EU-Topia: Why Europe Can’t Exist

Two things have held Europe together during its millennial history:  First Christianity; then freedom. Both are largely gone and therefore Europe will be gone soon, too. “We’re not America or Asia” is simply not a strong enough rallying cry to permanently bind people together who are better off apart.

What holds Europe together now is a combination of factors: A governing elite, largely French in culture, driven by the simple will-to-power; national leaders who hunger for the acclaim of the supra-national elite culture more than for the citizens of their own nations; and the citizens of those nations who have been bludgeoned into silence regarding their ‘euro-skepticism’, but who are just beginning to wake up to the fact that they were right all along.

The original European ‘project’ was forced conversion to Roman Catholic Christianity under Charlemagne in order to form a stronger Holy Roman Empire which could resist an expansionary Muslim Caliphate. Charlemagne would conquer whole peoples and then engage in mass baptisms of the conquered. He created a centralized palace culture with a high degree of respect for art and learning, but not nearly as much for freedom and self-determination. This is very important to understand, because a thousand years later, when Europe’s Christianity subsided, much of its heritage of centralism continued in neo-pagan and/or secular forms.

Fascism was basically a Paganized modification of Charlemagne. In fact, Hitler’s Third Reich was based on the idea that Charlemagne’s reign was the first Reich (Bismarck’s was the second). Hitler believed that Charlemagne’s reign was weakened by Christianity, which he saw as a religion for the weak which was far too historically associated with the Jews. He explicitly claimed that his Reich would take the German people back in time 700 years: that is, before their conversion. A return to the Teutonic gods of old, he thought, would give his empire a thousand years of domination.

Mussolini had already blazed the fascistic trail, but with ancient Rome’s, rather than Germany’s, pagan gods as the inspiration. In fact, the fasces (after which fascism was named) had been a Roman symbol: sticks bound together, one of them usually an axe, impossible to break.

 

Both regimes, of course, were as thoroughly collectivist as the fasces symbol implies: men were lashed together, bound by the state into a common purpose, with the threating blade to keep them in line. Both were paganized inversions of Charlemagne’s kingdom; each attempting to build an Un-Holy Roman Empire, built on loyalty to blood and soil.

After the blood was shed and swallowed by the soil, Europe attempted to regain her sanity. The post-war West German leaders took the insights of Austrian economics and applied them once again. The result was the Wirtschaftschwunder, the German Economic Miracle. Ludwig Erhard established sound money, abolished price controls, flattened the tax code and the economy snapped back almost immediately.

In some cases store windows went from bare to filled with bread, eggs and produce overnight. This great economic success led to the rise of the Christian Democratic Party, which reaffirmed the spiritual roots of Europe, but grafted onto them a free-market economic order. It affirmed a free order of national political competition as well: each nation would pursue its own political ends with its own political means, with no goal of an Empire, a Reich of any other form of super-state.

Leaders of this school of thought sought to tear up the barbed wire between nations, the literal and legal forms. They negotiated a grand agreement in which all Europeans would be guaranteed four fundamental rights: the right to sell goods across national borders; the right to sell services across borders; the right to invest across borders and the right to migrate freely across borders. After a long struggle, they succeeded in codifying those rights in the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

But not every member of the European elite shared the vision of free competition among nations; some still harbored dreams of an European super-state. Not built on Christianity like Charlemagne’s, nor on blood and soil like Hitler’s, but based on intellectual elites administering a welfare state. This group would use the Treaty of Rome process to try to betray the intent of its classical liberal founders. This is the group that won. How and why will be the topic of a future column.