For Americans the European Union, for Europeans les États-Unis, the E.U. is always perceived as the problem

It’s amazing how in just a few months skepticism about the EU seems to have become endemic almost universally. My own perspective on this is that I have never looked at modern Europe as an independent society, simply because any nation or group of nations that delegates the most fundamental societal task, military defense, to a foreign power has ceded, even if not permanently, the essence of its sovereignty. That’s why it seems absurd to me to talk about the EU as an alternative model of societal organization to the U.S., since it continues, in the final evaluation, to shelter under the American wing and to depend absolutely upon the continued dominance of the eagle. The fact that it is being applauded precisely for having “de-emphasized” military power seems positively irresponsible. It is analogous to the socialist mentality critiqued by Hayek: just as those who have supported socialism did not in general really wish to put an end to economic considerations in life but merely to dispense with the hard and sometimes unpleasant choices and limitations exposed by economic self-management, so many Europeans seem to wish to deny the reality of unfriendly neighbors and at times violent competiton by removing the responsibility for managing that side of social life to a distant land. So in a sense it is pointless to argue about the relative successes and failures of the “European system” because it has never really been exposed to the world sufficiently to determine whether it can sustain itself. Its major industries are protected by heavy tariffs and subsidies, its workers’ wages are supported by a restrictive immigration policy and its continued existence is guaranteed by a huge American military investment. And politically, the failure has become already evident. The much-applauded “polycentric” governance is the essence of the problem. I have become convinced that the single most important factor in governmental “legitimacy” is the psychological acceptance on the part of the population of a singular authority. Not to say that one individual or group has to control everything, but in every area covered by governmental juridiction there can be no ambiguity about who has the final say. The lack of such cohesiveness and credibility is massive in the EU. It may be very noble to wish to gain the consent of everyone before taking action on this and that, but in the EU it frequently seems that no back-up plan exists if not everyone agrees. Remember, the U.S. tried to govern itself that way for several years under the Articles of Confederation, and the results in that case were more dramatic perhaps only because the EU exists in a much friendlier international environment where it is artificially sheltered from the immediate consequences of ineffective policy. Failure in this case has become evident only because the EU has not even met the basic standard of being able to agree on a plan, let alone formulating a successful plan.

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