Phillip Blond is the red-Tory intellectual who coined the phrase “big society.” He imagines that civil society can voluntarily take up many of the tasks modern societies have assigned to big government. As George Bush took up “compassionate conservatism” an amazingly long decade ago, David Cameron has taken up the “big society.” It allows conservatives to be hard on government spending and regulation, and to be more optimistic about people than their more pessimistic left opponents.
Blond has now lent his optimism to British conservatism’s most dangerous proposition: the idea that the 27-member European Union (starting with the 17-member Euro-zone) can be managed down to something less than it is now—that European prosperity and democracy need more independent nation-states, a less bureaucratic federation.
Defending David Cameron’s decision to not participate in building the fiscal machinery necessary to complete the Euro-zone, Blond writes, “Britain can build a Europe outside the Euro.” He concludes his column on a convoluted and utopian note:
“Britain needs to stress that it sees the euro as the great danger to Europe and, rather than bizarrely pushing for its centralization under a German economic aegis – a provision that will ensure permanent proletarianisation for the southern nations – it needs to seek and create a new EU growth pact for those who wish for an alternative outside the euro but in Europe. For the common currency area that might mean separate euro zones or parallel currencies with greater or smaller spreads in relation to the euro. Rather than letting domestic policy-needs trump any international dimension, if Cameron is clever he could utilize one to augment the other and create a euro opt-out for nations for whom saving the euro would mean their own democratic erasure and impoverishment . If Cameron can make the most of this policy opportunity he will have created a vital exit strategy for European nations from a policy and a position that has every chance of failing. And, in time, Europe may thank Britain once again for saving them from themselves.”
So, let’s go back just half way—to when Europe had numerous national currencies and only a few fascist governments, when it was respectable for heads of state to design “pacts” to expand co-operation, reduce national barriers to the movement of goods, services, money, workers, and innovation, and avoid beggar-thy-neighbor currency and fiscal policies, and harmonize their individual efforts to be taken seriously by the super-powers.
Federal states are complicated, difficult to explain, and easy to attack. The EU is famous for its bureaucracy. Progressive nationalists like Blond, however, wouldn’t necessarily lead Europe to less government, more democracy, or healthier markets. Progress requires stability. And European stability requires European unity—and unity is federalism’s core business, not a photo-op or a last resort.
The German Government and the other Euro-zone members accept the need for greater fiscal integration because their federation is too decentralized, not because they like pushing each other around.
The entire European Union’s central budget consumes barely 1 percent of the public sector of the European Union. The British Conservative’s most favored-neighbor—the United States of America—has one currency, 50 states, and a federal government that manages over a fifth of America’s Gross National Product. Britain’s federal creation—the Dominion of Canada—includes a federal government that holds close to a quarter of that country’s GNP.