- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2005

Following yesterday’s vote in France, Dutch voters Wednesday get to express their opinion on the proposed “European Constitution.” Heartening to see democracy in action, notwithstanding the European elite’s hysterical warnings that, without the constitution, the Continent will be set back on the path to Auschwitz. I haven’t seen the official ballot, but the choice seems to be: “Check Box A to support the new constitution; check Box B for genocide and conflagration.”

Alas, this tactic doesn’t seem to have worked. So, a couple of days before the first referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker, the “president” of the European Union, let French and Dutch voters know how much he values their opinion:

“If at the end of the ratification process, we do not manage to solve the problems, the countries that would have said No, would have to ask themselves the question again,” “President” Juncker told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.

Got that? You have the right to vote, but only if you give the answer your rulers want you to give. But don’t worry, if you don’t, we’ll treat you like a particularly backward nursery school and keep asking the question until you get the answer right. Even America’s bossiest nanny-state Democrats don’t usually express their contempt for the people’s will quite so crudely.

Mr. Juncker is from Luxembourg, a country two-thirds the size of your rec room, and, under the agreeably clubby EU arrangements, he gets to serve as “president” without anything so tiresome as having to be voted into the job by “ordinary people.” His remarks capture precisely the difference between the new Europe and the American republic.

Sick in bed a couple of months back, I started reading “A Declaration of Interdependence: Why America Should Join the World” by Will Hutton, and found it such a laugh I was soon hurling my medication away and doing cartwheels round the room. Will Hutton was a sort of eminence grise to Tony Blair, at least in his pre-warmongering pre-Bush-poodle phase. Mr. Hutton is the master of the dead language of statism that distinguishes the complacent Europhile from a good percentage of Americans, not all of them Republicans.

That said, even as a fully paid-up Eurobore, Mr. Hutton is at pains to establish how much he loves America: “I enjoy Sheryl Crow and Clint Eastwood alike, delight in Woody Allen.” I would wager he is faking at least two of these enthusiasms. As for the third, it was to Woody Allen the French government turned for assistance with a commercial intended to restore their nation’s image in America after anger at post-September 11, 2001, Gallic obstructionism began having commercial implications for France. In the advertisement, Woody said he disliked the notion of renaming french fries “freedom fries.” What next, he wondered. Freedom kissing?

Despite the queasy mental image of Woody French-kissing, I’m with him on that one: If you don’t like the phrase “french fries,” there’s a perfectly good British word: “chip.” It conveniently covers both the menu item and what the French have on their shoulder. That the French government could think an endorsement by Woody Allen would improve their standing with the American people is itself a sad testament to the ever-widening Atlantic chasm. And that Will Hutton could think his appreciation of Woody is proof of his own pro-Americanism only widens the gap another half-mile.

But, having brandished his credentials, Mr. Hutton says it’s his “affection for the best of America that makes me so angry that it has fallen so far from the standards it expects of itself.” The great Euro-thinker is not arguing that America is betraying the Founding Fathers but that the Founding Fathers themselves got it hopelessly wrong. He compares the American and French Revolutions, and decides the latter was better because instead of the radical individualism of the 13 Colonies the French promoted “a new social contract.”

Well, you never know. It may be the defects of America’s Founders that help explain why the U.S. has lagged so far behind France in technological innovation, economic growth, military performance, standard of living, etc. Entranced by his Europhilia, Mr. Hutton insists “all Western democracies subscribe to a broad family of ideas that are liberal or leftist.”

Given that New Hampshire has been a continuous democracy for two centuries longer than Germany, this seems a doubtful proposition. It would be more accurate to say almost all European nations subscribe to a broad family of ideas that are statist. Or, as Mr. Hutton has it, “the European tradition is much more mindful that men and women are social animals and that individual liberty is only one of a spectrum of values that generate a good society.”

Precisely. And it’s the willingness to subordinate individual liberty to what Mr. Hutton calls “the primacy of society” that blighted the Continent for more than a century: Statism — or “the primacy of society” — is what fascism, Nazism, communism and now European Union all have in common.

In fairness, after the first three, European Union seems a comparatively benign strain of the disease — not a Blitzkrieg, just a Bitzkrieg, an accumulation of fluffy trivial pan-European laws that nevertheless takes for granted that the natural order is a world in which every itsy-bitsy activity is licensed and regulated and constitutionally defined by government.

That’s why Will Hutton feels almost physically insecure when he’s in one of the spots on the planet where the virtues of the state religion are questioned. “In a world that is wholly private,” he says of America, “we lose our bearings; deprived of any public anchor, all we have are our individual subjective values to guide us.” He deplores the First Amendment and misses government-regulated media, which in the EU ensures that all public expression is within approved parameters (left to center-left). “Europe,” he explains, “acts to ensure that television and radio conform to public interest criteria.”

“Public interest criteria” doesn’t mean criteria the public decides is in its interest. It means the elite — via various appointed bodies — decide what constitutes the public’s interest. Will Hutton is a member of the European elite, so that suits him fine. But it will never catch on in America — I hope.

As European “President” Juncker spelled out to the French and Dutch electorates, a culture that subordinates the will of the people to the “primacy of society” is unlikely to take no for an answer. And, if you ignore referendum results, a frustrated citizenry turns to other outlets.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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