Posted by aogWednesday, 12 February 2003 at 21:07 TrackBack Ping URL
I was reading a good fisking of the draft of the EU Constituion and I was struck by the fundamental difference between the American Founders and the EU "founders". The Founders put some high language in their government documents, as do the founders, but the former explicitly segregate such language to the non-binding parts of those documents. The Declaration of Independence, for all of its significance, has no actual direct effect on the governance of the USA. The language of "promote the general welfare" while inspiring is placed in the preamble and has no actual legal effect. The US Constitution is instead filled with highly specific descriptions of the mechanisms of government. In contrast, the EU Constitution is filled with the vague generalities of goodness that our Founders eschewed for the actual description of government. There are two sides to this difference.

First, it is of course much easier to say things like

These objectives shall be pursued by appropriate means, depending on the extent to which the relevant competences are attributed to the Union by this Constitution [§3.5]
than to write out what bodies of government have what powers to achieve this result. Why one can even write self contradictory things like
balanced economic growth and social justice, with a free single market [§3.2]
and not sweat the details. In my field we call this marketecture, not something you could actually use to build a working system but some dreamers' vision of "good stuff".

The second is something I've touched on before which is "logo-realism". This is the belief that words are primary and that physical reality can be shaped by using the right words. We see this a lot on the Left these days, where many peaceniks believe that talking about liberating the Iraqi people is better than actually fighting for it. The EU Constitution seems to be a severe victim of this, with declarations like

Fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, shall constitute general principles of the Union's law.
where saying that the EU will preserve existing rights among multiple nations which may conflict with each other or other sections of the EU Constitution is apparently sufficient to deal with these issues. (this is classic marketeture - "oh yeah, of course it will work on Windows, Solaris, Linux and MacOS Xsimultaneously in a distributive fashion!"). The words are there, the right people read them and approved of them - how could it not work?