Saturday, January 19, 2002
Europe is old hat

According to Samizdata. Probably true, but I do have a quibble. The author, David Carr, says "Europe's post-war social model has always been a euphamism for high taxes, a bloated public sector and rigid, protectionist policies." Not true.

The European Community, strange as it sounds today was a Capitalist bulwark. France, Germany and Italy all taxed significantly less than us (and hence grew faster than us) until about twenty years ago. Their tax burdens were growing, and overtook us, but they were not always a euphamism for high taxes, etc. On protectionist policies it is blatantly not the case that the European Union was seen as a bastion of high tarrifs, it was primarily a free trade area - as the Treaty of Rome made explicit.

Is there any point to this seemingly theological argument? Well yes. Those of us who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it. The EEC was supported by the right and the center for three practical reasons ("Europe a nation" and "ending all wars" are idealism and for our purposes not relevant). The first two were that we otherwise had no say in EEC decisions that would affect us and that Europe needed a bit of spine stiffening against the still menacing Reds. But the other reason was that joining the "Capitalist club" would mean that economic liberalisation could be done without the need for a political concensus, as we would be harmonising our taxes and public sector downwards. This is why the bulk of the Labour Party and almost all the Trade Unions opposed it and why the bulk of the Conservatives supported it. In fact the Center for Policy Studies was originally set up to look at succesful German market oriented policies and try and bring them over to Britain.

Of course things are different today, but the lesson remains - don't assume that any permanent alliance will retain a permanent nature. In international affairs, nothing is forever.


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