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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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