Thursday, May 14, 2009

Steyn: Live Free or Die

Live Free or Die, by Mark Steyn
Imprimis, Apr 2009

Full text at the link above. Excerpts:

MY REMARKS are titled tonight after the words of General Stark, New Hampshire's great hero of the Revolutionary War: "Live free or die!" When I first moved to New Hampshire, where this appears on our license plates, I assumed General Stark had said it before some battle or other—a bit of red meat to rally the boys for the charge; a touch of the old Henry V-at-Agincourt routine. But I soon discovered that the general had made his famous statement decades after the war, in a letter regretting that he would be unable to attend a dinner. And in a curious way I found that even more impressive. In extreme circumstances, many people can rouse themselves to rediscover the primal impulses: The brave men on Flight 93 did. They took off on what they thought was a routine business trip, and, when they realized it wasn't, they went into General Stark mode and cried "Let's roll!" But it's harder to maintain the "Live free or die!" spirit when you're facing not an immediate crisis but just a slow, remorseless, incremental, unceasing ratchet effect. "Live free or die!" sounds like a battle cry: We'll win this thing or die trying, die an honorable death. But in fact it's something far less dramatic: It's a bald statement of the reality of our lives in the prosperous West. You can live as free men, but, if you choose not to, your society will die.

My book America Alone is often assumed to be about radical Islam, firebreathing imams, the excitable young men jumping up and down in the street doing the old "Death to the Great Satan" dance. It's not. It's about us. It's about a possibly terminal manifestation of an old civilizational temptation: Indolence, as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a republic. When I ran into trouble with the so-called "human rights" commissions up in Canada, it seemed bizarre to find the progressive left making common cause with radical Islam. One half of the alliance profess to be pro-gay, pro-feminist secularists; the other half are homophobic, misogynist theocrats. Even as the cheap bus 'n' truck road-tour version of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it made no sense. But in fact what they have in common overrides their superficially more obvious incompatibilities: Both the secular Big Government progressives and political Islam recoil from the concept of the citizen, of the free individual entrusted to operate within his own societal space, assume his responsibilities, and exploit his potential.

In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood—health care, child care, care of the elderly—to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct. Hillary Rodham Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. It's supposedly an African proverb—there is no record of anyone in Africa ever using this proverb, but let that pass. P.J. O'Rourke summed up that book superbly: It takes a village to raise a child. The government is the village, and you're the child. Oh, and by the way, even if it did take a village to raise a child, I wouldn't want it to be an African village. If you fly over West Africa at night, the lights form one giant coastal megalopolis: Not even Africans regard the African village as a useful societal model. But nor is the European village. Europe's addiction to big government, unaffordable entitlements, cradle-to-grave welfare, and a dependence on mass immigration needed to sustain it has become an existential threat to some of the oldest nation-states in the world.

And now the last holdout, the United States, is embarking on the same grim path: After the President unveiled his budget, I heard Americans complain, oh, it's another Jimmy Carter, or LBJ's Great Society, or the new New Deal. You should be so lucky. Those nickel-and-dime comparisons barely begin to encompass the wholesale Europeanization that's underway. The 44th president's multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education, and, as the Europeans have discovered, even with Europeanized tax rates you can't make that math add up. In Sweden, state spending accounts for 54% of GDP. In America, it was 34%—ten years ago. Today, it's about 40%. In four years' time, that number will be trending very Swede-like.

But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.

America is just beginning this process. I looked at the rankings in Freedom in the 50 States published by George Mason University last month. New Hampshire came in Number One, the Freest State in the Nation, which all but certainly makes it the freest jurisdiction in the Western world. Which kind of depressed me. Because the Granite State feels less free to me than it did when I moved there, and you always hope there's somewhere else out there just in case things go belly up and you have to hit the road. And way down at the bottom in the last five places were Maryland, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the least free state in the Union by some distance, New York.

New York! How does the song go? "If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere!" If you can make it there, you're some kind of genius. "This is the worst fiscal downturn since the Great Depression," announced Governor Paterson a few weeks ago. So what's he doing? He's bringing in the biggest tax hike in New York history. If you can make it there, he can take it there—via state tax, sales tax, municipal tax, a doubled beer tax, a tax on clothing, a tax on cab rides, an "iTunes tax," a tax on haircuts, 137 new tax hikes in all. Call 1-800-I-HEART-NEW-YORK today and order your new package of state tax forms, for just $199.99, plus the 12% tax on tax forms and the 4% tax form application fee partially refundable upon payment of the 7.5% tax filing tax. If you can make it there, you'll certainly have no difficulty making it in Tajikistan.

New York, California... These are the great iconic American states, the ones we foreigners have heard of. To a penniless immigrant called Arnold Schwarzenegger, California was a land of plenty. Now Arnold is an immigrant of plenty in a penniless land: That's not an improvement. One of his predecessors as governor of California, Ronald Reagan, famously said, "We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around." In California, it's now the other way around: California is increasingly a government that has a state. And it is still in the early stages of the process. California has thirtysomething million people. The Province of Quebec has seven million people. Yet California and Quebec have roughly the same number of government workers. "There is a great deal of ruin in a nation," said Adam Smith, and America still has a long way to go. But it's better to jump off the train as you're leaving the station and it's still picking up speed than when it's roaring down the track and you realize you've got a one-way ticket on the Oblivion Express.

"Indolence," in Machiavelli's word: There are stages to the enervation of free peoples. America, which held out against the trend, is now at Stage One: The benign paternalist state promises to make all those worries about mortgages, debt, and health care disappear. Every night of the week, you can switch on the TV and see one of these ersatz "town meetings" in which freeborn citizens of the republic (I use the term loosely) petition the Sovereign to make all the bad stuff go away. "I have an urgent need," a lady in Fort Myers beseeched the President. "We need a home, our own kitchen, our own bathroom." He took her name and ordered his staff to meet with her. Hopefully, he didn't insult her by dispatching some no-name deputy assistant associate secretary of whatever instead of flying in one of the bigtime tax-avoiding cabinet honchos to nationalize a Florida bank and convert one of its branches into a desirable family residence, with a swing set hanging where the drive-thru ATM used to be.

As all of you know, Hillsdale College takes no federal or state monies. That used to make it an anomaly in American education. It's in danger of becoming an anomaly in America, period. Maybe it's time for Hillsdale College to launch the Hillsdale Insurance Agency, the Hillsdale Motor Company and the First National Bank of Hillsdale. The executive supremo at Bank of America is now saying, oh, if only he'd known what he knows now, he wouldn't have taken the government money. Apparently it comes with strings attached. Who knew? Sure, Hillsdale College did, but nobody else.

If you're a business, when government gives you 2% of your income, it has a veto on 100% of what you do. If you're an individual, the impact is even starker. Once you have government health care, it can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state has to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place. That's the argument behind, for example, mandatory motorcycle helmets, or the creepy teams of government nutritionists currently going door to door in Britain and conducting a "health audit" of the contents of your refrigerator. They're not yet confiscating your Twinkies; they just want to take a census of how many you have. So you do all this for the "free" health care—and in the end you may not get the "free" health care anyway. Under Britain's National Health Service, for example, smokers in Manchester have been denied treatment for heart disease, and the obese in Suffolk are refused hip and knee replacements. Patricia Hewitt, the British Health Secretary, says that it's appropriate to decline treatment on the basis of "lifestyle choices." Smokers and the obese may look at their gay neighbor having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and wonder why his "lifestyle choices" get a pass while theirs don't. But that's the point: Tyranny is always whimsical.

And if they can't get you on grounds of your personal health, they'll do it on grounds of planetary health. Not so long ago in Britain it was proposed that each citizen should have a government-approved travel allowance. If you take one flight a year, you'll pay just the standard amount of tax on the journey. But, if you travel more frequently, if you take a second or third flight, you'll be subject to additional levies—in the interest of saving the planet for Al Gore's polar bear documentaries and that carbon-offset palace he lives in in Tennessee.

Isn't this the very definition of totalitarianism-lite? The Soviets restricted the movement of people through the bureaucratic apparatus of "exit visas." The British are proposing to do it through the bureaucratic apparatus of exit taxes—indeed, the bluntest form of regressive taxation. As with the Communists, the nomenklatura—the Prince of Wales, Al Gore, Madonna—will still be able to jet about hither and yon. What's a 20% surcharge to them? Especially as those for whom vast amounts of air travel are deemed essential—government officials, heads of NGOs, environmental activists—will no doubt be exempted from having to pay the extra amount. But the ghastly masses will have to stay home.

"Freedom of movement" used to be regarded as a bedrock freedom. The movement is still free, but there's now a government processing fee of $389.95. And the interesting thing about this proposal was that it came not from the Labour Party but the Conservative Party.

That's Stage Two of societal enervation—when the state as guarantor of all your basic needs becomes increasingly comfortable with regulating your behavior. Free peoples who were once willing to give their lives for liberty can be persuaded very quickly to relinquish their liberties for a quiet life. When President Bush talked about promoting democracy in the Middle East, there was a phrase he liked to use: "Freedom is the desire of every human heart." Really? It's unclear whether that's really the case in Gaza and the Pakistani tribal lands. But it's absolutely certain that it's not the case in Berlin and Paris, Stockholm and London, New Orleans and Buffalo. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government "security," large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and a ton of other stuff. It's ridiculous for grown men and women to say: I want to be able to choose from hundreds of cereals at the supermarket, thousands of movies from Netflix, millions of songs to play on my iPod—but I want the government to choose for me when it comes to my health care. A nation that demands the government take care of all the grown-up stuff is a nation turning into the world's wrinkliest adolescent, free only to choose its record collection.

And don't be too sure you'll get to choose your record collection in the end. That's Stage Three: When the populace has agreed to become wards of the state, it's a mere difference of degree to start regulating their thoughts. When my anglophone friends in the Province of Quebec used to complain about the lack of English signs in Quebec hospitals, my response was that, if you allow the government to be the sole provider of health care, why be surprised that they're allowed to decide the language they'll give it in? But, as I've learned during my year in the hellhole of Canadian "human rights" law, that's true in a broader sense. In the interests of "cultural protection," the Canadian state keeps foreign newspaper owners, foreign TV operators, and foreign bookstore owners out of Canada. Why shouldn't it, in return, assume the right to police the ideas disseminated through those newspapers, bookstores and TV networks it graciously agrees to permit?

When Maclean's magazine and I were hauled up in 2007 for the crime of "flagrant Islamophobia," it quickly became very clear that, for members of a profession that brags about its "courage" incessantly (far more than, say, firemen do), an awful lot of journalists are quite content to be the eunuchs in the politically correct harem. A distressing number of Western journalists see no conflict between attending lunches for World Press Freedom Day every month and agreeing to be micro-regulated by the state. The big problem for those of us arguing for classical liberalism is that in modern Canada there's hardly anything left that isn't on the state dripfeed to one degree or another: Too many of the institutions healthy societies traditionally look to as outposts of independent thought—churches, private schools, literature, the arts, the media—either have an ambiguous relationship with government or are downright dependent on it. Up north, "intellectual freedom" means the relevant film-funding agency—Cinedole Canada or whatever it's called—gives you a check to enable you to continue making so-called "bold, brave, transgressive" films that discombobulate state power not a whit.

And then comes Stage Four, [...].

[...]

As Gerald Ford liked to say when trying to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." And that's true. But there's an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn't big enough to get you to give any of it back. That's the position European governments find themselves in. Their citizens have become hooked on unaffordable levels of social programs which in the end will put those countries out of business. Just to get the Social Security debate in perspective, projected public pension liabilities are expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8% of GDP in the U.S. In Greece, the figure is 25%—i.e., total societal collapse. So what? shrug the voters. Not my problem. I want my benefits. The crisis isn't the lack of money, but the lack of citizens—in the meaningful sense of that word.

Every Democrat running for election tells you they want to do this or that "for the children." If America really wanted to do something "for the children," it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a leviathan of bloated bureaucracy and unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme. That's the real "war on children" (to use another Democrat catchphrase)—and every time you bulk up the budget you make it less and less likely they'll win it.

Conservatives often talk about "small government," which, in a sense, is framing the issue in leftist terms: they're for big government. But small government gives you big freedoms—and big government leaves you with very little freedom. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans face a choice: They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline. To rekindle the spark of liberty once it dies is very difficult. The inertia, the ennui, the fatalism is more pathetic than the demographic decline and fiscal profligacy of the social democratic state, because it's subtler and less tangible. But once in a while it swims into very sharp focus. Here is the writer Oscar van den Boogaard from an interview with the Belgian paper De Standaard. Mr. van den Boogaard, a Dutch gay "humanist" (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool), was reflecting on the accelerating Islamification of the Continent and concluding that the jig was up for the Europe he loved. "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it." In the famous Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, Mr. van den Boogard is past denial, anger, bargaining and depression, and has arrived at a kind of acceptance.

"I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it." Sorry, doesn't work—not for long. Back in New Hampshire, General Stark knew that. Mr. van den Boogard's words are an epitaph for Europe. Whereas New Hampshire's motto—"Live free or die!"—is still the greatest rallying cry for this state or any other. About a year ago, there was a picture in the papers of Iranian students demonstrating in Tehran and waving placards. And what they'd written on those placards was: "Live free or die!" They understand the power of those words; so should we.

The U.S. Should Lead On Congo

The U.S. Should Lead On Congo. By Cindy McCain
This is about a choice to save lives.
WSJ, May 14, 2009

America is being tested this year in ways we could not have imagined a year ago. Now I bring you another challenge: to continue our national tradition of aiding the world's poor by helping the people of eastern Congo.

A few weeks ago, I visited the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to see how the United Nations World Food Programme was faring in its attempt to feed more than a million people. I was in this region 15 years ago as genocide tore through neighboring Rwanda and 300,000 refugees flooded across the border. Unfortunately, despite tremendous efforts by the U.N., the situation today is the same as -- or worse than -- in 1994.

This isn't a simple case of drought-induced famine. The eastern Congo's moderate climate, abundant rainfall, rich soil and huge lakes make it a virtual Garden of Eden. But it's also an area where armed militias plunder, rape, terrorize and murder. On occasion, the official army of the Democratic Republic of Congo does the same as its unpaid soldiers try to live off the land. In short, this is a country without the security, infrastructure or resources to deal with its massive problems.

Only the international community and the struggling government of the Democratic Republic of Congo can restore real order to the country. But until then, the United States -- the single largest contributor of food aid to these people -- must make a choice. Will we walk away and let hundreds of thousands die of slow starvation, or will we push our aid package even harder?
Since mid-January, more than 250,000 people have been displaced in areas of North and South Kivu provinces due to fighting between the Congolese rebels and the army. The northeastern corner of the country, near the Sudanese border, is even worse off. There the violent militiamen of the Lord's Resistance Army burn homes, murder civilians and kidnap children to turn them into slaves or child soldiers.

In the northeast region alone, the World Food Programme has launched an emergency operation to feed 154,000 people -- a tall order during the rainy season, when roads become deep, mud-filled trenches and even airstrips are turned into quagmires. Of all the aid organizations on the ground, it is the biggest and most diversified. In addition to providing food, it is the lead agency for logistics, delivering vital goods such as medicines, blankets and agricultural tools on behalf of other aid groups.

The World Food Programme also supports programs to help rehabilitate former child soldiers and their families. It improves school enrollment and attendance by providing food to children in primary schools, especially in areas where displaced people are returning home. And it supplies food to the spurned and abandoned: the thousands of women who have been raped and those with HIV/AIDS.

As the world tries to figure out how to cope with the economic downturn, we Americans are presented with the challenge of giving even more. The price of cornmeal has risen by 35% in the last year, and the World Food Programme faces a 2009 funding shortfall of $77 million for its operations in the eastern Congo.

In 1994, in the city of Goma in eastern Congo, I watched as a Danish nurse attempted to feed a baby who obviously was not going to make it. Tears streamed down her face. I held my composure until I got back to my car and then wept, too. That day, I vowed to do all I can to prevent such needless deaths.

I hope that my country chooses to save lives in the Congo by continuing to support the World Food Programme as it strives to provide more aid to the orphans, the sick, and those torn from their homes.

Mrs. McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain, sits on the board of the HALO Trust, which removes landmines, and Operation Smile, which treats children with cleft palates.

WSJ Editorial Page: Obama's Photo Epiphany

Obama's Photo Epiphany. WSJ Editorial
Why make it harder for the U.S. to defend itself?
WSJ, May 14, 2009

President Obama yesterday put American soldiers and national security ahead of political braying from his campaign allies on the left. What a pleasant reversal.

The White House said it will now seek to block the release of photographs collected as part of military probes into accusations of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon had agreed last month to release the images by May 28, acceding to an American Civil Liberties Union request under the Freedom of Information Act.

"The President strongly believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing U.S. forces, and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan," a White House official said, echoing arguments made on these pages. So the Administration will renew its legal appeals, including all the way to the Supreme Court if need be.

Mr. Obama thus took the advice of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his leading generals that the photos would complicate their efforts to win over Muslim allies for America's antiterror mission. Release of the photos would also serve no public interest since they were collected as evidence in cases that have been investigated, and adjudicated when appropriate. Our guess is that Mr. Obama's political advisers also wanted to distance him from the decision to release the photos -- the better to shield him from any nasty fallout. Now the fault will lie with the ACLU.

Mr. Obama's change of heart was quickly denounced as akin to the "stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration" (the ACLU) and for "reneging on its legal obligation to release the torture photos" (Amnesty International). The President is learning, albeit slowly, that secrecy has its uses in wartime, and that the real goal of his allies on the left is to make it harder for the U.S. to defend itself.

Congress and Waterboarding: Nancy Pelosi was an accomplice to enhaced interrogation

Congress and Waterboarding. WSJ Editorial
Nancy Pelosi was an accomplice to 'torture.'
WSJ, May 14, 2009

Someone important appears not to be telling the truth about her knowledge of the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). That someone is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The political persecution of Bush administration officials she has been pushing may now ensnare her.

Here's what we know. On Sept. 4, 2002, less than a year after 9/11, the CIA briefed Rep. Porter Goss, then House Intelligence Committee chairman, and Mrs. Pelosi, then the committee's ranking Democrat, on EITs including waterboarding. They were the first members of Congress to be informed.

In December 2007, Mrs. Pelosi admitted that she attended the briefing, but she wouldn't comment for the record about precisely what she was told. At the time the Washington Post spoke with a "congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter" and summarized that person's comments this way: "The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time."

When questions were raised last month about these statements, Mrs. Pelosi insisted at a news conference that "We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used." Mrs. Pelosi also claimed that the CIA "did not tell us they were using that, flat out. And any, any contention to the contrary is simply not true." She had earlier said on TV, "I can say flat-out, they never told us that these enhanced interrogations were being used."

The Obama administration's CIA director, Leon Panetta, and Mr. Goss have both disputed Mrs. Pelosi's account.

In a report to Congress on May 5, Mr. Panetta described the CIA's 2002 meeting with Mrs. Pelosi as "Briefing on EITs including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on [legal] authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed." Note the past tense -- "had been employed."

Mr. Goss says he and Mrs. Pelosi were told at the 2002 briefing about the use of the EITs and "on a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission." He is backed by CIA sources who say Mr. Goss and Mrs. Pelosi "questioned whether we were doing enough" to extract information.

We also know that Michael Sheehy, then Mrs. Pelosi's top aide on the Intelligence Committee and later her national security adviser, not only attended the September 2002 meeting but was also briefed by the CIA on EITs on Feb. 5, 2003, and told about a videotape of Zubaydah being waterboarded. Mr. Sheehy was almost certain to have told Mrs. Pelosi. He has not commented publicly about the 2002 or the 2003 meetings.

So is the speaker of the House lying about what she knew and when? And, if so, what will Democrats do about it?

If Mrs. Pelosi considers the enhanced interrogation techniques to be torture, didn't she have a responsibility to complain at the time, introduce legislation to end the practices, or attempt to deny funding for the CIA's use of them? If she knew what was going on and did nothing, does that make her an accessory to a crime of torture, as many Democrats are calling enhanced interrogation?

Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy wants an independent investigation of Bush administration officials. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers feels the Justice Department should investigate and prosecute anyone who violated laws against committing torture. Are these and other similarly minded Democrats willing to have Mrs. Pelosi thrown into their stew of torture conspirators as an accomplice?

It is clear that after the 9/11 attacks Mrs. Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques and the valuable information they produced. She not only agreed with what was being done, she apparently pressed the CIA to do more.

But when political winds shifted, Mrs. Pelosi seems to have decided to use enhanced interrogation as an issue to attack Republicans. It is disgraceful that Democrats who discovered their outrage years after the fact are now braying for disbarment of the government lawyers who justified EITs and the prosecution of Bush administration officials who authorized them. Mrs. Pelosi is hip-deep in dangerous waters, and they are rapidly rising.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

Target: Intel, and Competition

Target: Intel, and Competition. WSJ Editorial
Team Obama adopts the European model on antitrust.
WSJ, May 14, 2009

The world is returning to the 1970s on most economic policies, so why not antitrust too? Judging by events this week, antitrust enforcement in the U.S. and Europe is in for a major comeback, whether or not consumers benefit.

Yesterday in Brussels, the European Commission imposed a record antitrust fine of $1.45 billion on Intel for the heinous crime of discounting computer chips in its fierce and long-running competition with AMD. Meanwhile on Monday, President Obama's new antitrust chief, Christine Varney, issued a radical revision of the Department of Justice's own antitrust enforcement standards. Ms. Varney's ambition seems to be nothing less than bringing Europe's corporatist approach to competition policy to the U.S. To succeed, she will have to flout or overturn decades of Supreme Court precedent on the limits of U.S. antitrust law.

But Ms. Varney can be sure of a friendly ear in Brussels, which has never let go of the idea that competition is best when there isn't much of it. The Commission's attitude is on full display in the fining of Intel for allegedly abusing its dominant position in the market for computer processors. For years, Intel and AMD have been essentially the only game in town for computer CPUs. The Commission's complaint amounts to little more than a whinge that Intel won more of this business than the Commission would prefer.

This is couched in dark-sounding talk about Intel paying computer makers not to buy AMD chips. But remember there is only so much demand and there are only two major market players. So any order won by Intel by offering a discount or a rebate is, by definition, an order lost by AMD. And yet the Commission bizarrely claims that "millions of Europeans" have been harmed by this price war.

Intel has been able to sell enough chips cheaply enough to maintain an overall market share that has hovered between 75% and 80% for years. And those lower prices help drive down the price of a computer, which is good for consumers. A less competitive market for chips, or one in which Intel is barred from offering discounts to its biggest customers, would mean higher consumer prices. The Commission also suggests that Intel may have sold some chips below its cost, but Intel denies this and claims it can prove it if the Commission would deign to consider its evidence.

The Commission is, as ever, more focused on preserving competitor welfare above consumer welfare, and Ms. Varney at Justice seems to be promoting a similar approach. The American left likes to advertise itself as pro-consumer. But the curious reality about the left's view of antitrust in both Europe and America is that it is often used to assist big business by dampening competition. This corporatist notion seems to be that companies should compete, so long as no one really loses. Ms. Varney paid lip service to the dangers of protecting competitors when she criticized the National Industrial Recovery Act, ushered in by FDR during the Great Depression. That odious piece of industrial policy blessed price collusion between big firms in exchange for a commitment to keep people employed and share some of the collusive profits with labor.

But in her speech, Ms. Varney tries to cast this anticompetitive act as a form of deregulation. In fact, the NIRA was regulation of the worst sort, protecting competitors from competitive harm in the name of some greater good. True deregulation aims at greater competition, while European (and Rooseveltian) corporatism dampens it. This historical obfuscation allows Ms. Varney to argue that it would be good for competition to adopt something like Europe's "abuse of dominant position" standard in place of the consumer-harm test that currently prevails in the U.S.

Europe's Intel case makes the importance of these different tests very clear. By any reasonable application of a consumer-harm test, the antitrust claim that Intel is driving down prices -- and so making computers less expensive -- would be laughed out of U.S. court. The only harm here is to a competitor that can't match Intel's prices. And even at that, AMD isn't exactly going out of business. At times its market share for consumer desktop CPUs has been as high as 50%, and at its most successful the upper bound has been determined as much by AMD's own manufacturing capacity as by Intel's behavior.

When she announced the judgment against Intel Wednesday, European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes praised Ms. Varney's new approach to antitrust. And no wonder. Regulators love company, and European regulators in particular love it when their American counterparts help them hamstring the most efficient U.S. companies. Why President Obama should want to punish U.S. multinationals is harder to figure since his political success hangs on economic recovery and a revival in business profits and hiring. But perhaps we should conclude that this is merely one more example of the ways in which this Administration is seeking to remake American capitalism in the image of Continental Europe.