Oh how quickly the European Union has fallen out of fashion. Only five
years ago, international observers gushed over the European superstate.
Scholars praised its soft power and economists
revered its massive GDP. Pop internationalist texts,
such as Why Europe Will
Run the 21st Century, bursted with optimism. But with Greece's debt
crisis in full view (and worries that the problem may spread to
other parts of the continent) Europe's outlook is looking surprisingly
bleak. Notice the confluence of dreary Euro-gazing columns published
over the weekend:
- Culture and Demographics Lacking Joel Kotkin at The Daily Beast writes: "In stating the case for European superiority, much has been made by boosters of Europe’s different institutional framework, tax or regulatory structure. No question these have advantages and disadvantages compared with those of the United States, but there’s little case for arguing that the 'Euro-model' has been a rip-roaring economic success. It’s imploding on its weak periphery, and the collapse is threatening even bigger players, including the United Kingdom. Europe’s problems extend well beyond policy, into the realm of culture and demographics. Even in France, people and what they do actually matter more than abstract ideas. A culture that believes in itself, not only to have children, but also start businesses and innovate will overcome one, however theoretically well managed, that does not. This is the fundamental problem of Europe as whole, although it does not apply equally to every individual country in the union."
- No Real Political Unity, writes George Will at The Washington Post: "The EU has a flag no one salutes, an anthem no one sings, a president no one can name, a parliament (in Strasbourg) no one other than its members wants to have power (which must subtract from the powers of national legislatures), a capital (Brussels) of coagulated bureaucracy no one admires or controls, a currency that presupposes what neither does nor should nor soon will exist (a European central government), and rules of fiscal behavior that no member has been penalized for ignoring. The euro currency both presupposes and promotes a fiction -- that 'Europe' has somehow become, against the wishes of most Europeans, a political rather than a merely geographic expression."
- They Don't Work Enough, writes Conrad Black at The National Post: "Here is the most chronic problem in Europe: Barely 30% of Europeans work, to sustain the rest. Working hours have been steadily reduced in most countries; holidays have multiplied, and perhaps even more than elsewhere, Europe has fled to service industry and public-sector employment, which is often not really productive work, or may be just disguised welfare, or at least workfare. Almost the whole continent has lumbered into double-digit deficits, three to four times the agreed maximum of the Eurozone, and cutting the deficits will require more draconian measures than the political leadership possesses the will to impose."
- Still Not Addressing Basic Problems, writes David Ignatius at The Washington Post: "The problem with the European package is that it postpones problems, rather than resolving them. It will delay Eurobond defaults another year or two, and it will add some new fiscal discipline that could eventually make the 16 eurozone nations operate more like one economy. But there's nothing here to address the deeper structural imbalances between high-saving northern Europe and the spendthrift 'Club Med' countries of southern Europe that used the euro as a credit card."
- Too Top Down Clive Crook of the Atlantic writes: "The European project was an elite-driven, top-down affair from the outset. Its leaders took the view, often explicitly, that Europe's voters did not know what was good for them and would have to be led to enlightenment. There was never any willingness to let public indifference or outright hostility moderate the pace. For the most part, voters were not consulted. ... If this was timid leadership, show me the bold kind. They were ambitious to a fault.")