Today France became the first country to vote against the new EU constitution. Since all members need to ratify the charter to make it a reality, the results single a depressing defeat for the organization. NPR predicted the outcome this morning and speculated its importance, calling France the “undisputed bad boy of Europe.”
The vote was certainly significant, but “undisputed bad boy?” France? France hasn’t been a bad boy since the Napoleonic Wars, and all that instigator got was an ice cream and a psychological complex. (Fun fact: Napoleon was actually slightly taller than the average man of his era; his popular 5’2 was actually measured in French feet. By English feet, his height was just over 5’6.)
So what inconceivable event rocketed a people better know as chefs and surrenders to a nation of bad boys? The short answer is overwhelming statism. The new law restricts immigration barriers and better politically integrates the EU members. The far left complained about overwhelming capitalism, the far right spread fears about loosing national sovereignty, and with it, cultural identity. But it’s nothing more than hype and fear.
Like nature itself, economies and cultures are evolving bodies. They operate best in climates favoring freedom: climates of adaptation. History’s peaceful changes have always been generated by the people and by their will alone. Those who wish to deny economic or cultural evolution deny their fellow man fundamental freedoms, even if they deny it to themselves.
It’s far too easy to reject something when you don’t know what you are missing. So let me illustrate how unreliable paranoid statism can be with a historical example.
Over a hundred years ago, a nasty-looking structure rose above the skyline of a major city. The city wanted it torn down after it served its purpose, a feat belayed as engineers discovered it was ideal for radio transmissions. Otis Elevator Company (an American firm) built the machines that let people explore the building with ease, increasing its popularity. The construct I’m talking about is the Eiffel Tower, France’s best known symbol. If the naysayers had their way in 1889, there would be no Eiffel Tower or at least it would be a bitch to get to the top.
It’s easy not to see glorious possibilities and only fall for reactionary scares. It’s easy to forget centuries of history and progress just to embrace the latest call for authority. It’s easy to treat your fellow man as ingrates that need to be controlled instead of people that want to be liberated. These are the acts of cowards, not bad boys.