George F. Will complains about the Euro.
January 2, 2002 1:00 PM   Subscribe

George F. Will complains about the Euro. Interesting, many of the arguments Will uses against the adoption of common European currency (loss of sovereignty, loss of cultural coherence) are the same ones used by critics against the WTO and corporate globalization.
posted by Ty Webb (31 comments total)
Except that Will isn't making an argument. There's no reasoning here at all, just reaction. Mind you, I don't know whether the Euro is a good thing or a bad thing. But Will's not making a case here. He insists that "two elites" want economic union, commercial interests because it makes it easier for them to wield power (although this makes some sense, he doesn't provide any example of how this will hurt labor, and at least where I sit it's not obvious how it does -- maybe that it would interfere with a national government creating the kinds of local market protections that I'd think Mr. Will would dislike?); and, of course, those damned, pointy-headed utopian intellectuals, none of whom he can even be bothered to name.

Seems like he's just being a lazy pundit.
posted by BT at 1:23 PM on January 2, 2002

He's a lazy pundit. He's disliked European union for so long that his arguments read like shorthand now, sort of like that Star Trek episode where the aliens could only speak in cliches.

I respect them for trying and everything, but... it's hard for me to take the European Union seriously. Does anyone believe it will last for even two generations?
posted by coelecanth at 1:58 PM on January 2, 2002

and, of course, those damned, pointy-headed utopian intellectuals, none of whom he can even be bothered to name.

BT: Try Mikhail Gorbachev, he recently wrote a piece about American globalization, espousing his idea of globalization. I think Gorbachev is extremely active in this type of politics. Read this editorial he wrote for the International Herald Tribune.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:00 PM on January 2, 2002

they probably said that about the articles of confederation too... i agree though that the EU needs a more stable governing body, and having them elected wouldn't be so bad either.. :)
posted by rhyax at 2:14 PM on January 2, 2002

The whole point behind the European Union is that Western Europe has been plagued by wars and territorial disputes for as long as people have been living (t)here. The period following the second world war is the longest period there has ever been without a war between any of the European Union members (or any of the disparate states that preceded them). The European Union is a triumph of idealism over cynicism, and that's why I am a Europhile.

The Euro is an important step towards further integration. I don't think anybody really knows what will happen now, but if the currency is seen to be a success in the coming months and/or years, I think it is inevitable that Britain will also join. Coelecanth, I do think that this will last for more than two generations. It has to.
posted by salmacis at 2:24 PM on January 2, 2002

I wasn't sure if you are serious or are just splitting hairs over the term "argument". It' s pretty clear that Will has a postion (against the euro) and that he's arguing it. My point in posting the article is that Will has no problem with the loss of national sovereignty when it has to do with the WTO or NAFTA.
posted by Ty Webb at 2:37 PM on January 2, 2002

Hey, it's easy to hate Europe.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:40 PM on January 2, 2002

The European Union is a triumph of idealism over cynicism, and that's why I am a Europhile.

Actually, the EU is a triumph of bureaucracy and sheepdom over democracy. The EU could have done fine with multiple currencies for the next 50-100 years while its economies merged into one another. But by taking the cheap, PR route of a premature single currency, the Members have substantially lost control over monetary policy. So good luck to you, the next time the economy tanks (probably, right about NOW). Happy Unemployment to You!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:48 PM on January 2, 2002

Ty --

It wasn't clear from your post that you were explicitly pointing to a contradiction with a previously articulated Will position re WTO/NAFTA (while I can't imagine Will has anything nice to say about the protesters, it wouldn't surprise me if he had some bad things to say about NAFTA, which many conservatives dislike).

I hope I didn't obscure my response through reflexive snarkiness; but I don't think it's "hair-splitting" to focus on whether a columnist's opinion is well-articulated or a grab-bag of assertions. What I was trying to emphasize was that Will is reacting without bothering to defend, support, or even very clearly explain his reaction -- so comparing this to a left-wing position on NAFTA is somewhat beside the point for me, because he doesn't do enough work here for me to take his position seriously.

As far as "national sovereignity" goes, Will seems to worry here vaguely about a loss of "flavor" among European nations, but his fretting over "blandness" is manifestly a thin veil over his worry that the pro-Union crowd is a pack of socialists who will make life no fun and maybe even redistribute wealth or other bad things like that.

Maybe the best way to put this is that he's sloppily stealing some of the rhetoric of anti-globalization protestors to dress up his own very different agenda.
posted by BT at 2:53 PM on January 2, 2002

insomnyuk -- I never thought of Gorbachev as very pointy-headed. More sort of roundy-and-birthmarky-headed.
posted by BT at 2:58 PM on January 2, 2002


We all know how good a job the individual European countries have done controlling their monetary policy on their own. Why, France must have the lowest unemployment in the world!
posted by Kevs at 3:55 PM on January 2, 2002

Kevs: are you saying that the French are so lame that they have to farm out responsibility for monetary and other types of policy? I guess you are.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:05 PM on January 2, 2002

A large percentage of the British anti-Euro rabble (myself rather shamefully included) know next to nothing about the economic implications, but simply like things as they are and don't relish the thought of change or disruption. I like the pound - it's part of our national heritage. I've nowt against Europe per se but in my humble and very probably myopic opinion, we'd be better off staying independent and adpatable in the unpredictable (or, perhaps, gloomily predictable) world economic climate.
sort of like that Star Trek episode where the aliens could only speak in cliches.
Err... don't mean to be pedantic, but it was metaphors, coelecanth, metaphors. Just thought I'd better clear that up. :D
posted by RokkitNite at 4:43 PM on January 2, 2002

Ha. You bit on Star Trek bait. As it turns out the two (clichés and metaphors) are not incompatible: we're both right, but I feel funnier.

But I couldn't imagine England without the pound.
posted by coelecanth at 5:35 PM on January 2, 2002

George F. Will's hair-helmet is on a little too tight. 'Nuff said.
posted by Ben Grimm at 6:33 PM on January 2, 2002

The real fear of the EU is their proposed combined military.

Let them have their money with imbeded tracking devices and pictures of places that don't exist but a European army that answers to an appointed bureaucracy scares the shit out of me.
posted by Mick at 8:16 PM on January 2, 2002

When Britain joins the Euro, will they have to change the name of the Genesis album to "Selling England by the Euro"?

RokkitNite: What is it you like about the Pound? It's just a currency. It's no different from buying petrol in litres rather than gallons. After a while you just stop noticing that the units have changed. For me, the only question about the Euro is whether losing the ability to fine-tune your economy through money supply and interest rates is compensated by the increased trade opportunities and convenience. I believe that the USA has shown us that it is possible for one currency to apply over such a large area.
posted by salmacis at 12:59 AM on January 3, 2002, I'm saying that the EU couldn't possibly do a worse job than the independent countries do already, so why not standardize?
posted by Kevs at 1:08 AM on January 3, 2002

Andrew Sullivan had an interesting take on this, currently available here. To summarize, he says that the Canadians seem to have survived just fine with the Canadian Dollar, and that exchanging currencies really isn't that big of a deal.

salmacis: Argentina is well and truly fucked in no small part because they can't easily control their money supply, having pegged the peso to the dollar. Further, while it is getting easier to move labor and investment around the EU, it's still nowhere near as easy as it is to move labor and investment around the US.
posted by jaek at 1:48 AM on January 3, 2002

Jaek, George Will and Andrew Sullivan are cut from the same cloth and both should be ignored as much as is reasonably possible. My personal opinion is they have a very difficult time distinguishing nationalism from patriotism and are lazy trolls.
posted by nofundy at 4:40 AM on January 3, 2002 why not standardize?

For the reason refered to above re Argentina, and really, Mississippi. Foolish Europeans don't get the connection between high unemployment and the Euro; between recessions which go on and on (so long, that with enough propaganda, no one cares is a recession). Mississippi and certain parts of the US are, in effect, in perpetual recession, compared to the rest of the country. Except Missisippi never, voluntarily, gave up the tools to improve the situation. Wait till the United States really goes into a recession (hopefully, not soon).

Hey, look. The Euro isn't worth $1.17; its $90 or less. Enough commentary.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:54 AM on January 3, 2002

I am European, I have studied and worked in the US for almost a decade. I am sick of the American knee-jerk reaction against the Euro. Europe is not the US. The Europeans know this already, why don't the Americans get it?

Europe will not lose its variety of culture because our new currency has fancy colors and non-existent buildings on it. The individuality of a European country (or town for that matter) is evident in the language of the people, in the street signs, in the menus of the restaurants, in the design of the buildings.

We don't need different change in our pockets for crying out loud, and such criticism is ridiculous when it comes from a nation of strip-mall shoppers and planned subdivision inhabitants that need a Zip code to tell their country apart. Americans can keep your Starbucks, your K-Marts, your Mickey-Ds, your Supercuts, your Kinko's, your TCBYs, your Jacks-in-the-Box, your White Castles, your Rite-Aids, your Popeye's Chicken. We Eurolanders can keep our fictional drawings based on centuries of architectural history, K?
posted by costas at 8:11 AM on January 3, 2002

Costas: When I was in Europe, I didn't see how your statement can be supported. Sure, there are cultural and historical landmarks, but national identity is a different thing. America may not have as many cultural hoo-has and what nots, but we have a fairly strong national identity. And you can keep your damn Basques, Frenchmen, and other political revolutionary types.

As for currency not affecting national sovereignty. Well, the American States lost much of their sovereignty before there was a national currency. In Europe, the goal is total political unification (at least for some), and to them, a standard form of currency is merely the first step in that direction. It is total unification which will in time destroy cultural and national distinctions.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:23 AM on January 3, 2002

I am sick of the American knee-jerk reaction against the Euro. Europe is not the US. The Europeans know this already, why don't the Americans get it?

And you are naive. Or ignorant. Adoption of the Euro, 25-75 years before it is/was economically appropriate simply means that Americans will have a freer hand to steamroll over European commercial institutions. It has already begun.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2002


I'd like to keep Kinko's, its a good, useful store. I could probably do without the rest.
posted by 4midori at 10:51 AM on January 3, 2002

Paris and insomnyuk: I am not defending the Euro as an economics move or as a currency; I am merely defending its design and the --all too necessary-- compromises that had to be made for it to become a reality.

I agree that America has a strong national identity, although there are variants: Southerners and Bay Area inhabitants have few things in common, but they can all agree that are Americans. Europeans have some sort of "national" (continental?) indentity taking shape. Sure, it will take a few generations to fully mature, but there will be one: younger Europeans commute around Europe much more freely and readily than people of just a generation ago.

I am not naive --maybe optimistic and hopeful... I work for an American company; my territory is all of Europe --I commute across two EU countries weekly, and regurarly drop in to work in a couple of others. I am an Agent of American Financial Imperialism and all too proud of it. But Europe is no laggard. America and Europe have different scarcities and different markets --the knowledge and skills in the two sides of the Atlantic are different, not comparable, they are apples and oranges.

In the final analysis, American firms that excel in verticals that America has strong historical skills in will also excel in Europe and vice versa. And Paris, I don't get your "it has already begun" comment: Daimler owns Chrysler, BA controls American Airlines, Vodafone controls Verizon and on and on. If US regulation on foreign ownership was more lenient, there would be more Euro takeovers of American firms --conversely if some European companies didnot have such a protected home market, they wouldn't have as much cash, but the regulation knife cuts both ways...
posted by costas at 11:37 AM on January 3, 2002

I don't get your "it has already begun"

Very good points you make. I guess my position comes from living in France in the early 1990's when the details of Euro was being worked out. The Euro, and the EU were being sold as a bullwark, or at least a restraint against the US and "globalism." So, at least the French were sold a bill of goods.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:49 AM on January 3, 2002

Can anyone say "Pax Romana"?
The Euro just the latest incarnation.
P.S. It’s a mixed bag, but overall I think it's a good thing.
posted by Bag Man at 5:00 PM on January 3, 2002

I really only have one problem with the EU:

Fifty years down the line, separation anxiety in a unified Europe could be the end of civilization there. Ever Union gets its Civil War, but this one would have more than enough nukes to go around.
posted by Ptrin at 5:42 PM on January 3, 2002

no, by that time OAS will have come together and we'll have our own currency, and china and east asia will come together making the three big countries we all know will rule the future i feel left out... but then, i'm a UN junkie :)
posted by rhyax at 10:02 PM on January 3, 2002

Damn. I was hoping for the Fatties, the Greasies, and the Peeps, per Pohl's JEM.
posted by Ptrin at 10:09 PM on January 3, 2002

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