Political Process above Mystic Law: Liberalism and Europe Beyond the Clichés: Follow Up Post 7

The problem with EU monetary union, with the Euro, is the lack of a fiscal union, not some failure to commune with the unwritten spirit of the law as it has evolved over history in the different European nations.

 

Another follow up to the post of 1st June, where I criticise a post that attempts to analyse the current Euro, and European Union, crisis through a sloganistic understanding of Hayek, and such uses of Hayek in general.  

The over rapid resort to, and understanding of, Hayek which I am discussing, looks at the current Euro crisis as a failure to follow a way of thinking about law in Hayek.  That is Hayek’s emphasis on the autonomous and evolutionary nature of law, when working as it should.  There are two stages of criticism I am presenting.  The first is that Hayek’s theory of law does not have much to say about monetary policy, except at a level of generalisation and comparison which lacks content.  The second is that Hayek’s theory of law is open to criticism.  The second stage is the less relevant at this point, though of great interest to me, so I’ll move through it now before returning to the issues of the moment.  

The Hayekian view of law is that properly speaking it is based on generally shared beliefs about the basic rules of a society, which should be enforced by the state.  Stare made law encodes generally shared assumptions, and when it goes beyond those assumptions, as it increasingly has since the late 19th century, then we are talking more about arbitrary  state made and enforced rule rather than law proper.  The kind of comments I am discussing, on the European Union, are suggesting that the laws which instituted the Euro currency are those arbitrary rules.  That kind of critique must apply to national currencies, to the laws behind those currencies, and legal codes in general, of all states in the world.  So where is the specific critique of the Euro?  If we take what Hayek says seriously, we must be engaged in a systematic scrutiny and criticism of all modern state systems, relating to currencies, state issued bonds, financial markets, and so on.  One thing that enthusiasts for Hayek’s view of law never seem to notice is that Hayek was drawing on Carl Schmitt, a political and legal philosopher who moved from constitutional conservatism to Naziism, and then back to a more constitutional conservatism.  Hayek mentions Schmitt occasionally, but significantly, sometimes to criticise him as a totalitarian, but also more favourably for his distinction between law properly speaking and positivist law (laws created by the political sovereign).  

Moving onto the moment. The Euro has yet to collapse, and the moment of Eurosceptical triumphalism has passed.  There is no guarantee that the Euro will survive, and maybe the Euosceptics will have another moment of triumph.  However, at present even Eurosceptics are beginning to grudgingly accommodate themselves to the idea that the Euro might survive on the basis of a fiscal union.  A fiscal union means that the European Union as a whole is responsible for debts incurred by national governments which have joined the Euros.  The total weight of European Union resources behind the debt of those countries in debt crisis, makes the crisis much more manageable.  Though even fiscal union might have difficulty coping with Italian and Spanish collapse with regard to the value of national debt in financial markets.  Bit by bit, the European Union is edging towards a fiscal union, where richer countries, particularly Germany will be responsible for debts, and there is some kind of Eurobond, in which investors can purchase debt in the equivalent of bonds issued by national governments.  

Why is there is a Euro crisis?  Because the European Union failed to follow a legal philosophy which is not followed anywhere in the world? Or because the European Union failed to design rules and institutions as well as it should.  The answer is clearly the second.  The first answer tends to com in a package with the economic argument that European national economies are too divergent.  However, extreme difference in economic conditions (along with cultural, linguistic, religious and political conditions) does not stop India form having a single currency for 1.22 billion people, about double the population of the European Union.  The criticisms of the EU overlook the aim of the Euro project with regard to fiscal and economic discipline.  The aim was to get the countries with the less efficient economies and less fiscal responsibility, to introduce structural economic reforms and fiscal restraint, by preventing competitive devaluation and inflation as short term solutions.  Differences between European economies was a stimulus to the Euro project, not something mysteriously overlooked by its architects.  Clearly there should had been a fiscal union.  Clearly the architects failed to see how far şt would be difficult to get political leaders to enforce the discipline against short term political advantage.  They also failed to foresee a systematic crisis of public and private debt, which was partly created in the Eurozone, bıt not only there.  The problem was it was too difficult politically to get a better design, but crisis (as possibly some of the architects hoped) has opened up the possibility of better design.

The interest in design of institutions and rules is not foreign to a Hayekian perspective.  Hayek was not an anarcho-capitalist, or a monarchist who thought the state just enforces law and order, together with defining national boundaries.  He thought that the state is in the business of creating social and economic conditions for liberty and prosperity, with the most simple means possible, but with the means of public policy.  That is an aspect of the Hayek influenced Friburg School of  Ordoliberalismus (Order liberalism) in Germany,as discussed by Michel Foucault in The Birth of Biopolitics.  A very interesting text on Hayek style liberalism, which I am working on in a book project.  

There is an aspect of Hayek which leans towards what I regard as a mystified (in large degree) theory of law, and of the desired communion of judges with all the judges of the past, in a triumph of Law itself over the legislation created by mere elected representatives.  There is an aspect of Hayek which is more positive about the political process, democratic culture, and the design of public policy to further public goods.  I prefer the latter for various reasons, one being its much greater applicability to real state activity.  As such it  provides a better guide to laws, policies, and institution design than the mystique of Law.  

No EU Equivalent to Dispossession of American Indians. Europe and Liberalism: Beyond the Clichés. Follow Up Post 6

The US constitution did not prevent a series of extremely ugly Indian Wars, and the effective destruction of the customary laws and property of American Indians. The EU has yet to be party to such a horror.

 

So continuing with follow up posts to a post of 1st June where I criticised the idea that the European Union project can be compared unfavourably with the United States, as what Hayek referred to as rationalist construction, i.e. imposing an abstract plan instead of using dispersed experience.  

Whatever you  may wish to accuse the European Union of, there is no equivalent to  the systematic destruction of American Indian communities with regard to property ownership, self-government, preservation of habitual economic and other usages of land, and so on.  One of the sparks for the American Revolution was attempts by the British government to prevent expansion by colonists into native land.  

You could argue that the emergence of the European Union from the Treaty of Rome in 1957, which established a European Economic Community, or even going back to the 1951 European Coal and Steel Community, faced no comparable challenges to the issue of white European settlers pouring into north America, hungry for land in native territories.  Other bad things could have happened though.  There could have been a repetition of the vindictive Versailles  Treaty between Germany and the victorious allies at the end of World War One, which severeşy limited German sovereignty and imposed painful financial reparations.  Disputes about reparations led to French occupation of the Ruhr and the notorious Weimar hyper inflation.  The Treaty of Versailles itself was to some degree payback for the terms which ended the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, which included seizing Alsace-Lorraine for the new German Empire, though there was no wish in the population of that region to separate from France, and bruising financial reparations.  

France and others could have reacted to the victory over Nazi Germany and the threat of Stalin, and Soviet Communism, with a lurch towards a vindictive attitude towards Germany and right wing authoritarianism, targeting marginal groups.  That did not happen within the boundaries of the emergent EU.  There were problems, and still are, but within 20 years of the end of World War Two democracy was entrenched in all those countries, the colonial powers (France, Netherlands ands Belgium) had decolonised.  Immigration from outside Europe of non-white and non-Christian peoples became a fact of European life, which has kept increasing in weight so that now the EU is just as much a region of immigration as the United States, and with a much higher proportion of non-Christian immigrants.  The tendency has been for national minorities to get more rights.  Danes in Germany; Germans in Belgium (which has also moved to give Dutch speaking Flemings equal rights with French speaking  Walloons and end domination of the state by Francophones; decentralisation of France, with more recognition for Corsicans along with speakers of Basque, Breton and Occitan; German speakers in Italy.  That’s just limiting the argument to the original 6 of the Treaty of Rome.  

The reality is the American Revolution and the United States Constitution consolidated a process of white European  intrusion into American Indian land and rights.  There were benefits in terms of consolidating republican ideas of self-government in the white community, which did translate into benefits for African-Americans and American Indians over time.  Nevertheless the problems caused are not yet completely resolved.  

Formation of the European Union immediately fostered inclusive liberal democracy.  Formation of the United States of America immediately fostered an excluding ethnic understanding of national political life.  We should remember and celebrate the side of the United States in which people struggled against such injustice, but we should not pretend that the formation of the United States is a better model for republican self  government and civil rights than the history of the European Union since 1951.  

No Civil War has resulted from the Treaty of Rome. Europe and Liberalism: Beyond the Clichés: Follow Up Post 5.

The US constitution which is commended was not able to prevent a devastating Civil War, the EU’s constitutional arrangements have yet to suffer such a blow.

Follow up to oct of 1st June, expanding numbered points in that post, one post for each point.

If the Euro looks shaky and EU politics look traumatised , I suggest a comparison with the Civil War in America, which broke out in 1861.  That is as Abrahma Lincoln said in 1863 in the opening of the Gettysburg address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty

So Lincoln was speaking 87 years after the Declaration of Independence, and felt it was a living even in recent history.  Going back to our 1789 baseline, the Constitution last 72 years before a crisis broke out which could only be resolved by 4 years of bloody warfare.  It’s now 67 years since the Treaty of Rome, and even the most rabid Eurosceptic does not claim we are on the verge of a pan-Europeam war.  That is the Treaty of Rome has been a better adaption to what the nations and peoples of Europe can live with than the US Constitution.  We might note that the US Constitution failed to stop gross and systematic violation of civil liberties and individual rights in slave states, during a period in which the two great world powers of the time, Britain and France, abolished slavery .  The Treaty of Rome has no equivalent fault, and the period of European integration has been a period of progress in human rights and democracy in Europe.  The wish of emergent democracies to join the EU has been so strong it has clearly been a positive force for human rights and democracies in those countries.  As a resident of Turkey, and non-residents can check, I can confidently say that the EU has been a force for democracy and human rights in Turkey, though Turkey has not even been given a clear right to join yet.

Politics and Law. Europe and Liberalism: Beyond the Clichés. Follow up post 4.

The United States constitution was also formed by a political economy/public choice process to satisfy sectional demands. The understanding of this process are not assisted by references to rugged colonists and the legal traditions of Merrie England, which in large part evolved through the violent impositions and constructivist projects of Norman and Plantagenet monarchs.

So continuing a series of follow ups to my post of 1st June, I’m here looking at arguments that the Euro, and other European Union projects, are rational constructs imposed on the emergence of spontaneous economic and social orders, as opposed to the supposedly more evolutionary  nature of the United States constitution, based on centuries of British and colonial legal tradition.  Such arguments rely on a very formulaic version of Friedrich Hayek.  

What’s wrong with this argument?  

The European Union  treaties, including the Maastricht Treaty, which established the Euro, have been based on another 200 years, or more, of legal tradition than the United States Constitution.  If we go back to the Hayek references, we might say that the European legal tradition was degraded from roughly the 1870s by the growing volume of law that was more about special state measures than general principles.  However, surely such considerations apply to the United States from about the same time, maybe a bit later during the Progressive Era  of the first years of the 20th Century. Evidently the US Constitution did not prevent this, though there was some court resistance to interventionist and federalising measures, or varying intensity.  Inevitably courts, including the Supreme Court, reflect the political spirit of the times.  Originalist (who think US law and court judgements should follow the supposed intentions of the authors of the Constitution) many not like this, but that does not change the reality.  Even the Originalists have difficulty in defining a pristine time when the Constitution was perfectly applied, even going back to the first years in which the Constitution  was in force.  

European Union  treaties reflect evolving legal traditions in an increasing multiplicity of European Union countries, starting with 6, and now up to 27.  From a Hayekian point of view, there ought to be some advantage in that evolutionary interaction.  Hayek himself was rather prone to regarding the early history of law, up to the time of the French Revolution, as beyond politics of any kind.  We do not have to accept this to accept the best parts of Hayek’s thought, and we should not accept it.  Looking at British history, Anglo-Saxon law was revolutionise by a political event, the Norman Conquest of 1066, which moved England towards Norman French law.  There was another major wave of political  monarchical centralised change in the Plantagenet monarchy of Henry  II in the late 12th century.  It was then that English Common Law as we know it was established.  That tradition is often referred to with regard to the importance of interpretations made by judges in cases.  This could be regarded as contrasting with the European Roman Civil Law tradition, which might be considered to put more weight on the text of law established by the political sovereign, and not to give much of a role to judicial precedent.  The fact is the Common Law was established as an act of codifying centralisation  by the political sovereign  of the time.  Interpretation of law by judges is fundamental to the Roman Civil Law tradition.  Michel Foucault gives an interesting example in Discipline and Punish, where he points out that French courts were quick to interpret the Civil Code of Napoleon as allowing mental illness as a mitigating factor with regard to criminal responsibility, when a strict following of the text would have led them to only accept mental illness as completely negating criminal responsibility, or as irrelevant with no intermediate level of mitigation.  

We might also note that the Hayekian emphasis on ‘discovery’ through judges interpreting precedent with regard to the details of a particular case, is in some tension with Originalism, which demands that all interpretations be disregarded that do not perfectly fit in with the supposed intentions of the authors of the Constitution.  

Anyway, colonial law in America did not evolve purely through ‘discovery’.  Some of it was imposed from London, a project John Locke was involved in with regard to the constitution of the colony of Carolina (now the states of North and South Carolina).  Political decisions made in the colonies of in London changed the law.  Constitutions and law codes were decided through political means, with all the buying off of interests required.  

The US Constitution itself was the product of what we might now call public choice, a way of thinking very much associated with classical liberal and libertarian economists and political scientists.  While public choice is not the unique property of liberals of that kind, enthusiasts are certainly concentrated there.  For public choice theory, it is nonsense to think laws, legal codes and constitutions could emerge through a process detached from politics, self interest and trade offs between competing groups.  The US Constitution is itself a compromise designed to get a majority at the Constitutional Convention.  The people as a whole were never troubled for their opinion, though the Constitution claims to be in the name of ‘We the people’.  There was a political compromise between property owners at the Convention to satisfy concerns about various kinds of economic interests, including those of slave owners, and with no representation for blacks of for American Indians.  

The politics and public choice of the Constitutional Convention may be dressed up in ideals of liberty, and rhetorical claims to defend the rights of Americans that colonists had supposedly inherited from Medieval England, that does not mean we have to take it literally.  Some understanding developed through the Middle Ages that Kings made laws in Parliament and that taxes were raised by Parliament, this did to some degree look back to the consultative practices of Anglo-Saxon kings.  However, the legal codification itself transformed relevant customs and traditions, in part for inventing unity and continuity.  Medieval England, in law or in custom, certainly did not define government powers with regard to a welfare clause or 13 enumerated powers.  The welfare clause of the American Constitution has some basis in Cicero’s famous comment that law serves the public welfare, but that comment was used by thinkers like Pufendorf who emphasised state sovereignty. Hayek, and his more unimaginative followers, tend to try to make a strong distinction between the Roman Civil Law-State Sovereignty tradition and evolutionary, traditional and judge made law.  In this account Hobbes and then the Utilitarians and then the legal positivism of John Austin is made to look bad.  One problem with this Utilitarianism is very classical liberal in its origins.  Another problem is that Hobbes himself puts a lot of weight on natural (non-state) law.  Hobbes himself was drawing on Francis Bacon, and Bacon was drawing on the Medieval monarchical centralisation of the state.  This centralisation under the political sovereign itself coincides with the invention of something like modern civil rights in Magna Carta and so on.  An invention which draws on the past, but also reinvents the past.  

 

The US Constitution is a Political Construction distinct from British Traditions: Europe and Liberalism: Beyond the Clichés: Follow Up Comment 3.

The United States constitution is commended as an example of Hayekian discovery procedure, but is itself an example of rational constructivism and intellectualism. Of course the colonists took things from English legal and political precedents, but the Constitution of the United States attempts to create a perfect republic on federal grounds which has no precedent in Britain. There is an evident element of fantasy in thinking that everything in the constitutional arrangements of the United States stems of Medieval England.

Continuing my follow up comments to a post of 1st June.  I was partly replying to two claims about the US Constitutiın

1. It’s the continuation of Medieval English law, and the kind of liberties mentioned in Magna Carta, as imported to North America by British settlers in the 13 colonies.

2. It’s an example of discovery procedure in the sense of Hayek’s ideal of how law works through the way judges interpret existing laws in news cases.

It’s just absurd to argue that a Constitutional document can be equated with the development of law through judge made case law.  The US Constitution was constructed through a complicated political discussion.  In the end it draws on the following: English legal and political tradition; views about European republics, ancient and modern; Enlightenment political and legal theory (most of which is not rooted in English legal tradition); the experience of colonists in north American over hundreds of years with limited interference from Britain; the example of American Indian alliances and confederations; experience of self-government in radical Protestant communities in the colonies.

The United States constitution is extremely innovatory in establishing a clearly structured federation.  Federation and confederation had already been discussed, for example in Montesquieu, referring to the Ancient alliances of  Greek city states, Switzerland and Germany in more recent times.  All of these were alliances, confederations of federations which worked in very loose, inconsistent ways completely lacking the attempt at clear allocation of different powers to states and federal government, under federal legal and political institutions apparent in the United States.

Some aspects of the US Constitution can be traced back to Medieval English ideas, but the continuity is very weak, otherwise we would see a very similar political and legal structure in Britain as the United States.  Some aspects is not all.  Habeas corpus is maybe the most significant continuity, that is the idea that the state cannot detain you for more than two days without bringing charges.  Jury trial is another major area of continuity.  However, nothing about British tradition equates with the absolute free speech rights of the First Amendment, or the separation of church and state.  Britain has now, then and laws has had a state church.  Practice varied widely in the 13 colonies on this matter.  There is some very general sense in which could call all these changes and variations a ‘discovery procedure’, but only by stretching the term to the point of meaninglessness.  Judicial tradition mixes with political struggle and theoretical constructions to give us the United States, its Constitution, and its Bill of Rights.  

A post anyone interested in Kierkegaard, and in particular studying Kierkegaard in Danish would profit from reading. I stick my oar in amongst the comments at the bottom.

Piety on Kierkegaard

I have a few miscellaneous bits of publishing news that might be of interest to readers of this blog. First, the URL for my website has changed. It used to have a “www” at the beginning, but it is now simply mgpiety.com. Simpler is better, I think. Unfortunately, the new URL is not the only change to the website. The site used to be hosted on Apple’s Mobile Me, but when Mobile Me closed down at the end of June, I had to move it to another host and the move resulted not only in the name change, but in the loss of several features of the site, such as the one that allowed people to post comments to the entries on my blog Reading Notes. There were quite a few comments, but they were all lost and it appears there’s no way to get them back. My plan…

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EU Treaties No More Economically Constructivist than the US Constitution: Europe and Liberalism: Beyond the Clichés. Follow Up Comment 2.

I’ve been slow to finish following up on a post of June 1st, ‘Europe and Liberalism: Beyond the Clichés’.  I made several numbered points in response to some over familiar ways of criticising the European Union, on a post identified in my original post, using a classical liberal point of view.  I’m expanding on those points, one post for each point, within the framework of my own version of classical liberalism, or libertarianism.  

2. The post compares the political arrangements of the early United States with the economic arrangements of the European Union. A comparison of limited use.

The Constitution of the United States entrenches a unified market between the 13 states which made up the original union.  The Commerce Clause should be seen in this light, it grants the federal power to ensure there is an open market.  The Constitution also sets up a Post Office to ensure communications across the union.  According to Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, for example the existence of the post office was a profound influence in making Americans aware of belonging to a single country, and did enormously facilitate communications as the main form of communication.  

So the Constitution of the  United States of America was set up for 13 states with a very limited sense of common nationhood.  Just as importantly, these were rural economies, and sadly in the southern states that meant a large amount of slave labour on plantations.  Back to the slavery issue in later posts.  The major point here is that the US constitution was strongly constructivist if we look at its historical context now, not its use to prevent economic interventionism from the late nineteenth century onwards.

The European Union originates in the Treaty of Rome of 1957,  168 years after the US Constitution came into force.  The six original members of what was then known as the European Economic Community, established to ‘lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’, were already industrial nations, as are all stares which have joined the EU since.  They already had integrated national markets, in law and in practice.  In the late eighteenth century, we cannot say that even the states of the American union had national markets in the same way, as much more economic activity was about people feeding themselves and providing their own basic needs.  Communications were not good enough to allow markets as we have them now, though the institution of a post office was one part of overcoming this, as was the largely private building of railways in the mid-ninetheenth century.  These episodes have come and gone by the time of the first version of the European Union.

That should be enough to confirm the basic point here, which is that what it meant to have a national integrated market was very different at the time of the US Constitution.  With that in mind, the Constitution is itself a constructivist document. To condemn the Treaty of Rome, or any other EU treaty since then, including the Maastricht Treaty, which established the Euro, is quite wrong and is an argument made on the bassi of a complete failure to consider historical context. 

 

Condemning Hayek when he Needs to be Condemned. Not to mention Burke.

Having blogged on Hayek recently, and probably soon again, it seems necessary to acknowledge something that came up on the blogosphere today.  The left wing blogger Corey Robin (I knew nothing of him before today) has posted damning stuff about Hayek’s apologia for the blood soaked thieving gangster known as Augusto Pinochet, past dictator of Chile. The ‘justification’ was that Pinochet overthrew the Marxist government of Salvador Allende, and that some of his policies were free market.  No justification to my mind, and looking a the free market justification in isolation, it’s undermined by the way that Pinochet, his family and other state gangster low life used political power for self-enrichment.   Salazar’s dictatorship in Portugal also comes up (follow all the relevant links from the page I linked to).  If you follow links you can also find an exposure of Edmund Burke’s fanatical desire for terror and limitless war against Jacobinism.  There is a connection with Hayek, because Hayek was a Burke fan, exposing a conservative element in his thought despite his famous paper ‘Why I am Not a Conservative’ (which I linked to in a recent post on Arendt and Hayek).  

I saw the Robin material at a libertarian source, Marginal Revolution, where the lead blogger is Tyler Cowen (a very moderate libertarian economist and commentator).  If you look in the comments you will see that I stuck my oar in with regard to condemning Hayek on this point.  The left-wing group blog Crooked Timber also lined to Corey Robin and added some stuff about Apartheid in South Africa, which Hayek did not condone, but he failed to condemn its architects.  Disgraceful.  Anyway, Crooked Timber did not mention that Cowen had already linked.  A pure accident that no reference was made to a libertarian being so quick to highlight the story of Hayek’s shame. I also stuck my oar in on the comment section over there.  

Evidently some let wingers will not be able to resist the temptation to claim that the Hayek mess shows somehow that libertarianism is about favouring dictatorship.  Well look at yourself, or your friends, who condoned all kinds of left wing dictatorships, and continue to condone Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, or the increasing dictatorial Chavez in Venezuela.  

With regard to my own position, I think that Hayek’s general arguments are most compatible with democracy, and that is what he says himself on the whole.  An element of ‘momocracy’, law and legal institutions turned into power centres not just centres for interpreting laws made by political bodies, does creep into Hayek.  Though rule of law and constitutionalism are important, the institutions which interpret laws and constitutions, should not usurp the law making or constitution formulating functions.  

The recent post on Hayek and Arendt explains that I think Hayek type liberalism is best taken with republican political thought, that is thought that emphases the activity of citizens in the political sphere.  I would also add the thought of Michel Foucault for its many great insights into the nature of power, and possibilities of individual autonomy, amongst other things.  Of course Foucault had his own problems with tyrannophilia for a while, he was a Mao fan (though not a Marxist!) for a time.  So lots of fault to go round for fellow travelling with state terror.  

French Condemn American Mercantilism

The title is an exaggeration, I’m referring to one post on one website, ‘Contenir de Chine: le mauves calcul d’Obama’ at telos.  Sorry it’s only available in French, but Google translate, and similar online services, should give a fair version in English.  The post caught my eye, because stereotypically the Americans are in favour of free trade and the French are in favour of protecting trade, putting politicised protection of privileged sectors of the economy above consumer driven competition.  That French attitude is often known as Mercantilism, which is traced back to the seventeenth century French finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert.  To hear some American libertarians (and British free market Eurosceptics) talk you would think that America is always ahead of France on this issue, and that France is always the bad object for classical liberal thinking.   Well the time I’ve linked to appears in a very centrist French source, and complains that American policy in eastern Asia is an example of Mercantilism on a gigantic scale, attempting to create an American dominated economic zone to exclude China, in a massive subordination of the market to supposed strategic rivalry.  As the article points out, the policy is something of a flop since America’s satrap states (or so some ‘strategic thinkers’ in Washington would like to think) are increasingly trading with China.  Market liberals, and in fact most economist of various political persuasions, think free trade is a good thing which benefits both sides.  The attempts at a Mercantilist encirclement of China does not benefit the American economy, though the idea that trade with China is an attack on the American economy has been accepted by both Romney and Obama so sadly we can expect to hear a lot about it during the presidential campaign.  

Going back to those American libertarians, who despite protestations to the contrary, seem just as  sovereigntist-nationalist as any French Jacobin, I’ve seen a prominent French libertarian in America, Veronique de Rugy, claim that she was the only French libertarian, when she was a postgraduate student, and condemn Obama for saying that America could learn from France.  Well I’d probably agree with Rugy on the specific issues where Obama might think America can learn from France.  Still what America might profit from looking at the French example, from a libertarian point of view, is the existence of gay partnerships, the lack of death penalty, and the much milder penal system in general.  America might also learn from French critiques of super inflated Mercantilism as we have seen!  There are of course libertarians in France.  In fact there are not just one, but two liberal parties which are liberal in the classical sense, so are in the same spectrum band as American libertarians: Partie Libéral Démocrate and Alternative Libérale.  They are very small parties, but then so is the Libertarian Party in the US.  Of course the French economy is much more state dominated than the American economy, but at least in mitigation we can point out that the most extreme forms of statism, the military apparatus and the prison apparatus, are smaller in France.  There is a lot of immigration, much of it Muslim, putting France ahead of America in that aspect of diversity.  Nevertheless, Americans across the political spectrum seem convinced that American is unique in the world in having large scale immigration.  I guess any French liberals/libertarians who chance across this post will protest that it is so statist and everything is so bad.  No doubt, I wouldn’t disagree with any of it, just don’t think there isn’t  a lot of it in American as well, particularly in the areas you should want to keep it limited to genuine needs (the military) or just very small (prisons).  

So America, learn from your French critics and give up on the Mercantilism.