This morning the 223,000 voters of Luxemburg voted in favour of the EU Constitution with a majority of 56.5% “Jo” against 43.5% “Nee.” The Grand-Duchy of Luxemburg, though the richest of all EU member states, is the largest net receiver of EU handouts, getting 1,700 euros per head per year from Brussels – five times more than any other member state. Given these figures it is significant that more than four in every ten Luxemburgians rejected the EU Constitution. Luxemburg, which has only 0.05% of the EU population, has no unemployment. Its capital, Luxemburg City, houses many of the EU institutions and is considered one of the three official EU capitals, along with Brussels and Strassburg. The little country is widely known for its banks and its farmers driving mercedeses and BMWs, but the national motto “Wir bleiben was wir sind” (We want to remain what we are) clearly appealed to many.
The leading conservative French newspaper Le Figaro has noticed the sharp contrast between British courage and the cowardice of the Spanish who, after the Madrid bombings on March 11, 2004, painted their hands white and surrendered to al-Qaeda. Yesterday, the paper wrote in its editorial: “It is reassuring to see how the English respond with that typical flamboyance they display whenever history puts them to the test.” Contrasting this to the Spanish, who withdrew their troops from Iraq in the wake of the Madrid bombings, editor Pierre Rousselin writes: “This time the terrorists will not achieve the same result.”
Luxemburg’s 223,000 voters decide tomorrow about the fate of the European Union. After the rejection of the European Constitution by the French and the Dutch six weeks ago, all countries where constitutional referendums were scheduled for later this year and in 2006, decided to postpone them indefinitely. All except Luxemburg, where Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, in a fit of hubris, refused to. Before the French and Dutch referendums Juncker, who chaired the EU-council until 30 June, had said: “If the vote is yes, we will say: we go ahead; if it is no, we will say: we continue!” After the European summit three weeks ago, a frustrated Juncker quarrelled with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his successor as president of the EU Council, blaming Blair for the failure of the summit to reach an agreement on the EU budget.
This week, the European Commission unanimously approved the establishment by January 1, 2007 of a European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights. The agency, which is to employ 100 Eurocrats from the various EU member states, will be housed in Vienna. The Vienna based European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), which was set up in 1997, will be integrated into the new agency.
There is such a striking difference between the way the British react to yesterday’s terror attacks and the way the Spanish reacted to last year’s Madrid bombings, that I am not the only one intrigued by it. We all know that Britain will not “do a Spain.” It is simply inconceivable that, in response to terrorists, Londoners would paint their hands white, hastily change their foreign policies and vote their government out of office. “Britain will not be cowed,” Tony Blair said, and this sentiment is shared even by political opponents of his Iraq policies, such as Ken Livingstone.
Today, London came under attack from terrorists when bomb explosions shook the British capital, killing many innocent people. Just like the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States and March 11, 2004 in Madrid these attacks were directed against innocent civilians, and against our way of life.
The news from Gleneagles is being overshadowed by today’s events in London. Nevertheless the G8 Summit continues and a joint statement will be issued tomorrow. Let us hope that regarding global warming it will be an ambiguous document without any real meaning and consequences. It is important for Europe that US President Bush does not comply with the green policies of the Kyoto Protocol.
Before the French and Dutch referendums, I predicted that, if our neighbours voted "No", the EU would ignore the result and implement the constitution as though nothing had happened. The Brussels elites have followed the script to the letter. José Manuel Durrão Barroso, Jacques Chirac, Barbara Windsor and Sid James present Carry on Regardless. Two weeks after the referendums, the European Parliament voted through dozens of Bills that cited the constitution as the source of their authority. One which happened to catch my eye was a report proposing that the British and French representatives on the UN Security Council be merged into a single EU seat. The judicial basis for such a development, said the report, was "the European Constitutional Treaty, which creates a legal personality for the Union and a European Minister for Foreign Affairs". No one was so indelicate as to point out that, without the constitution, the EU has no treaty-making powers. Instead, we carried on as though nothing had changed.
Anti-globalist demonstrators burned huts today in Gleneagles. What a dreadful thing to do. Black smoke filled the sky, adding to pollution and, hence, global warming. The Gleneagles demonstrators asked for social and altruistic welfare policies in Africa. Do they know that Africa had “a social and altruistic state” between 1908 and 1960? Belgium’s Congo colony.
Belgium’s colonial record is well known. It started with King Leopold II, who owned the Congo as a private colony from 1885 to 1908 and under whose rule almost half the indiginous population perished. But, after the Saxe-Coburgs had “donated” the country to Belgium, Brussels devised a constructivist social scheme to pamper the survivers. For those of you who have read Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost here is the sequel.
Not another summit? You may well ask. In Gleneagles, Scotland, world leaders are gathered together today at great expense to pronounce on world problems: largely manufactured to give politicians something to do. As we know, if politicians did less there would be fewer problems. But to keep them in what they think is gainful employment they always latch on to the most emotionally-charged issues. This time the subjects will be ‘poverty in Africa’ and environmentalism, more specifically, alleged global warming. These both have a public resonance and the activists deliberately use them to make rich capitalist countries of the West feel guilty about their success and morally obliged to share it.
Let us look at these issues in turn. Why should the West be racked with guilt about poverty in that benighted continent, Africa? The poverty there is not caused by the wealth of the West. Those miserable countries in sub-Saharan Africa would do better if they adopted the ways of the West rather than turning up at international crisis meetings with a begging bowl. In fact, the hopelessness of these African countries is largely a consequence of the misguided generosity of the West which has ensured their permanent poverty. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been poured into Africa in aid since independence yet most of the countries are poorer now than twenty years ago. And it is not for lack of resources. Nigeria has massive oil reserves yet poorer people are no better off through having them. Like the aid, the wealth the resources generates goes to corrupt politicians.
The point is that African countries waste both international aid and natural resources through corruption by its political classes and pointless wars. A country does not get rich from aid or even natural resources – look at Hong Kong. It needs stable and transparent government, peace, the rule of law and protection of property rights. Only if these criteria are met will these countries be attractive to overseas investors. In their absence, poverty and war will result. It is not that African peoples are incapable of grasping the main features of capitalist enterprise. As the great free market economist and development writer, the late Peter Bauer has shown in stimulating detail, African countries had generated complex and efficient trading systems long before they were colonised.
But then the Africans discovered socialism from the London School of Economics and the decline set in. And worst of all, dependency became the norm. Perhaps the most spectacular of socialist waste was Tanzania, where billions were spent on grandiose schemes to eliminate capitalism. And the people got poorer and their rulers richer. As Bauer’s aphorism holds: ‘Aid is the method by which poor people in rich countries are compelled to finance rich people in poor countries’.
There is something the West can do about poverty in Africa. One way of establishing the popularity of capitalism and the wealth of Africa is for the West to end its ridiculous system of subsidies to its own farmers. Everybody would gain from this simple piece of economic rationality but it is unlikely that the European Union would take the lead here: French farmers are too politically influential. Politics is always the problem.
Similarly, the environment is likely to excite the emotions rather than the intellect. It is also another issue with which to bash capitalism. The idea that the market and the search for profit has destroyed the environment is now the accepted belief even though socialism did much greater harm to the environment, largely because of the absence of property rights and monopoly government that had no incentive to care for the environment. But now environmentalism has become an anti-capitalist religion immune from scientific analysis.
The clear conclusion is that far from damaging the environment industrialisation has actually improved it. As capitalist countries get richer their citizens come to value a pleasant countryside and clean air. Just compare the London of today with that of forty years ago. For poor and undeveloped countries a good environment is a luxury. In all this we should remember that property rights and a reliable legal system are crucial. The possibility of suing the polluter is essential if we are to avoid the heavy hand of the state. The move towards the issue of pollution permits, which can be bought and sold on the market, is obviously a move in the right direction.
The big issue at the moment is the question of global warming. The European press mistakenly claims that there is scientific agreement that it is a problem. But there is no unanimity here. Many perfectly respectable scientists claim that the very small increases in temperature that we have experienced are explicable in naturalistic terms not industrial ones. Also, the one writer who has done so much to discredit the environmentalist claims, the Dane Bjorn Lomborg in his important book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, argues persuasively that the fashionable measures to cope with global warming are costly and will hold up that industrialisation which is the only thing that can save the environment. As he points out, the much-heralded Kyoto agreement will cost 150 billion dollars a year and will delay global warming by six years. It just is not worth it.
At the Gleneagles summit the world leaders will be surrounded by highly educated people equipped with the latest fashionable knowledge. But that is the problem. The problems of poverty in Africa and global warming require only basic microeconomics and a little common sense. But politicians have other fish to fry – winning elections and appeasing the intellectual classes.