Here’s an interesting essay from someone at The Economist who’s been reading conservative American blogs. In fact the piece is partly addressed to America’s conservatives. The argument is that, except for the self-satisfied chortling of America’s anti-EU right, the United States has mistakenly ignored the big events in Europe. A European union is not a military or foreign policy threat to America, says The Economist. On the contrary, it could be a powerful ally–especially if the EU really did take up the “ultra-liberal” economic policies favored by the United States and Britain. America shouldn’t rejoice in the EU’s dilemma, the Economist says. It should quietly help to nudge Europe toward the free market policies that the anti-EU left so fears.
I do think America is paying too little attention to the earthquake in Europe. As The Economist suggests, that’s partly due to our mistaken sense that Europe doesn’t matter any more. Yet I suspect that much of our silence is due to the awkwardness of the European dilemma for America’s liberals. Just now, the American left is engaged in an ultimately doomed effort to protect our out-of-control entitlements. They don’t dare directly identify themselves with Europe’s anti-EU left, but they can’t bring themselves to condemn the European left either. Mostly, America’s liberals would just like the awkward comparison with Europe’s failing welfare state to disappear.
Sure, it would be great to see Europe adopt free market reforms. But it’s tough for American conservatives to get excited about a union where undemocratic elites work to impose the dogmas of the cultural left on their continent–and ours. Some American conservatives might want to see Europe “absorb” Turkey. For many others, however, that is not a wise objective. Democracy, the nation-state, and some modicum of inherited cultural tradition still seem like good ideas to most American conservatives. The EU threatens all that. And with America’s liberal elites enchanted by Europe’s post-nationalism, it’s welfare state, it’s sixties inflected culture, it’s undemocratic legal stratagems, and its pacifism, conservatives are not going to get excited about the European Union any time soon. Maybe if Europeans themselves begin to point their ambitions in a different direction, that will change.