We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Friend or Foe? What Americans should know about the European Union

I have been meaning for some days to add to this posting here about Denis O’Keeffe’s translation of Benjamin Constant’s Principles of Politics Applicable To All Governments the information that this book is not just available directly from its publisher but also, for a mere £15 from the Institute of Economic Affairs, where Denis O’Keeffe spoke briefly about the book last week. And while at the IEA website I also came across a recent IEA publication, entitled Friend or Foe? What Americans should know about the European Union, co-authored by IEA Director John Blundell and Gerry Frost.

The IEA is an important institution with a massive amount of momentum built up from five decades of publishing about and arguing for classical liberalism and the free market. What is says will definitely count for something. This particular publication is 44 pages in length and is downloadable in its entirety as a pdf file. The following is its conclusion:

Such are the huge disparities in economic, technological and military power and the prevailing trends that the ambition to create a unitary European state as a countervailing force to the United States is doomed, but its pursuit continues to the detriment of the economic and security interests of both North Americans and Europeans. Nevertheless, having endorsed the project for half a century, many Americans seem reluctant to withdraw their support. Some evidently believe that while their original expectations have been disappointed, the process of European integration is so well established that any reappraisal of US policy towards the EU would produce more problems than it would solve.

That approach fails to take into account both the influence that the US could still bring to bear and the fragility of the political project now approaching fruition. In our view, the attempt to bring about ‘ever closer union’ will ultimately have to be abandoned, either as the mounting economic and political price of integration becomes more widely grasped, or because Europe’s supra-national institutions break down.

Rather than wait for either to happen, the interests of the US would better served by a policy which sought to strengthen the position of those within Europe who recognise that the continent is proceeding down an historic blind-alley and wish to pursue other possibilities. It is surely time that American policymakers were more candid about the inevitable implications of particular EU measures. In the security field this would mean making it clear that, however, finessed, current plans for an autonomous European defence capability are not compatible with US interests and that the EU should not expect to make use of NATO assets as of right. It should also make plain that, however finessed, a common European foreign and security policy would mean the end to the sharing of intelligence with its UK ally because this entails too high a risk that such information will be passed to the enemy; we have long passed the stage at which behind-the-scenes warnings on these matters can be expected to produce results. If, as the British Prime Minister suggest, international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are the greatest present threats to British interests then Britain cannot lightly put at risk a relationship which is essential to dealing with both these problems. As a result of the Prime Minister’s current high standing in the US, the risk of a breach between Washington and London would seem presently appear slight. In the long run, however, hard-headed calculations about America’s national interests are likely to prevail.

A new US approach would also make clear that states that chose not to join the EU, or which came to have doubts about its value, would not be pushed into membership or discouraged from leaving. Moreover, there is surely something to be said for encouraging those with political values and outlook which are threatened by the European political project just as, during the Cold War, US foundations once backed private publications and organisations in Europe supporting democracy and the market economy. One obvious candidate for support is the “Anglosphere project” championed by the US entrepreneur and writer, James Bennett. Bennett’s central proposition is that the Anglosphere is defined neither by race or language but adherence to customs and values that form the core of the English-speaking nation’s culture: individualism, the rule of law, respect for contracts, and the elevation of liberty to the first rank of political values. As Bennett has demonstrated, these societies provide the most favourable conditions for the creation of cooperative institutions in trade, defence, science, and technology, and, by virtue of their flexibility, are the best placed to exploit new economic and political challenges and to cope with external shock. The task of policy makers is to provide a sympathetic framework of law that allow such societies to flourish and to desist from the kind of interference that prevents them from doing so.

Lacking the flexibility of Anglosphere, it is difficult to be sanguine about how well the rigidly top-down EU will cope with the political pressures that will inevitably come when the public discovers that it has been deceived into placing its trust in an economic and political order that offers little in the way of prosperity and political accountability.

While America ponders such matters, the choices facing Britain are more urgent and acute. For decades it was possible for many to believe that, as long as the country positioned itself more or less mid-way between Europe and America in terms of public philosophy and economic outlook, minor adjustments could be made according to circumstance and all would be well. It is now obvious that the innately anti-American and anti-democratic character of the EU mean that, in as far as it was ever viable, that option is no longer available. For Britain therefore, the lesson ought to be clear. The more it is absorbed into the European project the more it will distance itself from self-government and the more it will be excluded from the huge economic and technological successes for which it is qualified by history and culture.

9 comments to Friend or Foe? What Americans should know about the European Union

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    My view is that for the EU, its efforts at expansion, its attempts to create a constitution and its inchoate efforts to become a counterbalance to the U.S. are not the primary driving forces. What the EU is, I think, is a full employment forum for second tier politicians and bureaucrats.

    Not that I think the EU is unique. The governments of most liberal democracies are full employment forums for first tier politicians and bureacrats. Why else, I ask, has no one…no one…lost their job as a result of 9/11?

  • Pedro

    Thanks for posting this IEA outline. How Britain relates to the EU and the US is clearly increasingly important in the medium term. I will try and read more. Is there any info on how such issues are being shaped in the states, and whether there are generic proposals in the footing?

  • Julian Morrison

    To heck with the EU, the home grown UK government’s bad enough.

    Guys, you’ve been scooped by the BBC!

  • Personally, I’ve met no continental Europeans – and I meet many – who believe that the EU will collapse in on itself. Only bloody-minded, right-wing Brits, awkward to the last, cling to this. For the rest, it is hard to see the edge of the precipice. and easy to see the British as a sour, obstreperous bunch who are deeply attached to the past (natural enough, perhaps, when their proper place in the pecking order is dessus la France et l’Allemagne).

    Still, sour and obstreporous or not, I too am a bloody-minded, right-wing Brit and all I can see for the EU is total catastrophe. How can pan-European corporatism, with all its rigidity and anti-competitive bias, possibly produce anything else? The more I ponder it the more the EU crystallises in my mind as nothing more than a short-cut answer to the question: How can France and Germany cease destroying one another and, instead, rule Europe equally? Hardly surprising that the answer is both anti-British and anti-democratic.

    It cannot work, of course. My European friends and business colleagues are bitterly mistaken. The dream is, if not a lie exactly (as Theodopolous says) then an answer to a question than perhaps meant something before I, a man in deep middle age, was born … but it means nothing now. The power of America, the rise of China and India ask questions to which self-indulgent, socialist multi-state corporatism has absolutely no reply. Time will find it out.

    The next question is what will happen when it does? What economic condition will it be it? What will fill the power vacuum? What kind of political movements will arise? Since there is little that is new under the heavens, will we see popular tensions and ambitions that we thought were long dead?

  • Kelli


    I was sure you were going to finish the question: How can France and Germany cease destroying each other and instead DESTROY ALL OF EUROPE?

    Nevermind, all good thoughts.

    Let me flip the question back to all of you: what would you have the (deeply unpopular) US President do to derail the EU at this point? Perhaps if W started talking about how WONDERFUL the EU was, Eurocrats across France and Germany would recoil in horror. This could be our best shot. I have an image in my mind–Pepe le Pew chasing the cat with the painted on stripe over the horizon. Oooh lala! Zees is L’Amore!

  • There is an abstract group of questions: “what is the EU going to be? Why is it like that? What is its purpose?” There is also a concrete question: “Should Britain become more or less involved in it?” The IEA paper shows that on any sane calculus, the answer to the concrete question is NO. Whether or not the EU is going to fall apart someday or not, it is not the right place for Britain. Maybe the French and the Germans and the Belgians can muddle through for decades living under a stagnant bureaucratic unaccountable government. It will be just like home cooking for them. There is no reason whatever that Britain should eat from the same stewpot.

    Jim Bennett put it well in his recent essay in the National Interest. He noted that Canada and the United States get along well because there is no arbitrary pronouncement governing their relationship requiring an “ever closer union”. We optimize how close we want to be, without feeling any need to maximize our closeness. We like being able to travel and sell each other things. We also like that Canada can be as socialistic as it wants and we don’t have to participate in it. Britain should get its head out of the “ever tighter noose” which is “Europe”.

  • Euan

    There are a whole bunch of reasons why Britain shouldn’t get more involved in the EU, most of which will be familiar to and accepted by the denizens of this place.

    As to what America can do…hmm

    If it is perceived as really being in the US interest to have Britain outside the EU (and I think it is so), then a bribe ^W compensation for dislocation could be offered. A couple of billion bucks or maybe discount military hardware? Of course, it would be just typical of Uncle Sam to be so crass and vulgar as to offer money, non?

    I think US interests would be best served by offering economic guarantees in return for a commitment to join NAFTA and a tight military treaty (NATO in such a situation probably being irrelevant). This would actually help both UK and US.

    Realistically, it isn’t going to happen. The Labour Party won’t give up on the socialistic dream, and the Conservatives, although many of them would doubtless love to do it, will consider it political suicide and don’t IMHO have the spine to try it for real.

    America won’t offer unless it becomes overwhelmingly obvious that she will be seriously hurt by British membership of the EU, and in reality the US doesn’t actually need the UK for anything other than political support, OR when the EU/France becomes actively hostile to US interests. Push coming to shove, America can for now get her way, albeit at the risk of unpopularity, whatever anyone else wants.

    Only Britain can get Britain out. That I think will only happen either when the EU finally does begin to implode or when public opposition to the EU becomes so intense no-one can resist it. I’m not convinced the last will ever happen, but one lives in hope.

    After all, we have been conditioned over the years to believe that we cannot stand on our own feet and are an integral part of Europe whether we like it or not. The people are also pretty much used to the high welfare and concomitant regulation and taxation needed to support it – what difference does it make to them whether this comes from London or Brussels? Any attempt to put a contrary view will be (and is) met with accusations of (predictably) Little Englishness (is there such a phrase?), xenophobia, racism, arrogance, imperial nostalgia, certifiable lunacy, etc. Many people actually believe that crap, so what to do?

    Britain may get an access of sense, probably inspired by America, but I strongly suspect we’ll miss that and it will all end in tears. Or bloodshed. It’s not impossible that the well-intentioned EU could be the precursor to the fourth total European war, just as well-intentioned American naivete caused the third.

  • Mashiki

    Theodopoulos Pherecydes: A simplistic answer on 9/11 and the loss of no one’s job. It was over 20 years in the making, from the time that our boys were nabbed in Iran to the bombing of the barracks in Beruit. The first time that we backed down and let them *think* that we could be pushed around, they knew that they could take abit more.

    It’s been along time in coming, the safeguards that could have been used after the first attack in ’93 such as increased wiretaping to keep up with technology, profiling of reasonable suspects, etc. Many people would have screamed about it as much now as then, not counting the other parts. The other parts such as gutting out the CIA and FBI that happened on Clinton’s watch and redirecting funding towards ‘corporate’ security also allowed this to happen, it’s like being beaten to death with feathers, one or two sure doesn’t amount to much; but 3,000 at once does.

  • A lot of present day instability is rooted in the collapse of European nations as world powers. Europe was strong enough in the 20th century to destroy the Ottoman Empire in the last century and redraw the map of the Middle East. Then it fell down dead, leaving America to deal with the debris. However, the EU record to date suggests that it may not be reviving a Europe of strong nations so much as creating a dithering confederation of weak ones. The real danger now is that Europe, far from becoming a strong partner, may become a serious liability.

    Anemic economic performance, dangerous demographics, potentially explosive politics and a toy-soldier military capability make it conceivable that a catastrophe may engulf Europe again beyond its capability to meet it. The question is not whether the EU is friend or foe so much as whether it is rebuilding the European edifice or authoring another house of cards.