Wall Street Opinion Journal Paul Johnson Friday, June 17, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The Continent has turned its back on both the past and the future.
That Europe as an entity is sick and the European Union as an institution is in disorder cannot be denied. But no remedies currently being discussed can possibly remedy matters. What ought to depress partisans of European unity in the aftermath of the rejection of its proposed constitution by France and the Netherlands is not so much the foundering of this ridiculous document as the response of the leadership to the crisis, especially in France and Germany.
Jacques Chirac reacted by appointing as prime minister Dominque de Villepin, a frivolous playboy who has never been elected to anything and is best known for his view that Napoleon should have won the Battle of Waterloo and continued to rule Europe. Gerhard Schröder of Germany simply stepped up his anti-American rhetoric. What is notoriously evident among the EU elite is not just a lack of intellectual power but an obstinacy and blindness bordering on imbecility. As the great pan-European poet Schiller put it: “There is a kind of stupidity with which even the Gods struggle in vain.”
The fundamental weaknesses of the EU that must be remedied if it is to survive are threefold. First, it has tried to do too much, too quickly and in too much detail. Jean Monnet, architect of the Coal-Steel Pool, the original blueprint for the EU, always said: “Avoid bureaucracy. Guide, do not dictate. Minimal rules.” He had been brought up in, and learned to loathe, the Europe of totalitarianism, in which communism, fascism and Nazism competed to impose regulations on every aspect of human existence. He recognized that the totalitarian instinct lies deep in European philosophy and mentality–in Rousseau and Hegel as well as Marx and Nietzsche–and must be fought against with all the strength of liberalism, which he felt was rooted in Anglo-Saxon individualism.
In fact, for an entire generation, the EU has gone in the opposite direction and created a totalitarian monster of its own, spewing out regulations literally by the million and invading every corner of economic and social life. The results have been dire: An immense bureaucracy in Brussels, each department of which is cloned in all the member capitals. A huge budget, masking unprecedented corruption, so that it has never yet been passed by auditors, and which is now a source of venom among taxpayers from the countries which pay more than they receive. Above all, règlementation of national economies on a totalitarian scale.