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Perhaps most damning of all is that the euro has justified the humiliation of Europe’s South, Greece especially. The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit argued that a decent political society is one in which institutions do not humiliate. In the eyes of many Europeans the EU now fails this basic test of political decency. One of the faces of this failure is Martin Schulz, former President of the European Parliament and unanimously elected leader of Germany’s SPD in March. After the Greek referendum he said that it was time for a “government of technocrats” to replace those in Athens who had defied Brussels. Yet, far from reviling him as an anti-democrat, Europe’s intelligentsia seems to have already crowned Schulz as the face of the EU’s post-Brexit future.

The euro may have worked for Germany in an economic sense, but it has not solved its identity problems. Far from it. In another recent contribution to the debate on Europe, The End of Europe (Yale, £18.99), James Kirchick — who, unlike Delaume and Cayla, laments the possibility that the EU may collapse — writes an insightful chapter on Germany’s identity crisis. The post-war Germany of the Rhine founded by Adenauer has been shifting its pivot eastward. With the election of an American President who seems more than happy to reciprocate Germany’s growing disaffection towards the United States, Kirchick may be right to think that Germany will find itself tempted to reconsider its Westbindung and explore a new Sonderweg.

The election of Trump has prompted the rediscovery of Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here — a dystopian political novel in which a fascist defeats Roosevelt in 1936. The protagonist, a newspaper editor called Doremus Jessup, is struck by a realisation: “The tyranny of this dictatorship isn’t the primary fault of Big Business, nor the demagogues who do their dirty work. It’s the fault of Doremus Jessup! Of all the conscientious, respectable, lazy-minded Doremus Jessups who have let the demagogues wriggle in, without fierce enough protest.”

The EU is no tyranny or dictatorship. But democracy is in crisis in Europe. True, the blame does not lie only with the EU: according to recent polling for the Journal of Democracy, youth disaffection with democracy runs high in EU and non-EU democracies alike. The post-referendum myth of an idealist British youth outvoted by a cynical older generation, however, may need some revisiting now that we know that only 30 per cent of under-35s in Britain think it is “essential” to live in a democracy, as opposed to 75 per cent of those born in the 1930s. Europe is less well-placed to deal with this crisis, divided as it is between supranational institutions that are at best undemocratic and increasingly anti-democratic, and national institutions that have lost so much authority that they fail to command respect. Conscientious, respectable but lazy-minded pundits have not acquiesced in the rise of tyranny, but might they have enabled this dangerous situation to arise?

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Anonymous
April 19th, 2017
11:04 AM
Fantastic piece, very thought provoking. It is extraordinary that nowadays, national pride's chain of inference becomes descent into fascism. "Liberals" have been peddling this canard unopposed. As a result it has become generally accepted. Ironically, if legitimate concerns continue to go unaddressed, it will eventually come true. But so far there has been demonstrably very little appetite for it despite the best efforts of the police and their lobbyists (see Hate Crime statistics and how they are gathered and then used to peddle a false narrative). Finally here this author is highlighting the fact that the establishment has been so often on the wrong side of history. Does education immunize against common sense? is is used as a substitute for independent thinking? Is group-think unduly rewarded by the system? Clearly there is a problem there.

geomat33
April 2nd, 2017
11:04 PM
The alternative model to both neoliberalism and collectivism is emerging called cooperative liberalism or coliberalism. This development not only affirms that Brexit was the right decision, it also provides the economic pathway for doing so. This development, while exposing the EU as a well-intentioned but flawed experiment, offers a practical pathway to achieving the original goals of the EU. "Coliberalism affirms the long-standing belief that human progress is the result of cooperative effort based on trust and underpinned by an attitude of selflessness, grounded in empathy. It is a rejection of the neoliberal concept of trying to organize society on the principle of self-interest and enforced through the market by its monopoly on defining value, which it defines solely in terms of financial profit and loss. Coliberalism works by relegating the market to being a subset of society rather than being its central institution, as it is under neoliberalism. This has the effect of quarantining the broader community from the withering impact of self-interest while freeing the market to deliver economic benefits with minimum regulation and minimum taxation. Under coliberalism the traditional process of sharing wealth through salary, wages, taxation and redistribution is expanded to include human creativity and social capital as recognized by direct feedback through Trruster. Coliberalism frees the market to automate to improve efficiency while sharing the gains more equitably and more broadly on a global basis by rewarding human creativity, ingenuity and social capital building. While coliberalism is a rejection of the dominion of the market over the individual, it is also a rejection of collectivism in all its forms, which can be broadly defined as the dominion of the state over the individual. Coliberalism can be broadly defined as a system of social, economic and political organization based on individuals cooperating freely for mutual benefit, guided by online feedback and within the bounds of common law." http://bit.ly/2nMgSvT

Anonymous
April 1st, 2017
8:04 AM
Adolf Hitler was the biggest threat to democracy in the 20th Century The EU is the biggest threat to democracy in the 21st Century World War 1 was in the early 20th Century, and its now 2017 I hope that the 21st Century does not have to fight the great wars again to regain or maintain democracy

Democracy lover
March 30th, 2017
7:03 AM
Excellent piece. Thank you for this wake-up call article.

anonymous
March 29th, 2017
7:03 PM
If colonization and it's inherant threat to indigenous culture by military force is wrong then the same result through political peer pressure is just as wrong. If America or any other country wants to participate in the melting pot culture, let them. However those who desire to truly preserve indigenous cultural identity of a country by maintaining autonomy, that is their right as many of the countries have fought, loved, died and worked hard over centuries to create the country and the unique culture. Long live Brittain! Vive Francais! And for all those liberals giving lip service to diversity it is exactly that which you threaten in your demands to integrate. Especially when the demand is against the will of those experiencing forced integration. Trade cooperation should not require a loss of cultural autonomy.

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