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Saturday

Those poor British subjects. Leaving aside the fact that they openly and proudly think of themselves as subjects (3 guesses what the verb is), they've got a Prime Minister who doesn't know how to leave well enough alone.

It seems that the rejection by two of the countries of the EU of their proposed recipe for totalitarianism has given Tony Blair the courage to admit that maybe it wasn't such a good idea afterall. So what does he do? Does he wipe his brow, let out a relieved sigh, and thank his lucky stars that his country has dodged a bullet?

No. He spins the revolver again and puts it to the country's head. Mr. Blair has decided that the focus of his newly won new term will be to address poverty in Africa.

Britain is a country that doesn't know capitalism from a buttered scone, so it's not likely that he will stumble into an actual solution. Instead, he'll be doing more of the same thing that got both Africa and the rest of Europe into such dire straits: billions of aid and effectively unconditional debt relief. All this will accomplish, aside from driving his own economy further into the toilet, is to perpetuate and magnify the misery in Africa, while funding, among other things, the Islamic threat that is already descending on all of Europe like a 21st century iron curtain.

If Blair really wants to help Africa, there's a simple and cost-effective solution. In recognition of the fact that all of this debt incurred on that miserable continent is not owed by the people, but by the various petty dictators who have milked both their own people and the industiralized nations for decades, he should offer to forgive debts to any country that meets a few simple condtions. First, they overthrow their petty dictators, and maybe execute them for their crimes, and Second, they replace their dictatorships with free-market economies.

The tree of liberty in Africa is a withered, rotted hulk. If there's any life left in it, it needs something other than Blair's fertilizer to make it grow.

Comments

I don't think I'll need 3 guesses. I am pretty sure that the verb is SUBJUGATE, which doesn't exactly speak well to their state of thinking over on the other side of the pond.

As for Africa, you are most certainly correct that Blair has nothing worthwhile to offer that continent. It is rampant with corruption, thuggary, and malaise that cannot be solved by giving more money to its various dictators. And make no mistake, that is exactly what happens when "humanitarian aid" is given to these countries.

Unfortunately though, such facts are but a triviality to those who have no actual concern for the plight of Africa, but instead are interested in giving the appearance that they do.

Posted by Liberty Dog at Sunday, June 05, 2005 08:03 AM

It is always dangerous to comment on the internal politics of a country you don't live in as there is an awlful lot you will not understand.

First, yes we are subjects. That is we are subject to the laws of the crown in exactly the same way you are subject to the laws of your federal and state govenments. Contrary to popular believe there is no need to bow to the Queen or tug our forelock's when a Lord walks by. Tony Blair and the labour party made the European Charter of Human Rights law in the UK. This gives individuals about the same protection as the US constitution does. This is just one in a long line of civil rights the UK has introduced, dating back to the Magna Carter in 1230 (or there about).

The constitution of Europe is a complex area. Your skewed view of it is much in line with most of the population of Europe. The constitution does two things: It brings together all the treaties previously signed by European states (I think there are six of them) into one cohesive document. Secondly it updates are rules on voting and vetoes so that a Europe of 25+ countries can function. The previous rules dated back to when Europe consisted of 6 countries dominated by France and Germany. The veto was intended to protect the smaller countries. With an enlarged Europe the veto becomes a weapon of blackmail which allows nations to disadvantage the whole of Europe in pursuit of their own gains. However the veto has been retained in areas such as foreign policy and tax so that no country can be forced to purse a policy that is against its national interest.

That said, the constitution was never going to fly. A six hundred page document of dense legal language is never going to get people excited. The US constitution can fit on a couple of sides of A4 and has a handy bit called the Bill of Rights. This is a manageable size that people can understand. Europe needs a clear set of principles the population can understand and support. All the details of how it works needs to be left to the Eurocrats.

As to the poverty in Africa campaign. This is not a new thing. Blair and the labour party have been campaigning on this issue since before their 1997 election. The only reason people are talking about it now is because Blair will head both the G8 and Europe for the next 6 months. This allows him to bring the plight and suffering of hundreds of millions of people to the attention of the world.

The idea the "Britain is a country that doesn't know capitalism from a buttered scone" is a joke. We have one of the strongest economies in the world. We subsidise our industries less than the US and most of Europe. We do not impose unilateral tariffs on steel just because our domestic producers can't compete unlike the US. And the UK is campaigning for a free-market Africa. It is the WTO policies that prevent African nations competing in Europe and America. As to insisting African countries overthrow their dictators before we help, you are missing several important points:

1) Assuming Africa is one country. 40 african countries have held free and fair elections in the last few years.

2) Forgetting that the US has regularly supplied dictators around the world with guns and aid (something the UK and Europe has also done).

3) You invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam. Why is the US willing to help a wealthy, educated nation overthrow their dictators but not help some the poorest and most disadvantage people in the world overthrow theirs?

Posted by Chris Tregenza at Friday, June 17, 2005 03:07 AM

Chris,

Is the European Charter of Rights similar to the UN Declaration and the "rights" given in the EU Constituion? I haven't read it, and don't have time now, but if it is, it is nothing to brag about. There's two problems with them, as compared to the US Bill of Rights. First, both grant positive rights that, as I said in the article, have to be provided by somebody else. Positive rights are not rights at all, but favors and priveledges. Second, both sets of rights come from government. This necessarily casts rights as subordinate to government, and the EU Constitution was explicit in this, granting exceptions to most rights when they conflicted with the interests of the state.

The US Bill of Rights recognizes rights as pre-existing, and when rights conflict with state interests, it puts the state interest subordinate. It basically says that state interest is not legitimate when it conflicts with rights. I've seen no European or UN document that even considers this possibility.

My "skewed" view of the EU constitution comes from reading the source document. If the impression I get is not the view of most Europeans, then perhaps it is because Europe has been sold a bill of goods by its leaders. Your defending it by invoking it's ability to allow the 25+ countries of the EU to work together is fundamental to our disagreement. I don't want the 25+ EU states to "work together" anymore than I want the 50+ United States to work together, if it means the centralization of power and the subordination of individual rights. "The details need to be left to the Eurocrats" is your own abdication of your individual rights.

A strong economy is not the measure of capitalism. Your citing of things like tariffs is legitimate, but the issue of capitalism goes deeper than that. The US is far from practicing perfect capitalism, but the avarage American understands and embraces capitalism and individualism at a gut level that I have seen little indication of in Britain, and even less so on the Continent. The British, and even more so the general European, view of capitalism seems from this side of the pond to be more on the order of an occasional technique allowed by, and implemented by, government as needed to provide fuel for social programs. It is to be managed at the state level, for the benefit of all. It does not appear to be seen as an individual rightand an individual endeavor. Indeed, the European view of capitalism does not seem to take into account the individual at all. You seem to view capitalism as something that is allowed, we view it as something that needs no permission.

Yes, the European attitude toward capitalism is strong here as well, but we're coming at it from a different direction. If you understood capitalism the way I do, you might have cited Ireland as your argument. Though I'll admit, the exact relationship between Ireland and Britain has always been confusing to me, so maybe its incredible success, apparently from capitalist principles, doesn't reflect the British notion of capitalism.

I'd be happily surprised if I am wrong on all of this.

You misread me in a subtle but important way when you say that I want Africa to overthrow it's dictators before we help (by sending money). I said that African countries should overthrow their dictators before we forgive their debt. The Blair/Geldof notion of help is not help at all, but will dramatically worsen the situation in most of those countries. I don't want them to get that kind of "help" ever, dictators or no. I cited the principle on which debt should be forgiven once the dictators are gone, not as a means of help but because that debt is in no way owed by the people of Africa, and holding them to it once the dictator who borrowed and used the money for himself has been cut into little tiny pieces would be wrong.

I know that the British effort in Africa is not new, but Blair explicitly made the connection between the EU referenda failing and a renewed "aid" effort. I was just taking him at his word, and the juxtaposition of the two is an interesting window into the British view of capitalism and rights - or at least one segment of it.

Since you want to snipe at petty details of past wrongs, I'll remind you that the troubles in the Middle East and the prevelance of dictatorships in Africa could be laid squarely at the foot of the British Empire. Arbitrary borders, exploitation (and not by capitalists), and the power vacuum left by hasty retreat have left many a black mark on the world. Thank God we erased it from this contnent.

It seems the sun is indeed now setting on the British Empire, in more ways than one.

Posted by kylben at Friday, June 17, 2005 06:51 AM

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