A Member of the European Parliament’s Warning to America

by admin on 06/19/2011 12:59 PM

The perils of following us toward greater regulation, higher taxes and centralized power.

By DANIEL HANNAN

On a U.S. talk-radio show recently, I was asked what I thought about the notion that Barack Obama had been born in Kenya. “Pah!” I replied. “Your president was plainly born in Brussels.”

American conservatives have struggled to press the president’s policies into a meaningful narrative. Is he a socialist? No, at least not in the sense of wanting the state to own key industries. Is he a straightforward New Deal big spender, in the model of FDR and LBJ? Not exactly.

My guess is that, if anything, Obama would verbalize his ideology using the same vocabulary that Eurocrats do. He would say he wants a fairer America, a more tolerant America, a less arrogant America, a more engaged America. When you prize away the cliché, what these phrases amount to are higher taxes, less patriotism, a bigger role for state bureaucracies, and a transfer of sovereignty to global institutions.

He is not pursuing a set of random initiatives but a program of comprehensive Europeanization: European health care, European welfare, European carbon taxes, European day care, European college education, even a European foreign policy, based on engagement with supranational technocracies, nuclear disarmament and a reluctance to deploy forces overseas.

No previous president has offered such uncritical support for European integration. On his very first trip to Europe as president, Mr. Obama declared, “In my view, there is no Old Europe or New Europe. There is a united Europe.”

I don’t doubt the sincerity of those Americans who want to copy the European model. A few may be snobs who wear their euro-enthusiasm as a badge of sophistication. . . .

All right, growth would be slower, but the quality of life might improve. All right, taxes would be higher, but workers need no longer fear sickness or unemployment. All right, the U.S. would no longer be the world’s superpower, but perhaps that would make it more popular. Is a European future truly so terrible?

Yes. I have been an elected member of the European Parliament for 11 years. I have seen firsthand what the European political model means.

The critical difference between the American and European unions has to do with the location of power. The U.S. was founded on what we might loosely call the Jeffersonian ideal: the notion that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect. The European Union was based on precisely the opposite ideal. Article One of its foundational treaty commits its nations to establish “an ever-closer union.”

From that distinction, much follows. The U.S. has evolved a series of unique institutions designed to limit the power of the state: recall mechanisms, ballot initiatives, balanced budget rules, open primaries, localism, states’ rights, term limits, the direct election of public officials from the sheriff to the school board. The EU places supreme power in the hands of 27 unelected Commissioners invulnerable to public opinion.

The will of the people is generally seen by Eurocrats as an obstacle to overcome, not a reason to change direction. When France, the Netherlands and Ireland voted against the European Constitution, the referendum results were swatted aside and the document adopted regardless. For, in Brussels, the ruling doctrine—that the nation-state must be transcended—is seen as more important than freedom, democracy or the rule of law. . .

Why is a European politician urging America to avoid Europeanization? As a Briton, I see the American republic as a repository of our traditional freedoms. The doctrines rooted in the common law, in the Magna Carta, and in the Bill of Rights found their fullest and most sublime expression in the old courthouse of Philadelphia. Britain, as a result of its unhappy membership in the European Union, has now surrendered a large part of its birthright. But our freedoms live on in America. . .

So you can imagine how I feel when I see the U.S. making the same mistakes that Britain has made: expanding its government, regulating private commerce, centralizing its jurisdiction, breaking the link between taxation and representation, abandoning its sovereignty.

You deserve better, cousins. And we expect better.

Mr. Hannan is a member of the European Parliament. This essay is adapted from the Encounter Books Broadside, “Why America Must Not Follow Europe.”

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