Dec 10, 2011

What is the point of the European Union, anyway?

David Cameron's vetoing a new EU treaty seems to me obviously the right decision, even if he cloaked it in some rather bullshitty reasons about a financial transactions tax. The real reason, as Sullivan points out, is that the British people would have certainly rejected this treaty and his government would have collapsed like a flan in a cupboard. Cameron has been catching hell for this, as it apparently "isolates" Britain.

Suppose for the sake of argument that Britain is now isolated from the decision-making powers in Europe. My question: so what? I am increasingly skeptical about the whole rationale for the whole European project. People often talk about a possible "United States of Europe" as if the American version were a self-evidently good thing. America is certainly among the worst-governed countries in the developed world, suffering galloping political decay, and it's not at all obvious to me that it will survive intact even into the medium term. We barely made it through the debt ceiling debacle; imagine what President Gingrich will do to the place.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the best-governed countries around the world, like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Singapore, etc., are all small- to medium-sized. Countries like that are big enough to be able to fund reasonable infrastructure and defend themselves, but small enough that their governance problems are surmountable, and perhaps most importantly, weak enough that they aren't tempted to traipse around the globe and engage in boneheaded meddling.

I think what people forget when they talk about the need for unifying Europe, especially looking back at WWII, is that Hitler was fundamentally a product of horrible economic collapse. These days if countries are fat, content, and prosperous, the chances of great power wars are zero. Nuclear weapons plus development = peace. It's akin to airline security. There is one development that has increased security aboard airlines, and that is the expectation that the passengers will fight any hijacker. Yet governments feel a need to impose a bunch of totally ineffective rules and a bloated agency over the top so they can say they've "done something" about the problem.

Is it so crazy to think that countries should just focus on their own homes and try to provide a good life for their own citizens, instead of jockeying for position in loopy supranational entities run run by lunatics? To my eye "influence" in Europe plus $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee, plus your very own lounge chair on the Hindenburg.

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