French get it wrong even when getting it right
Although I’m not European, I was happy to see the French get one right, voting “Non” on the EU Constitution. In typical French style, however, they got it right mostly for the wrong reasons. The most reasonable opposition argument, but a minority of the no votes, came from people who believe it is a major mistake to give up national sovereignty to bureaucrats in Brussels. Imagine all our governors giving up their power to one non-American super-governor who worked from Toronto. A great reason to vote no, n’est-ce pas? One could also have rightly objected to the length of the Constitution, well over 200 pages in total, making it impossible for almost anyone to understand and doing nothing to reform the over-regulated style of most European countries. But the main impetus against the Constitution was from leftists who fear competition from other European workers as well as partial sale of government-owned enterprises to the public through stock issuance. In other words, the main reason the French voted no was because they want more socialism rather than less, despite the decades of evidence within and outside France that such policies are a primary source of unemployment and prevent increasing standards of living. The left argued in no uncertain terms that capitalism is bad for workers. Given the economic history of France, I doubt anyone making the argument has ever actually worked in a capitalist system. The other argument which worked fairly well for the anti-Constitution forces was immigration, namely fear that the open borders laws within the Constitution will allow more Muslims to immigrate into France, either from countries currently within the EU or more worryingly, from the potential entrance of Turkey into the Union. France is now about 10% Muslim, a fact which the average Frenchman finds disturbing and frightening. Given the rise of anti-Semitism in France and the current state of Islam around the world, the are right to have concern. In fact, it is probably this issue more than any other that will cause the Dutch to vote down the Constitution on Wednesday as they are still outraged at the killing of a popular film maker by a gang of radical Muslim youth. So while there were excellent reasons to vote against the EU Constitution, the French chose other reasons: Socialism and xenophobia. The strength of these motivating factors is not a cause for optimism about France or greater Europe. Leave it to the French to turn a smart political outcome into just another French mistake.
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