The EU: It's Kafkaesque!

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The always-useful newsweekly The Week reports in its May 28 issue that the Belgian government has launched a Web site, Kafka.be, as a place where its "citizens can log on to report trouble with contradictory, vague, or bewilderingly detailed E.U. regulations. In just four months, Belgium's site lodged 4,000 complaints, most of them from companies trying to do business in the E.U."

The Belgians are contemplating launching an E.U.-wide version of the site at Kafka.eu, but it isn't up yet. Kafka.be is in three languages, none of them, alas for dumb-tourist Americans, English.

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  1. Will,

    If the E.U. is so “liberty crushing,” one wonders how Belgium could get away with a website like this? I mean, how can the E.U. stand for such open criticism! 🙂

  2. Gary,

    “And this differs from D.C. in what way? Here’s something you can do – try to start a company in the U.S. which trades with companies in Cuba – see how far that gets you. Please, the rampant paranoia about the E.U. is not even remotely in tune with reality.”

    When did Rick Barton glorify DC’s policy’s as example? Nice try, Gary…

  3. willfellow,

    Rick Barton has stated that the E.U. is “liberty crushing.” I argue that this is at best hyperbole, and at worst its paranoia. Now Rick – by way of example – states that the E.U. has blocked some forms of trade, or at least some products, vis a vis the EU and non-EU states, and that this by itself demonstrates that it is “liberty crushing.” As a way to reel Rick back into the waters of reality I’ve used a few examples of American government action to demonstrate that U.S. government also erects such barriers, yet is not a “liberty crushing” regime.

    Rick also argues that the E.U. should not be able to restrict trade, yet he demonstrates an ignorance of the E.U. in arguing such, since it is the nation-states through their representatives at the EU Council which may restrict trade, not merely “bureaucrats.” Indeed, the nation-states have agreed to this, and this is how they created the system to work. In other words, Rick appears to argue that the E.U. is some foreign entity that sprung from the ground de novo without the consent of the parties involved; indeed that consent existed from the start, and continues to exist – an example of this consent being seen in the representation at the EU Council.

  4. No English version? Don’t fret. Just see http://babelfish.altavista.com/. It’s the best thing for making the site even more Kafkaesque
    (which is to say, poorly translated from German into English):

    As blind I do not have an entrance to some restaurants in company of my dog. These appoint yourself to the Foederale agency for food security, which forbids the admission to hotels and restaurants to all dogs. I am convinced that for blind dogs a special arrangement exists, but as I can prove?

    After my divorce I would like to again marry. But since I am born Gent, was trusted in Bruegge and in Leuven to marry now want, I must become personally at three municipalities before digit, in order to catch up certificates. In order to receive my birth certificate, I must on mine place of birth. Besides I must have still another certificate that I am unmarried. This document over mean civil status must I then with the register office into Bruegge fetching go. Then only I can go with the received documents to Leuven, in order to marry again.

  5. Gary,

    Well done! I don’t believe Rick meant to imply that it was any more “liberty crushing” than DC policies, but that it was “liberty crushing” nonetheless. Perhaps it was a bit hyperbolic.

  6. Gary:

    “Indeed, the nation-states have agreed to this”

    Political majorities can indeed be produced for actions which crush individual liberty. We can see this happening in the EU and Washington. The EU seems especially repressive because its bureaucrats are further removed from any political correction that may be desired by the citizens of member states.

    Gary, you argue that trade restrictions are ok since they come at the behest of nation states. That is just a “might makes right” excuse for power over the individual.

  7. Rick Barton,

    “The EU seems especially repressive because its bureaucrats are further removed from any political correction that may be desired by the citizens of member states.”

    Well, that’s merely your opinion; the fact is that political correction occurs all the time vis a vis EU Council actions or inaction.

    “Gary, you argue that trade restrictions are ok since they come at the behest of nation states. That is just a ‘might makes right’ excuse for power over the individual.”

    Actually, I have no problem with particular trade restrictions; if your argument is any trade restriction is wrong, then I would say that you’re nuts. Governments should be able to ban the trade in nuclear weapons for example; or in poisonous food for that matter. Furthermore, your original argument implied that if it were the nation-state itself – as opposed to Brussels – enacting such restrictions, that would be ok; my argument was meant to defeat what you appear to have earlier implied.

  8. Gary Gunnels:

    “your original argument implied that if it were the nation-state itself – as opposed to Brussels – enacting such restrictions, that would be ok”

    How did you ever construe that?

    “the fact is that political correction occurs all the time vis a vis EU Council actions or inaction.”

    The machinations of power are still further removed from the citizens than Washington’s are, and our situation is bad enough. The solution is to limit government power…limit what political majorities may do via the state to minorities.

    “I have no problem with particular trade restrictions…Governments should be able to ban the trade in nuclear weapons for example; or in poisonous food for that matter.”

    OK then, besides restrictions on nuclear weapons and poisonous food (heavy demand items, those) will you join me in opposing the liberty (and prosperity) crushing trade restrictions imposed by Washington and the EU ?

  9. Rick Barton,

    “How did you ever construe that?”

    Read the following.

    “I harbor this quaint notion that a company in nation A should have every right to trade with a company in nation B with out some bureaucrat in Brussels having any discretion over the transactions.”

    To be blunt, EU bureaucracy is nothing like that found in the individual states as regards its scope, etc.

    “OK then, besides restrictions on nuclear weapons and poisonous food (heavy demand items, those) will you join me in opposing the liberty (and prosperity) crushing trade restrictions imposed by Washington and the EU?”

    Many countries would love to own the former; as to the latter, the reason nations create inspection regimes is to stop poisonous food that may appear to be not so from entering a country.

    Yes, I’ll oppose trade restrictions, I just don’t view them as “liberty crushing.” Liberty crushing would be laws which banned protest against such restrictions, as well avenues to take them down. Our differences are in degree, not kind.

  10. Rather than comparing the EU to the US, why not compare the EU to the situation that would obtain if it did not exist? I have a sneaking feeling, totally unsupported by data, that it’s not worth the loss of money and freedom it entails.

  11. Robert Speirs,

    Then we can completely discount your statements or arguments then, as you’ve pre-judged the outcome before you even started the inquiry.

  12. I could hope that the U.S. Congress or the White House would follow their example, but I don’t think there’s a server made that could handle the traffic.

  13. Besides being Kafkaesque, the EU is a liberty crushing bureaucracy.

  14. Rick Barton,

    Yeah damnit, when I visit nations in the EU I and everyone around feel so crushed. Attitudes towards the EU strike me as slightly paranoid – as if it is some sort of giant prison, or the second coming of Stalinism.

  15. Gary Gunnels,

    Forgive me. I harbor this quaint notion that a company in nation A should have every right to trade with a company in nation B with out some bureaucrat in Brussels having any discretion over the transactions.

    Things can become pretty repressive short of, “the second coming of Stalinism.” Speaking of Stalinism, note that in Stalin’s day, some in the West used to refer to communism as an “experiment”.

  16. I have always believed that the main reason for the EU is to allow the individual member states to compete, en masse, with economies that would otherwise dwarf their own . . .

    As for “liberty-crushing” . . . no more so than any other bureaucracy.

  17. First of all, this is an awesome idea. And I love the name. Why is it that the US government is always so hokey and self-serious, devoid of whimsy and humanity? Fuck Uncle Sam! (Especially his IRS and DEA)

    Second, Gary Gunnels is right. Part of the rationale of an EU is that it’s a free trade agreement. It’s a giant free trade zone to get rid of tarriffs and barriers.

    Yes, they also do some stupid shit in the name of “harmonization.” And the danger of all eggs in one basket is apparent.

    But you shouldn’t pretend that the EU is assigning bureaucrat to look over your shoulder as you buy a stick of gum.

    That critique is unhinged from reality and therefore retarded.

  18. Rick Barton,

    “Forgive me. I harbor this quaint notion that a company in nation A should have every right to trade with a company in nation B with out some bureaucrat in Brussels having any discretion over the transactions.”

    And this differs from D.C. in what way? Here’s something you can do – try to start a company in the U.S. which trades with companies in Cuba – see how far that gets you. Please, the rampant paranoia about the E.U. is not even remotely in tune with reality.

    “Speaking of Stalinism, note that in Stalin’s day, some in the West used to refer to communism as an ‘experiment.'”

    And of course people have also referred to the U.S. as an “experiment” as well. Methinks you are hung by your own petard.

  19. How discriminatory and non-multicultural of them to exclude English, the lingua franca of international business.

  20. Gary Gunnels:

    “try to start a company in the U.S. which trades with companies in Cuba”

    First off, there are no companies in Cuba as it’s a brutal communist dictatorship. This is integral for the reason for the US government policy in this area, as unethical and self-defeating as that policy is. If you’re defending the EU vis a vis stupid things that the US government does, you’re mustering a pretty anemic defense.

    There are “experiments” that have turned out pretty well and other “experiments” that have been murderous disasters.

    Chuck,

    The power of the EU goes far beyond just lowering tariffs, which is indeed liberating. For just one example, the EU has vetoed the introduction of products into member states from companies from non-member states. This should be the choice of consumers in these states and not some bureaucrat in Brussels.

  21. Verwaltungs?berregulierung (administrative overregulation) — the word just rolls around on the tongue like an avalanche, doesn’t it?

    I’m bookmarking this one.

  22. Rick Barton,

    “First off, there are no companies in Cuba as it’s a brutal communist dictatorship.”

    Sure there are; indeed, there are quite a few privately owned co-operatives in Cuba – one is jointly owned by an Israeli company and they grow lemons.

    “This is integral for the reason for the US government policy in this area, as unethical and self-defeating as that policy is. If you’re defending the EU vis a vis stupid things that the US government does, you’re mustering a pretty anemic defense.”

    I’m asking you stop being a hypocrite; D.C. is no worse nor any better than Brussels, and your attempt to paint Brussels as a soul-crushing entity is so far off the mark as to strike a chord of paranoia and ignorance.

    “There are ‘experiments’ that have turned out pretty well and other ‘experiments’ that have been murderous disasters.”

    And your point is? To be frank you tried to skewer the E.U. for simply being an “experiment”; when that blew up in face, you retreated the statement above. The E.U. in one form or another has been in existance for over fifty years; it has yet to launch a war of aggression, has yet to commit a genocidal act – in other words, it has yet to turn into a “murderous disaster.”

    Chuck,

    “For just one example, the EU has vetoed the introduction of products into member states from companies from non-member states.”

    No, the member states of the EU did this; they vote on these things. Don’t act like its some sort of faceless bureaucrat making these decisions; its the members of the EU Council – who are appointed by the member states – who make these decisions (which is no less democratic than the original U.S. Senate was). Please learn how the EU works before you make comments on it. It should also be noted that the ban you are likely talking about – that on beef from cows raised with hormones – was quite popular in nature and the EU Council was pressured by popular sentiment to enact the ban. The more you try to characterize the EU as the second-coming of Stalinism or Nazism more foolish you look.

  23. Chuck:

    Actually, speaking as a person who has lived and worked in several EU countries, it is your defense of the EU which is “unhinged from reality and therefore retarded.”

    The EU is one big bag of stifling regulation.

    Remember, the EU are the charming folks who imprison pig farmers for not putting sufficient toys in pig sty’s.

  24. Why is Karl replying to Jean Bart? I haven’t seen the old corsair post here lately. Has he changed his nom de keyboard?

    Kevin

  25. No English version? This is quite easily explained. It still is a site from the Belgian governement about regulations in Belgium. Now the three official languages in Belgium are Dutch, French and German. So no English. I’m sure the E.U.-wide version will have an English version. Anyway, a great initiative, thanks to a member of my party: the Flemish liberals.

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