Whilst reading ‘The Wealth & Poverty of Nations’ by David Landes it occurred to me that it was telling a story that Eurosceptics might recognise and relish. It is a review of the causes of the rise and fall of nations, in particular, during the second millennium. The author pays much attention to China during this time. In the first half of this period China was far in advance of western Europe in science and invention generally but by the 16c progress stopped for the next 500 years.
He speculates as to why this should have been (Page 56) and selects what he regards are the three most persuasive of Sinologists’ suggestions. The first is the absence of a free market and institutionalised property rights – the Chinese state was always interfering in private enterprise. The second was the larger values of the society, in particular the restrictions put on women meant they could not contribute to production or the development of ideas, unlike modern women.
He gives most attention to the third and, inter alia, quotes from ‘the great Hungarian-German-French sinologist, Etienne Balazs’ who ‘sees China’s abortive technology as part of a larger pattern of totalitarian control’. Part of the quotation follows.
‘…..if one understands by totalitarianism the complete hold of the State and its executive organs and functionaries over all the activities of social life, without exception, Chinese society was highly totalitarian. No private initiative, no expression of public life that can escape official control. There is to begin with a whole array of state monopolies, which comprise the great consumption staples: salt, iron, tea, alcohol, foreign trade. There is monopoly of education, jealously guarded. There is practically a monopoly of letters (I was about to say, of the press):anything written unofficially, that escapes the censorship, has little hope of reaching the public. But the reach of the Moloch-State, the omnipotence of the bureaucracy, goes much further. There are clothing regulations. a regulation of private and public construction (dimensions of houses); the colors (sic) one wears, the music one hears, the festivals – all are regulated. There are rules for birth and rules for death; the providential State watches minutely over every step of its subjects, from cradle to grave. It is a regime of paperwork and harassment, endless paperwork and harassment’. Page 57
I do not think all of these ills can be said to be occurring in the EU (yet?). However, that is the direction of travel and justifies the title of this paper when you consider the governance and fate of many of the supra-national Empires which have attempted to control Europe over the last two millennia. See ‘A crisis without end’ by Brendan Sims and Timothy Less in the New Statesman dated November 5th 2015 for an excellent summary and analysis of what they see as the inevitable demise of these Empires. This paper was presumably the origin of dear Boris’s valid but unnecessary comparison of Nazi Germany and the EU, at least in the way it was presented.
At this point I think it will be useful to also consider the use of the phrase ‘Moloch-State’ in the above quotation. According to Landes, RJ Rushnoony, in ‘Politics of Guilt and Pity’ describes this as initially involving worship of Moloch as the ‘divine-human link between heaven and earth’. This belief, over time, was replaced by the State ‘in the thinking of modern secular man’. Democracy as the basis of government is to be seen as an interlude, with the State ultimately claiming ‘total jurisdiction over Man’. Thus the Moloch-State is achieved and is entitled to the total sacrifice given to the God/King of old. In fact, Peter Baillie, one of my colleagues at UKIP East Hants believes Moloch refers to a deity with an insatiable desire for endless sacrifice!
There are clearly elements of the Moloch-State in the EU. If we look in more detail at the first of the suggested causes of China’s lack of progress, ie. the absence of a free market, we find that Landes summarises it as ‘bad government (which) strangled initiative, increased the cost of transactions (and) diverted talent from commerce and industry’. It is not difficult to apply this to the EU. Nor is it difficult to see the rule-bound society that was China in the modern EU although the latter’s rules clearly owe their origin to the Napoleonic Code. Presumably authoritarian regimes find it easier to exercise control by these means. Authoritarianism can also be seen in other aspects of the EU: Its Commissioners and the Council of Ministers deliberate in secret and their decisions cannot be challenged; they are surrounded by high-paid bureaucrats, themselves isolated from ‘the people’; and, no criticism is allowed of the EU itself or the Commissioners. In fact, any employee or pensioner of the EU who criticises the EU can lose their job or pension. No wonder it is easy to find pensioners to criticise the Leave campaign but none to support it.
This enquiry has suggested that the same ills that undermined 16-20c China are present in the EU. Can one assume the result will be the same? I think so, particularly if we consider the Sims & Less paper which shows it is the fate of most supra-national entities. It is indeed ironic that as Western Europe declines China is rising again. Plus ça change?