In the lead up to this week when Ireland votes on the Austerity package, I’ve given a lot of thought to the things that hold the EU together, and it occurs to me that, as much as Ireland is in Europe, and I can see myself swearing allegiance to Ireland at some point, the EU is a thing too cold and mercenary to ever hold my loyalty.
In response to the fiscal problems here in Ireland (and in Greece, Spain, and elsewhere), I’ve heard people say that the EU needs to adopt a more American style of fiscal policy (a federal reserve system for policy oversight and administration of the single currency). Yes, the fact that the U.S. is bound together under a single currency and some addled notion that all states share the country’s economic burdens has a certain naïve romance on this side of the Pond. But the notion that you solve the current EU economic ills by simply appointing a central policy bureau is as failed a notion as thinking that you can institute a harmonious continent-wide system of government simply by voting it into existence.
The first problem (of many) with this idea/notion/delusion is that the EU is not, and never will be, a unified national presence in any way like the U.S. When the latter states joined the United States they joined a national ideal, a concept that they believed in. Not so the EU.
To directly quote the EU website (europa.eu):
“The EU is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries that together cover much of the continent.
It was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries who trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict.
Since then, the EU has developed into a huge single market with the euro as its common currency. What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organization spanning all policy areas, from development aid to environment.”
The EU is a union formed for state security and economic gain. That’s a fairly mercantile and mercenary mandate. Now, years later, as we try to reconcile 27 disparate notions of “pursuit of happiness” and “right/wrong”, there’s no ideological glue to hold things together. There’s no ideal to hold people together. The EU offers nothing to swear allegiance to except global competitiveness.
As immigrants in a new country, what is it we swear allegiance to? For soldiers in foxholes it’s the guy next to them. For me that means neighbors, friends, family, and the people I interact with on a regular basis. That’s Ireland. Asking the Irish (and other Europeans) to be more like America in structuring fiscal policy and swearing allegiance to that policy is a failed idea, and one that was doomed 50 some years ago when the EU was formed. It’s like asking a team of highly paid All-Stars to suddenly play with the same heart and soul as the national champion team from a secondary school. The technical aspects have all been seen to, but fundamentally it’s a utilitarian union incapable of inspiring passion, devotion, and loyalty.
And that’s what is being asked of the Irish, and the rest of the EU. We’re being asked to declare our loyalty to the euro, not to an ideal, or to people.
Let’s not even start to discuss the idea that Germany (because it’s got all the money) is being allowed to dictate and demand national fiscal policies throughout Europe. It’s like letting California set Louisiana’s budget.
We must remember that people swear their allegiance to country and countrymen, not to currency. “Twas always thus, and always thus will be.” *
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Looking Back On the First Year
* “Twas always thus, and always thus will be.” was taken from the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society.