The faith and folly of the Brussels elite

In his latest article for ConservativeHome, Steve Baker responds to comments by the departing Charlemagne columnist of The Economist.

If the outgoing Charlemagne defines nationalism, and it appears he does, as comprising trade and migration barriers, then the EU has merely elevated nationalism to the level of the European continent, has it not?

Although many people associate the EU with free trade, the reality is quite different:

Of course the EU has delivered free trade within its borders – it is a customs union after all – but anyone who thinks the EU genuinely promotes global free trade should look at the TARIC database. TARIC (Integrated Tariff of the European Communities) includes not just tariffs, but also tariff suspensions, tariff quotas and tariff preferences. You might enjoy searching the database for wheat for example. Do click through and survey the subdivisions of each tariff, noting provision for variations according to country of origin or destination.

Richard Cobden might well wonder why he bothered with the Anti-Corn Law League.

Steve puts these protectionist measures in context, with reference to Omnipotent Government, by Ludwig von Mises:

Mises’ thesis, in a nutshell, is that aggressive economic nationalism is the inevitable consequence of increasing government intervention in the economy. For reasons he explains, he calls this ultimate cause “etatism”:

The most important event in the history of the last hundred years is the displacement of liberalism by etatism.

Etatism appears in two forms: socialism and interventionism. Both have in common the goal of subordinating the individual unconditionally to the state, the social apparatus of compulsion and coercion.

Steve concludes:

The Brussels elite certainly have some historic achievements behind them, but I can’t help wondering whether they put their faith in the wrong god. Perhaps their folly has been to choose etatism plus the unification of European government when a better choice would have been a post-war return to unhampered social cooperation, that is, classical liberalism.

I recommend the whole article.