As European politics fractures further, where do we stand?


4:13 pm - May 31st 2011

by Adam Lent    


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An excellent piece in the FT today by Peter Spiegel today argues that tensions over the Euro and immigration could see an unravelling of the European project. But maybe the most interesting part of the article is the final lines, worth quoting at length.

We may be witnessing a generational change in European political dynamics. Traditional left-right divisions have narrowed. No mainstream social democrat now advocates centralised economic planning, just as no conservative candidate seriously questions the underpinning of the welfare state.

In its place, we are seeing a new division, between globalisers and localisers. The urban elites on both the left (intellectuals, liberal internationalists) and the right (free traders, global business leaders) face a challenge to their postwar consensus from a new group of revanchists. This political force also comes from both the left (trade unionists, working-class whites) and the right (rural nationalists, far-right xenophobes).

This analysis has a lot to recommend it.

And one can only wonder at the political consequences of growing anti-European feeling in Greece and other ‘periphery’ nations about plans being hatched for external agencies to effectively take over the running of large parts of Greek economic policy.

Certain strands of nationalist / localist feeling are beginning to influence politics here too.

Blue Labour and Red Tory, for example, both demand that politicians and the state do more to protect communities from the ravages of globalisation while Blue Labour, in particular, has made much of the need to make left wing politics more explicitly patriotic. Indeed Labour seems to feel there may be some political benefit to be gained from such a perspective with reports emerging that the Party may start striking a more populist, UK-first line on the EU bailouts.

It is also well-known that there are very many within the trade union movement who would more than happily throw their resources behind a protectionist, anti-global push.

When one adds to this, the strong possibility that livelihoods could face a prolonged squeeze in the UK and across Europe, that unemployment is unlikely to come down rapidly any time soon, and that trust in the political establishment is hardly at its highest and it does seem that a potent brew may be bubbling away which could soon boil over into just the political divisions Spiegel identifies.

Which immediately raises the question of how progressives on both left and right should respond. A tentative answer would have two parts.

Firstly, there must be an unequivocal identification with the centre of the political spectrum against the populism emerging on left and right. Reaching for simplistic, gut-feeling solutions at a time of complex global and economic dynamics is always wrong, usually self-defeating and ultimately dangerous.

This is why the ‘faith, family, flag’ perspective of Blue Labour needs to be treated with caution and why any adoption by Labour of a nationalist stance on the EU bailouts issue should be rethought.

Secondly, that political centre needs to reflect on its own offer to the British and European peoples very closely. If Spiegel is right, the fortunes of both centre right and centre left could be more closely intertwined than we may currently imagine as defining battles between internationalists and nationalists and centre and extremes emerge.

But, both centre right and left need to accept that the “globalisation is good for everyone” message is losing what credibility it has left. But both need to start rapidly developing a new message that globalisation can be re-thought and re-fashioned in a way that means its benefits can be distributed far more widely.

What that means in practice will take some time to develop. But clearly a very different set of expectations around corporate behaviour is one element and a greater commitment to proactive growth policies that address regional and sectoral inequalities might be another.

But the immediate test will be whether the EU establishment can develop a response to the Eurozone crisis that doesn’t involve humiliation and provocation of whole nationalities.

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About the author
Adam is an occasional contributor, former Head of Economics TUC, Associate Fellow at IPPR and co-author of 'In The Black Labour'.
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Reader comments


Good analysis. I think it misses one thing however – there are radical elements on the left and right who would love to see the European project collapse, but are still committed to internationalisation, and who are natural allies for those in the center if the centralists are prepared to give up on the structure and accept the idea.

In other words, it is not entirely centre versus extremist, as there are those outside the consensus whose objection is not to the consensus ideas but to the form that they take. The same groups tend to be opposed to the nationalists and protectionists remember.

Hi Adam,

I’m sympathetic but not convinced. There are plenty of upsides to globalisation but I think its also fair to say in coming decades the upsides will be outweighed by the negatives.

The level of investment and re-tuning of the economy required, in order to be able to bring benefits to Britons, is immense. Are Conservatives talking about it? No. Labour are, but I fear they won’t go far enough.

And besides, the other danger is that you need foreign actors to also recognise the dangers and change their practices accordingly. But its not always in their interests to do so.

Its not just the EU but the World Bank an IMF. It’s the WTO. It’s CAP etc. They all contribute to the problem. In order to threaten that order there needs to be a retreat not just from external organisations but banking institutions too.

A well though out analysis, but I do agree wholeheartedly with watchman. A person’s attitude to the European project is not a particularly good acid test for whether or not they are an internationalist.

I also think that the Adam Lent is a bit too ready to associate the internationalist centre with reason and its particularist critics with unreason. Like some nationalists, Europhiles also have a tendency to deal with symbols rather than realities: many europhiles I speak to have little knowledge of the EUs current politics, but nonetheless are attracted by the imagery of international brotherhood, and the vague notion of sticking it to the “little Englanders’. Equally, those in the pro globalisation centre who imagine things can go on as they have been, also demonstrate a level of blind faith.

Finally, both the ft article, and the author, make the mistake of imagining that political forces are merely constellations of ideas, ignoring the material interests involved, and so positing this notion of an internationalist centre, comprised or business leaders and progressive internationalists. If a head of steam were to build up being a genuinely progressive movement, if left internationalists inside labour were to genuinely seek to refashion globalisation and seek the big changes necessary to ensure a just distribution of its benefits, then history tells us that “internationalist business leaders” would be far more likely to throw in their lot with the more populist elements of the right – just as they have always been willing to use the Tory party as a somewhat imperfect vehicle for their interests – since sucking up some protectionist or anti-immigrant measures is something they could live with far more easily than a real shift in the balance of class power.

4. Richard W

” It is also well-known that there are very many within the trade union movement who would more than happily throw their resources behind a protectionist, anti-global push. ”

I’ve never got much impression that UK trade unionists as a body were protectionists. Sure, they all argue that their particular industry is special and part of the ‘ national interest ‘ and in need of some government subsidy. However, real protectionists argue that overseas products should be excluded from the domestic market or be subject to tariffs. In the absence of war the world will globalise, being against globalisation makes about as much sense as being against Wednesday following Tuesday. The last globalisation was defeated by nationalism and WW1, let’s hope the nationalists do not give us something similar to the horrors of the first half of the 20th century this time. “If goods can’t cross borders, armies will.” is a truism as countries who trade rarely fight each other.

” The urban elites on both the left (intellectuals, liberal internationalists) and the right (free traders, global business leaders) face a challenge to their postwar consensus from a new group of revanchists. ”

I thought it was a good article on the whole. However, the above quote is guilty of defining people too strictly in neat compartments. Plenty of people are liberal internationalists and free traders, it is not an either or choice.

‘…politicians and the state do more to protect communities from the ravages of globalisation…”

Was ‘ ravaged ‘ really necessary? Especially when you do not tell us in what way way are they ravaged. The great tool and symbol of modern globalisation is the internet. In much of the world, it is the internet that is undermining politicians and the state who ravage their own communities.

5. George Hallam

This is not a ‘good analysis’ because it relies on an inadequate conceptual framework: viz. the one one-diamentional, idealist, left-right view of politics.

Spiegel’s insight is that the ‘left-right’ classification doesn’t work.

The terminology originated during the French revolution and worked for a long time but only under certain conditions. Once one reaches the stage when liberal intellectuals are at one with business leaders one on the virtues of free trade and the evils of economic planning and a opposed to trade unionists and the working-class then what is the distinction worth?

The reason it worked was because the innumerable dimensions of political difference became condensed into a single over-riding issue: to preserve the existing order or to overthrow it in some way. In the absence of a single burning question any attempt to classify politics on a single dimension is artificial and arbitrary.

6. french derek

The Spiegel article (worth reading in full) easily applies to France. The EU problem is that the parliamentarians and Commission all appear to be ignorant of this shift in public feelings if one is to judge by their words and actions.

Protectionism is rife; people feel threatened: their jobs, the future for them and their children. They are fleeing to the extremes, each of which call for anti-globalisation, and anti-EU policies. And the centre appears ignorant (or uncaring) of this.

7. George Hallam

“Was ‘ravaged ‘ really necessary?”

London used to have a million and a quarter manufacturing jobs: now we have barely 200,000.

In Lewisham in 2009-10 1120 enterprises ‘died’, an excess over enterprise ‘births’ of 1.2 percent. This year there will be more of the same.
We have 9,600 claimants chasing 371 vacancies. Youth unemployment is 36 percent.

Have we been ‘ravaged ‘? Perhaps the word is unnecessarily dramatic.

However, what is clear is that there can be no solution to the problem of unemployment in areas like Lewisham without the reconstruction of British manufacturing industry. And this is not going to happen without a considerable amount of state intervention. Whether or not this would involve tariffs, quotas, currency regulations, or maintaining a ‘cheap’ pound, is a technical matter. The key issue is that, whatever actual measures were taken, their effect would be to protect British industry.

Anyone how opposes such a policy is setting their face against the interests of the majority of people of this country.

5
Yes I totally agree, attempting a grand theory of political thought is pointless and there has always been different strands of thought within the same political organizations, both the French and Russian revolutions are a good example. Add this to the overlap of ideas within supposedly contradicting ideologies (which isn’t new either) and we can see how such labels as ‘left and right’ do become meaningless.
Globalization is a fact, whether we are in the EU or not, and as I’ve said in previous threads, we cannot operate in a vacuum, trade unions have to accept that any struggle against the global economic system needs an international approach, but I fear that we won’t be witnessing that for some time.

9. Edward Carlsson Browne

Standing foursquare against populism is a sure way to get run over it.

The reasons people are attracted to populism needs to be addressed, rather than just decrying the consequences. I think Glasman’s “Faith, Flag, Family” tag is a bad idea, stemming from a failure to realise what the WWC, as opposed to the London working class, actually defines itself by. But stronger communities are not a bad idea, nor is opposing change that lowers living standards.

Progressives need to get in on the ground floor of populism and make sure it’s about improving living standards and involving people in decision making, not about punishing ‘outsiders’ whilst leaving the essential machinery of the system in place.

There’s nothing wrong with populism if it talks about economic justice more than immigration.

10. Richard P

To the extent that left and right have lost their meaning, it is because the left isn’t doing its job properly. The problems of inequalities of wealth and income are extremely serious. And it is at best an exaggeration to say that the right have been reconciled to the welfare state: with help from neoliberal elements of the centre-left, they have been rolling it back steadily over the last few decades.

A proper left analysis would suggest that globalisation of the kind we’ve seen up to now is causing all sorts of harm both to workers and the environment. There needs to be a relocalisation to some extent, coupled with increased democratic control over capital, an expansion of the mutual sector (at the expense of the private, not the state), renationalisation of natural resources and public transport, permanent retention of the major banks in a mixture of state and municipal ownership, and so on.

11. Richard W

7. George Hallam

” London used to have a million and a quarter manufacturing jobs: now we have barely 200,000. ”

George, it depends whether you are speaking about declines in terms of output or in reductions of required labour. I don’t see what any government can do about firms becoming more productive and efficient, and as a consequence requiring less labour. Should they be inefficient just so they employ lots of workers? Processes that make firms more productive can’t be uninvented. If London manufacturing is producing more in terms of output with less labour is that not good?

A lot of angst about declines in the manufacturing share of GDP really comes down to how statisticians choose to define employment sectors. For example, someone making a metal widget is defined as manufacturing. A software writer is defined as services. However, both are manufacturers and there is no good reason why the software writer can’t be defined as in the manufacturing sector, which would give us a completely different picture.

” In Lewisham in 2009-10 1120 enterprises ‘died’, an excess over enterprise ‘births’ of 1.2 percent. This year there will be more of the same.
We have 9,600 claimants chasing 371 vacancies. Youth unemployment is 36 percent. ”

In the midst of a severe recession a difference of 1.2 per cent is not terrible. Reductions in births of new firms is what really causes unemployment to rise as that is where employment growth originates. Therefore, removal of disincentives and measures to encourage new firms will do more to reduce unemployment than protectionism. High youth unemployment is an acute problem across much of Europe and North America. Youth often suffer badly to employment squeezes as firms place a high premium on experience. However, they are being affected even worse than normal this time for reasons that are not altogether clear. Government activism to incentivise firms to employ the youth is really called for or we will have a lost generation who will eventually cost us more in the long run than the cost of dealing with the problem now.

12. Richard W

10. Richard P

“… coupled with increased democratic control over capital, an expansion of the mutual sector (at the expense of the private, not the state), renationalisation of natural resources and public transport, permanent retention of the major banks in a mixture of state and municipal ownership, and so on. ”

Any examples where this wish list grouped together actually worked? The world I see is one where those that were furthest down the road to your ideal are moving away from it because it did not work. A thriving mutual sector is something that should be encouraged. However, what does democratic control over capital mean? If you want control you will not get the capital. Therefore, funding can then only come from the state and they borrow it from private capital.

13. Charlieman

OP quoting the Financial Times: “No mainstream social democrat now advocates centralised economic planning, just as no conservative candidate seriously questions the underpinning of the welfare state.”

Horse shit, of course.

The mainstream Social Democrat would like to plan the economy.

And the Conservative would like to pin down spending on the welfare state.

I think that it is called horse shit.

14. George Hallam

In the midst of a severe recession a difference of 1.2 per cent is not terrible.

A recession kills off firms and makes it harder for them to be born. So nothing to worry about there then.

Reductions in births of new firms is what really causes unemployment to rise as that is where employment growth originates.

It’s as simple as that, is it?

Therefore, removal of disincentives and measures to encourage new firms will do more to reduce unemployment than protectionism.

I don’t follow this. You now seem to be arguing that the reason for the shortage of new firms to replace those that have been forced into bankruptcy are “disincentives” and lack of encouraging measures.

But then why doesn’t protection from foreign competition count as either the reduction of a disincentive or as an encouraging measure?

High youth unemployment is an acute problem across much of Europe and North America. Youth often suffer badly to employment squeezes as firms place a high premium on experience.

So nothing to worry about there then.

However, they are being affected even worse than normal this time for reasons that are not altogether clear.

Oh dear. I wonder why.

Government activism to incentivise firms to employ the youth is really called for

Gad, sir, the Prince of Wales is right. Something must be done! (Reference to an obscure London Evening Standard cartoon character.)

or we will have a lost generation who will eventually cost us more in the long run than the cost of dealing with the problem now.

So it is serious, after all. What about the reconstruction of British manufacturing industry?

@14: “What about the reconstruction of British manufacturing industry?”

That is totally useless as a policy commitment unless we know specifically what varieties of manufacturing are to be reconstructed, by what means and for sale to what markets. Notoriously, there has been recurring evidence of persisting skill shortages over the last decade which has had the effect of encouraging inward migration.

At present, manufacturing provides only about 12% of Britain’s GDP and Britain’s largest manufacturing company makes armaments.

‘Left’ and ‘right’ don’t mean much, I’m sure, but that’s also the case with ‘progressive’, ‘internationalist’, ‘populist’ etc. As for the centrists of left and right coming together, against the extremists on either side, sounds much like the status quo, only the ‘mainstream’ is shrinking, as more people turn away from the political puppet show, and realise those guys really aren’t in control.

In some of the comments up above, I see old-fashioned socialism ain’t dead yet, although I had to chuckle over the idea that unions aren’t protectionist, seeing as that is their raison d’etre and ever was.

It’s a ball of confusion, to be sure.

17. Richard W

14. George Hallam

” It’s as simple as that, is it? ”

Pretty much so. Every year hundreds of thousands of firms go out of business and hundreds of thousands of firms are born and existing firms are expand. If the startup rate falls unemployment will rise.

” I don’t follow this. You now seem to be arguing that the reason for the shortage of new firms to replace those that have been forced into bankruptcy are “disincentives” and lack of encouraging measures.

But then why doesn’t protection from foreign competition count as either the reduction of a disincentive or as an encouraging measure? ”

Protectionism only helps the favoured industry at the cost of everyone else in the economy. Why should one industry be favoured and not them all? Every transaction has two parties. If the British government says we will not allow foreign made widgets into Britain, if you want a widget it must be made in Britain. Great for widget makers, but not so great for widget consumers.

” So nothing to worry about there then. ”

I did not say that there was nothing to worry about. I’ve been pretty consistent on here in saying high youth unemployment is a huge challenge across the Western world. Moreover, I’ve gone as far as saying we should pay firms to take on young workers. Can’t get much more activist than that. What is your solution?

” Oh dear. I wonder why. ”

Maybe you would like to tell us why firms are not employing young workers considering that they are cheaper than older workers.

” Gad, sir, the Prince of Wales is right. Something must be done! (Reference to an obscure London Evening Standard cartoon character.) ”

See above.

” So it is serious, after all. What about the reconstruction of British manufacturing industry? ”

Oh dear, by whom?

18. Richard W

Trooper Thompson

” I had to chuckle over the idea that unions aren’t protectionist, seeing as that is their raison d’etre and ever was. ”

I meant that I never explicitly hear them calling for tariffs etc on foreign goods. Unlike the likes of Ron Paul. Compared to the US where a large protectionist steak goes from left to right the UK is more consistently freeish trade. I don’t speak to a whole lot of trade unionists so I am only going on impressions from public statements etc.

19. George Hallam

17.
” It’s as simple as that, is it? ”

Richard W said in reply

Pretty much so. Every year hundreds of thousands of firms go out of business and hundreds of thousands of firms are born and existing firms are expand. If the startup rate falls unemployment will rise.

This is not so much simple as simplistic.

The change in the relation between the ‘birth’ and ‘death’ rates of enterprises is an expression of both the current crisis and long term trends in the economy. You need to address these to understand the rise in unemployment.

From a political point of view it is very short-sighted to adopt such a flippant attitude. Unemployment, especially youth unemployment, is a serious problem. I you don’t have an answer others do.

Protectionism only helps the favoured industry at the cost of everyone else in the economy….
For the sake of the argument I will accept this idea.

Every transaction has two parties. If the British government says we will not allow foreign made widgets into Britain, if you want a widget it must be made in Britain. Great for widget makers, but not so great for widget consumers.

This gives us the algebra of it. But what about the actual quantities? Is there any reason why the total cost to widget consumers the same as the total benefit to widget makers? It could go either way.

In fact, protectionist theorists have always accepted that total effect of protectionist measures might well be negative. The crucial point is the time scale. The balance of costs and benefits of protection is different depending on whether one is considering the immediate, short-term or long-term effects. So, if the long-term costs of protecting an industry turn out to be too high then protectionists agree it should be abandoned. However, it can turn out that the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term costs.

Or as someone else wrote recently about youth unemployment

we will have a lost generation who will eventually cost us more in the long run than the cost of dealing with the problem now.

20. Trooper Thompson

@18 Richard W,

which Ron Paul are you talking about? Presumably not this one:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul21.html

As for unions and protectionism, there’s more to it than calling for tariffs.

21. Richard W

If he does not support tariffs he ought to amend his Wiki entry.

” Paul believes that the country could abolish the individual income tax by scaling back federal spending to its fiscal year 2000 levels; financing government operations would primarily come through the corporate income tax, excise taxes and tariffs. ”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Paul

Maybe he has forgot what he believes just like he forgot about the racism published in his name.
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_01/012913.php

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to globalisation once the oil runs out.

@19: “Is there any reason why the total cost to widget consumers the same as the total benefit to widget makers? It could go either way.”

Try this regular, standard economic analyis of the costs of protection from imposing a tariff on an imported product – the sort of presentation that would be made to undergrads on an economics course at uni:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSQTbd2iJtY&feature=related

24. Trooper Thompson

@ 21 Richard W,

yeah, I’m sure a Wiki entry trumps a clear statement in his own hand contradicting what you’ve said, and congratulations for the desperate smear against him. I checked out your link, and you ain’t got nothing on him, and that is after the whole of the mainstream has done its best to find something, anything to throw at him. Pathetic.

25. Richard W

You obviously do not believe making racist statements on various newsletters counts for much. Fine. To then claim that they were written by a ghostwriter is a weasel way out. If they were in his name they were his statements. Moreover, his anti-abortion stance makes him a grade A hypocrite. Limited government, but not limited enough to keep government out of a woman’s uterus. Life begins at conception and ends at birth etc.

26. George Hallam

23. Bob B

Try this regular, standard economic analyis of the costs of protection from imposing a tariff on an imported product – the sort of presentation that would be made to undergrads on an economics course at uni:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSQTbd2iJtY&feature=related

Yes, this is a beautiful example of what is wrong with standard university economics courses.

A. The rhetoric suggests that the negative effects are going to be considerable, yet concretely there are only two:
1. two small triangles of highly controversial ‘consumer surplus’
2. imputed future retaliation

So they are not very concrete at all. Against these notional losses the government nets some very concrete cash.

B. The arrogance of it all.
1. The analysis is entirely static except for the reference to future retaliation. Protectionist economic arguments are mostly about dynamics. So the case against tariffs is made without reference to the counter arguments
2. The lecturer assumes that these flimsy arguments are the reason why free trade is so popular with certain governments. Perish the thought that there might be other, more material, interests at work.

27. Watchman

George,

Tariffs hurt people – producers are priced out of markets, consumers have to pay more (as there is less competition and goods entering the market from outside the taffif wall are more expensive). They do not do as much hurt companies (who are best placed to get round them, and pass on the costs to consumers.

If you approve of not buying goods from stuggling farmers to boost our rich farmers’ income, or of having to pay extra for lesser quality goods, then tarrifs strike me as a good idea.

@ Richard W

Now you’re going totally off-topic. Firstly you state Ron Paul is a protectionist. In fact Ron Paul is the most consistent supporter of free trade in Congress, as the link I showed indicates.

Then you dredge up a pathetic smear which was the only scrap of supposed dirt that could be found on him, and even the link you posted admitted he never wrote anything racist.

Now you attack him as a hypocrite because he opposes abortion. How does this relate to the matter in hand? His views on abortion are very clear, that it is a matter for individual states to decide, as it was before Roe versus Wade, which he views as a case of judicial activism, which it was, as it ruled that the 14th Amendment guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion. I think any honest person, whatever their position on abortion would have to agree that the framers of the 14th Amendment had no such intention. Abortion is not mentioned at all. If this ruling was ever struck down, it would not outlaw abortion in America. The positon would revert to being a matter for the states individually to decide, which is how it should be under the Constitution, where only specific powers are delegated to the central government. His position is wholly consistent with his oft-stated belief in constitutional government.

Fine if you disagree with his position on abortion, but try to avoid the shallow ad hominem.

@26: “2. The lecturer assumes that these flimsy arguments are the reason why free trade is so popular with certain governments. Perish the thought that there might be other, more material, interests at work.”

LOL! So you don’t like the mainstream analysis of the costs of protection – which can easily be found in umpteen textbooks. JS Mill – a committed free trader – argued for two exceptions:

– the infant industry case to give a new industry initial protection from established producers abroad while the new industry got going

– the optimum tariff argument where a country is such a significance buyer of a particular commodity or product in the world market that the volume of its purchases affect the world price – or where the country is such a significant seller of a product that the volume of sales affects the world price.

The infant industry argument has been widely invoked in developing countries in the process of industrialisation – eg successfully so in the case of South Korea. The trouble is that some infant industries don’t grow up and inflict high costs.

Around the mid 1980s, Brazil introduced trade barriers on computers and related products intending to promote an indigenous computer industry. It then dismantled those barriers in the early 1990s after noting that the effect had been to increase the domestic price of computers etc and so discourage their use with the result that Brazil was late ascending the computer learning curve.
.
When an advanced country like, say, Britain, imposes a tariff on widget making to support the British widget industry – never mind that British buyers have to pay more for their widgets – it can hardly complain when a neighbouring, equally affluent country imposes a tariff on woggles, which badly damages the market of a British woggle manufacturer that has been doing rather well in export markets.

Another near neighbour notices what is going on and its government thinks well if those two can get away with imposing protective tariffs then neither will be placed to object if we impose a protective tariff on nangles.

That chain reaction of trade barriers is much like what happened during the 1930s with devastating consequences – not least for domestic business investment because businesses became very pessimistic about losing export markets as other countries resorted to introducing protective tariffs.

Not persuaded? Try Friedrich List for support then. His protectionist theories were popular in the Third Reich:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_List

Try this on how successive international trade rounds since WW2 have sought to dismantle trade barriers – because most government have believed that, on balance, freer trade brings gains:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Agreement_on_Tariffs_and_Trade

30. Richard W

@ 28. Trooper Thompson

Sorry been traveling so could not get back to you earlier. The right to an abortion being subject to the prejudice of fundamental christian bigots at the state level does not strike me as freedom and liberty enhancing. Of course, there is no mention of abortion in the original Constitution. Big deal. There is no mention of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border in the Constitution. A border that was only created through an aggressive US war. That did not stop Mr Paul voting for the fence, Secure Fence Act of 2006. If one wanted to take originalism to its absurd conclusion that border should not exist. So why vote for a fence along a border that your logic says should not exist? The idea that a few men as framers of a Constitution written in the eighteenth century should bind hundreds of millions into the future is nonsense on stilts. They also defined those of African descent as three-fifths of a person. Should we continue to believe that just because it was in the original Constitution?

The Constitution and Bill of Rights was written by fallible human beings not handed down by an infallible sky fairy. Were the whole population signatories or just a few? What right did this few have to bind everyone else? How about Native Americans, the actual people who lived in the land, were they signatories? The aforementioned of African descent, were they signatories? It was definitely an advance for people in that era. However, if it can’t evolve to changed circumstances, it is not worth the paper it is written on. Therefore, we have amendments. He does accept the principle of amendments, just not ones that conflict with his conservative views.

@ Richard W

Firstly he’s Dr Paul, not Mr Paul (an obstetrician btw). Secondly, your argument is very weak. There is provision for amending the US Constitution. The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments.

“Of course, there is no mention of abortion in the original Constitution.”

Indeed not. Therefore, ipso facto, it remains a matter for the individual states. If pro-abortionists were to put forward a constitutional amendment in the specified manner, then the matter would be cut and dried (this was the case with alcohol prohibition, which is the the 18th Amendment, and the repeal of prohibition was the 21st Amendment).but this hasn’t happened. Instead the supposed constitutional right to an abortion rests on a very dodgy ruling by the Supreme Court on the text of the 14th Amendment. That’s the point Dr Paul is making, and if you’re honest you’ll admit he’s correct in his interpretation – but feel free to read the 14th Amendment and come to the opposite conclusion. What Dr Paul argues for is constitutional government, which is severely limited.

“He does accept the principle of amendments, just not ones that conflict with his conservative views.”

The issue is not the principle of amendments, but of judicial activism. But what exactly are you saying? What does the verb ‘accept’ signify? That Dr Paul, as an elected politician, should not voice his opposition to a law or the interpretation of a law by the Supreme Court? You state “the Constitution and Bill of Rights was written by fallible human beings not handed down by an infallible sky fairy”. Of course you are correct, and this applies equally to the Supreme Court, therefore it is wholly legitimate for an elected politician to voice his opposition to rulings which he disagrees with. Indeed it was the Supreme Court which upheld the legality of slavery for many years. I doubt you would condemn those who spoke out against that.

I think what your argument boils down to is: “I am in favour of abortion. I don’t care that the Supreme Court ruling is clearly misinterpreting the law. I don’t want the individual states to have the right to regulate this manner because if the American public in their individual states got a say in the matter, as would be the case if the Constitution was followed, abortion would probably be outlawed in some of the states”.

I understand this position, but don’t disguise it with strawman arguments.


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