrest, fines, the loss of employment."

I guess there are enough weasle words in the above sentences to make them factually correct (e.g. "virtually", "can result"), there are Europeans who criticize Islam and are not arrested, fined, etc. A good example is how the Danish government handled the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. As far as I know not a single editor or cartoonist was ever charged with a crime in Denmark or by the EU. How come Trifkovic's "European Arrest Warrant" wasn't used? In fact, some Muslims in Denmark did file a complaint with the Danish police and according to Wikipedia here is what happened:

"On 6 January 2006, the Regional Public Prosecutor in Viborg discontinued the investigation as he found no basis for concluding that the cartoons constituted a criminal offence. His reason is based on his finding that the article concerns a subject of public interest and, further, on Danish case law which extends editorial freedom to journalists when it comes to a subject of public interest. He stated that, in assessing what constitutes an offence, the right to freedom of speech must be taken into consideration. He stated that the right to freedom of speech must be exercised with the necessary respect for other human rights, including the right to protection against discrimination, insult and degradation, but no apparent violation of the law had occurred. In a new hearing, the Director of Public Prosecutors in Denmark agreed."

Wikipedia also notes that between "October 2005 and the end of January 2006, examples of the cartoons were reprinted in major European newspapers from the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium and France. Very soon after, as protests grew, there were further re-publications around the globe, but primarily in continental Europe." Again, if the EU is such a totalitarian "superstate" why no consequences for these newspapers? The totalitarian states I'm familiar with would have closed down those newspapers and lined up the editors in front of the firing squad. That's what I call totalitarian.

I'm on board as I said earlier with the notion that Europeans need to stop all the Islamic immigration and perhaps deport much larger numbers of Muslim immigrants who support jihad.

Auster goes on to say "The EU is handing Europe over the Muslims, while using the power of the state, which is about to become a superstate, a superstate not subject to any democratic accountability, to silence any dissent."

Really, the "superstate", which is apparently just around the corner, is "not subject to any democratic accountability"? No one in Europe votes for the politicians who have supported the EU? Europe is being handed over to the Muslims? (I can see Sarkozy now, "Mr. Muhammand, here are the keys to Paris -- take whatever you need.") Yes, I know that the masses and elites can grow apart through representative government, but once again, it is just not intellectually serious to say there is NO democratic accountability in Europe. In fact, it is silly polemic which seems to be Auster's M.O.

So yes, we should support our friends in Europe who want to constrain EU over-reach and ensure Europe retains its distinctive cultural features and Christian civilization. But we should do so in a manner that avoids hyperbole and comparing the EU with Stalin's Soviet Union or the crazies in North Korea.

Jeff (Singer), it isn't a question of how hard or easy it is to "justify" discrimination of this or that sort. It's a question of how centrally such matters should be legislated. The framers of the Constitution would be appalled at the legislative reach of the federal government in our own time. When there are federal laws against "discrimination" against homosexuals, and Christian photographers are fined federally (as they have been in states with such laws) for refusing to do "wedding" photographs of homosexuals, will centralized federal power start really worrying you? And since when are conservatives, especially those with libertarian leanings, _not_ worried about centralized power?

I have absolutely no doubt that the EU will continue to legislate all manner of things that conservatives should have grave doubts about, from employment and "non-discrimination" to large pots of European tax money for a later joint Hamas-Fatah Palestinian terrorist quasi-government to packaging rules for British businessmen to environmental regulations, etc., etc., etc. Eventually I have no doubts that the EU will be standardizing the worst of European anti-parent legislation over the entirety of its domain. I'm a little surprised that you aren't more bothered by the degree of centralization on offer there, or that you are brushing off the anti-hate-speech stuff. So some people manage to criticize Islam some of the time. Whoopie! You cannot possibly be unaware, if you read Jihad Watch or anything of that kind, of the European laws against, basically, hurting the feelings of minority groups. Many of these are imposed individual governments, but they are bad news and certainly shouldn't be applied to everyone in Europe. People were _arrested_ for holding a protest against the Islamicization of Europe in Brussels. I could give many examples. No doubt you could give many, too. You must know about this stuff. This doesn't happen in the U.S., yet, and God willing never will, but our best way of avoiding it is not having some sort of crazy "international law" that doesn't recognize our own notions of freedom of speech applied here.

Again, deep worries about centralized power, especially when it is _manifestly_ being wielded by utopian-minded, busy-body-ish, incredibly wrong-headed, multi-culti-loving liberals, should be an _instinct_ with someone from your perspective.


I'm basically sympethetic to everything you say -- my objection with Auster's post was his language and hyperbole. I do read "Jihad Watch" and of course I worry about the Islamic menance in Europe. But whether you like it or not, many European publics have voted for those "utopian-minded, busy-body-ish, incredibly wrong-headed, multi-culti-loving liberals" (try saying that ten times fast!) and therefore I'm afraid the 'rot' goes deeper than railing against the EU's lack of "democratic accountability".

As for centralized power, my point was a simple one -- that power can be used for good as well as evil. I'm glad the centralized power of the Union smashed the South and ended slavery. I'm sure many readers of WWWTW would disagree, but again, from a libertarian perspective; local power can be used to constrain individual liberty just as effectively as central power.

... many European publics have voted for those "utopian-minded, busy-body-ish, incredibly wrong-headed, multi-culti-loving liberals" (try saying that ten times fast!) and therefore I'm afraid the 'rot' goes deeper than railing against the EU's lack of "democratic accountability".
Stop the presses. Mr. Singer and I agree on something. :-0

"As for centralized power, my point was a simple one -- that power can be used for good as well as evil. I'm glad the centralized power of the Union smashed the South and ended slavery."

So then the problem isn't as much with centralization per se, but rather with the ends that it brings about?

It is true enough that Europeans - majorities in some nations, pluralities in others - have voted for coteries of multiculturalist technocrats, but this doesn't go the distance in demonstrating that the EU is a consensual apparatus. In reality, most EU directives are about as consensually-grounded as the following: around forty years ago, millions of Americans voted for a president and a Congress, and these authorities then deliberated and passed the act authorizing the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency; the proposal for the creation of the Agency may or may not have figured in public discussion during that period of time, but to the extent that it did, it was merely as one among many issues, certain of which assuredly overshadowed it (for obvious reasons); the Agency, upon inauguration, functioned as a sort of superexecutive, meaning that it possessed the power to promulgate regulations apart from the normal deliberative processes of republican governance, although each regulation was referred back to the authorizing mandate of the Agency; therefore, each specific regulation promulgated, and invested with the force of law, is as fully legitimate as it would be had it been put to a plebiscite: that Americans voted once for the politicians who voted once to create the EPA means that everything the EPA has done since is democratically legitimate.

This is approximately the degree of democratic legitimacy possessed by most determinations of the EU; people voted once for some ambiguous platform promising greater ease of travel and increased prosperity, and therefore every picayune detail enacted pursuant to such amorphous blandishments is legitimate. Please. This is not far off from "one man, one vote, one time." At best, it is little more than a modern analogue of the Lockean swindle of consent, according to which one, having simply lived in a capitalist society and partaken of its benefits, has thereby consented to every detail of its laws, however grossly exploitative they may be. Now, one may argue that Europeans have voted repeatedly for such multicultural mountebanks at the national level, and one would be correct - Europeans at the national level have only themselves to blame for that aspect of their predicament. But the situation with the EU itself is not strictly analogous, inasmuch as the practical attenuation of representation at that level of remove from the local level is too significant to overcome with references to the formal mechanisms of elections. That someone voted doesn't make it democratic, and the "we don't take NO for an answer" posture of the EU only underscores the difference.

Incidentally, the EU itself is not the only aspect of this problem on the Continent. I don't recall Europeans of any nationality voting for the various Euro-Arab initiatives over the past 40 years that have promoted cultural, economic, and demographic integration with the Dar-al-Islam, and yet, these elites fetishes antedate the EU proper.

Given this post and my comments, I would be remiss if I didn't direct you all to this interesting story:


I also wanted to comment on Maximos' last point concerning the consensual nature of the EU, summarized nicely in this sentence:

"that Americans voted once for the politicians who voted once to create the EPA means that everything the EPA has done since is democratically legitimate."

In other words, Maximos isn't happy unless every single government regulation is carefully vetted by the masses and voted on in some sort of plebiscite. Here is the problem with this analysis, apart from the fact that the real world involves a little more complexity than Maximos is willing to allow: at any point along the way after a silly or stupid EU regulation affects a particular European citizen, these citizens are free to petition their government to change the law, and politicians in particular countries are free to run to change the laws. The fact that there aren't massive protests every day in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, etc., etc. against the EU and the fact that politicians aren't winning elections in great numbers by running against the abuses of the EU, suggests that the EU is in some meaningful sense both consensual and (relatively) popular. When Germany, France, etc. refuse to allow their citizens the right to vote or to change laws, or to make arguements against EU laws and regulations, then I think you can start to make a case that tyrannts rule Europe.

Mr. Singer, your last response is utterly unserious. From a complaint concerning the refraction of representation in modern managerial politics, particularly when domestic political cultures - like those in Europe - have rigorously circumscribed domestic political discourses, and have become committed to the objectives of the EU, regardless of what their voters might think about specific, disputed regulations, you derive the notion that I desire a pure, plebiscitary democracy. I'm sorry, but that is simply not a serious objection; it is a straw man waiting for the torchlight. Not to mention, it doesn't answer the specific claims made: merely that someone voted once for ambiguous promises of all the benefits that the EU would provide is insufficient as a hallmark of legitimacy; the EU now has its own institutional inertia or gravity, ensured not least by the political and corporate elites; and there are enormous, up-front, transactional costs confronting any mass movement against the excesses of the EU, precisely because political discourse in Europe is still more circumscribed than our own. For example, the British opposed, by strong majorities, the imposition of standardized weights and measures, to bring them into conformity with the Continent; and yet, the EU courts ruled, and that was that: those who resisted were fined prohibitively. The most that follows from this example, and the thousands of others, is that average citizens think it impossible to a)convince a domestic political elite mortgaged to the European fantasy to b)go to Brussels to agitate against idiotic regulations. That isn't legitimacy; it's simply managerial politics expressing its essence: this is for your own good, and that's why we've made it virtually impossible for you to change it.

Expecting Europeans to take up your challenge is almost as preposterous as the abortion calculus in America; conservatives in America vote for pols who might appoint/nominate/vote for conservative jurists, who might be confirmed, and who, once at the bench, might vote to overturn Roe; you want Europeans to vote for national pols and representatives to the EU parliament who might oppose a handful of crappy regulations (despite the fact that most are philosophically committed to the EU), which opposition might be carried (though probably not, owing to the economic and political interests lined up behind them), and might pass muster with the unelected courts and tribunals that rule on the liceity of EU legislation. The probabilities are so low as to be infinitesimal; hence, the argument is basically that unless the Europeans stage a revolution, the EU is fully legitimate - and that is a little less complex than the world with which I'm supposedly unacquainted.


I was very serious, so perhaps we can look at your "example" to understand what I meant:

"For example, the British opposed, by strong majorities, the imposition of standardized weights and measures, to bring them into conformity with the Continent; and yet, the EU courts ruled, and that was that: those who resisted were fined prohibitively."

First, I'd be interested to see the polling data on this subject matter. But regardless, I don't believe that the British really opposed the "standardized weights and measures". If they did, then you would have politicians lining up to win elections opposing this imposition and eventually the British would rebel against the EU. Instead, none of this happened because I believe the so-called opposition was actually very weak. British citizens were probably asked a survey question along the lines of "would you prefer to keep using the measurement of 'stone' or would you rather adopt the European measurement 'X'"? Large majorities said they were fond of 'stone'; but when the change occurred, which involved BENEFITS as well as costs, my guess is that except for a couple of cranks (and maybe Roger Scruton), citizens shrugged and said to themselves, "I guess this new measurement 'X' isn't so bad" and got on with life.

Finally, with respect to abortion in America, how would you suggest conservatives try and change America's policy with respect to abortion? Or have you given up in despair on your fellow countrymen who seem to prefer living in a country that allows women to get abortions?

And now for something completely different, I thought of our debates over the regulation of the economy when I read this Will Wilkinson post:


Jeff (Singer), I have to remark here that I think Maximos has a point: The mechanisms whereby this stuff is passed in the EU (or in his example of the EPA) and also whereby any of it could possibly be rescinded are so slow, so indirect, and so far removed from what I, for one, think of as the ordinary mechanisms of representative government (as in a state legislature, for example), that I find it hard to think of them as prudent. Even if I acknowledge that representative democracy is a counsel of prudence and that some other form of government (an absolute monarchy, for example) might in some cases work very well, I think ordinary legislative deliberation and voting about life-affecting regulations by the people's representatives to be, all things considered, the wiser way to go. And it's pretty evident that, however vaguely and indirectly connected the EU's regulations are back at the beginning of a long causal chain to the voters, they aren't put into place by the sort of legislative mechanism I'm referring to, where, for example, you can vote out the guy who voted for _this_ law, or at least consider voting against him, when he's next running for reelection.

Even if centralized power and bureaucrat-made and bureaucrat-imposed regulations can in principle be used for good, I think them a bad idea. For example, my state's home school law is great, but I'd never recommend that a) the federal government take charge of passing legislation on home schooling so that b) my state's law could be put into place at the federal level. Once the federal government is put in charge of home schooling, _that_ fact (federal control) will remain even if the specific legislation is radically changed. And a move that might provide, today, more freedom for people in states other than my own would have disastrous potential consequences for all home schoolers to be gravely restricted in one fell swoop down the line once the centralization is accomplished. Better to have it legislated at a lower level as it presently is and hopefully will continue to be. I'd be foolish to recommend anything else. And I think that's the model to pursue more generally in legislation, too.

Another point occurs to me about the cranks or curmudgeons in the UK who didn't want to label their wares using the metric system. Part of what I have in mind when I talk about an instinct for freedom is something like this: Every conservative (in my opinion) should have a streak of libertarianism in him. I realize that's kind of an odd thing to say on this blog, and odder still is that I should be saying it in the service of taking Jeff Martin's side in a thread discussion with Jeff Singer! :-) (Stop the presses!) It seems like it should be the other way around.

Now, an important part of what I mean by the sensibility that is that "streak of libertarianism" is that cranks should be able to be cranks, without the government trying to micromanage them and smoosh them in the name of showing who's in charge. To me there is something sort of creepy about an entire continent-plus-the-British-isles in which cranky produce sellers (or whatever) should be told on pain of fines how they have to label their wares. Isn't that _exactly_ the sort of interference in people's lives that a healthy love of freedom should cause us to hate and resent? And there is even something a little creepy about finding it defended by the masses on the grounds that, hey, anybody who objects is just a weirdo or a crank. I mean, part of the love of freedom is the love of human variety, and if that means that old Mr. Jones wants to label his flour, which his family has ground for umpteen years, in pounds rather than kilos, then by God, he should be left alone to do so. If libertarianism is good for anything at all, it should be good for giving conservatism a shot in the arm occasionally to make it feel that sense of resentment when such differences are flattened out and the people steamrolled in the process are waved away under the name of "cranks." If all libertarianism is good for is defending deviant sexual practices and the "marriage" of those who engage in them (for example) but not defending the oddball Englishman who wants to sell his flour in pounds from the continental bureaucrats, then to heck with it. It isn't delivering. I'll have to find a new word for the thing that all good conservatives should have a streak of. :-)


I tend to be more of a consequentialist -- if a law is good, then I DO want to see everyone in my country (not just in my town, city, state) benefit from it. I tend to think of the Bill of Rights this way and as an example, I certainly hope the Supreme Court nullifies D.C.'s gun law so a similar law here in Chicago will be voided and I can go out and legally buy a gun to protect my family (something that actually means something to me since we recently had a burglary in the middle of the day)!

On the other hand, your point is a good one -- what can be "given" centrally can also be taken away. I guess this is why I read someone like Jim Manzi praise "subsidiary" (not to mention the Pope!) I suppose the question for me remains whether a particular piece of legislation or legal protection promotes something unambigiously good (e.g. the freedom to worship). I just can't imagine a state throwing out a particular religious group that was peaceful (e.g. the Baptists who settled Rhode Island) as ever being a good thing, and therefore would want religious freedom protected everywhere (e.g. Egypt, where the Copts are under increasing pressure as second-class citizens who fear for their lives at times). This is why I generally have warm feelings for the British Empire...for all the wrongs the Brits committed, I like all the good ideas they spread, represented wonderfully by this famous story concerning the practice of suttee in India (as told by Roger Kimball):

General Charles Napier when dealing with sutte, the Indian custom of burning a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

Well, there are an awful lot of implications to that comment, and I'm not sure I'll have time to address them all or to bring up all the relevant questions. For example, does it require the doctrine of incorporation to apply the 2nd Amendment to the states? How does the Constitution apply to the District of Columbia, which is not a state? How much centralization would we have if we had incorporation of the first ten amendments against the states and nothing more (no funky uses of the commerce clause for regulating private employers at the federal level, for example)? And so forth. Some of these are questions of constitutional interpretation, but they have further implications, given the care the founders took to guard against tyranny and to guard the prerogatives of the states, and the reasons they had for being concerned about these things.

It really isn't nearly so simple as asking whether some law is a good one or not and then wanting it applied at as "high" or centralized a level as possible. This for reasons I've already mentioned: If you give that level of government authority to regulate that area, they can later regulate it badly, and unfortunately are rather likely to do so. And it's interesting to note that a number of the laws we've been talking about here are _not_ good and important laws. Rather, they are very bad laws or are unimportant laws (it is hardly a matter of life or death if English grocers use metric measures in their sales), yet you don't seem all that concerned about the fact that very bad or even busy-bodyish laws are being pressed upon larger numbers of people over very large geographical areas, and that those people can't get out from under them easily by moving to another European jurisdiction. In other words, these things are illustrations of how centralized power is most likely to be used and of the dangers thereof, yet you still seem to think that the whole question comes down to the specifics of the law in question, which is just really not true.

As for the British empire, the fact that one empire did good at one time is (like the fact that some absolute monarchies do good) not an argument for empire in general. It's one thing to ask, "Did such-and-such an empire bring good things to the people it governed?" It's quite another thing to ask, "Shall we have an empire?" or "Shall we be happy about the setting up of a strongly centralized government, now, in Europe, for the future of our own world?" It's highly plausible (though not politically correct to say so) that the value of the British Empire for the nations it governed was largely a result of the inherent superiority of Western over non-Western cultures, in many, many areas, including, as you bring up, not burning women. But that, and the Brit's uncanny ability to "pull it off" over so large an area, was a sort of accident of history. It's implausible almost beyond expression that there is a similar set of circumstances for the use of the power of empire or of centralized government now. Certainly the EU is hardly likely to be any sort of benign central power--not by a long, long, long shot.

Finally, my own liking for the quotation you give is because of its refusal to bow to cultural relativism. Questions of the wisdom of particular types of large-scale government are not really much on my radar when I appreciate that quotation. Rather, my feeling is that _if_ they were going to have an empire, then _of course_ they shouldn't go all wussy and leave such horrific "local customs" in place. The antecedant, however, is still wide open. (And as Mark Steyn has so trenchantly pointed out, the men who built the British empire were the true "multiculturalists," in just the sense that they actually knew about the places they governed, unlike present-day multiculturalists who know nothing but tell us to defer to the Other, however horrible.)

I have found Manzi's remarks upon subsidiarity over at The American Scene to be quite interesting, though I'm suspicious that he has conflated the overlapping, but essentially distinct concepts of subsidiarity and federalism. Federalism was, perhaps, the expression of a subsidiarist ideal for a particular people possessed of a particular political and cultural inheritance; certainly, there was much of the wisdom of subsidiarity in the Constitution as ratified, with the limited and delegated powers of the national government clearly expressing a judgment concerning what could be addressed by states and localities and what required national action. Subsidiarity, though is both simpler and more open-ended than federalism, at least as we (ought to) know it in America. All subsidiarity means, in essence, is that matters should be addressed at the smallest, most localized level capable of addressing the matter at hand; only manifest incapacity can shunt the issue upwards. In other words, it's really non-specific, and requires ongoing prudential judgment. Federalism, in the American context, was more circumscribed, at least in intention: these things are done here, by these authorities, and those things are done there, by those authorities. A federalist system in which the Constitution was observed, rather than invoked as a fig leaf, would have very few of the accoutrements of the modern managerial state; a subsidiarist system, openly identified as such, could have at least a few of them, if the prevailing judgment were that the matters they addressed couldn't be handled otherwise. This difference could be squared by honouring the amendment process of the Constitution, rather than exercising creative interpretation.

Good luck with that, though. And good luck with the proposal to decentralize many of the issues that roil the body politic - it seems to me that the judiciary, and the general political culture, stand in the way.

What can the U.S. do if the Europeans want to suffer under a tyrannical super-state? Those countries are at least nominally democracies, and the people there are at least nominally in control of their own fates. I don't see a great deal of room for intervention in their suicide.

Furthermore, I think it is very useful to us to watch them fall. Seeing Britain's crime rate soar as their civilization crumbles is a wonderful argument from utility against multiculturalism and gun control. The inhumane disaster that is their National Health Service is a wonderful cautionary tale about government involvement in medicine. Every western European country has a series of these cautionary tales to tell us about socialism, and the people of those countries are paying a terrible price to act out the suicidal fantasies of their leaders.

Our politicians, republican and democrat alike, are eager to drag us down the same path that the Europeans are going. If we couldn't look at Europe and see where that path will inevitably lead, there might not be enough of us willing to resist our ``leaders.''

I'm not silent about the disaster that's overtaking Europe, but I certainly won't raise a finger to help until they've started taking some real, substantive actions to halt their slide into tyranny and barbarism. I will definitely raise a finger to point at them and say: ``We must never do that!''

Jeff, there's a world of difference between preventing the burning of widows on their husbands' pires, and forcing Nigel to label his Wensleydale in kg. Perhaps both are "good" ideas, but they don't both deserve the force of law, much less so when such laws are imposed, rather than legislated, by far distant bureaucrats.

The Irish people spoke. Now the political establishment around Europe is scambling to find a way to circumvent the democratic decision of the Irish. My guess is the same garbage will be fed to the European people in bite sized pieces.

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