My argument both that we in the United States need the European Union and that said union is a good idea in itself.




The recent European parliamentary elections were not the disaster that supporters of the Union may have feared, but the winners have reshaped the graph from a bell to more of a U, suggesting that consensus on hanging together, as Ben Franklin told us Americans we needed to do, is not a guarantee on either side of the Atlantic.

Consensus is not by itself a virtue, since many bad ideas have gained broad popular support, but if society is to reach a goal, its members do need to cooperate, and it will be my argument here both that we in the United States need the European Union and that said union is a good idea in itself.

In America, we tell ourselves the story that we are an experiment in popular government that is not based on a single ethnic group. I say this even during the Trump era, hoping that the current occupant of the White House is an anomaly, and I say it with full recognition that we have a long history of not living up to our national mythology. These things being acknowledged, I still insist that our principles have been good ones and that while they have been higher than our actions, that is where principles ought to reside.

In essence, we said some 230 years ago that we would form a union based on the people. What people meant has been edited over time, but as a concept, its guidance was to recognize that citizens deserve a say in how their nation is run. And as time has gone by, we have defined “citizen” to mean anyone born or naturalized within the borders, regardless of that person’s individual characteristics like race, ethnicity, and sex. We have more work to do, and this is one reason why we need the European Union. We need another diverse group of people who can demonstrate an ability to work together. The fact that Germany and France have not gone to war with each other since 1945 is a hopeful message to Texas and California.

“We said some 230 years ago that we would form a union based on the people. What people meant has been edited over time, but as a concept, its guidance was to recognize that citizens deserve a say in how their nation is run.”

There is a parallel here with the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. Biologists have the problem illustrated in Dr. McCoy’s comment, “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.” We only know of only one biological system, and so we are left to wonder what statements are universal about life and which are particular only to our world.

We have limited examples of democracies that encompass large territories with diverse populations. Popular rule in Europe – with the exception of Britain – was fitful before the Second World War, and its success in the decades following has been challenged over and over by financial crises and nationalism. India since independence has been the closest to what I have in mind, a large democracy of many languages and traditions. But the list of long-standing broad democracies is very short. What the European Union is trying to demonstrate is the belief that broad coalitions can last, not only as military alliances, but also as agreements among people of differing linguistic and ethnic backgrounds that they will cooperate for the benefit and progress of everyone.

“What the European Union is trying to demonstrate is the belief that broad coalitions can last, not only as military alliances, but also as agreements among people of differing linguistic and ethnic backgrounds that they will cooperate for the benefit and progress of everyone.”

This is not to say that the union as it exists is perfect. The Greek financial crisis illustrates how nineteen separate fiscal policies are difficult to square under a single monetary system. Illinois is but one of several American states that prevent me from feeling too smug here. Of greater concern is the perception that the E.U. is an imposition from on high, rather than an expression of the will of the people. We in the United States have been wrestling with the same problem, having decided a century ago that senators needed to be elected by popular vote, rather than by state legislators, and now we are arguing over the question of how the Senate gives disproportionate power to small states.

These essays in large-scale democracy stand in contrast to authoritarian models, most powerfully represented by Russia and China, the latter of which has had some four thousand years to work out how to organize masses of people for the benefit of the few. Social system that respect both basic rights and popular will — if, in other words, nations that avoid the disasters of anarchy, fascism, and oligarchy — are uncommon so far in human history, and we need more players on our side of the field.

“These essays in large-scale democracy stand in contrast to authoritarian models, most powerfully represented by Russia and China, the latter of which has had some four thousand years to work out how to organize masses of people for the benefit of the few.”

Calls from my side of the Atlantic for European unity sound at times now like begging, then like scolding, but at the core, they are an admission and a celebration of how much we need each other. We both, Europeans and Americans, need to refresh each other’s hope in a future that extends the blessings of civilization to everyone.🔷



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[This piece was originally published on the PMP Blog! | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/U.S. Department of State. - U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo chats with U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the United States EU Energy Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium. | 12 July 2018. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)



     

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Humanist and author who supports gay rights, #2a, #1a, science, and other seemingly incongruous things, writes for AmmoLand.

Northwest Arkansas, USA. Articles in PMP Magazine Website

     


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