Burqa Bans and True European Values

Here’s a letter I had published in the Washington Post about 1 year ago:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy claims that banning burqas would uphold traditional European values. Unless he is referring to the values of a few infamous European dictators, he could not be more mistaken.

The bedrock of European cultural and political traditions is [classical] liberalism. A true liberal understands that the use of force, by which all government edicts are ultimately backed, is neither an effective nor moral means of promoting values. Banning an expression of religious conviction in the name of protecting a liberal culture is the stuff of satire.

Force is the tool of those who lack the competence or courage to peacefully persuade.

Isaac M. Morehouse, Falls Church

Isaac Morehouse

Isaac M. Morehouse works at the Institute for Humane Studies. He frequently speaks and writes on economic ideas, communication skills, the philosophy of freedom and more. He loves liberty, his wife and kids, Austrian Economics, and cigars.
  • Graeme Brooks, England

    I’m not sure I agree on your idea of traditional European values, actually.  Britain was, for a time, a country where classical liberal values held considerable sway.  They have found footholds in a selection of other countries too, most notably France, the Netherlands and good old Austria.  However, mainland Europe (as opposed to Britain) and especially the Mediterranean states have been held by socialist ideals ever since the politicisation of the general population.

    Furthermore, the world, and Europe in particular, like to forget that for a number of decades fascism was probably THE major political philosophy of the mainland continent.  It was huge academically and popularly, and while the social left-overs of that may be repressed I believe they are still very powerful.  It extended well beyond the Axis powers.

    Sarkozy’s policy is absurd, counter productive and borderline evil, but sadly I’m not sure it’s so far out of kilter with European values as you might like to think.

  • http://libertarianchristians.com Norman Horn

    I think Isaac is referring to the *traditional* European value of classical
    liberalism — because that’s where it was originally developed. But
    certainly nowadays Europe is bad on liberty just about everywhere.

  • Graeme Brooks

    Yeah, but that’s what I disagree with.  I’m not sure it’s fair to say they were ever ‘European’ values, historically speaking.  The only place where they held particular sway over the political tradition is Britain.


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