Friday, March 6, 2009

There is Power in a Union... Billy Bragg sings. In the case of the European Union, there's also money, of course.

Everyone could have predicted that the first great challenge to the EU would be a global recession. And here we are. Europe's decade-long tear is over. They were on the point of surpassing the dollar as the world's reserve currency when the crisis hit. Eliminating exchange rate risk, lowering tariffs, and broadening consumer bases can still net the New Europe a lot more money.

What is counterproductive is shifting blame according to national rivalries. The Hungarian premier pointed to "a new Iron Curtain." I'm with Anne Applebaum when she says that the crisis will consist mostly of political squabbling and should not pose a serious challenge to unification. It may be true that Western car-makers are being lowballed by the Czechs, but what about those cheap vacation to Prague that the French, Germans and British have loved for so long? All that cheap labor, and cheap land? It's tit for tat. For the Economist, not cooperating is impossible at this point.

And don't forget what makes money make money: the dream of something better. The New Europe's higher goal, besides getting rich, is the surpassing of the nation-state. It's been working better than anyone had thought. This blog is here to tell you that a new culture is emerging, and that this guy's dichotomous thinking is wrong:

I lived for about a decade, on and off, in France and later moved to the United States. Nobody in their right mind would give up the manifold sensual, aesthetic and gastronomic pleasures offered by French savoir-vivre for the unrelenting battlefield of American ambition were it not for one thing: possibility.

You know possibility when you breathe it. For an immigrant, it lies in the ease of American identity and the boundlessness of American horizons after the narrower confines of European nationhood and the stifling attentions of the European nanny state, which has often made it more attractive not to work than to work. High French unemployment was never much of a mystery.

Americans, at least in their imaginations, have always lived at the new frontier; French frontiers have not shifted much in centuries.

The Europeans will keep their nannies, but gain broad horizons anyway.