Why “Europe” is Failing

The eminent British historian Paul Johnson hits the nail on the head with his OpinionJournal piece on the collapse of the EU project:

[…] The fundamental weaknesses of the EU that must be remedied if it is to survive are threefold. First, it has tried to do too much, too quickly and in too much detail. Jean Monnet, architect of the Coal-Steel Pool, the original blueprint for the EU, always said: “Avoid bureaucracy. Guide, do not dictate. Minimal rules.” He had been brought up in, and learned to loathe, the Europe of totalitarianism, in which communism, fascism and Nazism competed to impose regulations on every aspect of human existence. He recognized that the totalitarian instinct lies deep in European philosophy and mentality–in Rousseau and Hegel as well as Marx and Nietzsche–and must be fought against with all the strength of liberalism, which he felt was rooted in Anglo-Saxon individualism.

[…]

The EU’s economic philosophy, insofar as it has one, is epitomized by one word: “convergence.” The aim is to make all national economies identical with the perfect model. This, as it turns out, is actually the perfect formula for stagnation. What makes the capitalist system work, what keeps economies dynamic, is precisely nonconformity, the new, the unusual, the eccentric, the egregious, the innovative, springing from the inexhaustible inventiveness of human nature. Capitalism thrives on the absence of rules or the ability to circumvent them.

Hence it is not surprising that Europe, which grew rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, before the EU got going, has slowly lost pace since Brussels took over its direction and imposed convergence. It is now stagnant. Growth rates of over 2% are rare, except in Britain, which was Thatcherized in the 1980s and has since followed the American model of free markets. Slow or nil growth, aggravated by the power of the unions, fits well with the Brussels system and imposes further restraints on economic dynamism: Short working hours and huge social security costs that have produced high unemployment, over 10% in France and higher in Germany than at any time since the Great Depression which brought Hitler to power.

Quite so.

This, too, is a good point:

The rise of anti-Americanism, a form of irrationalism deliberately whipped up by Messrs. Schröder and Chirac, who believe it wins votes, is particularly tragic, for the early stages of the EU had their roots in admiration of the American way of doing things and gratitude for the manner in which the U.S. had saved Europe first from Nazism, then (under President Harry Truman) from the Soviet Empire–by the Marshall Plan in 1947 and the creation of NATO in 1949.

Europe’s founding fathers–Monnet himself, Robert Schumann in France, Alcide de Gasperi in Italy and Konrad Adenauer in Germany–were all fervently pro-American and anxious to make it possible for European populations to enjoy U.S.-style living standards. Adenauer in particular, assisted by his brilliant economics minister Ludwig Erhardt, rebuilt Germany’s industry and services, following the freest possible model. This was the origin of the German “economic miracle,” in which U.S. ideas played a determining part. The German people flourished as never before in their history, and unemployment was at record low levels. The decline of German growth and the present stagnation date from the point at which her leaders turned away from America and followed the French “social market” model.

I continue to have hope that the Germans will reverse course. I fear that the French, who have been in this rut for generations now, will not.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. bryan says:

    I would be amazed if europe were able to tear apart centuries of national identity to come up with this confederated bureaucratic nightmare. The U.S. succeeded because there wasn’t any “there” there before the colonies got together. As it’s grown, the states have been basically ex nihilo creations, with the exception of Texas and Hawaii (possibly a couple others).

    That is quite the opposite of europe’s history. I mean, geez, they can’t even get the Brits and the Irish to play nice, and they’re in the same country.