May 26, 2016 7 Comments
Like so many of us, I have trouble conceiving of a more astute set of political theorist than the American founders. That they built for the ages, and mostly rightly is evident in what we’ve accomplished. Any, and there are some, who dispute that have one of two problems, they know nothing of history, and like all such, if we let them, will condemn us to live it yet again, although differently, most are likely tending towards being Luddites, or they are simply delusional, and believe what they believe irrespective of overwhelming evidence. Or they have an ulterior motive, I suppose is possible.
In any case, Europe has a problem. Britain is considering leaving the community. I have my opinion, as does Jess, on that, and we’ve shared them. But Europe itself seems to be floundering. Why is that? Do our founders have a few lessons for them? Why yes, I believe they do.
As a sort of lead in I want to share a joke that Oyiabrown shared recently.
Pythagoras’s theorem – 24 words. Lord’s Prayer – 66 words. Archimedes’s Principle – 67 words. 10 Commandments – 179 words. Gettysburg address – 286 words. U.S. Declaration of Independence – 1,300 words. U.S. Constitution with all 27 Amendments – 7,818 words.
EU regulations on the sale of cabbage – 26,911 words.
Think about that. If it takes almost 27K words to regulate cabbages… well you get the idea that maybe the EU is overfond of words, in 18 languages, no less, and may perhaps have a tendency to overregulate. And what are the regulatory costs of cabbage regulation anyway? In any case, a touching monument to the power of words, and the stifling of enterprise.
But to the main points.
Ask the American Founders
[…] Like Americans in the 1780s, European leaders today face an increasing security problem and a growing debt, but a lack of political power to solve it. The European Union has claimed in various stages to be a legitimate government, while few have taken its claims seriously. When the European Union is arbiter in a dispute or attempts to solve a problem, very few actually abide by the agreements made, if the agreements would solve the problem at all.The larger the republic, the fewer factions exist, which thus preserves the liberty of its citizens.
The United States faced similar issues in the 1780s. In the “Federalist Papers,” Alexander Hamilton argued a federal constitution is necessary, because of the “unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government.” Like its contemporary European counterparts, Hamilton and many of his contemporaries thought the Articles of Confederation that held the United States together during the Revolutionary War were too weak to pay for the war debt and to provide for a strong defense against European empires.
The biggest problem the Framers faced was the issue of political factions in the federal government, comparable to “the curse of nationalism” EU officials try to cope with. Steeped in classical and Enlightenment political theory, the Framers knew factionalism eventually would destroy republics from within. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison argued in Federalist No. 9 and 10 that “a firm Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States, as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection.
[…]EU parliamentarian and former prime minster of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt argues in his latest book “De ziekte van Europa” (“The Disease of Europe”) that decision-making in the European Union is too slow to solve past, current, and future problems and that centralization based on a federal model is the cure for this disease.
But, unlike Verhofstadt and EU officials, the Framers of the Constitution understood the difficulty of creating a large political union. The Framers argued that the United States was suited for a strong union because it was a connected and relatively homogenous nation, geographically and in spirit. A federal government would function properly because of homogeneity of language, devotion to liberty, a common history, and because, as John Jay put it, the Americans sought a united government in the revolutionary war when “their habitations were in flames, [and] when many of their citizens were bleeding.”
Probably the only commonality all Europeans share is that its peoples strongly resisted unification for centuries and still refuse to unify. Elite unification projects, such as those of Charlemagne, Napoleon, Nazi Germany, and the current European Union, all ended in failure and, more importantly, death and destruction.
The European Union likes to take credit for the decades of peace in Europe after World War II, while it was obviously the protective umbrella of the United States and the NATO alliance that kept western Europe safe. In fact, contemporary social unrest in Europe can be attributed to European Union failures, such as an inadequate protection of its borders, disastrous fiscal policies, and unnecessary expansion.
This is an excellent article, that I think clearly shows why the Constitution worked to unify the United States, but any conceivable similar document has almost no chance in Europe. Do read the whole thing and think about it.