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It Can Happen Here

American government goes European

Nov 8, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 08 • By ROGER KIMBALL
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The New Road to Serfdom

It Can Happen Here

European Union debate on maternity and paternity leave, Strasbourg, Oct. 20, 2010

Frederick Florin

A Letter of Warning to America
by Daniel Hannan
HarperCollins, 224 pp., $24.99

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.
Buy it. Read it. It will probably make you angry. It will certainly make you better informed about what is happening to America. And like the book from which it takes its title, F. A. Hayek’s 1944 masterpiece, The Road to Serfdom, Hannan’s book is essential intellectual equipment for Tea Partiers everywhere. If you cherish freedom and value independence and self-reliance, you will like this book. If you value security above all else, and look to government to take care of you, you will be frightened by it.
The New Road to Serfdom is in equal parts a paean to ordered liberty and an admonition against the snares of central planning and rule by cadres of self-perpetuating elites. Europe has gone down that road with baleful results for freedom and prosperity that Hannan outlines but that are still ill-appreciated on this side
of the Atlantic.

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.)
Hannan has deployed a similarly tonic use of the gerundive at the conclusion of his own speeches: “Pactio Olisipiensis censenda est.” (The Lisbon Treaty must be put to a vote.)

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 asks that the
Lisbon Treaty be put to a vote. But wasn’t it already put to the people for a vote? Why yes, repeatedly—and each time they voted it down, by a substantial margin. Exasperated, the bureaucrats who now run Europe, and who appoint one another and are therefore essentially beyond the reach of the voters, simply adopted it, after taking the precaution of having a team of lawyers render it (as Valéry Giscard d’Estaing cheerfully acknowledged) “unreadable.” (A Pelosi moment, that: “We have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what is in it.”) 

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,”
Hayek asked,

That the power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest fonctionnaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state and on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work?

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