December 1, 2011

EU-Topia: Why Europe Can't Exist 

Jerry Bowyer
Jerry Bowyer, Contributor
10/27/2011 @ 4:32PM |

Two things have held Europe together during its millennial history:  First Christianity; then freedom. Both are largely gone and therefore Europe will be gone soon, too. “We’re not America or Asia” is simply not a strong enough rallying cry to permanently bind people together who are better off apart.

What holds Europe together now is a combination of factors: A governing elite, largely French in
culture, driven by the simple will-to-power; national leaders who hunger for the acclaim of the supra-national elite culture more than for the citizens of their own nations; and the citizens of those nations who have been bludgeoned into silence regarding their ‘euro-skepticism’, but who are just beginning to wake up to the fact that they were right all along.

The original European ‘project’ was forced conversion to Roman Catholic Christianity under Charlemagne in order to form a stronger Holy Roman Empire which could resist an expansionary Muslim Caliphate. Charlemagne would conquer whole peoples and then engage in mass baptisms of the conquered. He created a centralized palace culture with a high degree of respect for art and learning, but not nearly as much for freedom and self-determination. This is very important to understand, because a thousand years later, when Europe’s Christianity subsided, much of its heritage of centralism continued in neo-pagan and/or secular forms.

Fascism was basically a Paganized modification of Charlemagne. In fact, Hitler’s Third Reich was based on the idea that Charlemagne’s reign was the first Reich (Bismarck’s was the second). Hitler believed that Charlemagne’s reign was weakened by Christianity, which he saw as a religion for the weak which was far too historically associated with the Jews. He explicitly claimed that his Reich would take the German people back in time 700 years: that is, before their conversion. A return to the Teutonic gods of old, he thought, would give his empire a thousand years of domination.

Mussolini had already blazed the fascistic trail, but with ancient Rome’s, rather than Germany’s, pagan gods as the inspiration. In fact, the fasces (after which fascism was named) had been a Roman symbol: sticks bound together, one of them usually an axe, impossible to break.

Both regimes, of course, were as thoroughly collectivist as the fasces symbol implies: men were lashed together, bound by the state into a common purpose, with the threating blade to keep them in line. Both were paganized inversions of Charlemagne’s kingdom; each attempting to build an Un-Holy Roman Empire, built on loyalty to blood and soil.

After the blood was shed and swallowed by the soil, Europe attempted to regain her sanity. The post-war West German leaders took the insights of Austrian economics and applied them once again. The result was the Wirtschaftschwunder, the German Economic Miracle. Ludwig Erhard established sound money, abolished price controls, flattened the tax code and the economy snapped back almost immediately.

In some cases store windows went from bare to filled with bread, eggs and produce overnight. This great economic success led to the rise of the Christian Democratic Party, which reaffirmed the spiritual roots of Europe, but grafted onto them a free-market economic order. It affirmed a free order of national political competition as well: each nation would pursue its own political ends with its own political means, with no goal of an Empire, a Reich of any other form of super-state.

Leaders of this school of thought sought to tear up the barbed wire between nations, the literal and legal forms. They negotiated a grand agreement in which all Europeans would be guaranteed four fundamental rights: the right to sell goods across national borders; the right to sell services across borders; the right to invest across borders and the right to migrate freely across borders. After a long struggle, they succeeded in codifying those rights in the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

But not every member of the European elite shared the vision of free competition among nations; some still harbored dreams of an European super-state. Not built on Christianity like Charlemagne’s, nor on blood and soil like Hitler’s, but based on intellectual elites administering a welfare state. This group would use the Treaty of Rome process to try to betray the intent of its classical liberal founders. This is the group that won. How and why will be the topic of a future column.

EU-Topia, Part II: How Europe Was Betrayed

The post-WWII vision of a free Europe was hijacked by the ruling classes and gradually became the inversion of what was originally promised. Konrad Adenauer, Jacques Rueff and others who had resisted fascism attempted to recreate what fascism had sought to destroy: the Christian free-market order of the late 19th Century.

They believed that humans, made in the image of God, were entitled to dignity as individuals and did not derive their value from their role in the collective. They advocated sound money, limited government, free trade in economics and national sovereignty in international relations. Their brainchild, the Treaty of Rome, ascribed rights to individuals and removed the powers of nation-states to impede foreign trade and migration.

Since the end of World War II, two vastly different visions of a new European order have been wrestling in the womb. The classical liberal goal for Europe was one free market, many nations. The other vision for Europe, the elite one, is one nation with no genuinely free markets.

The former vision appeared under the influence of thinkers such as Ludwig Von Mises and Wilhelm Röpke and was embodied in the original Treaty of Rome, whose framers believed that protectionist barriers between nations were a chief cause of war. The official title of the treaty was Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community. Europe was to be a free ECONOMIC community, not a consolidated political one.

But over time the diplomatic mechanisms which had been used to create that free-market order were manipulated by interest groups which wanted the opposite.  By the early 1990s those interest groups had gained the upper hand and used it to write the Maastricht Treaty.  It is interesting that this version of the EU, which begins in earnest with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, omitted the word ‘Economic’ from the title of the treaty of Rome.

What began as a Treaty Establishing the European ECONOMIC Community, ended up as a Treaty Establishing the European Community.  The project which began in 1957 (with some small precursors) as the grant of the Four Freedoms to individuals, mutated into a political consolidation with a common currency and a super-government above the elected governments of the European nations.

Instead of an emperor, a Caeser, Kaiser or Czar, a king of kings, this new kind of empire would have a ruling council, a kind of parliament of parliaments, and a swarm of czars to enforce its rules. And if this new political community was to have a common currency, and that currency would be a fiat currency, then it must have a common central bank. So, the ECB, the European Central Bank, was “fiat-ed” into existence.

There was a great deal of resistance to this idea from the Germans. Their experience of hyperinflation under the Weimar Republic in the 1920s and then of the collapse of the Reichsmark under the Nazis was a terrible economic trauma and marked them (no pun intended) with a deep inflation-phobia. The only greater trauma for Germany had been two cataclysmic wars, and war guilt/fear was the cudgel that the EU-topians have used to cajole Germany and the rest of Europe into a relaxation of national sovereignties. And anyone who dared to publicly express even the slightest skepticism about the project was immediately portrayed as a closet racist, nativist, war-monger and driven into the outer darkness along with holocaust deniers, ultra-nationalists, neo-fascist and (more recently) global warming deniers. Few persons of influence had the guts to do so; Lady Thatcher comes to mind as a heroic exception.

After all, a common currency will promote European unity, and maybe even end war.  What kind of retrograde monster could object to such a small sacrifice for such a great goal? It’s just a change of currency; there won’t be any bailouts. Countries that cheat will be punished, and if they refuse to change, ejected from the union. Give up your old symbols of national pride: cast your Pounds, Marks and Francs into the fire and watch world peace arise from the ashes. And not just peace, but ascendency.

The U.S. has for too long, the French said, enjoyed the “exorbitant privilege” of her dollar being the reserve currency of the world.  The Euro would become a new super-currency to compete with and perhaps supplant the dollar. The European Union would become a new super-state to compete with the U.S.. After all, national consolidation had worked for the Americans. If there could be a United States of America, then why not a United States of Europe?

The French had been gradually losing their empire to anti-colonial movements around the world. Having abandoned the hard money policies of Jacques Rueff and embraced fiat money, the franc had suffered from loss of global prestige. They saw an opportunity to recapture lost power and prestige, and became the principle architects of the European Project.

But things have not gone according to plan. The euro-skeptics are enjoying a well-deserved new credibility. Uniting the states of Europe has proven to be quite different from uniting the States of America.

Our project in national unity was a very difficult one, yet we had several advantages over Europe. First of all, we had a shared language and culture. Americans were overwhelmingly English speaking.

Second of all, we already had been part of one government, the British one. The colonies had never been separate nation states, but instead separately administered districts under the same crown.

When we broke from that we broke off as a single entity under one Continental Congress. Finally, our most recent memories of war had not been wars with one another, but with foreign powers. First in the French and Indian war, and then against the British in the War for Independence. But Europe’s recent history is riven by two terrible world wars whose fronts fell upon the middle of the proposed United States of Europe, not along its borders. Those fears and grudges lay deep and cannot be exorcised by the wan incantations of public intellectuals.

All this comes down to one inescapable conclusion: the European Project will fail. A whole continent will not forever subsume its own self interest to the need of a few men to rule the world and to make a name for themselves. Interestingly enough, the architectural design of the European Parliament building appears to be that of an unfinished tower.

My good friend Rabbi Daniel Lapin has reported that the building was based on Pieter Bruegel ‘s famous painting of the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Perhaps that’s true; perhaps not. But one can’t help but wonder…have the Euro-boosters ever read to the end of that story? I think they should.

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