Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.

Europe 157,327, U.S. 7,481 - U.S. Wins  | e-mail post


While normally one might think that a 20-to-1 deficit would indicate some kind of loss, this is one case that I think we can be happy coming it such a distant second. So what are the above numbers? The word lengths of the not-yet-ratified European Union constitution compared to our comparatively brief U.S. Constitution, including all of the amendments it has taken on over the past 200-plus years. Now, for those who think I am being unfair by including the annexes and declarations of the EU constitution, I will only say that those two portions are a) a part of the proposed constitution and b) still less than half the total word count. Even the EU's own summary runs almost 6,300 words, about twice the length of our unamended Constitution. I suspect the U.S. Constitution could probably be summarized, in fair detail, at 1,000 words. [Feel free to browse the 6 PDFs containing the EU constitution] [U.S. Constitution] [Amendments to the U.S. Constitution]

Now, some of this may simply be the advantage our founders had, working in a simpler time. Possibly the most stark contrast can be drawn by pointing to the actual presence of a logo for the EU constitution (and a 19-page usage guide [English PDF]). Of course, as anyone in the corporate world knows, every initiative or project needs a name, as if it were a military operation, and any project of significance certainly needs a logo, or at least a graphic design treatment. I just can't imagine some young scribe running into the constitutional convention to get Hamilton's or Jefferson's opinion about the use of Pantone 280 for the background color, or whether Helvetic Neue would be a good typeface to present the constitution to the states. (And, to be clear, the logo must be a big issue, as the "graphical design and logo" section is linked from the top-level main page on the EU constitution!)

I think another possible consideration is that Europeans, particularly the French, and by implication the Belgians, are sticklers for detail and are nothing if not all about standards. The meter bar is sitting in Paris. Cardinal de Richelieu founded the French Academy (or Académie Française, more properly) to regulate and preserve the purity of the French language back in 1635, long before the French could have anticipated the profound damage the new world would cause the French language some four and a half centuries later, with our use of words like "bazooka" and "e-mail" ("courriel" to you francophiles). And while I certainly am weary of (and occasionally appalled by) Americans' abuse of our own language, I can't imagine regulating its use.

I am sure it is a combination of factors including both the regulatory cultural bias of contintential Europe as well as the way we in the contemporary world are prone to making things more difficult and more complex than they need to be. I'm not sure that either main political party in the U.S. has produced a platform shorter than the U.S. Constitution in recent memory. General guidance has been replaced by specific directives. Ultimately, I am confident that the EU constitution's specificity will prove its weakness in the same way our Constitution's generality has proven its strength.

What got me thinking about the EU constitution in the first place was the Wall Street Journal Europe Op-Ed piece by Craig Winneker, "Roving Europe," in which he discusses how Karl Rove, with all his political genius, may be the one man alive who could get the EU constitution ("an almost entirely unsellable document") ratified across all of Europe. I do tire of the deification of Rove, not because I think he's undeserving (he is smart, there's no question), but because I think it denigrates Bush's victory and is another example of the broader move to discussing politics as process, rather than as policy, by the American public. However, the piece was worth a chuckle. One of the funnier bits:
Denmark: This small Scandinavian country has proven to be an inveterate flip-flopper when it comes to EU referendums -- a reputation that should be exploited to maximum effect. Case in point: Denmark actually voted against the Maastricht Treaty before it voted for it. Just as the indecisive Hamlet eventually chose the road that led to self-destruction, so can today's wavering Danes be trusted to eventually vote "yes" -- and, with Mr. Rove's help, maybe even in less than two rounds.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Monday, November 29, 2004
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