Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The EU - Europe’s Grand Experiment In Socialism

One of the defining characteristics of today’s left is a belief in the power of the central government to cure all ills of society. The left of today does not trust the individual to exercise responsibility nor to govern themselves at the local level. Power is collected in the central government and ever more control is taken over the daily lives of citizens through regulation and statute. Democracy is minimized. Free speech is manipulated through government investment in, if not ownership of, the media and through government use of its masses of taxpayer funds to manipulate national discourse. Further, in the world of the left, free speech bows to multi-culturalism.

The ultimate manifestation of this philosophy today is the grand socialist experiment that is the European Union. And as the EU grows in power, its omnipresent influence is felt ever more in European society.

This from an article in Der Spiegel:


How Brussels Regulates our Daily Lives

. . . The European Commission in Brussels wants to protect European citizens even more effectively against danger and disease. Soon there will be a well-intended -- but mostly completely unnecessary -- regulation for every aspect of life.

One-year-old Diego didn't have a chance. Try as he would, he simply couldn't get the old "Made in China" lighter or the new "child-safe" version from France to light. Older children like Tessa, who is almost five, managed to coax a flame from the Chinese model after only three minutes. It didn't take her much longer to light the French version.

From a bureaucratic standpoint, the pre-pubescent subjects' efforts to play with fire -- all in the name of scientific research, of course -- were a complete success. Under an European Union regulation that goes by the code K (2007) 1567, as of March 11, 2008 only "child-safe" disposable lighters will be approved for sale in the EU. But first the lighters' "child safety" must be demonstrated in a test laboratory. Under the regulation, a lighter is deemed acceptable (that is, child-safe), if no more than 15 of 100 kids aged less than 51 months manage to light it.

There are exceptions, of course. For one thing, the regulation does not apply to higher-priced lighters. That's because the bureaucrats in Brussels are convinced no one would allow children to gain access to expensive lighters. But even the bureaucrats sometimes have their doubts about their own basis research. Now they warn that even a lighter labeled as "child-safe" in the future is "not necessarily safe for children," adding that lighters should continue to "be kept out of reach of young children."

In all seriousness, the EU's inspectors are keeping themselves busy coming up with more and more regulations to govern even the most hidden corners of human existence, and that will cover the length and breadth of the EU -- from Inari in northern Finland to Limassol on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

Current regulations already run the gamut from protections against fine dust and noise to soil conservation to protections for workers against solar radiation and protections for non-smokers. A green paper for a "smoke-free Europe" is currently under discussion. The German state of Hesse recently opposed EU bureaucrats' efforts to redefine the term "wine" so that it would exclude non-grape-derived products like its traditional Äppelwoi ("apple wine," a local take on cider). The Hessians were successful -- for now.

EU Commission President José Manual Barroso and his 26 commissioners have nothing but good intentions. Anxious to dispel their image of bureaucrats well removed from the realities of daily life, they seek to portray themselves as the guardian angels of Europe's citizens, the protectors of the old and the young, and the guarantors of a life free of danger.

According to the EU Commission's new "Consumer Protection Strategy Paper," the EU must demonstrate to Europe's 493 million consumers that it has their best interests in mind. This new zeal has led to many a bizarre or even completely nonsensical EU directive, even though many of the new regulations are fundamentally justified. But when taken together, they create new control mechanisms on top of old ones already notorious for their intrusiveness and inefficiency.

Measuring the Obvious

For example, many European cities and regions, at Brussels' behest, are now developing so-called noise maps. To produce the maps, precise noise readings must be taken on every street, whether in downtown areas, in industrial zones, along railway lines or in expensive and leafy residential neighborhoods.

Some communities have already completed the mammoth project, while others are dragging their feet. All are furious about the new requirement.

"We are drowning in a sea of data," complains Munich Mayor Christian Ude. And in the end, no matter how costly the measuring process is, the results reveal what everyone has known all along: that it's louder on busy, high-traffic streets than in exclusive, villa-filled residential neighborhoods with maximum speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour.

Like Munich, many cities developed noise maps years ago. But now Brussels is dictating a new set of criteria, which means that the entire process has to be repeated from scratch. It's "a lot of bureaucracy" and "completely useless," says Ude.

The EU's self-proclaimed protectors of the general health and well-being are especially interested in food hygiene regulations. Their goal is to fully regulate the production, transport and sale of food products from the producer to the consumer's plate. Once again, the underlying concept makes perfect sense, and yet the new rules, while failing to prevent spoiled meat scandals or the excessive use of pesticides, have in fact served up all kinds of new absurdities. A Westphalian pig farmer who fattens his animals in his own forest, just as his grandfather did, runs afoul of the law if he allows the pigs' liquid manure to seep straight into the forest soil instead of draining it through standardized concrete pipes.

In some cases the Brussels bureaucrats' zealous rush to implement new standards has cost ordinary citizens their livelihoods. For instance, a regulation that requires all legal cheese production facilities to have running water and electricity spells the end of many Alpine cheeses. The small dairies that traditionally make these cheeses simply cannot afford the investments needed to satisfy the Brussels requirements.

Europe's "Specific Hygiene Regulations" cover every product and every producer, from "meat from hoofed animals kept as pets" to "frogs' legs and snails" and "animal fats and cracklings."

Anyone who, milk pail in hand, hopes to find fresh milk from the farm these days will have a lot of searching to do. Under Paragraph 17, Section 1 of the Animal Food Hygiene Regulation, "the sale of raw milk or cream to consumers is prohibited."

Only in exceptional cases are dairy farmers permitted to sell untreated milk to customers, and only when they are in compliance with a long list of detailed requirements regulating everything from the condition of the floors in the farmer's milking room to the material used to make his doors.

Of course, the dairy farmer mustn't forget to post a warning sign that reads "Raw milk -- Boil before consuming" in a "visible and legible manner at the selling location."

Part 2: Are Europeans Dim-Witted and Unable to Cope with Life?

There is only one thing the Brussels bureaucrats have forgotten in their zeal to slap regulations on just about everything: the often-evoked "responsible citizen." The Europeans of the 21st century appear to be dim-witted and unable to cope with life -- and wholly dependent on the dictates of Big Brother in Brussels. When it comes to protecting the population from its own supposed lack of common sense, Big Brother is enthusiastic.

For example, in the past, a German who wanted to build a small vacation house on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca ran the risk of building on top of a toxic waste site. In response to such hazards, the EU commissioners submitted a draft guideline for "soil protection" which is currently being debated in the European Parliament. Under the guideline, government agencies throughout Europe would be required to test the condition of the soil on every piece of property, from the Arctic Circle to Sicily, and identify "contaminated" sites.

The authors of the draft guideline say that its purpose is to protect the environment. Europe's soil faces all kinds of threats to its purity, from industrial chemical residues to agricultural pesticides, erosion, salt-water intrusion and the adverse effects of rapid development.

But because the EU has only partial jurisdiction in this area, it is essentially left up to the member states to decide what to do with the results of the soil tests.

Moreover, because the EU is so good at imposing regulations, non-profit organizations, businesses and citizens are demanding increasingly comprehensive protections for both the working and private spheres. "Bureaucracy is in demand," says Volker Hoff, a Christian Democrat and the minister for European affairs in the German state of Hesse.

A Tireless Effort to Regulate Everything

Advocates for the protection of consumers, children, animals, patients and practically everything else are tirelessly proposing new things that they are convinced require regulation or, in some cases, ought to be banned outright. The EU administrators in Brussels are only too pleased to comply, while the representatives of the member states are quick to give the go-ahead.

. . . In truth, even legal experts find the well-intentioned flood of regulatory fervor overwhelming. Last year the president of Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, warned "against the constantly increasing regulation of virtually all areas of society and the economy, as well as large segments of private life."

The "expanded apparatus of the Brussels EU Commission" contributes to the fact "that there is now a layer of overregulation that exceeds the reasonable scope of the law," says Papier, the chief justice of Germany's highest court. For this reason, says Papier, the legal system runs the risk "of suffocating the individual responsibility and self-determination it is in fact intended to guarantee." Torsten Stein, a European legal expert at Saarland University, warns that one day EU citizens will become aware "that, long after the end of absolute rulers, a new authority has established itself that once again claims the authority to decide what is good and what is bad for subjects."

Undeterred by such doubts, officials in Brussels continue to perfect a system of total control. . .

Read the entire article. Several months ago, I read a critique by one of our leftist pundits of Fred Thompson, a conservative one-time Senator who was then considering a bid for the Presidency. A significant criticism was that Mr. Thompson had not initiated any new laws or regulatory efforts during his time in the Senate. And therein lies the difference between today's neo-liberal left and the conservatives. The left considers Mr. Thompson a failure for his restraint. A conservative would consider that a great accomplishment. At any rate, if the axiom is true that you get the government you deserve, Europe is in sad straits indeed.

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