Daniel Hannan could be the ultimate tea-party candidate, waving his pocket Constitution, citing the Founders, and warning that we are in danger of losing America itself. Hannan even holds public office. Just not in America. He’s a Brit — and a member of the European Parliament — with a love for the Red, White, and Blue. It’s out of that love that he’s written The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America. He talks about it with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: “The United States is becoming just another country.” How far along are we?
DANIEL HANNAN: The abandonment of American particularism started with the first Roosevelt but really took off with the second. Like most bad things, it happened from good intentions. FDR saw himself as the champion of the masses against the lobbies. Convinced of his moral rectitude, he tolerated no constraints on his power. He sidelined the legislature, ignored the conventional two-term limit, ruled by executive order, tried to pack the Supreme Court and constructed a massive federal bureaucracy, much of which is still in place.
You don’t need to look far to see parallels with the past two years. A Democratic president assumes office, bringing a massive majority with him to both Houses. He takes over during a financial crisis that has been blamed on a failure of capitalism. He’s determined to “do something” — and that something involves extending government and spending a great deal of money. The economic ill effects are already becoming clear; but the political consequences, as power is shifted from the 50 states to Washington, from the legislature to the executive, from the elected representative to the federal czar, from the individual to the government, are far more deleterious.
LOPEZ: How does America actualize an ideal? And why will “all of us be left poorer” if we give up on that ideal?
HANNAN: Other countries are defined by territory, language, religion, ethnicity. Yours is defined by a constitution, and the dream of liberty that found form in that constitution. You don’t have to be American to share that dream, which is why the world has a stake in your success.
LOPEZ: If we’re so great, why do you live elsewhere?
HANNAN: I am a British patriot. I believe my country has great achievements to its name, from the defeat of Hitler to the Royal Navy’s relentless campaign against the slave trade. Indeed, my admiration for the U.S. is informed by the way in which your country developed out of the British Whig tradition and has become, in many ways, a more secure repository of traditional British freedoms than the land where they were first adumbrated. A patriot doesn’t desert his nation simply because another is more congenially administered. I want to bring home our revolution — that is, to restore the Jeffersonian precepts that we successfully exported but have since lost.
LOPEZ: What is the American liberal’s attraction to Europe?
HANNAN: Europe is doing all the things that an American liberal would like to do at home: raising taxes, penalizing the use of carbon, cutting military spending, engorging the welfare state, surrendering national sovereignty. It’s significant that the supporters of a European socioeconomic model in the U.S. tend also to be supporters of the EU in a foreign-policy context. Barack Obama has gone much further in his praise for European integration than any of his predecessors. And he is, to be fair, being perfectly consistent: If you believe in the centralization of power, then you’re bound to see the EU as a good thing.