Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 13, 2008

A Thanks to the Irish

Unlike Debs is dead predicted the Irish today voted against the European Lisbon treaties. Thanks folks!

Wikipedia has a bit on the history of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, shorter, the constitution.

The central point of the issue is a reform of the decision making process within the European Union. Today every head of state within the EU can block EU decisions. While I believe this to be a good solution, others believe that this hinders progress. (Haven't we progressed under the old rules too?)

But the constitution also did many other things. It was not a simple understandable paper of principles and rules, but a 500 page mashup that touched on every issue and speciality one can think of. That, in my view, was the real mistake the people who thought it up have made.

To stand behind it people have to understand and to accept a constitution. Having a bit of education on constitutional law, I read the proposed one, tried to understand it and failed. But maybe I am the dumbest person in Europe.

The constitution was rejected by voters in the Netherlands and in France. Voters in other countries were not asked, but their parliaments voted on it.

The politicians then found a way to circumvent the will of the people. They split the proposed constitution into two papers, the 'Lisbon treaties' and pushed these through their parliaments. Only Ireland allowed its people a direct vote on the issue.

Thankfully the Irish rejected it.

Now the trickery will start anew. Some politicians already speak of giving Ireland a 'special status' and keep the treaties for the rest of the EU.

A better solution would be to stop this project for now and start anew:

  • Define the fields a constitution will touch on, like how a European government is elected, how the European court is seated, the rights of the European parliament.
  • Develop alternative solutions for each field.
  • Let all people in the EU vote for the alternatives they like best.
  • Put the selected alternatives together into one constitution.
  • Let everybody vote on this final paper.

Posted by b on June 13, 2008 at 14:06 UTC | Permalink


One thing the Us Constitution has going for it is that it's short and clear. Any literate adult can sit down and read it in a couple of hours. There are a few deliberately ambiguous phrases like the Commerce Clause, and the idea that the Supreme Court has final say in interpreting it is an addendum by John Marshall. But in spirit it's the opposite of a 500 page document, which no one can grasp as a whole.

This is the work of the unappreciated Founder, Gouverneur Morris, financier of the Revolution, later Ambassador to France and later the richest man in New York. The other delegates had produced a jumble of scribblings, but only Morris had kept a set of organized notes. He had spoken the most in the proceedings and probably had the best attendance record, so he was asked to prepare the first working version by the drafting committee, and Madison stated that most of the draft survived into the final text. Including the magnificent first sentence.

To his great credit, he delivered a passionate denunciation of slavery at the Constitutional Convention. He thought it shouldn't be recognized in the document and that country should make plans on how to end it. This would have gotten him kicked out by the Southerners 50 years later, but slavery was on the decline in the South at that time. The cotton gin was invented 2 years later, with economic side-effects we all know.

He wasn't made a canonical icon Founder because the uptight Victorians disapproved of his life style, and in the civil religion of Nineteenth Centiry US departures from same-sex, same-race married monogamy were a no-no. Morris was a womanizer who had several interesting mistresses beforehis marriage in his 50's to a distant relative of mine.

I can certainly boast that members of my family generally marry people who are smarter, richer and most inportantly better organized than we are. When I make this observation to my cousins, they smile nervously, because there are several examples in recent generations.

Posted by: Roger Bigod | Jun 13 2008 15:12 utc | 1

It is a ‘treaty’ which is in itself peculiar. Treaties are usually bi-lateral, sometimes multi-lateral agreements between Nation States, on specific topics.

Of course, the term treaty was used to take the sting out of the previous ‘Constitution’ which most see as a fundamental, principled, founding document (see US Constitution), not easily changed or amended. The previous ‘constitution’ - voted down by those who could vote in referenda, the French and the Dutch - was a lengthy mish-mash of, yes, previous treaties, and a sort of power grab by the EU powers. It mixed up all levels of laws, controls, directives, in many areas, etc. - a nightmare. The Lisbon treaty is just a remake I have read (I have not attempted to read the text, excerpts put me off.)

A quick look at some of the supposedly popular Irish objections formulated turns up some quite horrific content: just an example on abortion, titled on EU population control:> Craobh Gal Gréine

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 13 2008 16:44 utc | 2

seems a bit mean to promote a Did post to a thread starter then say "Unlike Debs is dead predicted" about: "As a fatalistic Celt myself, I can't but feel that the worst of both worlds will come to pass. That is the yes vote will win by a narrow margin"

He wrote "fatalistic" "can't help but feel" and "narrow margin" and I'm sure is pleased such were at least temporarily wrong.

It's all Hulk Hogan's Heroes, folks, and we know nothing.

(on Celts, always liked the Welsh R Burton's line to an American actor in a 70's movie who tried to ingratiate himself by saying both were "Selts". "I might be a selt but you sir are a sunt") (inexact)

Posted by: plushtown | Jun 13 2008 17:11 utc | 3

sorry, "can't but feel". Also sorry that in earlier post didn't realize reference in name to 5 times presidential candidate Debs.

In any case he didn't predict so much as report.

Posted by: plushtown | Jun 13 2008 17:20 utc | 4

I have to agree with Roger on that one--short and sweet is the way to go, as in the US constitution.

While Supreme Court constitutional rulings are no picnic to decipher, the constitution itself is virtually an abridged recipe for a republic.

Posted by: Steve | Jun 13 2008 19:15 utc | 5

But Europe now is in no way similar to the American colonies in the late 1700s. Most of us then were either English immigrants or slaves, whereas in Europe now there are how many languages and cultures? Plus the PTB have a much harder time now meeting and agreeing on stuff without interference from special interests. I'd call the problem nationalism; not so long ago these disputes were settled by wars. There is still plenty of suspicion and mistrust which doesn't go away with the rap of a gavel.

This EU thing has been a difficult deal; I say that even as a not very close observer. To add to it a neat short strong constitution may not even be possible; I would bet that many Europeans don't agree with the concept of a One World Order, which EU might grow up to become some day.

Does Russia want that kind of interference, or Italy?

Posted by: rapt | Jun 13 2008 20:34 utc | 6

This is the story of a dot that became a full stop.

Posted by: Cloned_Poster | Jun 13 2008 20:46 utc | 7

Only thing I would add to b´s list is:

If approved by a majority of the people (possibly also a majority of the states but I am a bit thorn on that one), then put to each parliament with the choice of ratification or leaving.

However, I much more expect a new round of getting around the referendum result.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Jun 14 2008 1:04 utc | 8

Now the trickery will start anew. Some politicians already speak of giving Ireland a 'special status' and keep the treaties for the rest of the EU.

Indeed, Denmark has also been there, took the ride and got a t-shirt when the silly voters who don't realize that their betters (political class) know what is best for them and rejected the treaty still in effect.

The t-shirt has "Four Exceptions" -- for ex., the Danes can take part in the military adventures of NATO and even the Coalition of the Willing, but not any of EU -- and the political establishment has been trying to remove them from the t-shirt.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Jun 14 2008 5:38 utc | 9

I've been outta town for a couple of days so didn't have a chance to say anything when the irish showed their true mettle. @ Plushtown thanks for pointing out that I didn't say the yes vote would get up for certain, tho I confess the morning I wrote that post the irish referendum seemed likely to be yet another regression for the people of europe. That it hasn't, is cause for celebration.
Is it correct that under the way this treaty was framed, if one nation refuses to sign up to it then the treaty lapses and the power hungry brussel louts have to find a new way to persuade europeans to give up national self determination?
From where I sit at the bottom of the world it seems to me that the ruling elite of the european union lack the imagination to create something truly wonderful out of ordinary european people's decision to get along with each other.

The only parallel they ever come up with is the 19th century unification of germany where an overly aggressive militaristic state was created out of a series of customs and tax treaties. Yes Bernhard I realise that is an over-simplification but you get my drift.
Yes there are some similarities between the unification of germany and the creation of the european union, but there are many differences too. For one german people believed they were a distinct people with a unifying culture, that is not so apparent in a european union which stretches in the south, from Bulgeria's black sea coastline west through italy to spain, north to ireland, and further north to Iceland then east again through sweden to finland before heading south through estonia, latvia, lithuania and poland to the czech republic.
This is an amazing confederation but it would be a mistake to imagine that such a large grouping could come together on command from a mob of over educated, under experienced technocrats working in concert with over the hill pols ( I may be wrong but it has always seemed to me that the average M.E.P. is a failed pol at the national level, the leader of the opposition who never won an election or the cabinet minister whose govt was voted out before he/she could exercise any real power).
The european union doesn't have to become one giant nation state to survive, it may eventually evolve into a single large entity but that should take centuries. In the meantime europe should look for strength in diversity. Solidarity not similarity.
Hopefully the penny will drop for some of the smarter more capable eu leaders. europeans don't want to live in a society run from one central location.
I suspect this has nothing to do with racism, jingoism or xenophobia, altho that low class of person may well be trying to exploit anti-centralisation movements, and the pro centralisation ideologues aren't above accusing opponents of xenophobia.
The reason a single central government isn't popular is because europeans don't want to be a tiny insignificant entity in a vast population of other insignificant entities.
by now most people, including those who were part of smaller centralised governments until 1990, have had too much experience of what happens to institutions when they grow too large.
Europeans have witnessed everything from their baker, to the water board and their once small craft based trade union become joined together with other allegedly sinilar organisations to advantage those who work for the organisation but grossly disadvantage it's customers/clients/members.

There is nothing for the individual in vast organisations and peeps everywhere now recognise this.
Maybe the EU elites will finally acknowledge this and develop a plan for europe that is as user friendly as it is original. Anything less than that will almost certainly find rejection in at least one state and until the rules are changed, the rules can only be changed by unanimous assent. Lol. I betcha a few EU elites' cats got kicked last week. So near to the brass ring, yet so far from it.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jun 14 2008 10:46 utc | 10

Let us at least be consistent. Ireland should lose its membership in the EU, have all subisdies cut, and be forced to replace the Euro witht he Punt.

Furthermore, all Irish citizens living elsewhere in the EU will be deported and have to apply for a visa or a work/residence permit.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jun 14 2008 13:11 utc | 11

I'm no EU policy wonk, but what exactly are the current problems with the EU that the politicos want to change?

The EU in its present format looks fairly successful when viewed from the US.

Why is it necessary to have a European Constitution? A one-size-fits-all super state?

Perhaps, they should leave good enough alone, at least for awhile until there is a real need for something different.

Posted by: Steve | Jun 14 2008 14:58 utc | 12


that is rather the point: there are plenty of things Europe needs, like harmonizing rules concerning employment, education, residence, etc. One should be able to change one's job/location/school as simply and matter-of-factly as one can when moving from one state to another in the US.

Instead, there is a patchwork of regulations on professional qualifications, educational systems, residence/property-ownership requirements that still linger from the days of separate nation-states.

My favorite example involves a young lady from Germany who went to Italy to study violin making (What better place than in the land of Stradivarius?).

When she returned to Germany and tried to open up a violin shop, she was informed that she was not allowed as she did not posssess a German degree in violin making.

I always thought that the point of a united Europe should be less bureacracy and fewer regulations, but the politicians here seem to have a prolem with that concept

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jun 14 2008 16:31 utc | 13

I really like your suggestions about how a Constitution for the EU should be created. However, I think you are willing to throw out the good you have (Lisbon Treaty) in favor of the perfect you might not get.

Posted by: rz | Jun 14 2008 22:01 utc | 14

If I read some of the responses coreectly it seems that the european media outside ireland has been busy telling their audience that this act by the irish is some sort of treason or sell out. Stoking up the xenophobia, no doubt insinuating the irish refusal to play ball is akin to all the fences england has baulked at in the eu. I suppose some europeans can be convinced that ireland is like england. Forgetting the centuries of history when continental europe and ireland were allied against england.

Of course when the continental countries refused to pass their own referendums a couple of years back the media played the same trick but most people saw through it then. As I'm sure they do now. Hopefully europeans see this as ireland's sensible refusal to cede any more power to a remote bureaucracy, rather than falling for the old 'us and them' divide and rule strategy that elites have always used to gain the ascendency.

The rest of europe would be wiser to think 'there but for the grace of god'.Because really what happened was that it was the turn of the ordinary people of ireland to defend all the ordinary people of europe against the 'great power grab'.

It seems to me there are plenty of ways to get academic qualifications from another part of the EU recognised that fall far short of centralising power systems into the hands of a few.
nations in the 'new world' which have been receiving migrants with a plethora of qualifications from diverse countries for centuries have developed effective qualification standards measurement systems without forcing foreign institutions into little boxes.
europeans have to to think very carefully here about how standardised they really want their education system to be across the entire continent. The aim should be to raise the quality of education throughout europe to the level of the highest institutions Harmonisation is frequently lowest common denominator stuff which tends to bring everyone down to the lowest level.
Aside from that I am no expert on european education, in the time I spent in europe I only studied in one country england but after travelling even to relatively closely aligned france and germany I noticed that there were a number of differences in the way that tertiary education institutions function. None of the differences appeared to make the quality of the universities in those countries better or worse. They were just different, a reflection of the different cultures in the three countries.
I'm an outsider europeans have to live in europe and education is but one example, but really do europeans think that the only way europe can prosper is for everywhere to be the same as everywhere else?

I realise that isn't the intention of fuzzy words like harmonisation, but it is the eventual result, a result that is achieved long before any benefit has been gained.

As a former bureaucrat I can safely report that bureaucrats are wont to confuse process with outcome. 'harmonise european education, in an effort to get measurable standards across all nations' educational outcomes and before the ink is dry on the memo, the aim of education ministries will have evolved from 'have measurable standards' into 'transcultural cross-disciplinary educational harmonisation'. That edict will be handed down to the next level who will then nut out a strategy which will involve 'developing a core curriculum' that can be measured against 'quantifiable unit standards' or some such jibberish.
Before you know it universities all over europe will have stopped teaching what they know, what the students need to know, and what most benefits the community. Instead they will have started teaching what they have been told can be quantifiably measured. 'If it can't be measured in a standardised way don't teach it' will become the despots' catch-cry.

The process will have overtaken the outcome as per usual. I'm sure these sort of processes will have been experienced in parts of europe where the tertiary sector has been subjected to 'national standards reviews' or 'education in the 21st century' and in the primary and secondary sector as well. Those exercises are bad enough and many institutions will never fully recover from them. How much worse would it be across nations, most of whom have a national language? How long before all the european languages are forced into standardisation?

That is just education. Every facet of life in europe can be forced through the same sausage machine, destroying the culture which most europeans are so proud of.

people forget that the these institutions which the pols and technocrats can barely wait to get their hands on were rarely if ever created by technocrats or pols. There were created by the communities who developed them in order to meet the needs of their community. They evolved.
Now if the centralists get their way the needs of individual communities are to be sacrificed to meet what some group of 'make-work' ninnies have postulated the needs of 'greater europe' are most likely to be.
They don't fucking know really; in many cases they are just guessing and like social engineers everywhere they are disinclined to address any needs that don't match the current prevailing ideology.

As I said europeans have to live there not me but I would have thought the former state capitalist states like poland east germany and romania would be very wary about being governed from one central location.
Most of the 'issues' from rail guages to violin makers 'tickets' can be resolved through consensus and without some elite waving a big stick. If I lived in europe, a part of the world that 20 years ago it already felt power had been vacuumed up off the streets, I would have to go with the irish people who want an eu without any more power centralisation.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jun 15 2008 9:05 utc | 15

[email protected]
people forget that the these institutions which the pols and technocrats can barely wait to get their hands on were rarely if ever created by technocrats or pols. There were created by the communities who developed them in order to meet the needs of their community. They evolved.

Thanks. This is an incredibly important fact that too often gets overlooked. And likewise, communities around the world should wake up and free themselves. They already have people who can get things done within their community. They do'nt need snake-oil merchants peddling globalization & other alien control motivations. Local capabilities are your friends. But only if encouraged & allowed to thrive.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jun 15 2008 11:04 utc | 16

The Germans especially have the attitude that anything made or anyone educated in Germany is superior to his/her/its foreign counterpart.

But I thought that the point of the EU was to raise the standard of living by easing the movement of goods, services and knowledge. That can only be accomplished by lowering the barriers to free movement of goods, labor and education.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jun 15 2008 14:49 utc | 17

The EU will charge ahead with ratification of Lisbon (thereby violating its own rules) and will make, negotiate, some ‘special conditions’ for Ireland.

After all, it is said, less than 3 million voters out of say 450! Basically they are ungrateful bastards, sneer... (not mine)

I don’t remember Maastricht and how that went, but subsequently all referenda came out negative, or am I wrong about that? Ppl basically want no more extra levels of control.

The Irish have promised not to have a second vote (see Nice Treaty) and I’m sure will stick with that.

Recognition of diplomas, qualifications, etc. has worked not too badly, and is moving forwards. Of course there are isolated examples of ppl left in limbo, and many problems remain, and will do so for a while.

What is interesting about that is that it is not only a EU scene, but a European scene, and even includes North Africa; meaning that on the ground stuff is geographically rather than politically defined.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 15 2008 19:34 utc | 18

Ho Hum, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, the eurocrats in Brussels want to manage a defence budget..........

There is a communist-era joke about what would happen when the centrally planned economy had triumphed throughout the world. Well, said the planners - one small country would have to be kept on a free-market regime so that they would know what real price levels were as a reference-point for their decisions. A generation and a historical cycle later, Ireland has come to play that role for the European Union (a body, moreover, often caricatured by its opponents as another overweening superstate that flattens national voices and rights). As the ratification of the Lisbon treaty is pushed through the parliaments of the other twenty-six member-states with little debate, it has been left to the Irish to show the rest of the union that the the EU faces deep political dilemmas it must address if it is to avoid even greater crises in the future.


Posted by: Cloned_Poster | Jun 20 2008 17:04 utc | 19


Posted by: | Jun 23 2008 20:29 utc | 20

A HREF="">Practice

Posted by: | Jun 23 2008 20:32 utc | 21

The comments to this entry are closed.