At the moment free trade negotiations are taking place between the United States and the European Union. Free trade, of course, is good for a simple reason: it promotes freedom. It gives us the freedom to buy and sell things as we please, across borders. Free trade between Europe and the US would certainly be mutually beneficial and so, from this point of view, the agreement couldn’t be better.
But, it could
The problem with the proposed free trade agreement is that it is between the US and the European Union. Instead of seeking free trade with the European Union, the United States should seek to negotiate separate free trade agreements with the European nations.
The reason is the same as the reason why we support free trade in the first place: We think freedom is great – and unfortunately, the European Union disagrees. We think American conservatives need to learn more about the European Union, which is why we have composed the following list: Five things you, as an American conservative, need to know about the European Union.
1. The European Union is not a big fan of freedom.
Free trade is all about freedom. Unfortunately, the European Union is not. The European Union infriges upon the independence of its member states – trade being one example; the individual countries are not allowed to make their own trade arrangements with foreign countries. Instead, all trade agreements are negotiated by the Union’s unelected elite. So then why does the EU seek a free trade agreement with the US? Mainly because it expands the Union’s economic power and leverage.
2. The EU has grand ambitions
Everybody knows how tempting power can be, especially for politicians. Over the past 60 years, European politicians all over the continent have looked at the US and its role in the world with envy. Of course, the European Union has always maintained a good relationship with the United States on the surface, but the fact remains: The European Union wishes to replace the US as the world’s #1 superpower. And it’s not exactly a secret; in the Swedish referendum in 2003 on whether to adopt the euro (EU’s common currency), the pro-euro campaign argued that a common currency would strengthen the EU and allow it to become a superpower, equal to or stronger than the United States. In summary, all Americans need to be aware: The EU is not your friend.
3. The US constitution vs the Lisbon treaty: Ideological opposites
The best way to understand why we as conservatives should oppose the European Union is to read the European equivalent of the American constitution – the Lisbon treaty – and compare it to the American constitution. While the authors of the American constitution had an overall negative view towards government, this view is non-existant in the Lisbon Treaty. While the American constitution talks about what the government can’t do – such as, taking away your freedom of speech or your guns – the European "constitution" is exclusively about what the government CAN do and HAS to do (such as, provide universal health care). The private citizen doesn’t exist in the Lisbon treaty, and individual rights are treated as a non-issue. The Lisbon treaty rests on the naive, progressive assumption that while government may have been dangerous in the past, we are now so smart & civilised that government today cannot be anything but a force for good. This naive approach to the dangers of government and unlimited power mirrors that of the Lord of the Rings character Boromir.
If you’re interested in learning more about the EU’s philosophical and ideological foundation and how it stands in contrast to that of the US, I recommend Daniel Hannan’s (one of few good, European small government conservatives and a member of the European Parliament) two books on the topic: "The New Road to Serfdom: A letter of warning to America" and "Why America must not follow Europe".
4. America believes in freedom for American citizens; the EU believes in freedom for European politicians
It’s obvious for anyone who has read this far that the EU and the US aren’t built on the same worldview and philosophy. But does this actually make a difference in practice? The answer, sadly, is yes.
Let’s take an example from our home country, Sweden: Have you ever heard of Snus? Snus is a type of tobacco, somewhat similar to dipping tobacco. While other forms of tobacco – cigarettes etc – are perfectly legal (if heavily taxed) in the EU, Snus isn’t. Sweden, upon joining the EU, were given an exemption that allowed us to keep snus legal within our country’s borders. However, snus cannot be exported to any other country in Europe.
The European Union and its elite however have in recent years expressed dissatisfaction with this arrangement. The pressure on Sweden to ban snus has been mounting, but for now snus appears to be safe: The Swedish minister of health & social affairs managed to strike a deal with the EU which meant that snus could continue to be sold and used legally within Sweden. Ever since the deal was struck, the (pro-EU) Minister in question has not been able to shut up about it: This is by far her biggest achievement to date, and the fact that the European Union have relented on this issue and allowed Sweden to keep snus – a product that is as much a part of Swedish culture as smörgåsbord is – legal within its own borders, shows in her opinion that the EU is a force for good.
She, and all the other EU supporters in Sweden, choose to ignore the underlying absurdity: Why do we have to ask for permission to consume snus IN OUR OWN COUNTRY?
Snus may be a relatively small issue on its own. But the underlying principle – that the laws and institutions should be the same all over the union – is very troubling. The EU seeks increased integration – we already have a common currency (though not all EU members have adopted this currency) and a President (+ tens of thousands of regulations), and a banking union is being set up as we write this.
Now you may object that the United States have all these things too – all the 50 states share 1 president, 1 federal reserve, thousands of federal regulations and laws etc. But here’s the difference: The EU does not consist of states – it consists of nations. We often talk about the EU as if it were a nation, but at the end of the day, it’s not. The EU – and by that we mean the unelected elites, not the citizens of the membership states – strives to erase the differences between the European nations and create a superstate that would resemble an empire more than a nation. This is something we as conservatives cannot accept.
5. The European Union and its Anti-American myth
The EU builds the case for its existence and ever-extending powers on a historical myth: That it has, for the past almost 70 years, secured peace in Europe.
This myth – and it is, as we shall see, indeed just a myth – has been repeated ad nauseum by the union’s fanboys. Usually it is brought up when all other arguments have been used "Well without the EU we would have had a Third World War, and probably a fourth one, by now!". This argument ignores two aspects of the real story:
1) The EU, originally, was mainly just a free-trade agreement between previous enemies. Free trade promotes peace – we already knew that. The EU is sort of like Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde: On the one hand, we have the cuddly, peace-inducing common market. On the other hand, we have Mr Hyde: The wannabee superstate that strives to subdue the free nations of Europe. When pro-EU supporters argue that the EU needs to become "stronger" (ie. increase its influence at the expense of the nation states)
2) The EU had very little to do with the peace in Europe in the first place. After WWII, the battlelines were redrawn: While in the past, empires had fought empires (ie. the British empire fought the French), suddenly the world found itself with only two "empires" – superpowers – left: The United States, representing liberal democracy and capitalism, and the Soviet Union, representing dictatorship of the proletariat and communism. The nations of Europe, still shell-shocked from WWII, had to decide which side they were on. In the west, most nations sided with the US, while the east came under the influence of the Soviet Union (it should be noted that while western Europe choose to side with the US, the nations in Eastern Europe weren’t given much of a choice).
Basically, even the European nations – who were otherwise quite prone to infighting – could understand that this was not the time for internal bickering: The worldwide struggle between communism and capitalism had to take the front seat, and old differences put aside.
But didn’t the EU have something to do with the fact that the Soviet Union never ended up invading western Europe? No – as a matter of fact, we have the US to thank for that. While the European nations were busy building welfare states, the US was building tanks & nukes. Basically, the US "subsidised" Europe by defending both itself and every western, European nation (and some non-European nations; see South Vietnam) – allowing Europe to spend money on other things than guns & ammo (such as universal health care). The Soviet Union were not scared of West Germany, or France, Finland or any other European country – in the event of a Soviet attack, most of these nations would not even have lasted a month. However, the Soviets knew that if they attacked any of these countries, the US would intervene and an all-out war would be inevitable – a war the Soviet Union knew it couldn’t win.
It’s important to remember that peace was preserved not just in Europe, but in Asia as well: South Korea and Japan – two former arch-enemies – has never fought each other again since WWII. Why? Again, because the cold war changed everyone’s priorities.
The myth of the EU as a Prince of Peace lives on, not because it is even remotely true, but because it provide the union’s elite with a convenient excuse to take power from the elected parliaments of the European nations, to the EU headquarters in Brussells. After all, we don’t want another world war, do we?
A few final words: No conservative, American or European, should accept the ambitions of the European Union. The European Union is the philosophical opposite to the country that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson founded, and its goal – a European superstate that replaces America as the world’s #1 superpower – is unacceptable to any patriotic American.
Instead of seeking a closer relationship with the EU, the US ought to reach out to the people of Europe, who are not being represented by the EU. Instead of doing a trade agreement with the Union, do one with each individual country. Instead of negotiating with unelected bureaucrats, listen to what the national parliaments say.
Ultimately, what we conservatives ought to seek for the European nations is the same thing that the American founders sought for the United States: The right to govern itself.
But while free trade is great, what is even more important right now is that European and American conservatives stand together against our common enemies: Those who seek to infringe on the rights of private citizens, who seek to subdue free nations, and who seek freedom for politicians, rather than for you and me.
Ronie Berggren lives in Sweden, studies religious history and blogs daily about American politics (in Swedish) at American News Analysis and is currently working on a Swedish book about the presidency of George W. Bush.
John Gustavsson is our European and Economic analyst. He was born 1991 in Sweden and grew up in Örnsköldsvik, a town located on the Swedish north east coast – one of the most socialistic areas in one of the most socialistic countries in the world. Despite (or maybe because of) having grown up in this environment, John is a fiscal, social and neoconservative. He became interested in politics at young age of 10, and the first American election he followed was the 2004 Presidential race. He moved to Ireland in 2009 to study finance and economics, and graduated in 2012 with a first class honors degree in economics and an upper second class honors degree in Finance from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He is now studying for a Masters degree in Behavioral Economics at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. John has worked for Pro-life organizations in Sweden as well as Ireland, but currently his political activism and writing is focused on economic issues such as the American fiscal crisis and the Eurozone crisis.