The Real Winner in France: Lou Dobbs


I once had drinks with a super-smart Macedonian economist who, after having helped influence the economic policy of her struggling country, was now working for international institutions trying to convince her own government to do what it took to join the World Trade Organization. "That must be kinda strange," I said (and these quotes, to say the least, are not exact), "lobbying your small country to join a body where small countries, compared to the larger ones, get screwed."

She shrugged. "What alternative do we have?"

That more or less sums up my lukewarm support for the European Union project, and my lukewarm dread over this weekend's rejection of the Constitution. (My wife, on the other hand, is furious at her fellow Frogs because she sees it as Bove-headed rejection of much-needed economic liberalization.) Supporters of the EU, like supporters of the WTO, have long tried to shoo away the contradiction that they're basically saying the ends (reduction of tarrifs and various barriers) justify the means (the erosion of sovereignty, reduction of democracy, and creation of mind-boggling bureaucracy). If the EU starts to unravel or just sink (which isn't necessarily very likely), we won't need to look hard for its fatal flaw.

Opponents of the EU, meanwhile, need to grapple with a contradiction of their own—that the democratic slap to the Brussels technocrats (which looks set to continue today) will likely lead to more illiberal policies, rising trade barriers, and stronger anti-Americanism. The answer to the question "What alternative do we have?", could be, as the L.A. Times' Andres Martinez worries today, a Lou Dobbs world where the 1990s are seen as some fin-de-siecle fantasy-land in which people were foolish enough to believe they could travel and exchange goods freely, without paying fealty to the nationalisms of the moment. Those who prefer the latter to the former need to go back to the drawing board.