ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Monday, June 13, 2005

French non Vote as Protest against Globalization

Saw this in yesterday's Post-Dispatch. I have to say, it's difficult to disagree.

France's "non" vote on EU is protest against globalization
The "Second Revolution" seeks to isolate the French from the rest of the world.

As soon as the results were announced in France last month that amidst a record turnout of 70 percent of French voters, an enormous 55 percent rejected a constitution for the European Union, supporters of the "non" vote symbolically thronged the square adjacent to the Bastille, the imposing Parisian prison, the storming of which heralded the original French revolution. The latest thronging of the Bastille is revolution indeed, except that it is a retrograde one in attempting to isolate France not only from Europe but also from the rest of the world.

The French vote is a protest vote. It is a vote against free markets and capitalism. It is a vote against welfare reform. It is a vote against international exchange of goods, services, and the two factors of production - labor and capital (the definition of globalization). Thus, the French vote is indeed a vote against globalization and international business/marketing.

After the Second World War, France embarked on a "middle ground" model to capitalism and communism by the creation of a cradle-to-grave welfare state and excessive government regulation of enterprise.

Meanwhile, the Berlin Wall collapsed spectacularly with a very short notice and the Soviet Union fell like a pack of cards.

Welcome to the 1990s - billions joined the free market system, the Internet was commercialized and the great tech boom transformed the world. In other words, globalization, as we know it, commenced.

Add to this the rapid aging of Western Europe with government initiatives to increase birth rates making no headway. For example, it is estimated that by 2030, 60 percent of Germany's population will be over the age of 50, making it almost a republic of grandparents. A declining labor pool means a declining economy - it is that simple.

The "middle ground" in Western Europe was caught off guard with the developments in the 1990s. Western European socialists, always numbering in the many, lost the quasi-protection of the Soviet Union and felt rudderless. Instead of following the British example of liberalization, they dug their heels in the trenches and resisted change. They still do. The ramifications of this are felt in the French vote.

The "second revolution" is essentially based on the fear of change and a last ditch attempt to maintain the status quo, whereas the original revolution was to advance change.

If anyone wonders why the final vote was based on fear, it is partly because both sides of the campaign used fear appeals. The "yes" side argued that a federal Europe was necessary as a counterweight to the United States and a rising China and India, the argument made by President Jacques Chirac himself. Noted "yes" campaigner Dr. Dominique Moise argued that a "no" vote meant that the French would "unwillingly and unknowingly herald in the Asian century."

The "no" side pandered to the protectionists by raising the bogey of Polish plumbers - cheap handymen that would invade France from Eastern Europe and take away all those French jobs in the midst of a 10 percent unemployment. The seemingly logical fear on the surface hides some bitter internal truths.

A plumber in France typically earns only a few hundred dollars more than what he would earn by being on welfare. With such a pampered welfare state, the incentive to work is simply lost. No wonder the high unemployment numbers have to do with this "middle ground" legacy than with the mythical Polish plumber.

Contrary to France, where there are only a few hundred Polish plumbers, Britain has legally allowed 100,000 handymen from Poland to live and work. Even as France is complaining about the imposition of the Anglo-Saxon model and its economy is stagnating, the British economy is enjoying the fastest pace of economic growth since the Industrial Revolution. The British Labor party has transformed itself into a "New Labor Party" under Tony Blair, who ardently believes in the efficiency of free markets.

Apparently, the fear appeals of the "no" side worked better than the fear appeals of the "yes" side. The immediate threat for the French was from the Polish plumber just a train ride away from snatching jobs.

So, what was the much maligned "EU constitution" all about? It is a lengthy compendium of all previous economic treaties that consolidates the 25-member union and also provides for some federal offices such as the EU president and a foreign minister.

It does not clearly articulate some basic concepts such as separation of powers among the legislature, executive and judiciary. Since it is primarily a compendium of economic treaties, the document has more commercial terms than any typical constitution would have.

The EU constitution states that Europe would be a "highly competitive social market economy and one large internal market where competition is free and undistorted."

For the socialists and market skeptics, making free markets and free trade a constitutional obligation was more than waving a red flag in front of a bull. With the EU already a common market with nearly half of its members using a common currency, the constitutional statement on free markets/free trade was simply redundant and an unnecessary provocation. It turned off a lot of people.

Even though the EU would continue to function under existing treaties, further integration, especially at the political level, is likely to be stalled. The EU still has not completely achieved its cherished goal of having a common foreign policy and the "non" vote is not going to make things better in this regard.

The French vote is not going to stop globalization. No one country can halt the process of globalization. Globalization is like a wind. Trying to stop it is rather unwise and a colossal waste of one's time and energy. Governments across the world will have to harness this wind to energize their economies and make it work for their citizens. France is no exception.

Any country that tries to stop globalization and free markets will inevitably hurt their own economy... If we were to do that in the US, here comes the next Great Depression - Yeah!!!

By the way, Downer... did you have any idea that you, Bernie Sanders, and Michael Savage agree on globalization??? As I've mentioned previously, the political spectrum truly is round, with extremes on both sides meeting at some point.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler