Before discussing Mr. Cameron, his speech, and the reaction of the European elites to it, let us clarify the situation in case the increasingly pro-European mainstream media has also confused the issue for the present reader. First of all, it was perfectly clear what David Cameron and a large segment of the British conservatives desire, and understandable to any mentally capable human being why Britain’s membership of the EU is no longer feasible as it is today: European regulations, and more generally, the habit of increasing centralization in the union, has proved unworkable and destabilizing to the British economy as well as destructive to its political independence and traditional position of aloofness from the European continent. No further discussion needed, there.
However, for one reason or another, it all does not seem so clear to the pundits of European centralization, and to the left in general –like they often tend not to see the most obvious things. Why is that? The mentality of the European elites and their active and passive supporters can be explained in several ways.
Ever since the late nineteenth century, when new political systems were gaining popularity among western elites, and especially since the centralization in all areas of society that followed the first world war, western political life has suffered from what I would call increasing “institutionalization” of political and economic life. Of course it was inescapable, as with all progressive evolutions, that the fait accompli would in the long term establish itself as proof that the ideology was actually sound, or at least that there was no real alternative to the present situation, however problematic that situation was. This process of institutionalization has been well documented, but presently what interests us is the second aspect of this process, namely, not on the national level, but on the international level –of that simultaneous international process the European union is one of the results.
International institutionalization, like the national movement, began mainly after World War I, when the high-minded president Wilson created the League of Nations to avert war for all times, mainly through the instrument of international arbitration. Now, as we all know, the League did not in the least succeed in fulfilling this somewhat superhuman task. The traditional explanation is that the members were not united enough, or did not put enough effort in it, and so on. As in the case of the present United Nations, however, few people seem to notice that what is wrong with concept of international arbitration, is the whole idea of international arbitration itself. It is entirely childish to presume that any union of independent states pursuing their own narrow self-interest, will be able to solve every single problem of rivalry that could possibly arise. As Ludwig von Mises put it:
The League of Nations did not fail because its organization was deficient. It failed because it lacked the spirit of genuine liberalism. It was a convention of governments imbued with the spirit of economic nationalism and entirely committed to the principles of economic warfare. While the delegates indulged in mere academic talk about good will among the nations, the governments whom they represented inflicted a good deal of evil upon all other nations. The two decades of the League's functioning were marked by each nation's adamant economic warfare against all other nations. The tariff protectionism of the years before 1914 was mild indeed when compared with what developed in the ['twenties and 'thirties]—viz., embargoes, quantitative trade control, foreign exchange control, monetary devaluation, and so on.
The story of the League has great significance for the present time, and taking a glance at international developments since the Second World War, it will become clear that the ruling elites have not learned any lesson from that earlier episode. In the second decade of the 21st century, they and the masses who have come to accept the political mainstream opinions, are more rapidly and enthusiastically embracing the fallacy that only official and bureaucratically organized institutions can assure us prosperity or political stability –while of course the very contrary is true.
Let us come back to Mr. Cameron and the EU. What were the specific criticisms directed at Mr. Cameron? The gist of the pro-European standpoint is that Cameron is acting foolishly and hastily, totally contrary to his country’s true economic interests, just to pacify a growing segment of diehard conservatives who are only pursuing their own egoistical goals, entirely disregarding the true interests of the British people. Economic growth as well as enduring political significance cannot be achieved outside the tightening European framework, even if that would mean sacrificing national sovereignty, because anyway, they say, there is no other choice in a world that is dominated by superpowers. In a sense these pundits, of which the most prominent is our own Guy Verhofstadt, may be right – but only in the sense that their arguments are not real arguments, but threats, the usual progressive way of achieving political and economic goals.
It is certainly true that the UK will lose economic opportunities if it is banned from the common market, and that perhaps that it will become more politically isolated, (all the more so since the spineless Obama administration will be the last to encourage an atlanticist maneuver of the UK) but in no way is that any proof that the European Union is a necessary institution for economic growth or political stability to take place. Here we are dealing with the usual trick of the left, which has already been operating on a national level for so long now: create an institution, a structure, which in course of time is deemed part of the natural condition of society, or simply too difficult to deconstruct, and then the domino effect will always follow because the maintenance of that defective institution will necessitate the creation of more similar institutions and accompanying regulations. The EU is such an institution on a national level, and what the European pundits are fixating on, is not economic progress at all, but really the continuation of the Union at all cost.
As was the case with the League of Nations, no politician seems to have grasped that the only thing actually needed for economic growth and a stable political situation is freedom, in other words, as much absence of state intervention on the national as well as international level. No member of the ruling elites, with all their talk about setting up the needed “institutions” in order to regularize and smoothen international economic relations, seems to remember that in the nineteenth century a German company controlled the water supply of Barcelona, and more than half of Russian industry was in western hands. What was the cause of this forgotten globalization? It was not the UN, the EU, the IMF; it was unfettered markets and free trade.
As a rule, federations always end up in a different form than that in which they were originally conceived. Some, like the American, tend to become more centralized because in practice it is impossible to maintain so many various opinions under one central power. This pattern will be followed in homogeneous states; federations and organizations comprising countries of many different cultures, standards of living, and strategic goals, on the contrary, tend to drift apart.
Which pattern will Europe follow? Ideally, it should not have made the mistake to drift into the structure of the tight and bureaucratic union in the first place, because centralization and growth of the executive power are never good things if conditions do not require them - and contrary to the commonly accepted point of view, the centralization following the American civil war significantly undermined the American tradition of liberty. As far as predictions are justified, however, I would say the future for Europe is not looking very bright. Considering the present moral malaise that is ever more quickly enveloping the West, including the United States, it is highly doubtful that individual members will have the courage to resist the centralizing tendencies of the EU and its nefarious impact on economic conditions.
This lack of courage to resist the formation of, as it were, the western version of a degenerating Roman Empire, is a direct consequence of the economic doctrines and attitudes that rule the minds of academics, politicians, and the crowds alike. Recently, I was reading an interview with the oligarch Oleg Deripashka, a fervent advocate of free market reform in Russia, present at the conference of Davos. His main criticism of the present Russian economic policies is best summarized in the statement that Russia wants “capitalism without capitalists”. Do you notice he could just as well have been talking about the European union? For all the pundits’ stressing of improved economic conditions and the adjustment of economic systems to each other, it seems that for business as well as for the middle class, Western Europe is steadily becoming a less and less attractive place. Just consider the constantly rising debt and correspondingly rising taxes, the ever more stringent labor and safety regulations, to understand that economically, the present leftist policies of the EU will prove anything but beneficent even in the near future. More generally, the mentality of the Eurocrats perfectly reflects the socialist utopia of unlimited wealth, believing they can dispense with the actual persons and creative minds who do the wealth-creating in the real world. This utopianism, it is true, is not as outspoken as it was in earlier, more ideological times, but it is ever-present in the progressive mind, and we see it translated in the flaming contempt of the mob for any creative or self-made personality –flamed by the discourses of intellectuals.
It has not escaped my attention that, as was to be expected, the European elites took some of their pals from the business world with them, to let them voice their concern about the opinions of Mr. Cameron. Nobody will deny that every economic situation, even the most dramatic, has its winners. Not surprisingly these captains of industry –Richard Branson was among them- are mainly leaders of multinationals that have directly profited from political pull and special regulations and infrastructure works ordered by the union. Fewer, however, were the media that mentioned the 50 businessmen, mainly active in the London financial sector, who voiced their wholehearted support for the British PM.
What can we learn from the atmosphere in which Mr. Cameron’s entirely legitimate grievances were received? Probably that the European Union, like every leftist construction, is becoming the next holy cow of the mainstream media and political elites after Islam. It does not matter what defects it possibly could have; the message is: it’s here to stay and whoever dares criticize it, is a dangerous or narrow-minder nationalist or worse. From now on it should be clear to all that the EU is not a benevolent institution trying to do all it can for the various peoples it comprises, or at least it has long stopped being that strictly practical and neutral construction. In the hands of its present leaders, it is no more than a partisan construction, a political elite conniving with monopoly capitalists to establish an authoritarian system in which power is concentrated in the hands of the few. If you want to know what the ultimate goal, the kind of society is that this elite wants to achieve, just look at China or Russia. Progressives just cannot live with the greatest achievement of western civilization, namely a society in which every individual can enjoy his natural rights without any hindrance whatsoever. The progressive agenda is the agenda of domination and power-lust. That is what motivated the October revolution, and it presently motivating the subtler shady dealings of the Eurocrats. What we are witnessing today in Europe is perhaps simply the bloodless, farcical prolongation of the European and later international civil war, which began with Bolshevik revolution.