Don’t Let America Imitate a Burning EU

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


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The current fiscal crisis, then, has simply allowed the return of repressed nationalism and conflicting national interests. Most commentary on the crisis reflects this obvious fact. For example, The Telegraph’s Janet Daley writes, “As everyone has been saying, in order to be viable in the face of market pressures, a genuine currency (as opposed to a pretend one) must have a ‘lender of last resort’ – a true central bank like the US Federal Reserve System. But this is impossible within the EU because the constitutions of member states are not compatible with each other or with the principle of underwriting debt across national boundaries (as the states of the US are under their genuinely federal system).”

More broadly, difference of national attitudes to and cultures of work between the northern industrious ants and the southern “Club Med” grasshoppers have been expressed in the refusal of the citizens of the former to subsidize the spendthrift habits of the latter. Two headlines on the same page of a recent issue of the Financial Times say it all: “Germany talks tough on Spain” and “National interests likely to hobble EU banking reforms.” Or consider a recent Wall Street Journal article on German reluctance to foot the bill for rescuing the euro: “Half the German population believes the common currency has been more of a negative than a positive for Germany, up from 43% in February, according to a poll released late last month by public broadcaster ZDF. Nearly 80% are opposed to proposals for euro nations to jointly sell and guarantee euro bonds. A solid majority believes Greece should leave the euro.”

As for the Greeks, they are playing chicken with Germany over the latter’s insistence on austerity programs to rein in government spending, and making arguments from the bad old history supposedly transcended by the new EU brotherhood, claiming that Germans still owe reparations from their occupation of Greece in World War II. Meanwhile over in Italy, ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, still the head of the biggest bloc of seats in parliament and thus capable of bringing down the government, has blustered, “If Europe refuses to listen to our demands, we should say ‘bye, bye’ and leave the euro. Or tell the Germans to leave the euro if they are not happy.” In response an ally of Angela Merkel scolds, “The states of Europe must for their part undertake every endeavor to contribute to solving those problems themselves.” The current crisis with its intra-national squabbling and rancor confirms the insight of the 18th century conservative philosopher Joseph de Maistre: “A constitution that is made for all nations is made for none.”

Yet some in the EU are calling for more economic integration, not less, as the solution to the current crisis. “So,” Daley continues, “either the existing democratic institutions and historical principles of all EU countries must be forcibly reconciled in a Year Zero political reconstruction, or there can never be a monetary union (let alone fiscal union) that will be sustainable.” Obviously, such closer integration would make Germany more powerful in the long run, since he who pays the piper calls the tune––thus creating the possibility of the very threat the EU was supposed to prevent. And greater economic integration would make easier greater political integration at the cost of national sovereignty and individual freedom, worsening the EU’s already substantial “democracy deficit.” The beneficiaries would be the Eurocrats in Brussels, a techno-elite that has already shown an eagerness to limit personal freedom in order to achieve its utopian dreams of absolute equality, prosperity for all, and a cost-free dolce vita.

As we Americans watch the flames grow higher, we should take warning and fight against those like Obama who see the EU as a model to follow. The Europe that created the art and architecture we travel there to admire is gone. Instead, let’s return to our own traditions and political principles that made America the freest and most prosperous great power in history.

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  • Hank Rearden

    There is a mysterious subtext to the whole EU idea that is very difficult to understand. It is obvious to an outsider that the preconditions do not exist for a politically integrated Europe. Part of what makes Europe what it is is the heritage of each of its countries, not to mention native languages. So, why is Europe always presented as having to be one unified whole or nothing?

    What Europe DOES share is sufficient common interests that a UN-type structure would very likely work there. Each country would remain independent, but there would be a "European Council" to make joint foreign and military policy. Each country could still go its own way, but it would become customary for Europe to have a unified policy on big issues such as the nuclearization of Iran or piracy off the Horn of Africa. In the age of computers, a common currency is hardly necessary as currency translations can be made instantaneously and separate currencird let each country have control over its economic destiny.

    Europeans are far too dazzled by the dollar. The universality of the dollar is the RESULT of American predominance, not its CAUSE. And having the dollar be the world's reserve currency is actually a burden as it has kept the dollar significantly overvalued during a period of enormous trade deficits for the U.S. Superficially, it benefits us to have oil traded in dollars, but that is more than offset by the damage to domestic industry from a perpetually overvalued currency. One of the most toothless threats currently is that China is going to unleash the yuan as an alternative to the dollar. That is the LAST thing the Chinese want, as the value of the yuan would surge if it were traded freely.

    Europe would do fine with a Council of Europe for the big international decisions and national governments for internal policy. And forget the euro! Who needs it?

  • Alvaro

    What we need is a Europe of trade and cooperation. What we don't need is unelected commissars running an European Union, pursuing all markers of statehood: Common currency, constitution, national anthemn, etc. All in the name of democracy, of course. And if someone votes wrong, they can always vote again until they get it right. Europe might turn into a totalitarian state, and it is not that many steps from it.

    Hank Rearden wrote: "So, why is Europe always presented as having to be one unified whole or nothing?"

    A large part of Europeans is against it as it is, so it is not that popular. But as for the people in favor of the strong political integration, I think it boils down to wanting a United States of Europe. In essence this means having a Europe less dependent of the USA, both economically and in terms of foreign policy.

    The thought behind it is not that bad, as can be said about communism, but anyone with half a brain should know that it has to fail in present day Europe. The economic and cultural differences are just too large. A provoking thought is that it might have succeeded in the 1940s if Germany had won the war. We would then have a Europe union under German leadership – much like today. But at least the Germans were honest about their totalitarianism and would have been ruthless carrying out whatever was necessary to accomplish the goal.

    I am not trying to imply there is a link between Germany of the 1940s and the current EU. Far from it, but the idea of a strong Europe independent of the USA is the same.

    "Europe would do fine with a Council of Europe for the big international decisions and national governments for internal policy."

    A European Union might work in parts of Europe,where there are strong economical and cultural similarities. But it also defeats the goal of having a united Europe. If having a united Europe is the goal, you are left with trying to mix the oil and water of the economies of northern and southern Europe. Either way, the project fails geopolitically or economically.

  • gamaliel

    Comments like The threat of the soviet union is gone are very misleading because the threat from Russia is very real.

  • http://www.maghrebchristians.com Youssef

    Her screams were not drowned out by the clamor of the crazed mob of nearly 200 men around her. An endless number of hands reached toward the woman in the red shirt in an assault scene that lasted less than 15 minutes but felt more like an hour.

    Read more: http://www.maghrebchristians.com/2012/06/07/alarm

    Youssef

  • WilliamJamesWard

    What has happened in America and the drive to financial splendor being derailed is the outcome
    of a warning that has gone behind the curtain of elitist failure. America has not avoided foreign
    entanglements and has bled out into the World system of devaluation of independece and
    freedom, galvanized by moral and social decay orchistrated at the United Nations
    where American interists are ground down into a miasmic superficiality…………….William

  • Western Spirit

    as we move toward a global government to go with a global market as our elitists would have it, we'll continue to see the decline of the west.

    p. c. has prepared the way with its leveling everything into equality that flys in the face of common sense, because in the nature of this existence equality does not exist. common sense tells us this, the common wisdom acquired by the human race through the ages.

    europe is simply leading the way into destruction because it was the first to abandon its judeo-christian values that
    has been the source of common sense wisdom. and we'll go down the same path unless we return to the ancient paths of righteousness that have been our guidelines through the ages.

  • mlcblog

    The reason Germany is in a position of power is that they are more industrious than the other European countries in general. They don't drink so much wine, they love to work and make machines and handle money. Bully for them.

    Too bad people the world over don't seem to know that money is created by people. People with ideas who are willing to work hard. Usually this is of great benefit to their fellow man. However, with twisted logic and extreme guilt unassuaged and complete ignorance about free enterprise (capitalism is a word I decry that was coined by none other than Karl Marx, as in socialist, capitalist, communist, his theory), then they fall in on themselves and lose their steam and abandon their natural place of leadership as a nation, a people, again who could benefit many if they just knew who they are. Sad.

  • mlcblog

    Mr. Thornton,

    …grand idea also LAID by…

  • wctaqiyya

    Big picture. We are looking at what happens when the US empire contracts. Sure, the military, political and economic dominance is still there. But, it's not as 'there' as it used to be and everyone feels it. Wonder how and why the Roman empire failed? This is the replay. Pay attention.

  • UCSPanther

    All I can say is:

    "Burn baby burn. EU inferno! Burn baby burn. Burn that mother down!"

  • joe

    What is confusing is why European countries bought into the UN/EU sales pitch of a single united EU – world entity of shiny happy people living in a perfectly diversified fantasy utopia.

    Europe fought long and hard against each other,invaders and at times the world in order to establish varying degrees of individualism,power and control.They finally seemed to settle into separate nations and to be developing and prospering .Now they are throwing it all away for a fairy tale nirvana that is unrealistic ,financially destructive and no different than a totalitarian regime.

    The UN and EU are corrupt ,biased,racist, and the UN are drug and sex slave dealers.

    How do European citizens benefit from any of this ? To created a perfect ,singular world you must have perfect,single minded,cloned people .