Sunday, March 29, 2009

the north american exodus

Yesterday, former Mexican President Vicente Fox donned his Moses robes in San Antonio, and did his best Charlton Heston impression.

A remake of The Ten Commandments? Nope. But it may as well have been.

He was in Texas to share one of his fondest dreams -- a European Union-style union of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and eventually the rest of Latin America.

He has touted the idea before. As a concept, it is the very thing that sets the hearts of Foreign Affairs readers all atwitter.

The whole argument proceeds from the premise that the European Union has been a great success. Of course, the premise is flawed. The European Union has been, at best, a mixed bag.

The original idea was brilliant. Following the end of World War Two, European leaders desperately sought a method to stop the centuries-old cycle of wars on the continent. They knew that the various cultures and political systems could not be united, but they looked at history and concluded that nations with integrated trade systems could not afford to kill one another.

Thus was born the notion of an economic community. It started small: with coal and steel. Within decades, it had grown to a full European Economic Community.

At that point, Europeans realized that economies are not a separate mechanism of nations. Economies are affected by social laws. And along came the European Union with its restrictions on what each nation could impose on its own people.

Several member nations opted out of certain parts of the union. Britain, for instance, had a history that certain social conditions must exist from the bottom up, and not be imposed by a central authority -- lessons hard earned in a civil war and a Glorious Revolution.

In its haste to take advantage of the recently-freed eastern Europeans, the Union then took in nations that differed greatly in their social and economic structures from the original members. The result is the faltering European Union we see today.

Not all centralizing attempts are failures. After all, when the states sent representatives to Philadelphia in 1787, the purpose was to solve trade issues between the states. Instead of fixing the Articles of Confederation, the convention proposed a completely new political model in the Constitution. The advantage that the states had was that their basic social and political concepts were united -- with one terrible exception: slavery.

Former President Fox admitted, like Moses, he knew that the Chosen People would just as soon return to the Egypt of pre-NAFTA days. But he does not seem rady yet to admit that a step toward a North American Union will either lead to a political federation or a faltering failure.

If we are to have the debate, though, we need to start with the premise that who says A also says B. The debate is worth having.

Of course, there is a big difference in each Moses. The original had God; Vicente Fox simply has the Council on Foreign Relations.


American Mommy in Mexico said...

Pipe dream

Ron said...

It is a good idea that deserves serious exploration, even though many would rule it out of bounds before such consideration is given - but then I am one of those one-worlders. Bring on the black helicopters *laugh*

Steve Cotton said...

AMM -- The special and national interests that would line up against the idea in America may bear out your analysis.

Ron -- I am a patriot, but not a nationalist. But my gut tells me that the British were correct in Europe. Until social consensus develops, it is simply going to be an interesting idea. We already know where the Teamsters are on this one. And they are currently riding highin the political saddle.

norm said...

I want the whole cigar, add 30 or 40 states and run the union down to Colombia. Birthing pains-sure but in the long haul they would be worth it for all of the Americas.

Steve Cotton said...

Norm -- Europe had a history of war to overcome. That was incentive enough to deal with most of the cultural issues -- but for one: legal structures. The EU still struggles with the distinction between Anglo-Saxon due process and continental arbitrariness. A North American Union would face xactly the same issue -- with no historical imperative. I like the idea. But I doubt its efficacy.

Anonymous said...

President Vicente Fox has my vote. Nothing is perfect - even our separateness.


Anonymous said...

What exactly would we (or anyone else) gain from such an arrangement? Mexicans and Canadians want free movement of labor, but the U.S. seems to be dead set against it. Goods and capital already flow pretty freely.

And while we've fought one war with Mexico, more seem unlikely.

And I don't see the U.S. or Canada, or even Mexico for that matter exactly welcoming Hugo Chavez with open arms as an equal.

NAFTA went a long way toward gaining the benefits of liberalization without tying anyone down too much.

Interesting thought, though.

Fond regards,

Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we at times question our union with "red" states.

Steve Cotton said...

Mic -- As a declining power, we might want to grab a good deal while we can.

Kim -- I agree that extending an American Union beyond Mexico would not be very likely at the moment. But I could see jumping to Chile and Colombia to make them part of the union. Who says states have to be continguous to be economically bound? Just ask Hawaii and Alaska.