To me, the story of Ukraine is the story of vanquished aristocracy. Twice in Ukraine’s history, first by the Mongols then by the Bolsheviks, the most capable Ukrainians, the successful, the talented, the leadership were obliterated — vanquished, killed or deported — a potentially ruinous blow for any society and testimony to the resilience of Ukrainians. Between these catastrophes, we have tremendous assimilation pressure from Russian- or Polish-imposed feudalism and its violent resistance by our kozaks.
These warriors kept the Ukrainian idea alive and for this we owe them a debt of gratitude, but for all their legendary self-reliance and ferocity, the kozaks failed to create a society prosperous enough to endure among hostile neighbors. An agrarian morality is insufficient for prosperity.
And the Ukrainian soul, if judged by the poets, is an agrarian soul — a peasant soul, if you’ll forgive the term — longing for the return of its ancient kings and glory.
Tonight, Ukrainians are in the streets. They say they want to join the European Union. I don’t believe them. I don’t want to believe them. I prefer to believe that they want three things: property rights, economic opportunity, the ability to travel.
I prefer to believe this because when I consider the other possibility, I see serfs begging for better masters. I see people who want all the benefits of a free society and none of its responsibilities.
No one has ever begged their way to freedom. Property rights which are true and lasting cannot be given, they must be earned. In the words of Lord Byron, “He who would be free must strike the first blow.”
Do not ask to be protected. Insist only on the right to protect yourself. Accept the responsibility as the kozaks did. This is first.
Secondly, do not ask for any assistance beyond right to exercise whatever talents you have in the open market. Drop the agrarian norm of guarding opportunities by violence and law as if they were property. Instead, welcome the dignified, measured, aristocratic competition of the marketplace, and may the best man win. Expose as much of society as possible to the bloodless competition of the market.
This is the long hard road. There is no other. There are no guides. One either accepts the responsibilities or forfeits the rewards. The appeal to join the European Union is an attempt to achieve prosperity at a discount without shouldering the necessary burdens and without traveling the difficult road.
The European Union is Not Europe.
It is hard to conceive of an organization less European than the European Union.
Imagine observing the 15th century world. You might see the enormous armies of the Ottoman Empire capture Constantinople, the former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, or the wondrous imperial palaces of China’s Forbidden City and the Ming dynasty reach its pinnacle, while in Europe you’d find absurdly small scattered tribes of pale people, each with their own language and culture, occasionally warring, and what can only be described as political anarchy.
Who would have guessed that in a few centuries, it was neither the Ottomans nor the Chinese, but the disparate peoples (let me stress the plural — peoples) who would come to dominate the globe, settle other continents, represent ninety percent of the world’s economic activity, and export modern civilization to the rest of the world.
It was not political union but disparity which laid the foundation for the European miracle and for that matter, modern civilization.
So if Ukrainians want to be European, they should be European: Create small, more or less homogeneous societies. Decentralize. Renew Magdeburg Rights for any city, town or region willing to shoulder the responsibility. These laws already have a Ukrainian history. There is a monument to them in Kyiv.
The vast bureaucracy known as the European Union is an imposter selling defective property rights, defective prosperity and an enormous lie about the nature of Europe. Any political union with them risks being another Treaty of Pereyaslav: temporary relief purchased with Ukrainian sovereignty.
Establishing property rights is the prerequisite, the responsibility, the burden, and the obligation for anyone serious about prosperity. Property rights court entrepreneurs. And it is the entrepreneurs, not the layers of incompetent government, who create prosperity.
What’s more, Ukraine doesn’t trade with Russia, Poland or anyone else. Countries don’t trade. Businesses and people trade. Where ever there are opportunities, entrepreneurs will cross hell and high water to realize them, but without property rights, there are no opportunities.
The Marxists have long since left Moscow for Brussels.
I understand the fear many Ukrainians have of Russia. I inherited the same fear — from my parents and my grandfather who literally ran away from Bolshevik agents with just moments to spare after a Jewish neighbor tipped him off.
There remains a threat to Ukraine from Moscow, but it is limited and easily understood. It comes from oligarch-gangsters violently guarding economic opportunities like the peasants they are. Their ideological goals are relegated to blurring the distinction between Ukrainians and Russians, and arguing some points of Ukrainian history — a struggle we’re accustomed to, and which, incidentally, can be won (if it isn’t already) by decentralizing the education system.
The Marxist plan in Brussels, by contrast, is fundamentally ideological. They want your heart and soul under their sway. Theirs is a cultural Marxism, a product of an evolution that occurred at Germany’s Frankfurt School when the economic Marxists grew impatient with the proletariat’s unwillingness to revolt, and with their troublesome sense of national pride.
The difficulty had been described by Lenin: “Patriotism is one of the deepest feeling firmly rooted in the hearts of people for hundreds and thousands of years from the moment their separate father lands began to exist. It has been one of the greatest, one can say, exceptional difficulties of our proletariat revolution.” Thus, a branch of revolutionaries dedicated themselves to weakening and undermining culture.
The “problem” of ethnicity occasionally gets discussed by EU ideologues. Peter Sutherland of the World Bank, Goldman Sachs, and the Global Forum on Migration and Development advised the EU to “undermine” European ethnicities by mass immigration.
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council has said, “the time of the homogenous nation state is over.” Some German Social Democrats explicitly favor immigration to dilute the German population, diminishing “the worst characteristics of the nation.”
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, wrote: “we need to rethink our attitudes to concepts like ‘independence’ and ‘sovereignty’.”
As of 2004, less than 85% of people in France are French. In Holland and Sweden, the native European population has dwindled closer to 80%. Perhaps embarrassed by what it would show, Britain recently announced an end to their two-hundred-year-old practice of gathering census data.
Despite the attempt to hide the effects of immigration, the appearance of “Mohammed” as the most popular baby name in England was widely publicized. A school in Kreuzberg, Berlin has only three ethnically German students. A school in Bergamo, Italy as no ethnic Italians at all. Are Europeans meant to be the only people on the globe not entitled to a homeland?
When Sports Illustrated magazine put African footballer on their cover, celebrating his talent was not enough, the editors found it necessary to add the heading “the face of new Europe.”
It’s a pity this “face of new Europe” isn’t the one appealing to Ukrainians in the pro-EU television commercial, reassuring us that Ukraine is “a part of Europe both geographically and culturally.” Instead, they chose a conservative German man, despite his ethnicity being, according to the Social Democrats, in need of dilution.
Every tyranny needs to homogenize the culture within the territory it aspires to rule. Ukrainians should understand this. When the Soviet Union aspired to rule the world, they conspired to make everyone Russian. For various reasons, not least geographic, Ukraine bore the brunt of this forced integration.
The EU proceeds with gentler hands, and not toward Russification, but toward making everyone a non-descript beige color, toward what used to be a popular term among Marxists, the “new socialist man,” who has no roots, no lineage, and resembles a lump of clay needing only to be molded.
Czech writer Milan Kundera put it best: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
What irony that a favorite activity of the pro-EU demonstrators is the chanting nationalist slogans — “slava Ukraiini!”
I concede that the extended-family cultures of eastern and southern Europe do not seem as susceptible to cultural invasion as the nuclear-family-based cultures of the west and north. Nevertheless, they are not immune. Ukrainians should check their enthusiasm and if they proceed into this union they should do so skeptically, and if at all possible, heavily armed.
The government can only make a society poorer.
The now-forgotten rhetoric of the EU’s creation promised unprecedented prosperity at no cost, an idea now resurrected in the minds of Ukrainian protestors. Something for nothing. The enormous, catastrophic failure of this promise is evident for anyone who cares to look:
– Governments teeter on the brink of insolvency.
– The European Central Banks finds ever more creative schemes and euphemisms to disguise the printing of money.
– Unemployment in the Euro Zone is now the highest it’s been since the turn of the millennium. In Greece and Spain, youth unemployment is approaching 60%.
– Production is contracting.
– European banks’ non-performing loans have doubled between 2008 and 2012 to almost 1.2 trillion Euros.
– Household and national indebtedness continues to increase steadily.
Yes, the west is more prosperous than Ukraine. It is old wealth. Too many Ukrainians cannot distinguish the wealth from the parasite consuming it. Let’s not rush to join a sinking ship.
When faced with their obvious failures, the bureaucrats in Brussels do what all real and aspiring tyrants do — they hunt for saboteurs, “kulaks”, people who aren’t pulling their fair share. They hunt for tax evaders while granting for themselves high tax thresholds and non-contributing pension schemes. They also propose solutions: more power, more laws, and more taxes.
Despite vigorous arguments and protests both for and against “austerity,” it hasn’t actually occurred. All major governments have increased spending as percentage of GDP since the rhetoric began amid the 2008 crisis. Eventually, they will run out of cows to milk.
German chancellor Merkel argued last month for close EU supervision of national budgets, an argument reminiscent of the infamous words of 19th century banker Mayer Amschel Rothschild: “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.”
No facet of life is considered beyond the business of the EU administration:
– In 2010, they caused chaos in British supermarkets when they attempted to enforce the selling of eggs by weight instead of by number.
– The Commission tried to ban 54 mm wide cigarette packs in favor of 55 mm wide cigarette packs.
– Pending national approval, all EU companies listed on stock exchanges may be forced to ensure 40% of their non-executive directors are women.
– Individual nations had to go through the repeal process to overturn laws which banned improperly shaped bananas and cucumbers.
– EU scientists backtracked on a very bizarre claim that no proof existed linking consumption of water with relief from dehydration.
– A 2009 EU directive forces member states to criminalize the very common practice of websites using cookies.
The exercising by member states of their diminishing sovereignty is seldom tolerated. When Irish voters rejected an EU treaty, they were forced to vote on it over and over, each time subjected to a different flavor of propaganda until finally it passed.
When the EU conquered Croatia earlier this year, only 22% of the public turned out to vote. Their political class received massive, thinly veiled bribes under the name “pre-accession aid” in exchange for their county’s sovereignty. It saddens me that if the protesters get their way, Ukraine’s sovereignty will be sold for a much lower price.
The EU has allowed what was once an industrious, self-reliant spirit to turn away from the responsibility of marketplace competition and instead walk the slow road to poverty and degradation through reliance on ever-increasing welfare programs. It is a pleasant journey, full of reassurances that other people will take care of you. I can understand the eagerness of Ukrainians.
It is summarized in the great saying of Montaigne , the French Renaissance-era writer: “human society goes very incompetently about healing its ills. It is so impatient under the immediate irritation which is chafing it that it thinks only of getting rid of this, careless of the cost…. Good does not necessarily ensue upon evil; another evil may ensue upon it, and a worse one.”
Don’t search for a better master.
I want desperately to believe the protesters are demonstrating for property rights and access to markets. I support this. I also support the protesters to the extent that they represent a move away from Russian imperial ambitions. But Ukrainians should proceed cautiously, and, as I said, heavily armed, if possible.
Consider the possibility that Ukraine don’t have to choose between Russia and the EU at all. Ukrainians can choose Ukraine.
Notice the advice of former Czech President Vaclav Klaus who called for his country to leave the EU. Notice the flourishing of Iceland since they left the union.
Anything Ukrainians believe can be achieved by joining the EU can more likely be achieved by a unilateral declaration of free trade. Let all goods cross the Ukrainian boarder in both directions. Welcome the competition because it would be a competition in the satisfaction of our needs and desires. If the notoriously corrupt customs bureaucracy needs to be bought off to achieve this, then so be it. Consider their price a bargain. Let them retire and seek a place in the market.
Beware of using EU membership as an excuse to avoid responsibility and competition. It is tempting. For centuries, since the vanquishing of our aristocracy, we have been a culture in search of a state.
The ancient kings will not return. What remains of our potential as a people remains inside of us, the survivors, and nowhere else. There is, there has always been, and there will always be exactly one way for a people’s best characteristics to coalesce and rise to their potential: take responsibility for security, establish and defend property rights, and compete in the bloodless, limited, dignified competition of the market. Expose as much of society as possible to this competition and may the best man win. It is a difficult, even terrifying road, but there is no other.