Saturday, February 19, 2005

Constitutional Differences

In today's UK Telegraph, Charlie Moore explains the differences between the US Constitution and the proposed constitution for the European Union:
It is natural for Americans to like the sound of the word "constitution". They have the best one ever written in a single document. It consists, in the copy I have before me, of 12 pages, 11 if you exclude the list of the men who signed it. There are also amendments added over the past two centuries: they amount to another nine pages. If President Bush tucked himself up with it at his famously early bedtime of 9.30, he could finish it well before 10.
The proposed EU constitution, on the other hand, runs 511 pages in lenght. It reads more as a commercial contract than as an outline for federalism.
Rather than confining itself to the division of powers by which a country should be governed – head of state, parliament, judiciary, what's local and what's national – it lays out scores of pages telling people how to run their lives. It supports positive discrimination, outlaws the death penalty in all circumstances, commits itself to high public spending, compulsory consultation with trade unions about changes at work, "the exchange of youth workers", "fat-free breakfasts", "distance education" and "the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen" (I made one of these up). And it imposes all these on nations that have their own governments and electorates.

It also contains a great bundle of miscellaneous provisions about such things as abortion in Malta, "Hot Rolling Mills Nos 1 and 2" for a steel company in the Czech Republic, some rather frightening-looking stuff about the nuclear power plant in Slovakia and "the right to provide services by natural persons who do not enjoy hembygdsrätt/kotiseutuoikeus (regional citizenship) in Åland". This is not a constitution, certainly not a constitution intended to be understood by those it affects. It is a vast agglomeration of decisions made by governments to take power over citizens of vastly differing countries.
The EU constitution exposes the the EU as nothing less than a bureaucrat's wet dream -- a M.C. Escher sketch of commissions, councils, departments, quotas, restrictions, exceptions, codes, jurisdictions and regulatory ministries whose powers are not defined by broad, simple principles, but by complex, detailed agreements, ammendments and side-deals. A legal labyrinth to be negotiated by skilled bureacrats over expensive lunches in Brussels. Despite the puerile dreams of Paris and Berlin, the EU, though an economically powerful trade block, will never become a superpower to rival the US. European birthrates guarantee that the continent's population will contract, not expand, over the coming decades. In short, there will be barely enough young Europeans to pay the increasingly exorbitant taxes necessary to maintain the pensioners of the EU's vast welfare state, not to mention man an technically advanced military. Paying to build such a military will also strain the budgets of the EU's confederation of socialist and quasi-socialist economies, many of which can already barely keep from sliding into recession.

Mr. Moore also observes, brilliantly:
... I would draw attention to the opening words of the two documents. The US Constitution begins, famously, "We the People…". The European Constitution begins, "His Majesty the King of the Belgians…". That gives you a fair idea of the different spirit of each document.
The EU constitution must first be approved by voters in the constituent EU member states. Spain seems likely to approve; the UK less so.

Soon, probably next year, we shall be asked to vote on the constitution ourselves. The No campaign has been arguing for quite a long time that every household should be sent a copy of the European Constitution. The Government is proving rather evasive on the point, but what possible objection could there be, apart from the health-and-safety threat to our postmen's spines?

It would weigh scarcely anything extra to throw in the US Constitution with each envelope, thus offering the most instructive possible comparison.


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