Published on the Fourth of July, a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Center Shouldn't Hold" by British author Andro Linklater largely slipped through under the radar. Apparently, the NYT felt that his prediction of a North American superstate would warm the patriotic hearts of Americans on Independence Day!
"the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which was created in 2005 by President Bush and counterparts in Mexico and Canada."
Well, is there an official plan to cede sovereignty to a North American version of the European Union?
I don't know. If there were, I certainly wouldn't be invited to any planning sessions!
The Mexican government has long publicly called for a North American Union, or, at least, for the cash handouts that Spain and other lower-income countries got when joining the EU.
"That's what [President Vicente] Fox essentially wants, the type of resource transfers that occurred in Spain and, before Spain, in Ireland, and, after Spain, in Portugal and Greece. The Germans were willing to build highways in Spain. Somebody else has to build our highways. We don't have the money." ["Jorge Castaneda: Mexico's Man Abroad," LA Times, August 12, 2001, By Sergio Munoz]
Conversely, the ramshackle Mexican economy, with its surprisingly profitable government-protected private monopolies (such as the one that has made telecom mogul Carlos Slim the new world's richest man), tantalizes certain American business interests. The most lusted-after Mexican property remains the most important monopoly that has yet to be privatized: Pemex, the dilapidated government oil company. Texas oil man Robert Mosbacher, who was the elder President Bush's Treasury Secretary, reportedly said that he wanted to be the first CEO of a private Pemex.
Mosbacher is now Chairman Emeritus of the U.S. Council of the Mexico-U.S. Business Committee. In 2005, his organization issued a report entitled "A Strategy for Building Competitiveness Within North America." Its Executive Summary says that it's time to move beyond NAFTA:
"At the heart of the Compact lies a grand bargain: the United States and Canada will work closely with Mexico to mobilize additional public and private sector resources to advance Mexico's development. In exchange, Mexico will commit to a robust program of second-generation reforms in regulatory harmonization, the rule of law, and infrastructure improvements …"
Wow! Another "Grand Bargain"! Where have we heard that phrase since?
Needless to say, "a robust, enforceable temporary worker program that will match willing workers with willing employers" is one of the four main planks of the Mosbacher group's "grand bargain".
So, clearly, people close to the Bush dynasty, such as Mosbacher, who was in charge of raising money for the elder Bush's 1992 re-election campaign, have been thinking hard about integrating America and Mexico further.
Now, it's not wholly ridiculous for America to consider shelling out some cash to pay for good government reforms in Mexico. Things like better education. More honest policemen and tax collectors. At minimum, it makes more sense for us to try to fix Mexico than to try to fix Iraq … although that's setting the bar for making sense awfully low!
However, the obvious problem with Mosbacher's scheme is that billions handed over to Mexico as part of a proto-North American Union would likely just be stolen by the Mexican elite. In turn, that would encourage more of the sleaze that drains the Mexican economy of jobs.
So, unless somebody can come up with a solution to the corruption conundrum, going down the EU route should be a non-starter.
And, indeed, that what the Bush administration claims it is. Linklater notes that, officially, a North American Union is not even being dreamt about:
"The Bush administration dismisses such claims as 'conspiracy theories,' 'myths' and lies.'"
Naturally! Who could imagine that the powers-that-be in Washington would ever try to fundamentally alter America behind closed doors and then ram it down our throats in a rush?
(Oh, wait; they just did try that with amnesty, didn't they? Never mind.)
Linklater's NYT op-ed reported something quite interesting:
"All of which would seem clear enough — were it not for the intriguing report issued in February by the partnership's entirely official North American Competitiveness Council, made up of leaders from the region's largest companies, including General Motors, Wal-Mart, Chevron and United Parcel Service. Among some 50 proposals, the council recommended a common "North American customs clearance system" by 2010, a "trilateral tax treaty" and the establishment of a "North American standard" as the "default approach" for regulations in all three countries covering food, agriculture, manufacturing, transport and intellectual property rights. Their recommendations are expected to be taken up when President Bush, President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada meet next month."
You see, the United States would be the 800 pound gorilla of any North America Union. Linklater pointed out:
"It is significant that even at this early stage, all Security and Prosperity Partnership agreements have involved the United States, although often excluding one of the other two partners, and that American regulations are the norm for most of the partnership's 24 existing bilateral and trilateral agreements covering trade and security."
To Linklater, quantity is more important than quality when it comes to defining America:
"In other words, folks like Mr. Dobbs and Representative Goode are facing in the wrong direction. The partnership is increasing rather than diminishing the scope of United States sovereignty. History is resuming its normal course. It may be slower than invasion or purchase, but the regulations and agencies needed to enforce them will pull Canada and Mexico within the reach of United States jurisdiction …"
Well, swell …
But what if we don't want to be responsible for Mexico? Do we get a choice?
Of course, there is some positive economic logic to greater North American integration, which means that business interests will lobby for it, and it will tend to advance quietly.
The developing synthesis of North American into a trilingual English-Spanish-French confederation would hand ever more power over to insiders.
This has already been the trend over the long history of our battered republic. The 2Blowhards culture blog recently summed up Gore Vidal's famous series of historical novels:
"Vidal's basic question is 'How did a freewheeling, human-scale jumble of a republic turn into a top-heavy, empire-building behemoth run by self-serving, world-hungry, militaristic elites accountable to no one at all?' What he shows are the various elite groupings each going for the gusto. The political class, the old-money class, the media crowd: One after another they detach themselves from a modest, serving-the-republic role and let fly with the raw self-interest.
They collude too: They reinforce each other, they marry into each other, they provide cover and money for each other. Why? For the pleasures of ego and power. Because they can. And they're doing it at the expense of the American public, clearly understood to be a bunch of clueless rubes …"
As Brenda Walker noted last year, Czech President Vaclav Klaus has cogently pointed out: "You cannot have democratic accountability in anything bigger than a nation state." [Czech warns Europe of 'dream world' woes By Arnaud de Borchgrave Washington Times November 25, 2003,]
The language problems are fundamental. A single language unifies a country into a shared "information sphere." When citizens can understand each other, they can monitor politics across their society and intelligently participate in debates.
In contrast, multiple languages make political awareness difficult for the non-elites. In the EU, power tends to drift into the hands of the self-perpetuating Eurocrats of Brussels, professional Europeans who are either multilingual or can afford translators.
James C. Bennett, author of The Anglosphere Challenge, explained to me, "No one person can really follow European politics as a whole, since that would require reading and speaking such a wide variety of languages with subtlety and ability to understand context, which only a handful might even try. A 'European' politics outside of the corridors of EU headquarters in Brussels does not and cannot exist."
An older word for "superstate" is "empire." The rigorous demands of running an empire naturally tend to undermine a republic, as the Romans discovered after absorbing Gaul. The complexity of governing multilingual domains is so great that more and more power flows from the legislature to the executive and the permanent bureaucracies.
Fewer democratic controls are tolerated since the people are deemed not well-enough informed to vote on the many esoteric issues that come up.
In other words, just because you are paranoid about the North American Union doesn't mean you don't have anything to worry about.