It Can Happen Here
American government goes European
Nov 8, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 08 • By ROGER KIMBALL
The New Road to Serfdom
European Union debate on maternity and paternity leave, Strasbourg, Oct. 20, 2010
A Letter of Warning to America
In September I was part of a conference in England on the subject of “The Anglosphere and the Future of Liberty.” Just before I introduced our dinner speaker, the British politician and journalist Daniel
Hannan, a friend handed me a finely printed card which read, “Socialism: It’s not just for Europeans any more.”
Oh, the shattering simplicity of the perfectly obvious! Hannan’s remarks, as it happens, dilated on this sorrowful theme: how America was becoming more and more like contemporary Europe, and why this was a bad thing. This is also the theme of his short, lively, polemical, and irresistible book.
When it comes to the European Union, Hannan knows whereof he speaks. For the last 11 years he has been a member of the European Parliament for Southeast England for the Conservative party. He has watched with dismay as political power and sovereignty have drained away from the 27 member states and have been invested in Brussels. In dismay, but not in silent dismay. In a series of coruscatingly brilliant speeches (many of which are freely available on the Internet: Google is your friend), he has stood up for freedom, local prerogatives, and fiscal prudence and against their statist alternatives. Cato the Elder was in the habit of ending his speeches with the imperative: “Carthago delenda est.” (Carthage must be destroyed.)
The Lisbon Treaty, aka the European Constitution, the 78,000-word behemoth (the U.S. Constitution, with all of its Amendments, is but 7,200 words) that was to bind all of Europe into a single, smoke-free, low-carbon, egalitarian, nonsexist, emolliently progressive utopia, in which everything from the right to a job to the right to “good administration” (!) is guaranteed in writing. The American Constitution, as Hannan notes, is mainly about the liberty of the individual and limiting state power. The Lisbon Treaty, despite its rhetoric, is mainly about explaining the power of the state. But wait!
Daniel Hannan has not liked what he has witnessed unfolding on the continent. Unelected—and, if I may so put it, un-unelectable—officials now run the show. They decide everything from fiscal policy to what sort of light bulbs you may use to how much the bananas you import may deviate from the perpendicular. (You think I am making this up; I am not.) “Who can seriously doubt,”