July Fourth is a good time to reflect on the still-astonishing difference between the form of government that was created on this continent two centuries ago, and the best efforts of our European cousins even today. Americans are constantly reminded not to overlook our own faults. Well, we don't. But lest we become sunk in obsessive self-flagellation, it is important to look at the very painful struggle Europe is engaged in today, trying to become something like a United States of Europe. Unfortunately, today's European efforts toward unity owe almost nothing to the American founders, and far more to Marx, Hegel, and Lenin.
To grasp Europe's pervasive sense of mourning and anomie today you have to understand that two dozen national identities are being systematically ground to dust by their own political elites. All those nation states are dying, or feel they are dying. When voters are consulted, they don't like it -- and as a result, voters are simply no longer consulted. Europe has given up on electoral democracy at the highest and most powerful levels.
A central EU government is now emerging, made up of centrally appointed commissions just like the "soviets" (councils) of the old USSR. The whole contraption evades normal democratic checks and balances, on the historically dangerous assumption that the elites can be trusted with centralized power without the consent of the governed. Deception and engrenage -- steady ratcheting up of centralized control -- are the essence of the new Europe of Soviet Socialist Republics. As former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky pointed out the other day, we are not seeing a United States of Europe arising today, but rather an EU-SSR.
"All euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides. ... The design for each of them has a common theme of European architecture in various artistic periods....Care has been taken so that the architectural examples do not represent any actual existing monument, so as not to induce jealousy and controversy in the choice of which monument should be depicted."
Queen Elizabeth's face appears on British pound notes, but euros are deliberately abstract promises of an imagined glory to come.
It is emblematic of the times. A few years ago, the prestigious Turner Prize in Britain went to a man who placed a white light bulb in a museum room, turning the bulb on and off with an electrical timer every few seconds. This was pure "concept art," untained by individuality or craftsmanship. Just space, without all the grubby business of human beings. The trendy London art establishment cheered, and the "artist" was awarded the Turner Prize.
That's the story of the euro. It's all very Franco-German, the Abstract State as Platonic Ideal. Hegel would have loved it, and Karl Marx, while Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill would have despised it, because the EU deliberately destroys the individuality of each citizen and nation. Modern Europe is equally expressed by Francois Mitterand's massive metal Cube -- a slick metal frame surrounding empty space.
(Mitterand was the Socialist President of France who also managed to be a Nazi during World War Two. Question: What do those two European imperialisms have in common? A desire to unite Europe under strong, central authority without all the fuss and bother of elections.)
The question that should be on everybody's mind is: Can this ruling class be trusted with untrammeled centralized control over half a billion people? They are certainly not our friends, these European elites, as they make abundantly clear at every opportunity. Nor do they have a track record of responsible foreign policy, witness Saddam's Oil for Food scam, which easily bought up French, Russian, and other elite figures, who thereupon easily swung the weight of Euro opinion against the United States. Today the Iranians are presumably buying just as many European politicians and bureaucrats today as Saddam ever did. As for the Saudis, with the deepest pockets in the world ... Well, with autocratic government like this, can we wonder any more at the spineless European response to terror attacks?
For the elites, the emerging EU-SSR is great, because rather than being a minor bureaucrat in London you get the chance to rule all of Europe, with bigger salaries, better food, and richer lobbyists, right across the Channel in the trendy new Euro-capital of Brussels. All you need is to make your regulations so complicated that nobody can understand them -- this is literally true -- and then you can decree the shape of Euro bananas and cherry tomatoes to your heart's content. You end up being the expert in your couple of pages of the 30,000 EU regulations that are flowing in an endless stream out of Brussels, and no one can navigate the resulting maze as well as you can.
This is government by hyper-complexity. It makes you King of the Hill on bananas and cherry tomatoes -- and very soon, with the European Arrest Warrant, you'll be able to arrest anyone anywhere for politically incorrect speech, criticizing homosexuals or Islamists, or starting a political blog without your permission. Certainly the news media will never figure you out, driven as they are by the need to make up scare headlines for tomorrow's frontpage.
Military and foreign policy control is now scheduled to switch to Brussels. The EU is no longer just absurd overregulation of tomatoes and bananas. The European Union is emerging as a classic imperial enterprise. The ghosts of Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin are giving a standing O somewhere in the underworld.
If you are a British citizen, you know that tomorrow your country will only be a minor province of the European Empire. You don't even get a vote in the matter, because the elected parties have all sold out to the EU, and furthermore, you don't even care. Survey after survey shows that European voters are supinely watching their freedoms being sucked away, and are simply too bored or lazy to care. Forget the Queen, the Magna Carta, or the City of London in all its idiosyncratic profusion. Forget the rich and variegated past; even if you don't, your children will be taught to forget it through their identikit school curricula. They will be abstract "Europeans" --- not Brits, not Dutch, Irish or Czechs. You'll be a "Euro," stamped and flattened into uniform sizes, undifferentiated and complete interchangeable.
The planned drowning of national identities is now so pervasive that no one dares to question it. It has the momentum of the inevitable. It is the received wisdom of all the PC Commissars in all the organs of propaganda from the BBC to Deutsche Welle. In the UK, even the Tories have given up on Britain's national identity. Defending Britain is left to fringe parties, which are routinely smeared and cast into the outer darkness of electoral life. Europe's rejection of its own past is a major reason for the rise of Islamofascism in cities like Amsterdam and London. If you grow up as a rowdy teenager in Birmingham, what worthwhile identity do you aspire to? Is it the dying nation-state, constantly ridiculed by the media and educational system? Is it your neighborhood gang? Or is it the Elect of Allah, guaranteed by your local imam to result in all the girls you can imagine and glorious martyrdom in Paradise, as soon as you blow yourself up on a subway train? The Nazis notoriously mobilized the alienated youth of Germany, the "rootless proletariat." Nazism and Communism were the militant faiths of the 20th century. Today they are being supplanted by an even older and more reactionary faith. You can fight one identity with another; but you can't fight a militant faith with nothing.
As a result of planned national euthenasia there is a pervasive feeling of mourning and loss throughout European countries. But nobody talks about it. In my experience it only showed up when some English friends got very angry with me after I tried to express my personal bafflement to them several years ago. I found myself saying exactly what they believed; but when I said it they became furious and agitated, and refused to talk any more. Months afterwards I figured out what happened. After all, it's one thing when you feel hopeless about your own country, but it's quite another thing when some visiting Yank says the same thing. I simply saw the spillover of their anger and despair.
Only zealous Europhiles feel good about giving up one's existence as a nation; but socialism and Political Correctness are now so pervasive in public that nobody can say what they really believe. Wall-to-wall elite propaganda has accomplished what a thousand years of European wars and treaties never did. Europe is being hammered and melded into an artificial unity.
This sense of doomed national identity puts a very different light on the anti-American neurosis that runs through the French, German and British media. When Europeans viciously criticize America for responding to the 9/11 assault, by trying to defeat Islamic terrorists and their hosts, they are acting out of a good deal of national envy. They hate what they cannot be, and because of PC indoctrination they aren't even allowed to say their thoughts out loud. So they rage at America for not being peaceful enough, when in reality they feel like helpless victims of their own self-imposed impotence.
The really weird thing, of course, is that Europe's planned mass dissolution is completely unnecessary. There is an obvious alternative, sometimes called "a Europe of homelands." The basic idea is what the American Founders called federalism --- local control over local affairs, along with Federal control over unavoidably national matters. Europe could retain all of its existing institutions, and simply adopt US-style Federalism --- if they could tolerate the idea of granting untrammeled freedom to individuals, regions and nations. In effect, they could simply adopt the 14 pages of the US constitution, substitute "European Union" for "United States of America" with a standard word processor, and dump their vast and incomprehensible EU Constitution, with all its grotesqueries, into a dumpster. They would be much better off as individuals and nations, with much more freedom and self-respect.
The euro is an ego currency, another way to try to manufacture a new identity. Europe doesn't really need a euro for economic reasons. All it needs are national currencies that are treated as a common currency basket. The euro artificially locks in exchange rates between European countries that could simply float against each other, allowing each currency to reflect local economic efficiencies. Today the euro gives dollar nations an immense advantage in exporting goods and services. The mental ease of being able to convert pounds to francs is so "last century:" Today, with cellphone calculators you could simply get the exchange rate off the web, or have transactions handled electronically by credit card. Rather than being a practical necessity, the euro reflects a desire to control every transaction between 450 million individuals.
Decentralized control is the essence of American Federalism; but centralized control is the driving fantasy of Europe. It is a spinoff from French and German philosophy, driven by abstract fantasies that have little to do with actual people, as observers from Edmund Burke to Toqueville have pointed out over the last two centuries.
Why should Americans care about the Nutcracker Ballet of European politics? Because Europe has been the source of every major imperial ideology of the past five centuries, from Columbus to the Soviet Empire. Yes, today the EU swears it's all about peace on earth. That was also the slogan of the peace-loving Soviet Union, the last European fantasy that goose-stepped on the world stage. No doubt the EU-enthusiasts sincerely believe their fantasies about peace and love forever; but look at the track record. It's not inspiring, and the worst imperialists are always the ones who think they are spreading sweetness and light. Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Russia, the Netherlands, Belgium, even Sweden and Denmark, the whole gang has a long and bloody imperial history. When they are all united, Europe's imperial grandiosity will certainly assert itself again. EU rhetoric is already edging in that direction.
Europeans share a sense of indomitable superiority over the rest of mankind. That kind of grandiosity is what really drives imperial ideologies, not economics or even practical politics. And the European Union is already falling back on its old message of superiority in its rage against American intervention in Iraq.
A Europe of individual nations is actually going to be a lot more peaceful than a centralized Europe that requires Bismarckian propaganda to keep it from breaking apart. Germany only became dangerous when it achieved imperial unity under Otto von Bismarck. Russia became an international threat when Josef Stalin conquered half of Europe after defeating Hitler in the East; and the USSR only ceased to be a threat when the Soviet Empire broke into pieces. Nothing in the EU project today suggests that the old sense of superiority has been left behind. On the contrary.
When people lose their national identity the result is always a search for a new identity, which usually turns out to be more unstable and therefore more in need of imperial self-assertion. That is why Bismarck needed to whip up hatred against France, and why the French needed to hate the Germans. Franco-German hatred led to massive wars from Napoleon to World War Two. It is that insecure sense of national identity that Europe kept stumbling into in all its desperate searching for new forms in past centuries. It is what will happen again, if history is any guide.
Europe's existential crisis today will therefore inevitably shape America's future, and the world's.