TCS Daily

Europe's New 'New World'?

By Iain Murray - June 18, 2004 12:00 AM

An average American conservative thinker might normally expect to take kindly to something written by Strauss-Kahn, presuming it to have been some sort of collaboration between the influential conservative intellectuals Leo Strauss and Herman Kahn. Yet the combination might yet come to be regarded as one of the greatest enemies of American liberal democracy. A fascinating document has come to light, despite the EU's best efforts to hide it, authored primarily by one Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French member of parliament and former minister of the economy, finance and industry. It amounts to a blueprint for turning the European Union into a state, based on the "European model" and armed to back up its beliefs. Americans cannot afford to ignore it.

The document is the report of a round table, "A sustainable project for tomorrow's Europe," formed at the request of the European Commission President, Romano Prodi. It brought together 12 of the great and good of Europe's technocratic elite, including such luminaries as the Mayor of Athens, Dora Bakayannis, the president of the European Business School (and former governor of the Bundesbank), Hans Tietmeyer, and the Portuguese Nobel laureate for literature, Jose Saramango. Together they sought to answer the question, "what should be the next European idea or ideal?"

They chose the idea of a political Europe, legitimized by a social model they detected in European society, claiming to find its origins in Europe's supposed periods of unity (by which is meant both the tyrannies of Rome and Napoleon and the cultural unity of "Christendom") and in the violent divisions experienced by Europe up to and including the Second World War. The model they described has four components:

(i) The inviolability of human rights, which they claim is unique to Europe, citing the abolition of the death penalty and "the ban on marketing of the human body."

(ii) Culture as a means of emancipation. In what appears to be an explicit rejection of Anglo-American capitalism, they say, "Referring to the humanist model of the honest man, culture is first and foremost regarded in Europe as an instrument for human development, and not as a medium for a business activity."

(iii) A model of sustainable development, with its own specific balance between economic prosperity, social justice and environmental protection. This is another explicit rejection of the Anglo-American model. Pride is taken in the fact that taxation averages 42% in Europe, as opposed to 28% in the USA. They also say, "The special attention focusing on the environment is also something peculiar to Europe: it is the part of the world where such issues carry most importance. Evidence of this can be found in the diplomatic positions taken in the Kyoto negotiations."

(iv) A vision of the international order based on multilateralism. Again, this appears to be an explicit rejection of current Anglo-American thought, and it proposes to use multilateralism to promote its model: "It is by promoting multilateralism that Europe proposes on the world stage the model of justice it has developed for itself; the vision of the international order which this reflects is one that refuses power in favour of the law, priority to peaceful settlement of disputes by negotiations and arbitration, and solidarity with poor countries" (a solidarity which finds peculiar expression in the protectionism of the Common Agricultural Policy, but that is beside the point).

The roundtable regards a politically unified Europe as a "vector" of this model and sees it not as the last gasp of Old Europe, but the herald of a new world: "The European model of justice is universal, heralding tomorrow's world, a promise of a new 'new world' [sic]: a world where reason of State has given way to the primacy of human rights, a world which prefers sustainable development to productivist growth, a world which has broken with traditional power and turned to peace and the rule of law."

Yet the great and goods recognize that their beloved model is under threat. They worry about Europe's failure to adapt to economic change, about the lack of opportunity for Europe's citizens to succeed, about the inability to get to grips with what an aging population means, about a difficulty in fully grasping environmental issues (in a "continually worsening" environment), about a mistrust of democracy, about the risk of the model diluting in globalization and, last but by no means least, about a risk of powerlessness in the wake of 11 September.

The solutions advanced to these problems all depend on the creation of a European superstate. More government spending on R&D and education is seen as the solution to Europe's economic woes. The environmental problem will be solved by "a sustainable development Council equipped with the necessary financial (an environmental convergence fund) and legal (penalties, framework laws) instruments." The problem of lack of opportunity will be tackled primarily by heavy state involvement in early childhood and by strengthening the welfare state. All of these initiatives will be financed by the first real European tax, a supplementary company tax. Europe could solve its problems by allowing its nations to compete in the marketplace of ideas, but it rejects the idea of fiscal and social competition as incompatible with the European model. One solution for all, imposed from the center, is the only fair and just answer to Europe's problems in this group's eyes.

European Power

Yet it is the solution to Europe's external problems, not its internal ones that is most worrying. The internal solutions sound like a tried and tested recipe for failure, but that is Europe's own business. This Europe, however, does not want to limit itself. The roundtable wants to export its model of justice to the international order. Learning from Robert Kagan, it recognizes the "paradox of Europe: if it wants to impose law, it needs power."

To gain this power, the roundtable proposes the development of a political Europe's diplomatic power by unifying its external representation and also by gaining the Union representation on the UN Security Council, presumably at the expense of the independent permanent seats of Britain and France, something that would, at net, result in one less voice arguing for the Anglo-American world model.

But the group also wants Europe to have military power. "If it wishes to contribute to building an international order founded on law," they argue, "the Union must rebuild its military power and agree to the requisite political and financial input."

We should not ignore how this will intersect with the beliefs ascribed to this European model. The European Union currently relies on environmentalism in large part to justify its existence. Because "pollution know no frontiers," transnational laws and institutions are necessary. This may, as the commentator Richard North has suggested, be one reason national Green parties are doing so poorly in Europe at the moment -- the European Union has usurped their role. That is also why the environment plays such a large role in the European model described.

Consider the implications of this. An outside body cannot threaten Europe's welfare state -- if it collapses it will be as a result of its own internal contradictions. It can, however, be portrayed as threatening Europe's environmental quality. Is it too hard to imagine a rearmed Europe objecting to another nation's carbon dioxide emissions and intervening militarily to shut them down? This is fanciful, I hope, but it certainly fits in with the model of Europe described. The argument amounts to an army for environmentalism.

In the end, however, the proposals are made of straw. In answer to the criticism of market liberalism that the European high-tax, welfare state model is doomed to failure, the assembled brains can only say, "[The Union] can respond to the liberal criticism by explaining that Europeans are proud of their model and however serious its problems may be, they can be overcome."

Strauss-Kahn and his colleagues have produced a document that is at once both frightening and laughable. Yet it is also a valuable insight into how the European technocrat's mind works. Americans put the environment way down their list of priorities. The European elite put it at or near the top. In the war between market democracy and statist technocracy, it is useful to have the enemy's code book fall into our hands.


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