Kinsman: Is Jean Monnet's dream for Europe ending in nightmare?

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October 3, 2011

Monnet dreamed of ending Europe's murderous wars and it came true. It was a political project, but the technique was to proceed cautiously by binding European states through economic inter-dependence without challenging political sovereignty. It worked wonderfully for fifty years. Europeans were never before as free, peaceful, prosperous, healthy, or green.

Their enviable social model became unaffordable because of declining birth rates, aging populations and bountiful publicly funded pensions. The defect in the politically cautious design was to leave all powers to tax exclusively in national parliaments which resisted meaningful European fiscal coordination. It allowed individual Euro-zone member governments to fund unaffordable social programs that kept them elected by deficits and ever-increasing sovereign debt. In consequence, the Euro seems now a bridge too far, but the crisis Europe faces is a debt crisis, not the end of Monnet's dream of a peaceful Europe.

Saving the Euro will require "more Europe" for Euro-zone countries. European leaders must explain this to voters who no longer reward "Europe" for the state of peace and prosperity they have long taken for granted. But mediocre politicians intimidated by anti-immigrant and anti-Europe right-wing national identity parties fail to argue for big solutions for Europe, while choosing as officials to lead EU instititions politicians even smaller than themselves. Still, the EU won't unravel, any more than the US will, where aggregate debt and deficits are even higher.