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Constitutions are hard to make from scratch

I n talking about efforts to create a new constitution

for Iraq, comedian Jay Leno quipped that perhaps

the Iraqis could use the U.S. Constitution, given that it isn’t being used here much anymore. That’s a good line, and a reminder of how difficult it is to create a constitution from scratch. The U.S. Constitution certainly is the model for creating a nation of limited government that upholds the individual’s rights.

Too bad it isn’t followed as much as it should be. Too bad also that it’s not so easy to impose those ideas on nations struggling with government structures. These days, Iraq isn’t the only place looking for a governing document.

The European Union, at its summit, was trying but failed to adopt its own constitution. The summit ended Saturday amid disagreements over how to divvy up power between the 25 present and future members. As Reuters reported, “The core of the constitution debate is how much power the four biggest states — Germany, France, Britain, Italy — will wield and how much integration EU leaders can swallow.”

We understand the push for economic integration in Europe, but efforts to create more political integration are problematic.

Different countries, even neighbors on the same continent, have different priorities, histories and values. Centralizing power in a Brussels-based bureaucracy will only cause troubles in the coming years. Think of it this way: What would it be like if the United States, Canada and Mexico tried to unite under one constitution?

The three nations have many similarities, and their economies are closely linked, and all have lived side-by-side in relative peace and harmony. But trying to create a North American Union would create anger, tensions, hostility. We’ll see what happens in Europe, but it’s wise to remember that the government that governs best is the one closest to the people.

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