Posts tagged ‘France’

05/07/2012

France: What Socialist Win Means

FRANCE NOW SOCIALIST: While Republican strategists in the U.S. totally distort the meaning of the word “socialist” by claiming President Obama has become one, since he signed a bill that preserved capitalism, by placing private sector insurance companies, instead of the government, in control of America’s health care system, French voters are not that gullible, and they were not at all confused last week when they elected Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, to be their next President.

U.S. CONFUSION: Many in the U.S. confuse the meaning of political and economic systems. Political systems can range from monarchy, or dictatorship, on the one extreme, to democracy, or Republican forms of government on the other. Economic systems include pure free market capitalism, on one hand, socialism in the middle, and communism on the other end of the spectrum.

POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SYSTEMS CAN BE MIXED: Countries are free to mix together different types of economic and political systems. Saudi Arabia has a dictatorial monarchy, coupled with a capitalist economic model. The one-party dictatorship in North Korea functions within a communist framework. Voters in the U.S. democracy lean towards more capitalism and less socialism, while those in other republics, like France, are now opting for more socialism, and less capitalism.

U.S. REQUIRES ONLY DEMOCRACY: The U.S. Constitution requires only a Republican form of government, or in other words, a democratic electoral process. The Constitution makes no mention of “capitalism” or “free markets.” U.S. House members and Senators are free to implement whatever regulations of commerce they wish, using more or less capitalism, or socialism.

SOCIALISM BEGAN IN EUROPE: After the first Socialist Party was founded in Germany in 1861, over time it gained popular support throughout Europe. While progress was made in the Russian Revolution in 1917, as the absolute monarchy of the Czar was overthrown, the movement went too far in the civil war, as a harsh dictatorial communist state gained control. Socialists, who had supported personal liberties and regular democratic elections, had no place in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

DICTATORSHIPS ARE PER SE BAD: To be clear, no country should ever return to the old Stalinist communist model, as it was dictatorial, and denied opportunities to modify economic policies in the market, or through the ballot box. One way or another, individuals had to be free to influence politics and economics.

CONTROLLED-ECONOMIES FAIL ON SUPPLY-SIDE: When government-controlled command economies decide what goods to manufacture, and determine supply, without regard to consumer demand, systems become dysfunction, shortages arise, and black markets develop. If central planners fail to open up enough retail outlets, service declines from the absence of competition.

CAPITALISM PREFERRED AS TO RETAIL GOODS: Supply should never be determined from the top down, but rather from the bottom up. It should be based on the collective demands of consumers, not guesses by bureaucratic planners. Market economies are useful when it comes to boots, blue jeans, and other goods. It is the bottom up message that creates efficiencies.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS TEND TO MONOPOLIZE: The government does however have an important role to play in free enterprise, particularly in maintaining competition, which is essential for the system to work. Total free market capitalists, when completely left to their own devices, ultimately devour their own. Where power concentrates, firms get too big to fail, and governments must step in with antitrust laws to bust them up. Without antitrust actions one corporation in each economic sector ultimately dominates, eliminates all competition, and the same inefficiencies observed in command economies surface.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS WOULD ABUSE LABOR: Without regulatory laws, workers in a pure free market economy would serve at the whim of their employers. There would be no collective bargaining, no occupational health or safety rules, wages would have no floor, and injured or laid-off workers would go uncompensated. There would be no pensions, or retirement for that matter, since everyone would just keep working.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS WOULD POLLUTE: Without restraints on a totally free market economy, factories would be able to dump polluted water into rivers, and motor vehicles would belch noxious exhaust fumes into the atmosphere, unabated.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS HAVE ENACTED GOOD LAWS: Laws to improve living conditions and to give individuals some degree of security against unemployment, accident, illness, old-age, and the like were needed, and have been enacted by state legislatures using their police powers, and by the federal lawmakers under the Congressional power to regulate commerce.

SOCIALISM IS BETTER FOR ESSENTIAL SERVICES: While the free market is better when it comes to consumer goods, the pure capitalist system has many flaws in the delivery of essential services, since it does not concern itself with equitable distributions of wealth. Many people suffer when the government stays out and gives private enterprise a free hand as to everything. A system in which only those who can afford essential services can buy them, and those who cannot go without, is not a good one, and is prone towards revolution. While pure capitalists believe government should never interfere in economic affairs, no matter how much disparity exists, Social Democrats have made the world a better place, and it could be improved even more, if more nations would follow the French lead.

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06/21/2011

European Union Needs More Power

Since 54% of the 483 million-member European Union (EU) come from Germany, France, Britain and Italy, too much is being made of the Euro Crisis, as only 2% of the EU population lives in Greece, 2% in Portugal, and less than 1% in Ireland. The Euro Crisis simply does not directly affect 95% of the European Union.

Britain, one of three to opt out of the Euro, with Denmark and Sweden, is now smirking on the sidelines and hyping the crisis, as the German Bank tries to craft bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland. But British criticism of the Euro-zone is not the answer. The Euro instead needs more, not less power. What the UK could do to help and restore Euro confidence is to boldly abandon the Pound and adopt the Euro.

Here, in America, many are unable to follow the EU story, since the organization did not even exist when they were in school. The EU had its origins with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) (1952), and the Common Market, also known as the European Economic Community (EEC) (1957). The EEC later became the European Community (EC) (1967), and finally the European Union (1992), which now has 27 member states.

The EU established an Economic and Monetary Union, which opened a European Central Bank in Frankfurt (1998), and circulated a Euro Currency (2002). Britain, Denmark and Sweden opted out of the Euro. The Central Bank controls Euro monetary policy and affects national spending, since Euro-zone states are now unable to print their own currencies and must make up for budget shortfalls by borrowing. The EU adopted a Stability and Growth Pact to limit national budget deficits, but Greece, Ireland and Portugal failed to comply. With no money to print, and none to borrow at reasonable rates, a crisis developed.

A European solution is not as easy as the one implemented in the U.S. during the recent financial crisis, where Congress and Federal Reserve Bank stopped things from spinning out of control. Although EU institutions look like those in the U.S., since they have an executive in Brussels (Commission and Council of Ministers), a 732-member Parliament in Strasbourg, and a Court of Justice, in Luxembourg, they are not as strong as their U.S. counterparts. The EU is not really a political union able to make its own decisions, but rather an organization which is dictated to by its 27 member states. The EU Parliament has no general lawmaking power and cannot tax and spend. All the EU can do is issue directives to member states and ask national governments to implement EU policy.

Some say the EU will never become the USA of Europe, but it’s just a matter of time. It took the U.S. 172 years to assemble 50 states in one union across North America, and it will take many years to complete the European Union picture.

For now, instead of Britain, Denmark and Sweden resisting the Euro currency, as they have in the past, they should courageously convert to it and give the EU more power. All 27 member-states should grant their EU institutions the authority they need to keep their currency strong, so they can correct the budgetary problems in the member states, such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

04/14/2011

French Ban On Veils Violates Treaty

Although France historically separated church and state, they are now fighting a growing Muslim influence, by banning women from wearing veils in public places. The new law may violate not only the French Constitution, but also Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) (1950), and the European Union Treaty (EU) (1992).

A Muslim woman could challenge the French law in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. This is the tribunal for the 46 countries that signed the ECHR. The treaty provides: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” including the right “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

The treaty also says: “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations, as are prescribed by law, and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others” (Art. 9). The treaty issue would be whether the law is needed for public safety?

The law could also be challenged in the national courts of France. French courts are not however like their American counterparts, where a judge may declare a law unconstitutional. French judges do not have the power to overturn a legislative act. The French do, however, have a Constitutional Council, that reviews legislation to determine if it conforms to their constitution. If the Council deems the law constitutional, and a court then finds the defendant guilty of violating it, there is still another court that may review it.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg serves as the tribunal for the 27-member European Union. For the case to be reviewed there, the defendant would have to ask the French court to submit the issue to the ECJ. They have no obligation to do so. While some European high courts have referred cases to the ECJ, France has not been one of them. If France referred the issue, the ECJ could declare the French law incompatible with the EU treaty, which is partly based on respect for fundamental rights.

This issue reminds me of Catholic nuns in the U.S. who would cover their bodies in black robes. We in America could never tell them how to dress. France needs to treat the Muslim veil issue the same way.

03/23/2011

Egypt: Libyan Rebels Need Your Tanks

A recent UN Resolution authorized intervention in Libya to protect the civilian population from Qaddafi. Since Qaddafi is an ongoing threat to those in the civilian population who oppose him, the only way to protect the people is to remove Qaddafi.

While the western states appear to willing to use air power to protect Libyan civilians, this alone will not work. The conflict will not end, until Qaddafi is removed, and that will not occur, until a well-equipped land force closes in on Tripoli.

We must start with the reality that Qaddafi will not step down peacefully. He has nowhere to go. He has the ability to remain, because he has oil money. He can purchase military materiel and keep his troops well paid. They will fight the rebels as long and as hard as they can, as their futures are tied to Qaddafi’s.

Force must be used. While targets have already been destroyed from the air, Qaddafi is one step ahead of the attacks. He has been through this before. U.S. planes bombed his residence in 1986 in a failed attempt to assassinate him. For over 25 years, Qaddafi has been looking over his shoulder. He has had time to think about the next bombing campaign. He will not be taken out by air.

The removal of Qaddafi must come on the ground. But who will use troops? The rebels themselves obviously must take the lead, but they are ill-equipped. Who will provide military hardware?

Qatar offered troops to fight Qaddafi, but this was not out of a desire to support democracy. It was instead because they have a monarchy and Qaddafi came to power in 1969 by overthrowing a king. Qatar’s motives are suspect. Their offer should be rejected.

France has a history of fighting Qaddafi. In Libya’s war against the former French colony of Chad (1980s), they sent in troops and planes. Qaddafi would however accuse France of neo-colonialism and the French should not put their boots on the ground.

Italy, Germany and Britain also have military experience in Libya, dating back to World War II. While U.S. troops advanced eastward from Morocco through Algeria into Tunisia, the English 8th Army won the battle at El Alamein in Egypt in 1942 and drove Irwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, and his German and Italian forces, westward through Libya also into Tunisia.

Italy and Germany will not get involved now. Italy has a colonial history in Libya, and if they used troops, Libyans would unite against them. Germany will also stay out. They abstained from the UN Res. and oppose even air strikes, let alone ground forces. With regards to Britain, they have a colonial history in Egypt and would be unable to mount an offensive from Egyptian soil.

This leads us to Egypt. The Egyptian people should identify with the Libyan rebels, as they just got rid of Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years. Egypt does not have a monarch. They forced their king to abdicate in 1952. Egypt shares the same Sunni Muslim religion with Libya. They could not be accused of conducting a Crusade. They have 79 million people, as compared to only 6.3 million Libyans, and could assemble a volunteer army large enough to help the rebels.

Egypt has military hardware, including tanks, as they are the largest recipient of U.S. aid (after Israel). The Egyptians should drive their tanks to the Libyan border and allow the Libyan rebels to reflag them, using the traditional Libyan symbol. They should then slowly drive the tanks from east to west, along 1,000 miles of Mediterranean coast, past Benghazi, where they would be greeted with support, and on to the shores of Tripoli, for a showdown with Qaddafi. With the barrel of an Egyptian tank pointed at his front door, my guess is Qaddafi would finally step down.