The sheer gaul of them

by Maria on May 31, 2005

Why I’m a little irritated with France:

For falling asleep at the wheel in 2002 and letting back in to the Elysee a fraud who has no vision for France, no values apart from expediency, and whose number one professional objective was using the office to stay out of jail.

For thinking Supermenteur is kind of funny and harmless with his man of the people, socks in his sandals routine, when he’s spent the last 8 years lying to the people and assuring them it’s ok to put off, say, retirement reform till it’s too late to save the pensions of anyone under 40.

For letting Chirac keep as prime minister a one man crumple zone who took all the knocks for the right’s policies but had no mandate to do anything except fold when the public sector unions got stroppy.

For being hoodwinked by the government into blaming everything else on the EU.

For running a corporatist closed shop of unions and business leaders who don’t give a damn about the excluded unemployed and the perpetually damned ‘sans-papiers’.

For endless criticism of the US 2004 presidential outcome combined with chippy defensiveness when the French vote mostly on domestic issues to tell the rest of Europe to kiss off.

For endless rhetoric about the European ideal (especially in the pre-amble of said constitution) and the coming together of nations in harmony, etc. etc., based on the assumption that France is the true driving force

For insisting in the first place that the constitution be written by a self-important old windbag / ex-President of France.

For constant efforts to impose its own social model on the rest of Europe – not so we can enjoy the benefits, but to weigh us down with the costs so we provide less competition for France.

For self-congratulation at vanquishing ‘anglo-saxon capitalism’ while handing incoming EU President Tony Blair carte blanche to shape the outcome of the French non.

For assuming that if the French don’t like this painstakingly negotiated agreement, everyone else will quickly iron out the wrinkles and present one that’s more to France’s taste.

For the assumption that if France votes no, then the constitution is automatically dead. Just how democratic is that, protest voters? (Don’t Austria, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain count? They’ve all voted yes – in parliament or referendum – and by overwhelming majorities.)

For its refusal to have any debate about admitting Turkey to the EU that doesn’t start with straw men (‘then why not Syria too?) and finish with inchoate mutterings that are nonetheless held to be self-explanatory (But …they’re Muslims.).

For bringing the country to a standstill every five minutes to protest Canute-like about global economic forces.

For its dubious insistence on making the European Parliament pack its boxes every single month and shuttle to Strasbourg, a lose-lose symbolic practice that showcases French blocking power while keeping MEPs frazzled and weak. (So that’s probably a win-win if you’re the French government, then.)

For the CAP. How can it still be alive…? (Answer: because CAP also stands for collective action problem.)

And so on.

I may have over-stated my case just a tiny little bit. And I have experienced and enjoyed too many aspects of the French exception to not be a little complicit too. But, gentle French readers, if you find yourself jibing at the irritation of your fellow Europeans over the next week or two, keep in mind that these are the angry little thoughts zinging around in our heads. They will pass. And no one will be pouring French wine into the gutters. But you should know not all fellow Europeans regard this as France’s finest hour.

{ 143 comments }

1

Chris 05.31.05 at 2:00 pm

“no one will be pouring French wine into the gutters.” Which contrasts with what the French have been “doing recently with Spanish and Italian wine”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/05/01/wwine01.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/05/01/ixworld.html . So “communautaire” of them!

2

abb1 05.31.05 at 2:06 pm

I, for one, am very much impressed by ’em Frenchies voting contrary to all their elites, media, the freakin establishment. Something to admire, folks.

3

Antoni Jaume 05.31.05 at 2:09 pm

Well, in one aspect they may find that now oil goes up, since the Euro is down more that one percent respect the Dollar.

DSW

4

roger 05.31.05 at 2:14 pm

A point by point refutation would be as silly as the points themselves. It is sufficient to say that the French rejection of a 450 page constitution that was intensely discussed was a model of democratic governance, that the idea of “loading down” Europe with a bunch of vacation hours and excellent universal medical coverage for all is the kind of oppression I long for, and the odd and envious comments about how the French live too well nicely characterize the servile mindset that splashes CEOs and Celebrities on magazine covers while bemoaning the perks picked up by the unionized. In the midst of opulence, of course, only the opulent are supposed to enjoy life. Otherwise we will lose our entrepreneurial drive. Thus said one aphid to the other aphid as it was being milked. Maria richly deserves to live elsewhere than France. I’d suggest Alabama as her dream state.

5

thibaud 05.31.05 at 2:15 pm

Perhaps the French blogosphere will now develop some more momentum, and begin to undermine the complacent shoddiness of their own elite media as has occurred in the US. 2005 may turn out to be more significant than 1968.

6

Antoni Jaume 05.31.05 at 2:28 pm

Roger, as I’ve just said in another post, Alabama has a very long constitution…

DSW

7

Chris Williams 05.31.05 at 2:40 pm

Vive La 55% of France!

And they’ve brought down the Euro by 1%: a communitaire action which will have German and Italian manufacturing workers thanking them. Here’s hoping the Dutch no knocks another few points off it.

To the Euro-elites: next time you try to get us to sign up to a constitution, please can you keep it framework for decision-making rather than bolting a whole bunch of policies onto it? Thank you.

8

P ONeill 05.31.05 at 2:52 pm

I think they should get some credit for moving L’Ecole nationale d’administration to Strasbourg, thus proving that it’s not just MEPs that they’re trying to hobble by forcing them to operate from there. It might also dissipate the influence of the enarques a bit, although with one just becoming PM, the current omens are not good.

9

Jake McGuire 05.31.05 at 2:55 pm

Well, if the constitution requires unanimous assent, and the French say No, in what way is it not dead? Is the expectation that the rest of Europe will approve it and then the French will change their minds and go along?

10

Luc 05.31.05 at 3:35 pm

Stolen from a smart local politician, Jan Marijnissen, this is what “plan B” could sound like.

If both France and the Netherlands, who were and are at the core of the union, both reject this constitution, it must be clear that the future of Europe requires a better constitution than the compromise that is currently being proposed.

Etc. You can go anywhere you want from there.

There’s little lost, little gained. Still going to vote yes tomorrow, though.

11

des von bladet 05.31.05 at 3:41 pm

Maria: Right on, ma’am!

Jake: That’s pretty much the official plan. Until tomorrow when the Dutch say “Nee, hoor!”. There isn’t really much of a plan after that, official or otherwise.

12

yabonn 05.31.05 at 3:55 pm

Some good points, some i disagree with :

For its refusal to have any debate about admitting Turkey […] (But …they’re Muslims.).

Well, demonization may simply be the new hot thing in the debate about turkey (I don’t know the lastest trends, lack of interest). And i realize too that sourcing was not the point of this post. At last, i suppose it may just be one of these obvious things.

But any sign of these mutterings? Anywhere? Outside of the far rightwing loons?

For endless criticism of the US 2004 presidential outcome combined with chippy defensiveness when the French vote mostly on domestic issues to tell the rest of Europe to kiss off.

Don’t see how french should be happy about bush, except for some masochism. Can’t think, though, of any paper or media interested in “endlessly critisizing” the outcome.

13

Barry 05.31.05 at 3:57 pm

“I, for one, am very much impressed by ‘em Frenchies voting contrary to all their elites, media, the freakin establishment. Something to admire, folks.”

Posted by abb1

Nah, you’re happy that the French electorate voted against the interests of an elite that you consider to be Evul Librul.

The equivalent in the good ol’ USA might be the voters chucking the GOP out of power.

14

abb1 05.31.05 at 4:01 pm

Any elite is Evul. By definition. Stick it to the Man, screw the system. No Gods, No Masters, Against All Authority.

15

james 05.31.05 at 5:16 pm

I don’t want to defend the French, so I won’t.

One thought. If you had been against the EU constitution, you would be saluting their decision. For some reason the losers of a democratic vote feel the need to vilify those who vote against them. Welcome to life in a Democracy. You lost. People disagreed with your point of view. Deal with it.

16

charlie b. 05.31.05 at 5:38 pm

James. Yes. I am delighted with what has happened, and greatly look forward to tomorrow. But I don’t look forward to dealing with stroppy French EU politicans trying to get us to fork out *even more* for the precious French lifestyle. That’s what they mean by “solidarity” and as far as I’m concerned they can have it till it comes out both ends as long as *they* pay for it.

(Did anyone see the FT list of the 20 most efficient economies 1994 and 2004 compared – France did not figure on either list, and Chile was in the frame in 2004? USA and Singapore were 1 and 2 of course, but Finland, Norway, and Sweden were all in the top 10 – I wonder what they think of France. During my own delightful holiday in Languedoc last month I got the distinct impression that hardly anyone did any work.)

17

jonathan 05.31.05 at 6:47 pm

You can literally see a part of Europe becoming old, imagine the old folk on the muppet-show:

-how can you call it constitution?
-why is this in it?
-why is this left out?
-who wrote this?
-how much are we paying for this?
-who do we benefit with this?
boo-hoo!

I wonder if this Plan B of Marijnissen you mention is so easy to perform. Maybe France ought to fall. “At least I know Holland will adapt.”
-Jared Diamond,13th May, Leiden.

18

Matt 05.31.05 at 7:26 pm

19

Michele 05.31.05 at 8:04 pm

I guess Maria, that the French should strive to be like the British, with no laws for the maximum hours of week you can work before you start getting paid overtime.

I guess they should not have a minimum wage law, like some other European countries.

I guess they should start privatizing their health and education, like the British would like them to.

I guess they should also start speaking English, none of that silly Froggie stuff

And, of course, they should start thinking and voting exactly like you, because although you spew the rhetoric of democracy, you don’t seem to respect it when someone votes in a way that you don’t like.

Kind of like George Bush actually. Talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk.

20

lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 8:17 pm

it’s ok to put off, say, retirement reform till it’s too late to save the pensions of anyone under 40.

For letting Chirac keep as prime minister a one man crumple zone who took all the knocks for the right’s policies but had no mandate to do anything except fold when the public sector unions got stroppy.

I’m not sure what “stroppy” means, but it appears that Maria is mad at the French ebcuase they’re against cutting their alaries and pension benefits.

Between this and Henry’s post, I’m thinking we could have an interesting debate here on CT:

Resolved: It is morally legitimate for working-clas voters to oppose policies that would leave them poorer and less secure.”

The problem is, who would argue in the affirmative?

21

zm 05.31.05 at 10:03 pm

remarkable. so many ostriches in these comments.

the ‘problem’ isn’t some ‘anglo-saxon’ vision being imposed on france. the problem is that china and india, and even eastern europe, will eventually hollow out any economic viability that the French ‘social model’ has.

how high does the unemployment rate need to go, before the social model lovers agree that something needs to change? what’s the threshold? 15%? 20%? even higher? all for the love of your 35 hour work week?

22

Fred 05.31.05 at 10:05 pm

Yeah, but it’s only the communist ultra nationalist French that think the rights that workers get out of the EU aren’t good enough. For the workers in rest of Europe these rights are most welcome, and they know they probably wouldn’t have them at all it weren’t for the European project. France’s decision to weaken the EU for their own selfish reasons means the workers of Europe will be worse off, because there will less likely to be further collectives rules, or any sort, in the future meaning governments and businesses won’t be so willing to implement extra regulations in the knowledge everybody else won’t have to.

France have taken everybody down with them.

23

lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 11:30 pm

zm:

the 35 hour work week has nothing to do with Frnehc unemployment rates. (And incidentally, I would much, much rather be unemployed in France than flip burgers in the US. Admittedly the US model is slightly better for burger consumers, and much better for burger-shop owners.) If inflexible labor markkets were the cause of European unemployment, we would expect to see more capital-intensive growth there — i.e. the ratio of employment to GDP growth would be lower.

The reality is that European unemployment is high because European growth rates are low because European interest rates are high. And the blame for that lies exactly with the neoliberalismthat you and Maria want to further entrench. From this side of the Atlantic, it looks like ordinary French voters undertand their interests pretty well.

24

Chris 06.01.05 at 12:46 am

The reality is that European unemployment is high because European growth rates are low because European interest rates are high. And the blame for that lies exactly with the neoliberalism that you and Maria want to further entrench.

There’s an argument here (at last), given then way that the constitution seeks to define the role of the ECB. But note that whether or not this bad policy is “neoliberal” it is not one that can plausibly be attributed to les anglo-saxons. Rather it represents the incorporation of distinctively German obsessions in to the treaty.

25

Doug Muir 06.01.05 at 12:48 am

You know, y’all are seizing on a couple of paragraphs of Maria’s fine rant to start up the tedious old “what’s wrong with Europe — too much capitalism, or not enough” debate.

You’re ignoring her good points about the dishonesty, corruption and general creepiness of Supermenteur;

the uselessness of the French PM’s office (he’s on his fourth in seven years now) and the baleful effects of that on French politics;

the underlying French assumption that France is the guiding light of Europe;

and of course the CAP.

Nice one, Maria. Do it again sometime.

Oh, and — hello — you can think that the Constitution sucked rocks and still have issues with how and why it was rejected.

Doug M.

26

Doug Muir 06.01.05 at 1:02 am

Oh, and: I think Maria hit “post” before the appointment of Villepin was made public? But it fits perfectly with everything she said.

Villepin is an Enarquist of Enarquistes: brilliant, arrogant, intolerant of criticism. He’s a politician who’s never once run in an election: a career bureacrat who has been on the public payroll for almost 30 years without a break. While he’s done a crackerjack job of raising France’s international profile and getting up George Bush’s nose, he has zero experience with economic issues. And he exudes an almost palpable distaste for the canaille.

Politically, his polestar for the last decade has been servile loyalty to Chirac. And his main job in the next year or two (if he lasts that long) will not be the recent national _cri de couer_. No, Chirac will keep him busy — what else? — trying to spike Sarkozy.

This appointment was amazingly self-centered and arrogant even by Supermenteur’s standards. If you were trying to describe exactly what France /doesn’t/ need now, this would be it.

So while parts of Maria’s rant may be over the top, I do think she’s got some good points.

Doug M.

27

roger 06.01.05 at 1:18 am

Actually, as Larry Elliott has pointed out, and as the French voters most definitely pointed out, scale has meaning, here. An economic policy that is good for France and Germany won’t necessarily be one that is good for Poland. The insane idea that liberalism means the dissolution of the national state doesn’t come out of liberalism, it comes out of some Thomas Friedman bestseller. It is also really cute calling people racist or blind or selfish for thinking that those who take cosmopolitanism is about the confederacy of states each of which is to a scale that is acceptable to the population of those states. But those who do go for that kind of thing should seriously be trying to join together the U.S., Canada and Mexico in an Uberstate in which economic policy is dictated by the appropriate bureaucrats, and the happy population can vote on who gets to be dogcatcher and who gets to win the American Idol award.

French public opinion made it very plain that it did not want the EU to extend to Eastern European States. Gee, the wonderful example of the economic fruits borne by Germany absorbing East Germany might have been a little object lesson, eh? But of course, the people who will sacrifice nothing — the tenured academics, enarques, and upper level management — are always very enthusiastic urging sacrifice on the uninsulated middle class and working class. Just lose a little more of your social rights. Because, as we all know, we can’t afford them in the contemporary world. (This, of course, is the most laughable claim of all. We can more than afford them — the contemporary world is about three times more wealthy than the world in which they were instituted. What we can’t afford is a political economy that doesn’t give a lion’s share to the upper ten percent investor class).

But, you know, when they dig in their heals and say no, it is always racism and nationalism that prompts such bad dog behavior. And even though the system they are rejecting is built from top to bottom on self interest, their own self interest is somehow seedy. Yeah, those French, pouring out that Spanish wine — not at all like those American researchers popping off to patent the latest cod gene they discovered with state funding and will immediately sell to a company.

As for the facts of Maria’s case –we will see what Europeans, in the shape of Netherland’s voters, think of the French refusal. Oh, but I keep forgetting that they aren’t real Europeans. Real Europeans go to conferences, and write papers up about freeing up the labor market to become more competitive. Those are Europeans we can be comfortable with.

28

roger 06.01.05 at 1:21 am

Oops. blind or selfish for thinking that [should have been deleted –those who take] cosmopolitanism is about

29

Chris 06.01.05 at 1:32 am

An economic policy that is good for France and Germany won’t necessarily be one that is good for Poland.

or Ireland, or Greece ….

In which case, Roger, why not focus your attention on the creation of an enormous common currency area governed by a central bank whose remit, thanks to German folk-memories of Weimar, is currency stability at all costs (rather than growth). Again, _not_ the creation of les anglo-saxons, and nothing to do with EU enlargement as such (which is perfectly compatible with multiple currencies).

30

roger 06.01.05 at 1:49 am

Chris, Greece is a great example. In the sixties, when people asked where was development aid working, they pointed to Greece. The Europeans — Germany and France, mainly — poured aid and loans into Greece. And the economy grew pretty rapidly. The idea, of course, was that expansion of the Union was tied to both the desire of the state’s involved to expand and to the level of development reached by the nation. This seems eminently sensible to me.

But as the EU has grown, as you point out, that idea has been lost. The idea that the EU should centralize economic governance for states that are on disparate production functions has resulted in all states being dragged to a norm that is unnatural for them. I don’t think you are right to say, well, then that means the Euro itself should be tossed — as we know, a currency can be pegged to another currency and at the same time the economy can adjust autonomously — dollar pegging being common to Latin American countries at various times, and currently being Chinese policy. But it certainly seems to me that some of the root premises of the EU expansion should be re-done. If it has done Europe no good for the last ten years, why keep trying to cram it down people’s mouths?

31

jan 06.01.05 at 2:51 am

Well that drop in the Euro seems to have more to do with the present financial difficulties of Italy. But the main questions are: what kind of Europe do we want, and how can we get there?
Not with relinquishing democratic rights to non elected bodies or delevering public services to the deficiencies of the market economy.
“Well there might be a tribe in the Amazonas region that could do this callcentre work for 50 cents a day.”

32

EUlogist 06.01.05 at 3:08 am

Maria, maybe you were a little unfair sometimes (but only a little), but on the day my own countrymen are going to follow the bad example given by France, reading this certainly made me feel better. Great piece!

33

Publius 06.01.05 at 3:13 am

Highly recommended: “The Future of Money”, by Bernard Lietaer.

34

Jim 06.01.05 at 3:43 am

Hey, I thought this was a blog of academics, with some pretty smart economists who post to it, that might be able, with the eons of scholarship behind them, to come up with a system of economic and social paradigms that aren’t the same old patterns.

Now I’m just a lowly Lit major, and a Grad student to boot, but even I can see that the old stuff just isn’t cutting it. No, the people don’t want totalitarian socialism, and no, the poeple don’t want “free”-market capitalism; they want a system that lets them live in a civilized manner, with health care and dignity, and yes, long vacations, and still be able spread some of that progress around to those that haven’t got the good stuff yet. There should be some way to help the poor of the world without taking away from those who are a little less poor.

Now if you all, you with all the letters after your names, can’t come up with a way to do that, then you are just lame. If the only choices you, as academics, are giving us is ruthless capitalism, which needs victims to survive, or dead-end socialism, which needs stagnation to survive, then you need to get to work.

Hop to it–the people are waiting.

35

moni 06.01.05 at 4:08 am

Well I do defend the French, for reasons Michele and Lemuel Pitkin have given, amongst others.

I do wonder, how can anyone think the constitution – and the specific tendency it embodies, not all of the EU project per se – sucked, but take issue at how it was rejected?

Would a closed doors decision provoke less of a “oh the sheer gaul” reaction? (funny I don’t even remember all those impressive majorities of approval in parliamentary votes and referendums across the continent…)

It was a referendum, we can choose to consider all those who voted non as a mass of imbeciles frightened by the hysterically anti-eu right wing populists, or childish ‘protest voters’, or maybe actually go and listen to the reasons given for that non. In France as in the Netherlands – and last I checked, the Dutch don’t even suffer from supposed gaul and euro-protagonism ambitions.

Yes, there is a facile and dangerous “blame it on the euro” tendency that many governments have exploited; but there are also legitimate concerns about the direction the EU is taking on that ‘economic competitivity’ level. It would be nice to see them addressed.

36

Simon 06.01.05 at 4:13 am

Maria, you missed this one: “For swapping the dots and the commas in currency notation.”

37

moni 06.01.05 at 4:25 am

For instance, I wonder why no one seems to mention the opposition to the wretched Bolkestein directive, I guess that did play a not so insignificant part in shaping the results of the French vote, considering the decisions about the directive will have to be taken this very month.

– If you want a laugh, see this other bit of unbiased and not at all clichéd analysis of the vote results:

Having voted against the European constitution, many on the French left could be waking up to a nasty surprise.

If their goal had been to halt the unfettered spread of free-market Anglo-Saxon style economics, their ‘No’ vote may be worse than futile

Who says that?

Guess?

A political party representative?

A European MP?

A EU commissioner, even?

No… it’s…

… according to the investment bank Merrill Lynch.

You really couldn’t make the point about why people are suspicious of ‘EU reforms’ clearer than that.

38

Chris 06.01.05 at 5:12 am

Moni, so you think that an analysis of the likely consequences of the “non” from an investment banker is significantly less likely to be accurate than one from a political party representative, a European MP, or and EU commissioner?

39

Darren 06.01.05 at 5:12 am

For the assumption that if France votes no, then the constitution is automatically dead. Just how democratic is that, protest voters? (Don’t Austria, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain count? They’ve all voted yes – in parliament or referendum – and by overwhelming majorities.)

Doesn’t this betray the total sham of the EU? Doesn’t this show that it isn’t possible to have a homogenous political entity of Europe? Or, it is possible until something happens that a significant minority dislikes and everything falls apart at the seams.

The only person who has forged a union out of disparate entities was Lincoln and he did that via extreme violence.

40

Chris Baldwin 06.01.05 at 5:29 am

This post seems to be working on the mistaken assumption that Chirac is actually popular. Which he’s not.

41

moni 06.01.05 at 6:26 am

Chris, your attempt at mind reading confuses me.

I just think it’s extremely funny and ironic and sad altogether, to happen to come across a statement about how those from the left who voted non might be disappointed to find out that their vote will not change a thing in terms of economic policies that they are protesting against, and to find that statement is being made by an investment banker.

I really cannot explain what’s so sad and ironic about it, if you don’t see it yourself.

It’s just a silly thing, only a statement in an article, but it’s rather symbolic of something larger.

(I also liked that ‘If their goal had been to halt the unfettered spread of free-market Anglo-Saxon style economics’ – about three levels of cliché, assumptions, code words, etc…)

42

seth edenbaum 06.01.05 at 6:32 am

“Resolved: It is morally legitimate for working-clas voters to oppose policies that would leave them poorer and less secure.”

What’s really annoying is not that someone would argue the necessity of voting against one’s immediate interests- though I don’t agree in this case- but the condescending tone of moral superiority on the part of the academic mouthpieces of the economic elite.

“Why can’t they be logical? Don’t they see how the world works?”

I’ll ask Maria the same question.

43

moni 06.01.05 at 7:01 am

I mean, come on, you have someone from Merryll Lynch telling the citizens of a country that their referendum vote doesn’t count anyway because it went against the direction the EU is going to take regardless – how much clearer does it get? He’s validating the point of the no voters. You just have to laugh.

The irony is precisely that his conclusion – nothing will change, in fact, the economic changes will get even more unpopular – is most likely accurate, and probably a lot more honest than anything you’d hear from a EU commissioner or politician on the yes side. It just goes to show how impotent the whole democratic process is. Like something tacked on after the facts to give them an appearance of having been voted upon.

And to think they made it sound as if the no vote was going to have such dramatic effects, even bury the EU, no less. They’ll just renegotiate the constitution, just like with the Bolkestein directive and all such initiatives. It’s not even possible to scrap something like that altogether and come up with a different approach. Taboo.

I’m not “anti-EU”, I just don’t like this sort of thing.

NB: I’m aware this sort of concerns can and have been used by the hysterical anti-brussels populists to attack anything done at EU level, even the most sensible things. But that’s not to say the concerns themselves must be hysterical or populist.
Last night I heard one of the Dutch socialists campaining for the No vote interviewed and asked that very question and he said, well sometimes the wrong people have the right arguments. In this case, I think he was right – that’s why there was such a consensus for the no vote from all kinds of political positions. Instead, from reactions of those who didn’t like the result, it seems like there’s no alternative to unconditional approval and hysterical populism. Like citizens couldn’t possibly have legitimate concerns and refuse to approve something they find unconvincing, not just be ignorant or swayed by populism or nationalism.

44

Michele 06.01.05 at 7:36 am

I’m actually surprised that a person who exudes such anti-French racism as Maria is even working in Europe. I think she would be much happier in an English speaking country.

And, the high unemployment rates in the Euro zone have to do with the strength of the Euro, which the referendum has helped lower.

By the way, France is the guiding light of Europe, having been the driving force behind it from the start, when the British weren’t on board.

The good benefits that the French workers have are not due to the EU but to the French themselves. They just don’t want to have an unlimited work week like in Britain.

45

Doug Muir 06.01.05 at 7:49 am

Wow, Maria. You’ve really brought them out. Now you’re an anti-French racist. (French is a race?)

Modest reality check: the non vote was disproportionately male, rural, and undereducated. In US terms, Bush voters.

Note that the self-identified far left went for “no” by 10 to 1, but the far right went for it by 24 to 1. And if everyone who had voted for Le Pen in ’02 had stayed home, the “ouis” would have won comfortably.

So if it was really about social justice… strange bedfellows, is all I can say.

Doug M.

46

lemuel pitkin 06.01.05 at 7:59 am

the non vote was disproportionately male, rural, and undereducated.

And your point is…? That male, rural, uneducted voters don’t know their own interests? That they shouldn’t be allowed to act on them?

(Actually I think what’s going on here is the old ploy — nicely desribed right here on CT where you accuse your opponent first of harboring some outlandish prejudice and then of hypocrisy or inconsistency for failing to display it.)

47

des von bladet 06.01.05 at 8:00 am

I particularly enjoyed Michele’s implicit opposition between France and English-speaking countries. Presumably Belgium _is_ (at least half) chopped liver, after all.

But Doug, do you got a source for that? J’amerais bien le voir …

48

moni 06.01.05 at 8:06 am

Modest reality check: the non vote was disproportionately male, rural, and undereducated. In US terms, Bush voters.

Wow, that must be the most sophisticated and accurate analysis yet, congratulations.

Plebs! They’re all plebs!

I can’t believe it. You’re not even hiding it, come on.

49

moni 06.01.05 at 8:13 am

“strange bedfellows”

Well, bin Laden was against the war in Iraq too, so I guess now we can safely declare the opposition to the war a worthless, disturbing position because of this strange bedfellows thing. See how it works?

Again, thanks for making the point clearer and clearer.

50

Doug M. 06.01.05 at 8:22 am

Er, no, Lemuel. I made a simple statement of fact. Your interpretation is entirely your own.

Students, professionals, Parisians and people with post-graduate degrees all voted “yes”. Women voted “no”, but less enthusiastically; the yes/no spread for women was 6 percentage points, compared to 14 for men.

Des: there have been a bunch of polls. The one most accessible to a non-Francophone is probably the IPSOS survey, which was done as an exit poll.

Doug M.

51

moni 06.01.05 at 8:25 am

May I anticipate comments to the Dutch no vote: the majority will be uneducated, rural, male pim fortuyn supporters who hate muslims and the rest will be clueless socialists who blame everything on the euro. Not refined enough to understand the complex advantages of voting yes.

There, you can now go home and feel superior.

52

des von bladet 06.01.05 at 8:36 am

Doug: Thanks.

As evidence that I’ve read it I will remark that according to IPSOS the Yes vote takes over at and beyond “Bac+2”, which is merely two (2) years of what the Americans call “college”. (The Bac is the high school leaver’s diploma.)

53

Barry 06.01.05 at 8:46 am

“Well, bin Laden was against the war in Iraq too, so I guess now we can safely declare the opposition to the war a worthless, disturbing position because of this strange bedfellows thing. See how it works?”

Posted by moni ·

Uh-oh. We’ve got timeline crossing again.
We need a reference check. Moni, I’m posting from the timeline where Saddam and OBL were enemies, and where OBL wanted Bush to invade Iraq, for reasons that are obvious.

From which timeline are you posting?

54

michele 06.01.05 at 8:54 am

So, let me see: being anti-Italian, for example, is being racist, but being anti-French isn’t, because the French aren’t a race!

Boy, you French haters will twist your rationale in any way in order to justify it.

And, yes, Maria should go back to some nice English speaking country where people meekly do what they are told and call it democracy. She obviously can’t tolerate any other situation.

55

moni 06.01.05 at 9:11 am

Barry, I’m posting from the timeline where we lost track of what exact relationships there were between OBL and Saddam according to the infallible intelligence that gave us the pretext for war.

Because the mention of the ineffable Osama was merely for the sake of responding to that ‘strange bedfellows’ rhetorical tool, substitute the ineffable ‘Osama’ with the ineffable ‘Al Qaeda/Islamist terrorists/fundamentalists, mullahs and lunatics’ and so on.

The far right in Europe was against the war in Iraq too. We’ve heard all about the red-black-green alliance of strange bedfellows, ad nauseam, for the past three years. I didn’t think that kind of alliance, whether actual and solicited or purely a journalistic invention, was enough, in itself, to disqualify a position, particulary one expressed through a vote, but then again, I didn’t think lacking a university degree would be enough to do that, either – or that it took a vote result one doesn’t like to turn the French into Bush supporters.

I’m here to learn…

56

des von bladet 06.01.05 at 9:27 am

Michele, you neglect to provide evidence of anyone calling anti-Italian settlement “racist”, or that English-speaking countries are conspicuously obedient – the prospects for a referendum in the (mostly) resolutely Anglophone UK were hardly promising, at least on my planet.

What colour is the sky on yours, incidentally?

57

lemuel pitkin 06.01.05 at 9:34 am

I made a simple statement of fact.

One which, presumably, you thought had some relevance to the debate here. I’m still waiting to hear what that is.

58

moni 06.01.05 at 9:37 am

And, yes, Maria should go back to some nice English speaking country where people meekly do what they are told and call it democracy.

Michele, that’s just silly, the yes/no divide was and is internal to France and other European countries and the reactions of horror at the no vote are very much cutting across all of Europe.

It’s nothing to do with racism or being anti-french. (Besides, Italians aren’t a race either… besides, define ‘race’, but that’s beside the point). Maybe a bit of the usual anglo vs. french clichés add some friction to the debate. The French no voters are just going to be the scapegoats for today, in a couple of days it’ll be the Dutch, have patience.

59

Maria 06.01.05 at 9:47 am

Wow, there I was blasting about supermenteur (not half enough, mind you) as I’ve done many’s the time in a Paris cafe amongst French friends, and now it turns out I’m a racist who should go live with the other ‘French-haters’…

For the record, there are (personally known to me) plenty of French people who pretty much agree with my rant above and aren’t planning to move any time soon. And there are plenty of people who don’t agree but who still voted yes. And there are even some people who voted no because they’d read the constitution, thought about it, and figured it was a plain bad idea. So I guess the drama queens amongst our commenters will just have to live with all of them.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that it is possible to believe the majority of the French electorate has done the wrong thing for some very stupid reasons reasons, and not necessarily believe the entirety of the French social model needs to be chucked in the bin. But as Doug says, you only have to mention France these days to be propelled into the too much capitalism versus not enough debate.

(Doug – I had heard the news about de Villepin when I posted, but was too disgusted to even think about what to say on that front. Supermenteur on the news last night, straight to camera, using the royal ‘we’; ‘we have heard the people’s concerns and we have listened. I give you…. more of the same!’)

Anyway, for Mona who seems to imply that I made all that up about the other 9 or 10 countries who’ve ratified the constitution with overwhelming majorities, don’t take my word for it. Oh, you didn’t. Well anyway, check out the results yourself here.

60

moni 06.01.05 at 10:40 am

Maria, thanks for the link – this is moni, not ‘mona’, who was on the other memorial thread, just in case… No I was not implying you ‘made it all up’, I do know about the ratification process, I also happen to live in a member country that has indeed ratified the constitution via overwhelming parliamentary vote. My bad, I should have said that only of the referendums, which most countries didn’t get or haven’t had yet, and those taken so far hardly show the same constant pattern of overwhelming approval.

My apologies for being inaccurate. I was taking issue with how you put the emphasis entirely on the votes that ratified it, as if the French vote alone were spoiling the process for everyone else.

And, you blamed the ‘protest voters’ for the ‘the assumption that if France votes no, then the constitution is automatically dead’, but that’s not even an assumption, the constitution just requires that it be ratified by all 25 members.

Even if all other members had all had referendums where the result was overwhelming yes, you cannot blame those no voters in France for being undemocratic and unfair to other countries, you have to blame the constitution itself.

Otherwise, that’s not just ‘over-stating your case a bit’.

61

moni 06.01.05 at 10:57 am

Speaking of drama queens, how’s this for a dramatic opening:

“Turning its back on half a century of European history, France decisively rejected a constitution for Europe on Sunday, plunging the country into political disarray and jeopardizing the cause of European unity.”

Now I wasn’t given the gracious chance to vote in a referendum, so I cannot say I’m sure what I’d have voted. I am not saying I believe with absolute certainty that a no vote is the right choice, for every country who’s asked to vote, and that no one should question the results because ‘the people have spoken’.
But the reactions of that kind, or those referring to classic national clichés, or to the ignorance and lack of education of the voters, or to how unreasonable it is to be attached to a certain social model, that is what I personally find most irritating. It is not just the condescension, it’s all the things that are being taken for granted.

That’s all, sorry for going on about it.

62

Maria 06.01.05 at 11:08 am

Hi Moni, thanks for that and sorry jumping to conclusions and getting your name wrong.

A fair point about the need for all countries to ratify it so that on paper the thing’s dead if one doesn’t. OTOH, Ireland rejected the Nice Treaty on a protest vote first time round and accepted it the second. But it’s much too early to think about France having another referendum.

63

kevin 06.01.05 at 11:30 am

“It’s worth mentioning, though, that it is possible to believe the majority of the French electorate has done the wrong thing for some very stupid reasons reasons, and not necessarily believe the entirety of the French social model needs to be chucked in the bin..”

While that is undoubtedly true, I would suggest that you go back and read your post. Lines like:

For running a corporatist closed shop of unions and business leaders who don’t give a damn about the excluded unemployed and the perpetually damned ‘sans-papiers’.

For bringing the country to a standstill every five minutes to protest Canute-like about global economic forces.

Do not lend themselves to an interpretation that is friendly to the notion of the French social state.

64

abb1 06.01.05 at 11:52 am

90 years go:

V. I. Lenin
On the Slogan for a United States of Europe

Published: Sotsial-Demokrat No. 44, August 23, 1915. Published according to the text in Sotsial-Demokrat.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 339-343.

[…]

…From the standpoint of the economic conditions of imperialism—i.e., the export of capital arid the division of the world by the “advanced” and “civilised” colonial powers—a United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary.

Capital has become international and monopolist. The world has been carved up by a handful of Great Powers, i.e., powers successful in the great plunder and oppression of nations…

[…]

…That is how the plunder of about a thousand million of the earth’s population by a handful of Great Powers is organised in the epoch of the highest development of capitalism. No other organisation is possible under capitalism. Renounce colonies, “spheres of influence”, and the export of capital? To think that it is possible means coming down to the level of some snivelling parson who every Sunday preaches to the rich on the lofty principles of Christianity and advises them to give the poor, well, if not millions, at least several hundred rubles yearly.

A United States of Europe under capitalism is tantamount to an agreement on the partition of colonies…

[…]

Of course, temporary agreements are possible between capitalists and between states. In this sense a United States of Europe is possible as an agreement between the European capitalists … but to what end? Only for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe, of jointly protecting colonial booty against Japan and America, who have been badly done out of their share by the present partition of colonies, and the increase of whose might during the last fifty years has been immeasurably more rapid than that of backward and monarchist Europe, now turning senile. Compared with the United States of America, Europe as a whole denotes economic stagnation. On the present economic basis, i.e., under capitalism, a United States of Europe would signify an organisation of reaction to retard America’s more rapid development. The times when the cause of democracy and socialism was associated only with Europe alone have gone for ever…

65

Doug 06.01.05 at 11:55 am

Accurate though the bits quote in #63 may be…

66

rjw 06.01.05 at 11:57 am

Maria,

well – have to agree with a lot of that

I’ll add one for you, which is less well known

Here in the EU we have regional policies (structural funds) that are directed towards projects in EU regions with incomes below 75% of average per capita GDP.The rules for these funds will be revised soon to cover the next 7 year financial programming period.

When Michel Barnier (currently French foreign minister) was regional policiy commissioner the draft proposals that came out added a new financial envelope for the “ultra-peripheral” regions of the EU, to “compensate” them for the fact that they are far away and have permanent “geographical handicaps”.

Curiously, the “ultra-peripheral regions” comprise , mainly, former french colonies (with the Azores, madeira and the canaries thrown in).

Now – I can live with regional policy that gives money to regions that are poor. I have much more difficulty justifying policy that gives money to places just because they are “far away”. This is just economic nonsense. I have even greater problems when Even more so when only 3 member states qualify for these subsidies. European valued added? Hmmm.

In my view this was a disgraceful piece of pandering to French national interests in directing more EU subsidies to former French colonies, under the guise of “reform”, using a justification that would not have passed a laughing tests in any economics faculty.

How Communautaire of Mr Barnier. So much concern for the EU interest, over and above the Community interest…..

All this is a bit arcane. But quite true.

Have a look at the European Commission’s 3rd Cohesion report, on line, for details on the scheme. A recent speech by Chirac on radio France d’outre-mèr on May 20 the also specifically highlighted the success France had had in milking the EU in this way – though of course as he was speaking to French voters, he thought this was a good argument for a yes…..

Anyone outside of France might have drawn exactly the opposite conclusion.

67

Luc 06.01.05 at 12:19 pm

Just how democratic is that, protest voters?

While the French complain about Supermenteur, democracy, capitalism and all of that, the newspaper commenters in the UK aren’t exactly what you’d expect of a democracy either. They predict that the Poodle will take the decision not to ratify all by himself. Bypassing parliament, no referendum, no discussion. Don’t ask, don’t tell, and the UK will look like a good european citizen while being president.

Whatever it takes to get out of this mess, and maybe Blair is the person for it.

And finally I do look forward to the comments about the Dutch, if they have voted no. The problem is that everybody likes our Harry Potter lookalike.

68

Jonathan Edelstein 06.01.05 at 2:04 pm

Having just plowed through the whole thing (really; it’s a slow day at the office), I’d also have voted non. To be fair, the drafters were only following the fashion to some extent; modern constitution-making seems to be heavy on social legislation, hortatory policy statements and expressions of national goals. Here in New York State, where the constitution was last overhauled in 1937 (despite my best efforts in support of the 1997 convention referendum), we caught the front end of that with a number of policy statements on education and welfare, not to mention the famous clause on the width of ski trails in the Adirondacks. We’ve managed to work within this charter for the past two generations with only occasional controversy. The trouble is that the EU document, particularly Article III, incorporates far too much that is properly the subject of ordinary legislation or even administrative rule-making.

I’m of two minds about including social and economic provisions in constitutional documents. On the one hand, the modern conception of democracy has expanded somewhat from the 18th-century procedural model, with many people arguing that certain social rights are necessary to effect substantive democracy. If a social right is a necessary component of democratic self-rule – and I’d argue, for instance, that the right to collective bargaining is such a component – then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be constitutionalized. The same may even apply to more broadly drawn rights like education.

On the other hand, it’s harder to define a positive duty in enforceable terms than it is to define a limitation. There are several potential ways to do so, all of them flawed. One is to express such rights as policy statements only – i.e., as national goals and guides for interpreting other constitutional provisions, but not as enforceable law in themselves. Another is to express them as enforceable rights in very general terms – which creates flexibility, but with the caveat that both the legislature and the courts will fill in the blanks (as in some of the recent right-to-education decisions in NY courts). That isn’t always a bad thing – courts can sometimes react to changing conditions faster than constitutional conventions or even legislatures – but it also infringes on democratic autonomy. Finally, the constitution can set forth social rights in great detail, which removes the risk of a runaway judiciary but also hardwires social policy and decreases the ability to respond to change. On balance I’d argue that constitutional status should be reserved for the most fundamental rights – but that only begs the question of what those rights are.

With that in mind, the EU draft charter does seem to go too far in hardwiring social policy, it definitely goes too far in hardwiring economic and infrastructure policy, and the annexes make a few too many concessions to national particularism. I can understand why most of the concessions are being made, but the fact that they had to be made is probably an indication that the policies from which they derogate should never have been constitutionalized. The bottom line is that pretty much all of Article III could and should have been jettisoned, with the few provisions that create institutions being merged into Article I. Article I provides the institutions to effect economic and social policy, Article II sets forth the basic rights that delimit the government’s ability to make such policies; within that framework, actual policy-making should be left to constitutional institutions or the political branches. And of course, without Article III, there’s no need to provide an exemption for Maltese real estate law or the Polish steel industry.

And I absolutely agree that the process was flawed – next time, an elected convention with technical advisors might be a better idea. I’m not sure the French voters all voted no for the right reasons, but I think they came up with the right answer.

69

otto 06.01.05 at 2:27 pm

The sheer gaul of the Dutch!

70

Sophie 06.01.05 at 3:25 pm

Doug writes : Students, professionals, Parisians and people with post-graduate degrees all voted “yes”.

Lots of people just over voting age voted no. Not all of them are unemployed or already working.
We’re a PhD and Bac+6 couple, we voted no.

If all the people you list had voted yes, the answer wouldn’t be no.

71

a different chris 06.01.05 at 3:41 pm

the ‘problem’ isn’t some ‘anglo-saxon’ vision being imposed on france. the problem is that china and india, and even eastern europe, will eventually hollow out any economic viability that the French ‘social model’ has.

Uh, if the French ‘social model’ was geographically illustrated by the North Pole, and the US social model by the South Pole, then China and India’s are pretty much located in the vicinity of The Sun.

So if there is no way for France to preserve its model, then there is no way for even America to do that either. Short of at the business end of a gun, that is.

Not that we Yanks would ever consider that. Ahem.

72

michele 06.01.05 at 4:18 pm

Ah, so Maria knows a few French people, and yet feels free to blame the ruin of Europe on the temperamental disposition of the French, therefore is not a racist.

You really should go back to where you came from, Maria and stop stirring the pot of racism. It doesn’t help your cause of European unification any good.

And, frankly, I have read your “credentials” and some posts, and don’t understand why you are a blogger here. Your opinions aren’t very well thought out, you have problems with large groups of people who happen to share a common identity (aka racism) and you don’t have any superior academic or professional credentials.

This would be a better site without you.

73

Andrew Boucher 06.01.05 at 5:07 pm

Michele – Obviously something has struck a raw nerve. With which particular line exactly has Maria made a racist remark? Or are you reading in other peoples’ reactions into her remarks, which seem to me mostly to bash Chirac – whom I think should be bashed. So well done Maria! (I’ll take that back, though, if Michele points out a racist remark!)

Michele, I think you are mistaken to blame the euro exclusively for France’s high unemployment. When the euro was seriously undervalued (0.80 to the dollar), the U.S. still had a much lower unemployment rate than France. France has a high unemployment rate because it makes work expensive; it’s hard to fire people, you have to pay them a lot, and you have to give them lots of vacations. I’m not saying I’m against any of those things; in fact since I live in France and I have a job so I get the benefits but not the disadvantage of being unemployed. But please be honest and admit there is a trade-off. We don’t live in a fairy world; and magic wands don’t create high-paying, low-work jobs for everyone. If you want to keep the French social model, then you will have high unemployment, or at least higher unemployment than other countries.

74

Creative Commonist 06.01.05 at 6:24 pm

“(Don’t Austria, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain count? They’ve all voted yes – in parliament or referendum – and by overwhelming majorities.”
There was one referendum: Spain: (Yes 76.73% – No 17.24% – Turnout 42.32%)
Obviously they voted yes in parliament, after extensive consultations with their voters. Of course…

75

Kieran Healy 06.01.05 at 8:31 pm

You really should go back to where you came from, Maria and stop stirring the pot of racism.

That’s about the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

76

Kimmitt 06.02.05 at 1:55 am

I hate France because France is utterly amoral in Africa. Thank you.

77

Doug 06.02.05 at 2:59 am

Re: 68, Many of the more specific provisions, particularly those in the third part of the constitutional treaty, are there because there are similar provisions in the existing treaties.

The EU does have a constitution: the Treaties of Rome, as subsequently amended up to and including the Treaty of Nice. It just isn’t a very good one.

This constitutional treaty was a good attempt to tidy up existing structures and make them ready for a Union of up to 40 members. If readers here (or voters in France) thought the constitutional treaty was a dog’s breakfast, I don’t know what they think of the existing accumulation of treaties. But that’s what Europe has.

Incidentally, current rules on majority votes in the Council make decisions at that level less democratic, less transparent and more subject to blockades than the rules in the constitution. So voters have chosen to keep the EU less democratic. Go figure.

78

Maria 06.02.05 at 3:12 am

Another thing that’s been lost or horribly delayed is bringing the Third Pillar of justice and home affairs into the light of day. That is a real loss to anyone who thinks hidden horse-trading between interior ministers is how we should set European justice policy. Very, very depressing.

79

Charlie B. 06.02.05 at 5:14 am

I think that a just God would lean forward and tell the French and Dutch that (s)he had decided that those countries that had voted NO to the Constitution would find that their contributions to and receipts from the EU budget were in future always in approximate balance. French tax payers would then have the opportunity to subsidise their farmers themselves. It would also be a very fair consequences for the lovely long-suffering Dutch.

80

Horatio 06.02.05 at 7:24 am

I don’t think Michele belongs on this site. She has different opinions.

81

loulou 06.02.05 at 7:40 am

79 hum dutch are the main net contributors to the EU per capita and french give a little more than they receive (even taking into account the PAC)
th mechanism you describe applies to one country no sane people will accuse of egoism: the brits…

82

Pat 06.02.05 at 8:09 am

I live in Alabama, and it not such a bad state. Our taxes are low, the weather is mild, housing prices are reasonable, good medical care is available at a reasonable cost, and we have access to the seashore after a short drive.

I do not know anything about European politics, especially French politics, since I do not live there.

I dare say, those in this post who are bashing our President and our politics, know about as much about US politics, as we know about yours. You cannot believe everything you see on BBC, or read in the Guardian, or hear on Al-Jazeera (nor the LA Times, NY Times, and Newsweek).

We elected our President with 52% of the popular vote. We also added more Republicans to our Legislative Branch in 2004. The majority of the American people have spoken, much like the French.

LIVE WITH IT1

83

brad the impaler 06.02.05 at 8:15 am

it is rather frustrating to watch the french sabotage their own economic future to indulge the fantasies of the far left (who oppose foreign labour and capital) and the of the far right (who oppose foreign everything else). Anti-globalisation fanatics have nothing to offer humanity, regardless of whether they are from the left or the right.
get this into your thick skulls: THERE IS NOTHING “PROGRESSIVE” ABOUT OPTING OUT OF THE MODERN WORLD!!!!

84

Jason 06.02.05 at 8:30 am

“I’d rather be unemployed in France then flip burgers in America.”

This shameful attitude is exactly why the American economy routinely and permanently kicks France’s ass.

85

rjw 06.02.05 at 9:04 am

re 68 Doug is quite right – there were many institutional improvements in the constitution, needed for an EU of 25 member states, that have unfortunately been lost.

I think personally it was a mistake to call it a constitution. It is really another Treaty. If it had been called that then the argument might have been more about what the concrete provisions of the new Treaty were, rather than the largely unconnected debate about the nature of Europe.

Such a grand debate obn the nature of Europe is needed of coursev – no doubt about that – but in a way it is unfortunate that it was bound up with this treaty which, in the main, tidies up a lot of institutional loose ends, but changes the fundamental nature of the EU relatively little.

86

rjw 06.02.05 at 9:05 am

oopse – sorry – my last post – re 77 of course

87

Nomennovum 06.02.05 at 9:11 am

Well, I think Michele’s funniest line is “you don’t have any superior academic or professional credentials.”

Typical supercilious attitude expressed by a snotty overeducated-but-ignorant bore, I’d say.

Is this attitude “typically” French?

88

Frank 06.02.05 at 9:19 am

“There is no hell. Only France”

– Zappa

89

Stuart 06.02.05 at 9:21 am

Obligatory disclaimer: I live in NY and only know what I read in the papers and online.

Having said that, here’s what strikes me about the non vote. Substantive considerations aside, it looks like the French electorate looked at a structure that moved decisionmaking even further away from them than it already is and threatened to affect their lives without also giving them the ability to do anything about it. It looked like it was going to empower a structure without providing adequate accountability. Faced with that perception, “no” is a perfectly rational answer.

I happen to think that what the French call “Anglo-Saxon liberalism” works pretty well, and better than the so-called French model, but the French don’t have to agree with me, and evidently they don’t. They have the right not to. If they want to structure their society differently, that is their right and their privilege. I think the “no” vote was a good thing for precisely that reason: different peoples and different cultures can arrive at different societal consensuses (consensi?). Setting up a superstructure that is overly invasive and removes decisionmaking to remote levels is insufficiently respectful of the populace. This “no” vote was a victory for democracy and for cultural diversity.

They should go back to the drawing board and come up with something simpler, less threatening to the member states’ cultures, and more respectful of the citizenry. I’m not recommending that they emulate the US constitution – Europe is different from the US and what worked here may not work there quite the same way – but the general idea that a federal constitution should be a brief document focused mainly on structure and procedure has a lot to recommend it. The US constitution, with all the amendments, can print onto less than 20 pages. That is what has been running the US, this huge continental behemoth, for over 200 years
now. It’s not a European tenet, but sometimes simpler really is better.

90

Creative Commonist 06.02.05 at 9:27 am

“I may have over-stated my case just a tiny little bit.”
and as a consequence michele may have over-stated her case just a tiny little bit.

“But, gentle French readers, if you find yourself jibing at the irritation of your fellow Europeans over the next week or two,”
maybe “some of your fellow Europeans” would be a proper description
“But you should know not all fellow Europeans regard this as France’s finest hour.”
true. not all…

91

Ryan 06.02.05 at 9:28 am

SO MIchelle. .if you express ANti – US sentiments are you now also a racist? Or does that only apply to statements made against EUropean countries?

92

Antoni Jaume 06.02.05 at 9:54 am

Stuart, the US Constitution had the advantage of not having to conform to 25 differents previous Constitutions, some of them rather different. And of having a strong enemy, the British, who forced them to stay united.

DSW

93

Fifi 06.02.05 at 10:00 am

I may have over-stated my case just a tiny little bit.

¿¡¿¡¿¡¿ Tiny little bit ?!?!?!?

Maria, do you call the Eiffel Tower “slight” ? I don’t want to meet your definition of “noticeable” :)

94

Stuart 06.02.05 at 10:31 am

Antoni Jaume, that happens to be somewhat true (more on that below), but that’s an even stronger argument in favor of a limited central government with strong local government that will protect existing cultures. That’s my point precisely. When you’re trying to unite disparate peoples, less is more. Prescribe less, let the disparate areas govern themselves, and provide mediating structures for dealing with friction and areas of common interest. More than that will likely cause problems.

As for pre-independence America, the 13 colonies actually did have constitutions, after a fashion. Each had a charter of some kind. And between independence in 1776 and ratification of the US constitution in 1789, each of the new states did have a constitution of its own, many provisions of which were unique to the specific state. Remember, the thirteen American colonies pre-independence viewed themselves as distinct from one another, in some ways more so than the current European countries do. A charming speech by a legal scholar/historian that I watched on CSPAN (for those who might recognize the name, it was Walter Dellinger) pointed out that until at least the late 1760s, the place where representatives from Massachusetts were most likely to meet representatives from Virginia was in London, not in America. South Carolina society, for example, was very very different from Connecticut society. These were distinct cultures (and remained so even after the US Constitutions) even though they spoke the same language. They even had different populations – the Southern whites were from a different part of England than the Northerners (and of course the South had a large African population, mainly enslaved). So while I agree with you that there is much more and much more diverse governmental and legal infrastructure already existing in Europe than there had been in America in the late 18th century, I still don’t think the concept of how to deal with it is that different. If you take seriously the idea of democracy, people should be able to govern themselves through institutions that are close to them, and that will respect the diversity of different regions and cultures.

All I’m saying is that the panjandrums trying to put “Europe” together should at least consider looking at a model that has been tried before and worked pretty well. It won’t fit Europe exactly, obviously, but some of the elements and concepts have stood the test of time and might be worth trying. They can pick out the good elements and not use the ones that don’t fit well. At the very least, respecting the electorate – the idea at the core of democratic theory – is well worth placing at the center of the venture going forward.

95

thibaud 06.02.05 at 10:38 am

Jim,

“No, the people don’t want totalitarian socialism, and no, the poeple don’t want “free”-market capitalism; they want a system that lets them live in a civilized manner, with health care and dignity, and yes, long vacations… Now if you all, you with all the letters after your names, can’t come up with a way to do that, then you are just lame”

Actually, there is a third way, and this has been applied for many years now in France and Germany: steal from the next generation.

Maintain full or near-full employment for older workers, and send unemployment soaring for young workers.

Protect stagnant old economy firms that employ older workers, and inhibit the creation of new economy firms that tend to employ young workers.

Provide extremely generous health insurance benefits to everyone (but disproportionately to the middle aged and elderly) today, and let the system go bankrupt. Lay the burden of financing it upon future generations.

Suppress the conditions that yield high economic growth, especially mid- to long-term growth, and redistribute income.

See, it’s easy. Just remember: the 1968er generation always comes first. They changed the world, they’re brave, they’re bold. Don’t let anyone tell you that they’re reactionary. Au contraire.

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thibaud_ 06.02.05 at 10:46 am

Jim,

“No, the people don’t want totalitarian socialism, and no, the poeple don’t want “free”-market capitalism; they want a system that lets them live in a civilized manner, with health care and dignity, and yes, long vacations… Now if you all, you with all the letters after your names, can’t come up with a way to do that, then you are just lame”

Actually, there is a third way, and this has been applied for many years now in France and Germany: steal from the next generation.

Maintain full or near-full employment for older workers, and send unemployment soaring for young workers.

Protect stagnant old economy firms that employ older workers, and inhibit the creation of new economy firms that tend to employ young workers.

Provide extremely generous health insurance benefits to everyone (but disproportionately to the middle aged and elderly) today, and let the system go bankrupt. Lay the burden of financing it upon future generations.

Suppress the conditions that yield high economic growth, especially mid- to long-term growth, and redistribute income.

See, it’s easy. Just remember: the 1968er generation always comes first. They changed the world, they’re brave, they’re bold. Don’t let anyone tell you that they’re reactionary. Au contraire.

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 10:47 am

Antoni Jaume, that happens to be somewhat true (more on that below), but that’s an even stronger argument in favor of a limited central government with strong local government that will protect existing cultures. That’s my point precisely. When you’re trying to unite disparate peoples, less is more. Prescribe less, let the disparate areas govern themselves, and provide mediating structures for dealing with friction and areas of common interest. More than that will likely cause problems.

As for pre-independence America, the 13 colonies actually did have constitutions, after a fashion. Each had a charter of some kind. And between independence in 1776 and ratification of the US constitution in 1789, each of the new states did have a constitution of its own, many provisions of which were unique to the specific state. Remember, the thirteen American colonies pre-independence viewed themselves as distinct from one another, in some ways more so than the current European countries do. A charming speech by a legal scholar/historian that I watched on CSPAN (for those who might recognize the name, it was Walter Dellinger) pointed out that until at least the late 1760s, the place where representatives from Massachusetts were most likely to meet representatives from Virginia was in London, not in America. South Carolina society, for example, was very very different from Connecticut society. These were distinct cultures (and remained so even after the US Constitutions) even though they spoke the same language. They even had different populations – the Southern whites were from a different part of England than the Northerners (and of course the South had a large African population, mainly enslaved). So while I agree with you that there is much more and much more diverse governmental and legal infrastructure already existing in Europe than there had been in America in the late 18th century, I still don’t think the concept of how to deal with it is that different. If you take seriously the idea of democracy, people should be able to govern themselves through institutions that are close to them, and that will respect the diversity of different regions and cultures.

All I’m saying is that the panjandrums trying to put “Europe” together should at least consider looking at a model that has been tried before and worked pretty well. It won’t fit Europe exactly, obviously, but some of the elements and concepts have stood the test of time and might be worth trying. They can pick out the good elements and not use the ones that don’t fit well. At the very least, respecting the electorate – the idea at the core of democratic theory – is well worth placing at the center of the venture going forward.

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 10:48 am

My apologies for posting twice. I’m not sure what I did wrong. But I’m sure my words aren’t that valuable that people need to read them more than once.

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2BrixShy 06.02.05 at 11:00 am

Maria:

First of all, what a fine rant that kicked off this thread. As an American, I enjoy a lusty hate/hate relationship with most things French and most French people I know. They call us ignorant and arrogant, I call them smelly and condescending without cause – it all works, nice and out in the open- preferably wide open, given the way these people smell.

Have a bit of a quibble with one of your points though- you make mention of the ratifying states and how they were overwhelmingly pro-Constitution either by referendum OR via Parliament.

That’s where things go a bit off the rails…. spent some time over at medienkritik and got the definite impression there were more than a few Germans quite bitter that they never got the chance to vote on the unflushed poohstick that is the EU constitution- it was decided for them by their governmental uberlords. Don’t know about the other ratifying countries, but it seems strange that you’d use the instance of a bunch of elites (yeah yeah yeah, duly elected) voting for the EU constitution in the cause of bashing a bunch of other elites. But then again, ’tis a minor quibble and of little importance in light of the fine punking you perpetrated on the reptilian Chirac.

But regardless of why the French (and the Dutch) deep sixed the Constitution, it was the right choice. This document purported to be the governing instrument for millions, and took into account such nonsense as fishing rights and the “right” to look for a job? Yup, the Lizard King’s lackey did a fine job crafting that stillborn piece of filth- perhaps he should stick to pushing his self published poetry, yeah?

Also, I missed the part where the executors of this “guidebook” had any accountability to the people it purported to guide- as in the ability to throw the bums out if necessary.

Finally, when the clowns in Brussels start to work on “EU Constitution- the paper brick of duncery, part Deux” they might want to look at the problems encountered in the US regarding federal powers versus state powers and how they were solved when we drafted a REAL Constitution. They might, yet again, learn something from a successful system of governance.

No need to thank us Europe, just keep sucking down our Coke, eating our crappy McDonald’s and watching our simple minded movies in the vast amounts you do over there.

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dick 06.02.05 at 11:05 am

Antoni,

It strikes me that if you are creating a new entity which is going to be a form of federalism in all but name, then the best thing would be to forget the 25 different previous Constitutions and come up with a document that actually sets up a viable community. The different countries may have social models that are incompatible but there can still be a way that they can have the way of life they want and not try to force their solutions on countries that do not want that model for themselves.

I know that personally I would not want the French social model for myself but then I like my job, like to work long hours with compatible people and do not like to spend a lot of time on vacations. I like to make some short trips to various locations and then come back home to work. Other people like other modes of living. What I see here in this set of comments is that the various citizenry are making the assumption that their particular social model is the only right one and that therefore their vote on the Constitution is the only right one.

I personally would prefer a Constitution which was flexible to grow as society changes rather than one which tried to freeze a Constitution like a fly in amber. I wonder just how flexible this one really is and just how amenable it is to societal changes.

One more thing about the comments on the Bush electorate. Kerry won the votes of the least educated and the most educated while Bush won the votes of those who ranged from a high school education through a college bachelor’s degree so the snarky comments on the Bush voters above is a little off. I also notice that if you look at the locations for the votes in France on a map showing the yes vs the no votes it looks a lot like the voting patterns in the US in the last election. The “yes” votes were all in just a couple of large cities and in the Brittany area while the “no” votes took in the rest of the country. Sounds as if France must have the same kind of “redneck” culture as the US, don’t it!

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M. Simon 06.02.05 at 11:15 am

michele,

I for one wish to see the French keep their system.

The fewer the competitors the greater the profits.

Simon – a pro democracy everywhere American

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lacordaire 06.02.05 at 11:29 am

@ kimmit # 76
I agree too. Almost.
I just don’t put it on “France”, but on the “vieille garde” of the politic class, men like Chichi, and Mitterrand.
It is my oldest grievance with Chirac. Just put it at the top of the list of Maria, with whom I quite completely agree about the so-called De Gaull’s heir (disclosure: Maria and I never had a coffee together in Paris).
Alas, maybe it’s just “raison d’état” and kissinger-like statesmanship…
Nonetheless, I want to keep alive the child in me and to believe that Rocard, Barre or Jospin would have act differently on behalf of France.
Problem: the ones with higher standards of integrity in my view are always the losers in the views of the french electorate…

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roger 06.02.05 at 11:42 am

Thibaud, I think your description “Actually, there is a third way, and this has been applied for many years now in France and Germany: steal from the next generation” isn’t a very good one when applied to France and Germany — the proper metric is in savings, when applied to the next generation — but an excellent description of American economic policy over from the Reagan years on. What other economy could exist with trade deficits for thirty years that simply massively increase — that intentionally destructures its manufacturing base — that destroys social insurance and replaces it with a credit market that effectively destroys the average person’s propensity to save, or even ability to save — except the good old U.S.A.? And then there is the little matter of taking a trillion plus dollar surplus and not only spending it all in the course of two years, but managing to put in place a budget deficit that will — given the entrenchment of the tax cuts which is sure to come — take up the whole space of future government spending. Fine work, Americans. This is economic growth a la Steve Martin: “You too, can be a millionaire. First, borrow a million dollars. Second, don’t pay it back.” The amaxing wisdom of the Americans never ceases to astonish the rest of the world. Which is why the U.S.A. is so wildly popular in the rest of the world.

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Ben Dover 06.02.05 at 12:01 pm

Boy, do you people have a screwed opinion of life in a free market democracy. Keep your system (though I will admit I am not familiar with it) and I’ll enjoy mine.

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 12:17 pm

Roger, on your theory the easiest way for the other countries to stop making the US rich is to stop lending them the million dollars. But they don’t. Because doing so is good for them. Which means there is more going on than your rather simplistic anti-US screed would let on. In any event, I find it interesting that in a thread about analyzing the “non” vote in France and what it portends for the EU, you can’t resist finding a way to convert it into pot shots at the US. If people in Europe spent half as much time thinking about how to solve their own problems as they do trying to show how much better they are than the US, both they and the US would be better off.

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anony-mouse 06.02.05 at 12:21 pm

Speaking from the North American side of the pond, I pulled up the constitution on Europa after seeing the outcome of the French and Dutch votes, and lost interest after attempting to comprehend about one-third of it. The length alone was reason enough to vote against; if you can’t read and fully understand a keystone governance document in an hour, particularly one that intends to propound common guiding principles for a region as diverse as Europe, then it is probably not useful for its intended purpose.

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Doug 06.02.05 at 12:37 pm

Re 89 “French electorate looked at a structure that moved decisionmaking even further away from them than it already is and threatened to affect their lives without also giving them the ability to do anything about it.”

Except that it didn’t. The European Parliament would get more power, and it’s directly elected. Blocking minorities would be harder to form, so there would be less need for the un-representative back-room dealing than there is at present. And so on. Maria’s example of bringing Justice and Home Affairs into a more accountable structure is important, and one of several.

I think the question for the UK referendum has it just right: “Should the United Kingdom approve the treaty establishing a constitution for the European Union?” It is a treaty, one of a series, and it establishes a constitution, which is novel.

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Jonathan Edelstein 06.02.05 at 12:40 pm

Doug #77:

Many of the more specific provisions, particularly those in the third part of the constitutional treaty, are there because there are similar provisions in the existing treaties.

But isn’t the idea of a constitution precisely to move the EU away from a primarily treaty-based governance model and toward one in which policies are made and changed by ordinary legislation? If so, then the previous treaties, except to the extent that they create institutions or fundamental rights, should be re-enacted as laws rather than constitutional provisions. If the drafters were worried about conflicts or didn’t want to stick the European Parliament with the task of re-enacting prior treaties from scratch, all they had to do was insert a savings clause – “treaties X, Y and Z shall henceforth have the status of European law, notwithstanding any contrary provision of this constitution but subject to repeal or modification by the legislature.”

The EU does have a constitution: the Treaties of Rome, as subsequently amended up to and including the Treaty of Nice. It just isn’t a very good one.

So it already follows the British model, then.

Incidentally, current rules on majority votes in the Council make decisions at that level less democratic, less transparent and more subject to blockades than the rules in the constitution. So voters have chosen to keep the EU less democratic.

Or else they simply preferred to go back to the drawing board rather than entrench a bad fix in a way that would be hard to change.

Antoni #92:

Stuart, the US Constitution had the advantage of not having to conform to 25 differents previous Constitutions, some of them rather different.

No, only 13 of them, and if you look at the United States Constitution closely, you’ll see that it contains a large number of concessions to local particularism.

Actually, if all the policy smoke and mirrors are discounted, the institutions and balances of power created by the draft charter aren’t much different from what the United States Constitution was originally intended to be. There’s an indirectly elected upper house somewhat like the pre-17th Amendment Senate, a directly elected lower house designed to be subordinate, and a federal government with enumerated powers. Watch out for that commerce clause, though.

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Fenrisulven 06.02.05 at 12:42 pm

“If people in Europe spent half as much time thinking about how to solve their own problems as they do trying to show how much better they are than the US, both they and the US would be better off.”

Exactly. Quit blaming all your ills on the jews Americans.

I would love to see a unified and vibrant Europe -but not as a sheep under the socialist elites. The “old europe” cocktail party crowd in Brussels is corrupt and incompetent.

1) Toss them out and redraft the Constitution along the line of the US Bill of Rights.

2) Keep it short and simple without claiming everything under the sun as a “right”.

3) Ensure that EU leaders are accountable to the public and can be removed from office due to malfeasance, corruption, etc.

4) Look to Britain for guidance – their legacy around the globe is one of good administration. They know how to set up a nation state.

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Fenrisulven 06.02.05 at 12:43 pm

sorry – “jews” was supposed to be lined over, for sarcasm. “” didn’t take on this format.

111

Leslie 06.02.05 at 12:45 pm

I just returned from Paris, there on a brief family holiday which just happened to coincide with the “non” vote. I have long been a a lover of all things French, cultural, not political, of course. I have lived there and traveled there on several occasions over the years and as much as I love being there, I have to confess with some smugness that I was very much wallowing in Schedenfreude during their post-referendum angst and confusion. The vote was actually much worse than even they expected. It is my sincere belief now that the French will not recover from their slide, political and economic, any time soon. The overwhelming ethos of the Parisians I spoke to (and it was obviously a small anecdotal survey) was that: they live in abject fear of a free-market; that they will protect their dying socialist state at almost any cost (and the costs are more and more crushing); that they are becoming more and more xenophobic and anti-semitic, but are trapped by their ridiculous immigration policies and their overly-generous social programs, which they are not willing to dramtically curtail; that they are still unwilling, even after this debacle, to turn Chriac and his cronies out on their flabby, wrinkled asses, even though Chirac’s idea of a shake-up is to put Villepin into the driver’s seat, a man who personifies elitism and patronage and Chirac is demonstrably corrupt and has been for decades; that they don’t care if the country is stagnant, as long as they still get everything for free and barely have to put in a full work week; that they really hate the Eastern Europeans for their pro-Americanism and their desire to work hard and for appearing so ungrateful to “Old Europe;” and they are about to become even more isolated and left in the dust since the Germans are starting to figure out that their system sucks and are poised to usher in a more right-of-center government next time when they elevate Angela Merkel to the Chancellorship. It was a real eye opener. The US has absolutely nothing to fear from the French, politically or economically in the near future. We just need to keep this US economy moving, keep growth rates up and unemployment low, keep taxes as low as possible and keep regulations as reasonably unobtrusive as we can, keep working hard and welcoming legal immigrants who share our values, keep our military strong and continue bludgeoning radical fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, and we will be OK, at least vis a vis the “European Union.”

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Horatio 06.02.05 at 1:22 pm

111 – You neglected to mention, and I can only believe it’s intentional, that Villepin is a poet (if self published) and has sensitive nostrils.

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moni 06.02.05 at 1:42 pm

Oh I’d been missing this anglo vs. french, free market vs. ‘socialist elites’ (LOL), we are better than you, no we are, no you aren’t, schadenfreude, you can’t compete, all you want is government handouts, Europe is sinking, the US rulez, Europeans hate Americans, Americans hate Europe, French hate everyone plus Jews and Eastern Europeans, everyone hates the French anyway, ah it is so refreshing to come across it once in a while. I was almost fearing the discussion had actually evolved.

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Francis Burdett 06.02.05 at 1:44 pm

>Modest reality check: the non vote was disproportionately male, rural, and undereducated. In US terms, Bush voters.

Quel est le problème avec le département des Bouches-du-Rhône? de Thomas Franc

115

moni 06.02.05 at 1:45 pm

112 – and he has a son that models for Prada. Don’t forget that one!

I don’t know if it is relevant to anything at all but it’s cute, isn’t it.

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roger 06.02.05 at 2:40 pm

Stuart, The potshots at the U.S. are only return fire. But to your points:

“… on your theory the easiest way for the other countries to stop making the US rich is to stop lending them the million dollars.”

Well, we should probably distinguish between private flows into the U.S. and the lending, in the form of buying T notes, of the U.S.

Private investment has made tons of sense, since the 80s. This isn’t necessarily an endorsement of the economy — money has flowed to Mexico, Venezuala and Argentina since the 80s, sometimes in terrific amounts, but this is only an endorsement of expected short term return, plus modifications introduced by the bonuses to emerging market salesmen.

As to the billions borrowed: everybody, from Secretary Snow to the Economist, recognizes the degree of the essential irrationality of the latter. The Japanese and Chinese are buying U.S. debt for the same reasons that V.C.s kept throwing money into the tech sector in the late nineties — to keep the bubble going. In this case, the bubble is the American consumer market.

Now this is something truly admirable — that domestic market — that the Europeans should take some hints from. Unfortunately, Europeans take too much interest in future generations, rather than too little — they invest tons in human capital and health, which are the best investments you can make for future generations, but they refuse to free up demand like the Americans do. The European job is to preserve the social democratic model while at the same time gradually ramping up demand. They shouldn’t adopt the worst parts of neo-liberalism, but rather than the best parts. The result of the incompetence of the European elite is reflected in the fear of losing a job that has become the kind of brake on the economy that it was in the thirties.

b. And while we are on the subject, Europeans could also benefit from better regulation and more transparency of corporate structures. I think the U.S. has them beat, there.
but
c. Fundamentally, there is no reason to lower their social standards to the primitive American level. The French, for instance, spend less of their GDP on health than the Americans do. That’s because they have heavily socialized it. Americans often make the lame argument that they are financing health innovations by paying some of the highest prices for drugs and services in the world. Get real. The French have much better productivity per worker than the English — that’s because there are commensurate life rewards for labor. They haven’t, yet, converted to the American perversion — a rabid attachment to family values, while real family time decays to the null point.

Europeans want vacations and they want labor security. They want, in other words, what American give the sector with the least labor competition and the highest rewards — upper management. Good for them. Now the point is to achieve it. Meanwhile, the American private pension plans are going bust, the public pension plans for teachers and public employees are in the red by an estimated 300 billion, and their president wants to destroy Social Security to create an “ownership society.’ Talk about the highway to hell.

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 3:04 pm

Roger, why is this relevant to this thread? I could rebut this stuff point by point, but it’s off topic.

Look, you obviously have a lot of hostility to the US, based (so far as I can tell from your post) on selection of factoids to use a partial picture of the facts, which you then erect into a straw man you can knock down. This doesn’t in any event have much to do with the consequences or implications of the “non” vote.

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Rob Read 06.02.05 at 3:15 pm

This non-European (UK) resident wants to choose holiday or pay.

I don’t like federasts saying “let them eat dole”

EU. No thanks.

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surf-actant 06.02.05 at 3:30 pm

Stuart,
Outstanding posts. Cogent, unified and sincere. You put into words exactly what I was thinking much better than I could have.

#34 Jim,
WOW. “…ruthless capitalism…” huh? Be careful, with incredibly short-sighted statements like that, I, and may I be so bold as to speak for the rest of us here and say, we, may come to the logical conclusion that you really are a Lit major. Far be it for me to point out the obvious, but any system that puts your destiny in your own hands, and requires nothing of you except your own drive and desire, is singularly the most humane, or “civilized” as you put it, system ever seen anywhere, at any time, in all of history. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you are “poor” in America, in which case you are still a helluva lot better off than the “poor” on 95% of the rest of the planet, and you suffer from no mental/physical disabilities that would keep you from making a decent living, you are an immoral person. Simply put, if you are so lazy that you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere.

Stu, and #73 Andrew Boucher, you nailed it. Let the French live with whatever social model they want. Devise it however they want, change it however they want, etc. ad nauseum. If they want to set up a social safety net that ensures that every single swinging Richard has at the very least a $40,000 equivalent per year income, no matter what they do, great, more power to ’em, good on ’em. I just think that their leaders should level with them and ensure that every person in France/Germany/wherever is fully cognizant of just how big that price tag is going to be, and what they will have to sacrifice and put up with in order to get what they want.

surf-actant

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 3:31 pm

Roger, one more thing: your post convinces me once again that what I wrote in post #105 is as true a statement as ever there was: “If people in Europe spent half as much time thinking about how to solve their own problems as they do trying to show how much better they are than the US, both they and the US would be better off.”

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roger 06.02.05 at 3:42 pm

Stuart, it seems you have found the relevance of my post to the thread and been refreshed in your conviction that Europeans should stop picking on the Americans. Good. Since Maria’s post included a number of references to what she takes to be France’s blind defense of an unsustainable economic system, and since the alternative most discussed is the Anglo-American model, I don’t think it is irrelevant to criticize the latter in support of the thesis that European social democracies don’t require macro-economic adjustments from above — the destructuring of the social democratic state — but can generate Keynesian solutions from within — adjustments relevant to the stagnation of economic growth can be made that will accomodate both social democracy and the growth that pays for it.

Those adjustments — and any adjustments relevant to changes in the business cycle — are definitely blocked by inscribing economic programs in constitutional cement. To take another American example — if Congress had succeeded in creating a constitutional amendment banning deficit spending in the 90s, the U.S. would be in depression today. Luckily, they did not bind Bush’s arms like that.

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moni 06.02.05 at 3:45 pm

Stuart, you obviously have a lot of hostility against Europe, and your post convinced me once again that if right wing Americans spent half as much time writing about how much Europe is sliding into decadence than trying to bring their own government to accountability, perhaps they wouldn’t have re-elected an administration of crazy warmongering torture-promoting thecon cronies.

There you go, tit for tat, glad to have contributed to take the discussion to even higher levels… :p

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 3:53 pm

On a somewhat lighter note, I have a question. Every year in January (well, almost every year) I take my daughter (now 16) on a trip to look at historical sites. The last trip we took was to London and environs. This coming year I’m torn between going to Flanders (using Brussels as a base, but going to Brugge, Ghent, Antwerp, etc.) and going to Paris. We’re more interested in actual historical sites than museums. Any views on where to go? Paris is somewhat easier to get to and from, and the flights are somewhat cheaper and shorter, though not by a lot.

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Keith 06.02.05 at 4:10 pm

Having spent enough time in France to appreciate all it has to offer (save the politics) I’ll weigh in.

The US bashing sentiments of Michele and Roger show the same arrogance Chirac has consistently displayed towards anything un-French. Reasonable minds can differ, but the smug attitude, smarmy comments, and holier than thou pontificating aren’t gonna do a damned thing to pull France out of financial decline, nor will it give the warm and fuzzies to your EU neighbors.

It’s dandy that Chirac wants to keep the country the epicenter of European influence, regardless of how unrealistic that is. And you can continue to engage in the self-deception that the failure of the referendum, and by extension the French economy, is somebody else’s fault. However, try this thought on for size: it’s your governance.

We Yanks may be primitive and rabid, but we manage to prattle through most arguments quite well, thank you.

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 4:24 pm

So I see that while I was typing up a post about taking a trip to Europe, I got roasted as a right wing crazy theocon who hates Europe. Interesting.

Roger, I think I see where you saw the connection. Thanks for explaining it. I actually wasn’t saying Europeans should stop picking on Americans – anyone can criticize anyone else, as long as it doesn’t get gratuitously nasty – but rather, I was suggesting that for Europeans, flinging turds at the US wasn’t much of a useful substitute for trying to come up with useful ways to solve some serious structural problems they have. It’s the policy equivalent of the McDonald’s that Europeans (and this particular American) love to bash – it might give you a short rush of satisfaction but it’s not very healthy to indulge in on a regular basis.

Look, as I said elsewhere, different cultures are entitled to structure their institutions differently. One size does not fit all. And that’s what I thought was wrong with the EU constitution: people perceived that it took away from them the ability to have input into some serious decisions about how their lives are to be structured. I’m not sure they were wrong.

If France’s citizenry likes the setup that they have, then they have every right to vote to keep it. And if it turns out not to be sustainable in its current form, that will become apparent, and I have to believe that there is enough flexibility in human institutions that people will figure out a way to avoid a societal trainwreck. It might look a bit more “liberal” or it might not, we won’t know until and unless it happens.

Flinging turds at the US isn’t going to change any of that.

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des von bladet 06.02.05 at 4:27 pm

Surely no self-respecting daughter would want her first trip to Paris to be with her father?

Also, Flanders has lots of cathedrals and old stone buildings and historical whatnots (and Bruges is lovely in the snow, for sure).

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thibaud_ 06.02.05 at 4:37 pm

Moni,

Back on topic, I’d be interested to see the French voting results broken down by age group. From what I’ve seen, it would appear that the highest correlation with “non” votes are to be found among young Frenchmen, which is one of the reasons I focused on the huge disparity between employment levels for those under 30 and those over 40.

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thibaud_ 06.02.05 at 4:42 pm

Stuart – try the Gothic route through Amiens, Beauvais, Laon, Sens north of Paris. Make your base the relais & chateau Boyer les Crayeres northeast of Paris toward Rheims:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187137-d198187-Reviews-Boyer_Les_Crayeres-Reims_Champagne_Ardenne.html

bon voyage,
thibaud

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 4:56 pm

thanks, Thibaud. I started planning early, so I have plenty of time to figure out what to do and where to go. Although, des von bladet asks “Surely no self-respecting daughter would want her first trip to Paris to be with her father?” and suggests we go to Flanders.

I suspect we’ll end up going to Belgium because my daughter finds the entire concept of the Maneken Pis totally hilarious.

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Horatio 06.02.05 at 6:01 pm

Stuart: Perhaps you can find an opportunity to introduce your daughter to the son of the poet Villepin.

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Stuart 06.02.05 at 6:34 pm

the poet Villepin? methinks you confuse him with a pompous scoundrel of the same name.

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thibaud_ 06.02.05 at 6:50 pm

If you fly into CDG, you don’t need to go through Paris to get to Reims and the Picardy gothic towns. You can also visit Chantilly and its fillies.

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Neonknight 06.02.05 at 7:05 pm

Well, it is most enjoyable viewing the multitude of jabs thrown in the direction of the US on this thread.

Those hamburger flippers in the US seem to be doing quite well.
GDP Per Capita Rankings

2. United States $35991.96 per person

20. Germany $26214.12 per person

22. France $25888.77 per person

24. United Kingdom $25426.55 per person

On top of these dismal EU GDP numbers, the US economy is growing steadily faster. In fact, the per Capita GDP of most of the major European economies is down there with some of the poorest states in the US.

Try Chicago, those people are work horses. They are fighting each other for the overtime hours offered, whether they are flipping burgers or designing Motorola wireless systems.

I find it amusing when Europeans attempt to belittle the US on economic grounds.

You have a severe misconception about the burger flippers in the US. They are normally teenagers, learning work ethic, or retirees who haven’t figured out how to stop working. I realize in most of your countries, these things are done by imported labor. Hence, France becomes majority Muslim by 2025. Enjoy.

134

thibaud_ 06.02.05 at 9:50 pm

Villepin:Poetry = Telly Savalas:Music

135

Creative Commonist 06.03.05 at 4:23 am

Re: neonknight
“I find it amusing when Europeans attempt to belittle the US on economic grounds.”
Global Competitiveness Report 2004-2005, Country Rankings 2004-2005
1. Finland
2. USA
3. Sweden
Two free market champions: Finland and Sweden.
Re: burgerflippers
What are the typical jobs for imported Latin American labor? CEOs?

136

Dave F 06.03.05 at 6:13 am

Blimey. What’s a blog for if not a good rant? I may not agree with Maria — but I like her style. I would vote no if I was still in England if there was a referendum … I have only read summaries of the constution but it comes across as an odious attempt to reimpose the rule of a lofty aristocracy on the masses. “Let them eat cake,” indeed! The French, though far from perfect, have not forgotten the revolutionary past; they saw through the verbiage.

137

Doug 06.03.05 at 7:30 am

Re: 108 “Watch out for that commerce clause, though.”

Single European Act. 1986.

138

Adam Stephanides 06.03.05 at 12:29 pm

#92 – “Stuart, the US Constitution had the advantage of not having to conform to 25 differents previous Constitutions, some of them rather different.”

I’m not sure what this has to do with anything. The European constitution (as I understand it) wouldn’t replace or modify any national constitutions, but would only affect the supra-national institutions set “over” these constitutions.

When comparing the successful ratification of the U.S. constitution to the failed (for the time being, anyway) ratification of the European constitution, there are a couple important points to bear in mind.

1. The U.S. constitution didn’t require unanimous ratification. And didn’t get it, at least not at first: one of the original 13 states didn’t ratify until several years after the Constitution had come into effect.

This was only possible because the U.S. Constitutional Convention, though it had been empowered only to propose modifications to the Articles of Confederation, decided to junk the Articles and propose a completely new document with no reference to the old, which was presumably not a practical option for the drafters of the European constitution.

2. The backers of the U.S. constitution compromised with their opponents. Several states only ratified after the backers promised that a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution (more accurately, that the first Congress would send the necessary amendments to that states for ratification), and the pro-Constitution side kept their part of the deal, thanks to James Madison’s insistence.

Again, this offer was only feasible because, under the Constitution, amendments would not have to be laboriously negotiatied among all the state governments, and would not require unanimous ratification to take effect.

Of course, there were other major differences between the two situations. But it seems safe to say that, had the U.S. constitution had to jump the same hurdles as the European constitution (unanimous consent with no modification feasible), it would never have been ratified.

#92 – “And of having a strong enemy, the British, who forced them to stay united.”

The British weren’t exactly “enemies” at that point, a peace treaty having been signed several years earlier, but they were certainly rivals. More generally, the U.S. was facing a number of foreign policy crises, and to many people it seemed that the national government created by the Articles was incapable of dealing with them, because it was so weak that foreign governments didn’t take it seriously. Not that that was the only reason why people wanted to replace the Articles, or supported the Constitution.

139

Asterix 06.03.05 at 4:08 pm

A few reasons why I am still rather fond of “nos amis français”…

1. They do not generally pepper their attacks on us with the same handful of English words, hackneyed national stereotypes and atrocious puns which have already been recycled ad nauseum by the editorial staff of the Economist.

2. They do not, for the matter, share the Anglo-american belief that the discipline of
Economics is the crowning achievement of modern intellectual life and enhancing GDP growth
the only legitimate aim of public policy.

3. The French education system has a tendency of producing people deserving of the name
“intellectual” rather than the armies of tedious specialists and “policy intellectuals” so
obsessed with the technicalities of their own disciplines they can no longer connect with
the rest of the human race and are also frequently phillistine, illiterate and boring.

4. French wine and beer make life worth living. English wine is non-existent and American
wine is crap. American beer tastes like watered down piss.

5. French women are more attractive then British and a fortiori American women. (Note, to
forestall the inevitable faux outrage: This doubtless also applies to men.)

6. Iraq.

7. France has a fantastic cultural heritage and its people have the time to enjoy it.
American culture is a contradiction in terms.

8. Culture, again.

9. In France it is possible to admit that capitalism may not be perfect and, gasp, debate
the alternatives.

10. The working class French stand up for themselves and are smart enough not to buy into
the political world view which is fucking them up the ass. Probably something to do with not
having been crushed by a system which gives them the “freedom” to flip burgers on pain of
death.

11. Did I mention culture?

etc, etc (I’m not French by the way)

140

Jacques-Julien 06.03.05 at 6:56 pm

Neonknight,

I am sure you will be glad to learn that an US worker spend on average 1,877 hours per year at the office while their French counterparts, lazzy bastards,only 1,562, that is about 9 weeks less (35h-week…)[OECD 2000]
In 2002, hourly labour productivity in the US was $38,83 while in France it was $41,85, ie 7% higher I know it’s hurt to hear that those froggies are most efficient despite the stereotypes.

But that’s right that the difference of annual working hours explains only 75% of the difference of GDP per capita. The remaining 25% comes from lower enumployement in the US but also especially from that people retire later, don’t have maternity or paternity leaves (US being one of the only 3 industrialized countries not to mandate it)

But maybe people in the US should even consider giving up their optional 2 week annual break so they could get a bit richer after all.
Do you want to bet that the productivity gap would widen further ?
But we could also discuss the Human Development Index in case you don’t think the material wealth is the only thing that should be taken into consideration. I am not sure you would appreciate the statistics I could show though…

141

Scott 06.03.05 at 8:05 pm

(And incidentally, I would much, much rather be unemployed in France than flip burgers in the US.)
-lemuel pitkin
Well, Lemuel, that’s exactly the problem with people like you. You’d rather sit on your ass and live off of someone else’s earnings than work a menial job to support yourself. Well it’s the burger flippers of the world who do an honest days work who pay the taxes to support you while you leach off the welfare teat. Living off of welfare saps iniative and destroys the work ethic, and breeds long term poverty. Socialism belongs in a museum of failed oddities, like the Dodo bird, and hydrogen airships.

142

Keith 06.03.05 at 10:25 pm

Hy strx,
Thnks fr bng th rbtr r ll tht s gd. h…nd g kll yrslf y bnxs, slf-cntrd prck. ps, gss jst lvd p t yr dl.

Hgs nd ksss frm jst nthr mrcn hthn.

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Lebensraum of the Elites 06.04.05 at 3:30 pm

There was no referendum in Germany, a ratification only. But Bild Zeitung polls where 390,000+ voted: 96.9% Nein, 3.1% Ja

We’re all democrats in high standing, indubitably, though some more coersively than others.

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