Reflections on Europe

I just finished a book entitled The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy. Picked it up for 25 cents at a yard sale in Michigan, figured that was a good deal, and found it to be fascinating. Slightly dated, published in 2004, T. R Reid basically argues that Americans are oblivious to the power and dominance of the newly united Europe, which, as the title indicates, is (he argues) modeled after the United States of America. A lot of the book is predictions of how Europe will continue to further unite and challenge American hegemony in an increasingly non-unipolar world. Many of these predictions, alas, stand out for how far off the mark they are…

He predicted that the European alternative to GPS, Galileo’s PRS, which is far superior in precision and accuracy, will soon replace GPS. I had never heard of PRS, or the Galileo satellite system, and you can look it up, does exist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_(satellite_navigation)), was supposed to go operational in 2012 (he says will be fully operational by 2008 in the book, p. 142)…but has been pushed back.  According to Reid, the European Space Agency will far outstrip NASA in their outer-space missions…also unlikely. Of course, the euro is lauded at the heir apparent to the dollar, and he predicts that it will in a few years replace the dollar as the reserve currency. Still possible, but recent events do not bode especially well for the euro…

He includes a long section on the regulatory reach and power of the EU, which was new to me. The prime example of this is the EU’s refusal to allow the merger of General Electric and Honeywell, and how their environmental and safety standards tend to be the baseline for American manufacturers since entry in the enormous European market is so important. Long lists of American brands and companies purchased by European firms are also included, mostly for shock effect, a number of which I would guess are no longer accurate.

The philosophical framework of the European Union as the alternative to any future war in Europe, which has been a recurrent problem over the last few millennia, I found quite interesting. Certainly it has been largely successful in that aspect, and hopefully will continue to do so. Drawing the historical parallels between the current debates in European politics and the creation of the United States from the diverse colonies on the New World following the War of Independence was instructive–central power versus local autonomy, enforcement of taxation, federal regulatory reach, etc.

At NEGST I really appreciated my discussions with the resident Europeans, Søren and Karen, and I had never before considered the benefits, or even the feasibility, of socialism. In the US my friends generally discount socialism as an utterly failed experiment, abandoned in the junkyard of history, which is somewhat ironic considering that the Scandinavian states often top the US in most measures of happiness, education, literacy, development and standard of living.  Certainly it has it drawbacks, as, um, does capitalism, and Europe is undergoing great strain at the moment. I’ll be very curious to see how it unfolds, and appreciate this book for providing insight on the European experiment that in a number of ways does model the structure of the United States of America.

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