It is madness to want to leave the E.U., but it doesn’t make sense to join

“The United Kingdom Has Gone Mad; The problem with holding out for a perfect Brexit plan is that you can’t fix stupid.” (nytimes) is by Thomas Friedman, a guy whom nobody can accuse of being stupid (he married the daughter of a billionaire and lives (large) in Maryland, an awesome jurisdiction for divorce litigants who can claim to be the less wealthy spouse).

What I can’t figure out how it is logically consistent for Americans to criticize the Brits for wanting to be independent and fully sovereign. We spend way more money on our military than would be necessary to prevent an invasion from Canada or Mexico. Why are we spending that money if not to preserve full sovereignty and not have to listen to anyone else in the world?

From a strictly dollars and cents point of view, if being part of the E.U. is so great,why doesn’t the U.S. seek to join? In our age of telecommunications, container shipping, and air travel (preferably by Airbus!), geography should not be a barrier.

If we want to say that anyone in the UK who opposes EU membership is “stupid”, as the giant brains of the NY Times have concluded, shouldn’t we also be trying to become part of the EU ourselves?

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Brexit will take longer than the American Civil War?

“Brexit Vote Looming, Theresa May Secures E.U. Help” (nytimes):

On Monday, after a telephone call with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, Mrs. May flew to meet him in Strasbourg, where the European Parliament is holding a plenary session.

Back in London, David Lidington, Mrs. May’s de facto deputy, told Parliament that the prime minister had won a legal pledge to reassure pro-Brexit lawmakers who fear that Britain could be trapped indefinitely inside parts of the European Union’s economic rule book.

Tuesday’s vote is seen as a pivotal moment in the endless withdrawal saga, known as Brexit, coming less than three weeks before the deadline for Britain to leave the European Union.

How much longer would Brexit have to be delayed before it would be fair to say that the question of Britain’s secession from the EU took longer to resolve than the question of Confederate secession from the U.S.?

Slowing things down back in 1861-1865: communication limited by the speed that a horse could trot (admittedly there were some telegraphs and railroads as well).

Slowing things down today: bureaucrats and politicians.

It would be interesting if it turns out that bureaucracy is slower than horse-drawn travel over muddy unpaved roads.

[Separately, for folks who think Brexit is a bad idea and being part of the EU is a huge benefit for the UK… shouldn’t the U.S. be seeking to join the EU either in Britain’s place or in addition to the UK?]

European readers: What more needs to be done before the Brits can wander off into the global economy?

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Michel Houellebecq: Donald Trump Is a Good President

“Officials Say Trump Has Ordered Full Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Syria” (nytimes) is welcome news for me. One of my hopes in voting for Obama was that he would be able to say “These foreign wars haven’t worked out as planned so I’m ordering everyone home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Maybe Trump will get a Nobel Peace Prize too? Even more shocking than that would be some of my Facebook friends giving King Donald some credit for this peace action!

Along the same lines: “Donald Trump Is a Good President” (Harpers) says Michel Houellebecq, the French guy who remains a sourpuss despite having spent years in tax-free (for authors) Ireland. Some excerpts:

The United States of America is no longer the world’s leading power. It was for a long time, for almost the entire course of the twentieth century. It isn’t anymore. It remains a major power, one among several. This isn’t necessarily bad news for Americans. It’s very good news for the rest of the world.

The United States is still the world’s leading military power and unfortunately has yet to break its habit of mounting interventions beyond its borders. I’m not a historian, and I don’t know much about ancient history—for example, I couldn’t say whether Kennedy or Johnson was more to blame for the dismal Vietnam affair—but I have the impression that it’s been a good long time since the United States last won a war, and that for at least fifty years its foreign military interventions, whether acknowledged or clandestine, have been nothing but a succession of disgraces culminating in failures.

Trump is pursuing and amplifying the policy of disengagement initiated by Obama; this is very good news for the rest of the world. The Americans are getting off our backs. The Americans are letting us exist.

The Americans have stopped trying to spread democracy to the four corners of the globe. Besides, what democracy? Voting every four years to elect a head of state—is that democracy? In my view, there’s one country in the world (one country, not two) that enjoys partially democratic institutions, and that country isn’t the United States of America; it’s Switzerland. A country otherwise notable for its laudable policy of neutrality.

The Americans are no longer prepared to die for the freedom of the press. Besides, what freedom of the press? Ever since I was twelve years old, I’ve watched the range of opinions permissible in the press steadily shrinking (I write this shortly after a new hunting expedition has been launched in France against the notoriously anti-liberal writer Éric Zemmour).

The Americans are relying more and more on drones, which—if they knew how to use these weapons—could have allowed them to reduce the number of civilian casualties (but the fact is that Americans have always been incapable, practically since aviation began, of carrying out a proper bombing).

President Trump was elected to safeguard the interests of American workers; he’s safeguarding the interests of American workers. During the past fifty years in France, one would have wished to come upon this sort of attitude more often.

In short, Europe is just a dumb idea that has gradually turned into a bad dream, from which we shall eventually wake up.

Related regarding Houellebecq:

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European fears about Jews confirmed

Now that I’m back in provincial Boston, one conversation from Bryce Canyon still resonates.  I got into a conversation with a political science professor who was originally from France.  How could he have foresaken a thousand years of culture and moved to the land of fast food and the strip mall?  He said, “I didn’t want my children to end up living in a Muslim dictatorship.”  How was that possible, I inquired?  “If you look at the demographic trends, the Muslims in France will grow to 30 percent of the population within 50 to 100 years.  An average French couple has less than two children.  An average North African Muslim family or Palestinian couple will have 7 or 8 children.  Through immigration and the high birth rate of Muslims already in France, it won’t be long before Muslims are the largest voting bloc.  Most citizens don’t know what they want from the government and many don’t vote at all.  A relatively small but well-organized and coherent group of voters can easily take control of a democracy.”  (See “Muslims remaking old France” from the April 10, 2003 International Herald Tribune/New York Times for more on Islamic France.)


I was reminded of some conversations from my May trip to Wales, Scotland, and northern England.  The British middle class folks with whom I’d talked were concerned about the extent to which their country is being transformed by immigrants.  “I’m not saying that I agree with them completely,” one Welshman said of the far-right anti-immigration parties in the UK, “but I can understand where they’re coming from.  I hate going to London.  All of the signs are in Arabic.  Women walk around wearing veils.  It feels like a foreign country.”


What particularly irked the British, whose standard of living is just about the lowest in the EU (the UK is slightly ahead of Spain and Portugal but almost all of its wealth is concentrated near London), is paying taxes to support “asylum seekers”, which is the EU term for illegal immigrant.  If an Afghani, for example, manages to set foot on English soil the EU law gives him a fundamental human right to remain in England at taxpayer expense: apartment in London, food, health care, etc.  In the U.S. to get political asylum he’d have to have been the head of a banned opposition party but in England he can simply claim that the local police don’t like him.  If his claim for asylum is denied he loses his rights to live at English taxpayer expense but he doesn’t get deported; he can melt away into the suburbs.  Sometimes the legal arguments that the asylum seekers use are creative.  The latest batch of Afghanis, for example, claim that they were Taliban fighters trying to kill British and American soldiers and therefore if they returned they’d face arrest by the current British and American-backed government in Afghanistan.  (see the February 16, 2003 Telegraph article Taliban refugee still sees the UK as his enemy” for example)


Europeans seem to be suffering from an ironic turn of events:  the fears about Jews that the Europeans manufactured around the turn of the 20th century have become real, 60 years after the Europeans breathed a big sigh of relief.


As soon as Napoleon began the process of letting Jews out of their ghettos, the Europeans began to quake in fear.  Jews would have lots of kids and overwhelm the native population.  Jews would be clannish and keep to themselves rather than assimilating.  Jews would wield control over their politics.  Jews wouldn’t be patriotic.  The reality was quite different, as it transpired.  The Jews had a very low birthrate and a tendency to assimilate (German Jews were the most assimilated).  The Jews had so little influence on foreign policy that they couldn’t persuade any government to act against the pre-WWII Nazis or to bomb the death camps during WWII.  Jews served with such distinction in the German army during WWI that the Nazis had a tough time justifying the dispossession, deportation, and murder of so many decorated veterans.  The manufactured fears dominated thinking, however, to a sufficient extent that nearly every European country was happy to assist the Nazis in the extermination of all of their Jewish citizens.


Fast forward to 2003.  Each traditional European ethnic group ought to be happy, each in its own homogeneous country where everyone shares common values dating back to Roman times.  But much to their consternation the cities seem to be filling up with Muslims.  Statistical birthrate data show that European ethnic groups face a real prospect of becoming demographically irrelevant within their traditional nations. Assimilation is presumably happening but more visible and striking are the thousands of streets that have taken on a purely foreign character with signs in Arabic, Islamic schools, and big mosques.  The threat of local Islamic terrorism is sufficiently frightening that Muslims effectively control many aspects of European foreign policy (see this article on France and Iraq). Europeans don’t even hope for patriotism among their Muslim immigrants, many of whom express an open hatred of the values and structure of their host societies.  How soon, they wonder, will their guests begin to demand a traditional Islamic government and a full implementation of sharia?


So there it is.  Just as they feared, the traditional Europeans do finally appear to be threatened by a fast-growing religious and ethnic minority that constrains their foreign policy and who can’t be relied upon to support their secular governments.  It just happened later than they feared and with a different ethnic group.

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