Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, May 29, 2005

C'est Non

Hi All,

The French have voted "non" on the EU constitution by a vote of 55% to 45%. By doing so they have disrupted the current version of the EU constitution but that's about all. Despite the widespread alarmism in the media about the possibility of a "non" vote, this vote has much to do with domestic French politics and will ultimately have only moderate effect on the EU as an institution. One thing is certain, this was not a vote to withdraw from the EU. I've heard many people declare that it is. I even heard a Professor from the French department tell his students a no vote would mean that France would withdraw from the EU and that this would therefore be a "blow against global capitalism." Well folks, that's why you shouldn't let French professors teach political science courses.

Another misconception is that this was the first referendum to be held. Spain has already ratified the constitution by referendum and a number of other member states, including Germany and Italy, have ratified it through parliamentary votes.

There are a number of factors that observers in Europe believe led to the no vote. Only a few have anything to do with the realities of France's relationship to the European Union. Some voters voted no because they think that the EU is a capitalist conspiracy. Others voted no because they think the EU is a socialist conspiracy. Still others voted no because they are nationalists who oppose any international cooperation on principle. And many voted no simply to humiliate a deeply unpopular President Chirac (who supported it along with the leaders of all three of the largest parties in France). From my point of view this says that the real story behind this no vote is one of protest.

France has suffered for years from chronicly bad government. Its entire welfare state is structured around archaic and inefficient professional priviledges that are jealously guarded by unions and professional associations that go out on strike at the drop of a hat. Other countries have far more efficient welfare states that are at least as generous (Denmark comes to mind). French voters are rightly upset about the stagnation of their economy. And their no vote is an expression of that general "malaise."

However, in my opinion, blaming the EU for that malaise is too easy a way out. There are too many other EU member states that have better economic performance and have been members for just as long to claim that the EU is the cause of their stagnation.

Comments? Post Mortems? (Posts Mortem??)

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

A Danish paper (Politikken ) I looked at said that the majority of people who voted no on the EU constitution in France told pollsters they did so because of the domestic economic conditions in France. Interestingly, rural voters were more likely to vote no than urban voters. This interesting because the EU budget is largely a mechanism for delivering subsidies to farmers (mostly French ones). Generally level of education was a good predictor of the vote. Highly educated voters voted yes, while less educated voters voted no. This paper also reported that 38% of the people who voted no in France did so because they wanted to hand Chirac a personal defeat.

There is a lot of talk about how this represents a crisis for "Europe." My suspicion from looking at the polls reported in this Danish paper, is that this vote had more to do with Chirac's unpopularity than with the EU itself. If that's true then we may see France vote again before the deadline (Oct 2006) and pass it after voters think Chirac has been sufficiently humiliated. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

US West said...

I think RBR has hit the nail on the head. The French have a fairly sophisticated approach to voting. They make U.S. voters look like simpletons in comparison because they never vote for an issue itself, but to against an issue in order to protest a fleet of other things. In other words, there is no single issue voting in France. This little habit is how they almost elected Jean-Marie Le Pen, remember.

I think it is worth remembering that the French barely voted in favor of the Maastricht Treaty. It was nearly a 50-50 vote. And let's remember that the government has always been more Pro-European than the French populous. Had this been a parliamentary vote, it may have been “OUI!”

I will say as well that in the last several years, popular tolerance for striking unions is starting to wane. The French public gets very tired of having their lives disrupted every fall for a month. Union members are make up a small sector of the employed. I have heard many non-union French complain about these disruptive protests as of late. So there is some sign of change in the French business attitude. Evidence is that when last in De Gaulle Airport, I received, for the first time, excellent customer service. Apparently many countries in Europe have started re-training their workers to be nicer.

Governance has been poor in France mostly because it caves on needed reforms every time 5 people hit the street with a picket sign.

What you didn't mention that Turkish accession talks have divided French opinion. And part of the protest vote may have been associated with this factor as well.

US West said...

Oh, and another thing which RBR mentions, urban voters are apparently upset at the outcome because, much like are coastal areas here, they are more globalized and wanted the constitution adopted.

Anonymous said...

In the US, it is an urban vs rural thing more than a coastal vs interior thing. If you look at the state by state results it looks like all of Ohio and Iowa like Republicans but if you break the results down into counties you find that both Ohio and Iowa are deeply divided between urban voters and rural voters.

A county by county electoral map makes urban counties stick out...even in the South!

OK back to France. Yes, the Turkish thing seems to have people nervous.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Sophistication is a funny way to put it, USWest. What you are really saying is that the French have so few opportunities to vote, relative to the # of issues on the plate, that each vote becomes a referendum on large amounts of public policy, rather than for the issues at hand. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Good point LTG. I hadn't thoguht of it quite like that, but you are correct. Of course, we only vote all the time because we have some many tiers of elected government not to metion the damned initiative system.

In any case, it lools like the Dutch will vote down to constitution. And reports this morning are focusing on the Dutch concern over Turkish entry into the Union and the possible immigration that might trigger. 

// posted by USEst

Anonymous said...

Here is a URL to see how the voting broke out region by region in France. It is a pretty interesting map in that only the North West part of the country was in favor with a few isolated spots in Paris and the Eastern part.  

// posted by USWest

US West said...

Let's try getting the link to be a bit more prominent. I don't like the new way of posting comments by the way. I wish Blogger would quit changing it.

http://www.lemonde.fr/web/vi/0,47-0@2-631760,54-655042,0.html

Anonymous said...

Sorry, USWest, the new commenting system is mine and I admit it's not very clear. I've changed it a bit to make it more obvious what's going on. The field that was "URL" before has been changed to "Your Website" and the button "Link" now reads "Insert Link". This makes it very easy to put in a link like the one you put in . Also, all the fields (name, e-mail, website) are optional.

There! Hope that clears things up. 

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

All the talk seems to be about whether the vote was pro-Europe or anti-Europe. But maybe some of the issue was the "constitution" itself. Take a look at it. It's an absolute mess. The US constitution is a few pages. This is a book. Europe needs a real constitution. What may have happened was that a whole bunch of issue-specific legislation was cobbled together in one document called 'constitution.' And that was a bad idea. The Dutch socialists opposed it because of implications for Dutch liberal laws, and thus joined conservatives in voting No. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Yes, the thing is a mess. But people who voted no were often simultaneously condemning the policy garbage inserted by other interest groups and demanding more of their favorite policies be inserted.

Greens for example insist there be lots of references to environemntal protection but are shocked by references to free trade and "liberal economics."

By trying to be all things to all people this constitution has alienated nearly everyone.

And while this constitution is hardly well written, it is better and easier to figure out than the multiple treaties it replaces. One of Chirac's mistakes was to present the constitution as if the alternative were a better constitution. The real alternative is continuing on with the even more convoluted treaty networks.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

It's too bad there are no Federalist Papers for Europe.

I think the vote against the constitution was not a vote against "ever closer Union" as has been suggested by some pundits. There appears to be quite a bit of support for Europe as an idea. What is needed is a new constitution proposal with simple, transparent goals and an a real governmental structure. Direct election of an EU President would be a bold and appropriate start. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I would tentatively agree with LTG on that. But the constitution is being written by representatives of the member state governments who are holding line on state sovereignty. And there are significant factions in each member state that want the member state governments to be firm on the sovereignty issue - even if they support the EU as it now exists.

I've heard a lot of EU studies people lately talking about a period of very slow, modest change for the next "decades." I'm not so sure they have the time frame right but I do think that as the EU grows, the ability to arrive at a consensus about what to do next becomes more and more difficult. That will slow change and make it more modest. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

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