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Europeans Should Wait on Rush Toward Unity

Column by Matthew H. Hersch

Opinion Editor

I like Europe. Europeans do funny things. Europe is everything that America is only more intense.

Sometimes this is good -- Europe has more than its fair share of cutting edge politics, culture, and science. But it also means that when Europe goes astray, it goes really astray, and civilization is pushed to the limits of survival. Europe is a prime example of what happens when you put together a lot of people in one place for 2,000 years and don't give them extra land to settle.

If the U.S. thinks it has ethnic troubles, it should take a look at Europe. Europe has Nazis. Well, the U.S. has Nazis too, but in Europe, they vote. In Europe, they set their migrant workers on fire. Europe is the only place in the world where two caucasian males can hate each other for racial reasons.

Europe is what America could become if it doesn't mellow out.

Europe is also probably the oldest non-arrested civilization on the planet today. Europe is the only place on earth where a large number of culturally different people have resided within limited space, still maintained their ethnic identities, and still not killed each other.

This is quite an amazing feat, and even given the fact that every hundred years or so one of the European nations tries to take over the rest. Considering European nation's history of unhappy togetherness, it's surprising that now they want to unite.

But they do. According to Mastricht Treaty, European nations are supposed to be glued together into one, great big Japanese-fighting economic unit.

The goal isn't just a free trade zone across Europe -- Europeans are looking for complete economic union, a common foreign policy, and a common currency. They are searching for something no European dictator was ever able to achieve. But it isn't turning out that way. In France now, especially, farmers, fascists, communists, and other European political staples are coming out talking about the danger of more immigrants, or higher unemployment, or inflation, or selling out the national government to foreigners.

The opposition to unification is too random, too uncoordinated, to be based on any real fear or risk. It is a reflexive reaction to the belief that Europeans who get sucked into the Community will have their national sovereignty hopelessly diluted. Faced by the prospect that unification might happen, Europeans are getting scared.

They are right. Europeans are not trying to unite because their own nations are not working, they are just being lured together by the hope that if they unify then their nations will work even better, by the hope, as the posters say in France, "Being one of twelve is stronger than being alone."

But that's good enough reason. Bonding enemies together doesn't always build friendships, and it doesn't always breed success. Taking a bunch of national leaders with different ideas and forcing them to create a common foreign policy doesn't always create a policy everyone believes in. In history, the groups that have united the best have always been the ones that had the most in common in the first place.

People have this notion that in the future everyone will be politically united -- at least, that's how it is portrayed on Star Trek. Sometimes we hope for this imagined future so much that we rush it. It's clear, for instance, that Europeans like their national characters too much to want to do away with them -- their unification efforts seem better spent on figuring out how to keep those national characters and still not kill each other.