The times, however, they are a'changin' and, not surprisingly, it is the Wall Street Journal that is the first to wake up. It appears that the old idea, much promoted by that newspaper of an integrated European market never really had much traction, according to Bret Stephens, though despite this sudden ability to see the light, he still thinks that Western Europe's rise and fall is somehow equivalent to the European Union's rise and fall.
When the history of the rise and fall of postwar Western Europe is someday written, it will come in three volumes. Title them "Hard Facts," "Convenient Fictions" and—the volume still being written—"Fraud."Not so, but far from it, Mr Stephens. To answer your own question, what will come after "Europe" will be Europe without quotation marks. You know, the one that has been around for some time and has produced quite a few good ideas as well as a large number of bad ones.
Still, we must take what we can and Mr Stephens is right in his main arguments:
There was, for starters, the convenient fiction that if you just added up the GDP of the European Union's expanding list of member states, you had an economy whose size exceeded that of the United States. Didn't this make "Europe" an economic superpower? There was the convenient fiction that Europe didn't need robust military capabilities when it could exert global influence through diplomacy and soft power. There was the convenient fiction that Europeans shared identical values and could thus be subject to uniform regulations governing crime and punishment. There was the convenient fiction that Continentals weren't lagging in productivity but were simply making an enlightened choice of leisure over labor.And then, he says, came outright fraud. Well, not exactly. The outright fraud was there from the very beginning. Indeed, the fictions he lists, which some of us have been writing about for more years that we care to admit to, are inherently impossible without fraud.
And there was, finally, the whopping fiction that Europe had its own "model," distinct and superior to the American one, that immunized it from broader international currents: globalization, Islamism, demography. Europeans love their holidays and thought they were entitled to a long holiday from history as well.
All this did wonders, for a while, to mask European failures and puff up European pride. But there is always a danger in substituting grandiosity for achievement, mistaking pronouncements for facts, or, more generally, believing in your own nonsense.
Nevertheless, this is quite a big step forward in our fight to make the truth known in the United States. Now, all we need is an understanding of it in Britain.