Feature

Europe: A ‘post-democratic’ future?

Merkel and Sarkozy favor binding Europe together even more closely, perhaps even setting up a central authority that would decide what member states could spend and borrow.

“What on earth is the matter with Europe?” said Janet Daley in the London Telegraph. With the EU’s common currency, the euro, on the brink of collapse, and the Standard & Poor’s rating agency threatening to downgrade the credit of 15 euro zone nations, including powerhouse Germany, the continent’s national leaders met this week for a crisis summit to decide the future of Europe. Rather than expelling debt-ridden member states from the euro zone, however, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy are leading the charge for “more Europe”—through agreements that would bind the member states into a much closer fiscal and political union. A responsible central authority may be empowered to decide what, say, the Italian, Greek, or Spanish governments could spend and borrow. This is a truly radical step: Nations that have “blood and soil” identities forged over centuries would have to surrender their sovereignty to “faceless, unaccountable functionaries” in Brussels.

A “post-democratic” Europe of this kind can never succeed, said Rich Lowry in National Review, for the same reason that the euro is now broken. As an entity, Europe is a fiction. The 17 nations in the euro zone do not speak “European,” or have “generic European monuments.” In fact, the monuments depicted on euro bank notes are fictional, so as not to wound anyone’s national pride. The big problem, said David Brooks in The New York Times, is not language or history, but culture. The Germans and Dutch, for instance, believe in “effort, productivity, and self-discipline.” Citizens of Greece and Italy, on the other hand, chose to borrow hundreds of billions so they could enjoy four-day workweeks, early retirement, and lavish pensions. If those profligate nations cannot learn to live within their means, the dream of a unified Europe is finished.

Nonsense, said Simon Schama in TheDailyBeast​.com. At its core, the fiscal and political crisis in Europe is much like the one gripping the U.S., which has left Washington’s Republicans and Democrats frozen in “mutual demonization.” Tempting as it is “in brutally hard times to retreat back to tribal encampments,” the tide of globalization cannot be reversed. Whether we like it or not, “we are bound together—the Chinese bondholder and the American debtor, the Greek insolvent and the German banker.” The nations of Europe, too, are “entangled in a common destiny,” and only together will they stay afloat.

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