The Consequences of a Post-Modern Political Schießbefehl
Astute finem respice readers will be well aware of finem respice's manifest suspicion of runaway (or indeed any) centralization. It would be difficult, therefore, to imagine such readers being surprised to find that these pages were (and are) no particular fan of the sprawling pneumatic-tube system of governance that is the European Union. Moreover, it would be difficult for any reader (even any casual reader) not to come away with the impression that finem respice's attitude might be all together more hostile than mere suspicion and distaste after reading such pieces (forgive us if we wonder if "prescient" is a self-serving word) as "Nucleating The False Vacuum Of The European Union" or "Fiscal Effects Of French Heroin In Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Patients". But, though it was beyond our powers to resist it, such self-referential praise must seem horribly gauche, and, after all, speculation with respect to dramatic change in the European Union always manifest itself in these pages by the expectation of a small crisis ballooning into an existential one owing to the unstable state of affairs that characterized the European Union as a political project. To wit:
Once one realizes that these institutional fibs (unfettered access to funds, the safety of deposits, a lack of regime uncertainty, legally guaranteed equality for citizens, and guaranteed freedom of movement of capital- elemental freedoms that are supposedly instrumental to the legal system they form) are the energy peaks that maintain the false vacuum, one cannot help but notice that, contrary to the expertise of the Eccles, the great minds of the European Union seem fiercely determined to trigger the decay of the false vacuum in which they presently reside. Well, either that or they simply find it difficult to prevail in a "3 of 5" Tick-Tac-Toe match with the top quartile of the Sea Cucumber population.1
Without a doubt, finem respice remains convinced that, far from being irrelevant, a million tiny slights and arbitrary acts, a hundred thousand fibs, and tens of thousands of outright deceptions emanating from Brussels and Strasbourg contributed mightily to the Brexit vote. For three days breathless commentators have been at pains to vomit out the phrase "anti-establishment," (as if addressing a slew of misguided students conducting a sit-in in the Provost's office) before collapsing onto their fainting couches and slipping unconscious into a growing pool of their own incontinence. But their's is an infantile analysis. Consider:
Never has there been a greater coalition of the establishment than that assembled by Prime Minister David Cameron for his referendum campaign to keep the U.K. in the European Union. There was almost every Westminster party leader, most of their troops and almost every trade union and employers’ federation. There were retired spy chiefs, historians, football clubs, national treasures like Stephen Hawking and divinities like Keira Knightley. And some global glamour too: President Barack Obama flew to London to do his bit, and Goldman Sachs opened its checkbook.
And none of it worked. The opinion polls barely moved over the course of the campaign, and 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU. That slender majority was probably the biggest slap in the face ever delivered to the British establishment in the history of universal suffrage.2
The "Remain" crowd (and even some critics) would have us believe that the Brexit vote was a rejection of "The Establishment" and "all it stands for." In the conventional sense this is sold as "The Four Freedoms," a moniker stolen from Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to convince the United States to abandon neutrality and enter the Second World War back in January of 1941. Said Roosevelt:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.3
The European Union took quite a bit of artistic liberty with Roosevelt's text. The Four Freedoms of the European Union are generally described as the "free movement of goods," the "freedom of movement for workers," the "right of establishment and right to provide services," and the "free movement of capital."
It is telling that even this commonly understood (and commonly repeated) formulation isn't accurate. The actual text in the operative documents reads:
The peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them, are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values.
Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.
The Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States and the organisation of their public authorities at national, regional and local levels; it seeks to promote balanced and sustainable development and ensures free movement of persons, services, goods and capital, and the freedom of establishment.4
As a founding document the Charter of Fundamental Rights has endured quite poorly compared to, say, similar documents that purportedly underly the relationship between the governors and the governed across the pond. The Charter hasn't seen a decade yet and already its been badly watered down.
The "free movement of goods," is often touted by Europhiles as some kind of commitment to global free trade and globalism (which the classic liberal bent of astute finem respice readers might find some solace in) but one need only look at the extensive system of tariffs, shadow tariffs, and duties employed by the European Union to be quickly disabused of that notion.
TARIC, the European Union's Tariff database is a sprawling mass of standards, legal basis descriptions, and import and export duties. The descriptions and data underlying the European Union's tariff scheme are updated monthly and span eight separate spreadsheets for a total of almost ten megabytes (the import duties spreadsheets alone are nearly 5 megabytes) not to mention the 4.5 megabyte Microsoft Word file that comprises the "Quota User Guide," the 1.28 megabyte Excel chart for "Nomenclature," the 3.21 megabyte Excel file containing "Footnotes and descriptions," etc. etc. etc.5
Readers might be forgiven for pointing out, pointedly, that the free movement of goods only applies (sort of) inside the European Union. Your intrepid author had a discussion very much resembling this only days before the Brexit vote:
"Well, of course," smiles the Europhile warmly hands spread wide, palms up like a greeter at a German Walmart.6 "It's a free trade bloc."
"Ah, so free movement of goods, but just internally."
"Exactly, now you understand perfectly! Very democratic, no?"
"So what about the free movement of high powered household appliances like electric kettles? Aren't those about to be banned?"
"But, you misunderstand, this is an environmental issue, not a trade issue."
"Really? Do you think low powered kettles for boiling water are more efficient?"
"Well, but of course! Very democratic, no?"
"Not if you understand thermodynamics, no."
"Why are we talking physics? You do not understand the European Union, it is clear to me now. The European Union is more of a customs union, really."
"A customs union?"
"Yes, it is about conformity of policy and tariff."
"Not the free movement of goods?"
"Well, what about the wildly different feed-in tariffs for electricity in, say, Germany versus, I don't know, anywhere else in Europe?"
"Electricity is not a good. It is a service."
"Ah, and then the freedom for the provision of services...?"
"You are very mis-informed young miss."
"What about subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy?"
"Subsidies are not tariffs."
"Shall we ask the Italian olive grower who gets less of a subsidy than the Greek grower, despite them both being in the European Union, if that subsidy differential feels much different than a tariff on Italian olive oil?"
"The customs union applies to... some goods. Appropriate goods. Very democratic, no?"
Would it surprise you, dear reader, to learn that my counterpart in the described conversation was a mid-level official in the European Commission?
Very democratic, no?
The "free movement of workers," (or labour, or persons) was something of a tough sell early on in the history of the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights. This might be why anyone you asked in those so-long-ago years would have recited rote back to you that it was the "free movement of labour" (not "persons") and that it applied to European Union citizens only.
What has become eminently clear, however, is that neither of these things are true. In fact, this freedom is much better described (at least when there is some coherent policy at work, which seems to be quite rarely) as the "Free Movement of Indolence," and the forced (upon localities) migration of non-EU citizens in what appears to be an attempt to replace birthrate with the fruits of an abjectly failed foreign policy in the Middle East and Africa.
Unsurprisingly, asking pointed questions about the real meaning of "free movement of [persons|labour|workers]" (one sharp analyst finem respice often has opportunity to discuss such matters with insists the freedom is best expressed as "Freedom of Movement of Labour(-Party Bureaucrats Between Strasbourg and Brussels") quickly results in furrowed brows and accusations of racism (which have lost some of their former sting owing to misuse, prompting the increasingly frequent resort to the term "xenophobia.")
Very democratic, no?
Shall we simply dispense with the discussion of "Freedom of Association" in this light?
Freedom of Movement of Capital should be straightforward, but tell that to someone paying 35% withholding on capital movements, or depositors in a Cyprian bank. Than again, the later were mostly Russians, and we couldn't possibly insist that these freedoms might apply to them, could we?
Very democratic, no?
True, the "Four Freedoms" are imperfect (one might even join finem respice in describing them as a farce) but the "Democracy!" mask really slips off of the European Union's militantly progressivist Id when populations try to stay out of or (in the name of all things democratic!) actually leave the Union.
As the likes of Daniel Hannan have been fond of pointing out for years, a number of popular referenda actively rejected the Treaty of Lisbon, but somehow those countries ended up ratifying in any event. It was simply too important for those countries to avoid being on the Wrong Side of History™. Their leaders could not permit them to make those mistakes.
This "union at all costs" push has characterized the European Union's strong-arm tactics since the beginning. Moreover, it is nothing for the organization at large to simply ignore its own treaties to expand the political unit to accept Greece, Italy, Spain, none of whom could have met their Maastrict Treaty criteria without material fraud.
Sold as a temporary measure to ease integration, the Common Agricultural Policy has become nothing more than a socialist wealth transfer.
Is it any wonder that citizenry grow tired of the constant, fraudulent background noise that always seems to be coming from Brussels, insisting with the language of classic liberal economics that there's nothing afoot? One might be inclined to think that the basic institutions of the European Union have simply lost the faith and confidence of, well, 52%+ of the population.
But the real crash is yet to come. One can feel it in the air. It gets stronger with every vitriolic scream and every insistence that somehow more than 17 million people are racist, terminally stupid, malleable, miserable rubes, and that for the love of democracy, and with absolutely no sense of irony or awareness of history, the demos must now be ignored. Laws and legal frameworks be damned. Smash windows, bust heads, even set something (or perhaps someone) on fire if you must, but this must not pass. Strangely, no one seemed so anti-democracy when the polls showed "remain" as a comfortable shoe-in.
And so Europe seems to be coming full circle. The (Gordon) Brown shirts threaten violence, Republikflucht is once again a crime, and it is to be deterred by a political Schießbefehl.
Having yelled "Halt, oder ich schieße!" and this week fired the warning shots, the European Union will now go about trying to inflict the most damage it can to the United Kingdom, with any means at its disposal (one may or may not credit the rumblings of shutting down air traffic between the United Kingdom and the continent, but the fact that the discussion is even taking place tells one much).
The hope is that sight of the bleeding carcass of the United Kingdom, slowly pouring its life out into the dirt of no-man's-land, illuminated for all to see by the harsh, watch-tower spotlight emanating from Jean-Claude Juncker's robotic-sentinel torso, might deter whomever would next dare to call for a referendum.
Inside the United Kingdom the Europhiles have become a borderline-violent mob of "anti-hate" hate and sputtering anger. "Young people," who couldn't tell you the first thing about what a "weak" British Pound actually means and are more than likely to think "macroeconomic" is a life-saving dietary restriction, complain that "old White people" have destroyed their future (perhaps you would get more mileage looking into defined benefit national pension plans there, junior), that ignorance invalidates the vote, and that the franchise should be stripped from anyone over [45, 35, 30, 25] years of age. "They don't have to live with their decision."
Perhaps we should see which groups of women voted "leave." Maybe suffrage just isn't for them?
Very democratic, no?
And so, facial tics suddenly more apparent than usual, Angel Merkel casts an angry and jaundiced eye in the direction of Italy, which must be asking itself: "Do we really want to be a part of this desperately insecure, infantile, and vindictive sect? Then again, the bananas are really pretty."
- 1. "Nucleating The False Vacuum Of The European Union,"
- 2. "Brexit: A Very British Revolution," Fraser Nelson, The Wall Street Journal (June 24, 2016).
- 3. "The Four Freedoms," Franklin D. Roosevelt, State of the Union Address (January 6, 1941).
- 4. "Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union," 2012/C 326/02 (Entered into force by the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009).
- 5. The library of the Communication and Information Resource Centre for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens (CIRCABA) can be viewed in all its pneumatic-tube glory via the European Commission's scintillating website.
- 6. See if you can find one.