Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Unlovable case for Europe’s union: coping with Germany

When the president of France huddles too eagerly with the Chancellor of Germany, the French grimace and soon start looking for another president. When asked to share more of their wealth with other Europeans, Germans say they love East Germans—they’ll tell you, “They don’t consider the Greeks their brothers.”

The partners of the troubled 27-member European Union—northerners, southerners, Germans or not—don’t much like each other. Unlike the American union’s founding members, the strong in Europe don’t assume that the weak will grow to be as strong; and the weak have no realistic ambition to humble Germany.

Still, without affection or optimism, they all keep compromising to save their marriage. None are keen to leap into the unknown. But, several must imagine they’d do better on their own. So, why do they all want to stay together?

Here’s one reason they don’t talk about.

They want to make their young federation work, not because they hope to be equals or lack pride as separate nations, but because Germany is relatively so much more power than they are.

Political elites in Europe are adept at the patronage and invented the rhetoric of economic nationalism. As with the Brits, they resent Brussels bureaucracy and are frustrated by collective decision-making. However, they believe it is much more important to avoid German unilateralism than expand their own freedom to maneuver.

Europeans have had all the experience they want in mobilizing the nation-state to beat their neighbors. The last thing they want to do is to excuse that kind of behavior by Germany.

The American and Canadian federations were created by weaklings to create power in a world of threatening superpowers.

Europe is hardly at that stage in its development. Federal institutions, to them, are means to bind the most powerful, as well as expand collective prosperity and influence.

Comparatively, it’s been extraordinarily easy—and safe—for Canadians to live next door to a dynamic superpower. The extreme imbalance of power between our two federations has, in fact, militated against any sustained consideration of creating a single federation.

Canadians complain when Americans unilaterally harm Canadian interests and jeopardize economic relationships. Canadians would like to be treated like Americans, while living in their own sovereign, relatively harmless country.

Resentment toward the United States excuses not looking at greater integration. Since 1945, Europeans stopped resenting their own superpower and started, in steps, finding ways to unite.

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