Over the past half decade or so the United States has invested 2 trillion dollars in state-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan without much in the way of success. The Europe has managed to do a much better job, and without making many defense contactors rich. Here’s How…
Hey all, let’s talk a bit about Democracy in Europe. Almost Every term you use when you talk about politics can get you in to trouble…
“The Worst Thing about Europe is those damn liberal Socialists!”
“The Worst thing about The US is those heartless liberal Republicans!”
Nobody can agree on the appropriate definitions for political terms. The word Democracy has been pretty savagely abused. For some democracy means a vote, for some it means everybody gets to eat, and for some it means everybody gets to not eat equally.
But if we look at Europe in 2014 we can see a large number of countries that let their people choose their governments, and generally don’t pick on their minorities.
Sarkozy- Heh, Heh, Unless they are Gypsies!
Like I said, generally. We’ve Developed our own sophisticated terminology. But how did we get here? If you roll the clock back a couple decades it was a very different story. If you go a few decades further back than that you only had a handful of countries that qualify as solid. How did we get to where we are today?
The answer once again is the European Union. Spain, Portugal, and Greece were all ruled by dictatorships well into the 1970s. Those systems were falling apart, but there was no predicting what would replace them. The European Union, known back then as the European Community, provided something to strive for. You see when Europe lets a new country in, they don’t just get free trade, the EU also commits to helping out the less developed regions in that new country. Membership also requires a certain level of governmental sophistication. Spain, Portugal, and Greece consolidated their democracies and were admitted to what became the European Union in the 1980s.
The EU and its programs are expensive, complicated and too often hurt the autonomy and responsiveness of individual governments. But you know what’s a hell of a lot worse?
We’ve seen over the past months how scary it can be when Europe has to deal with one country that wants things run differently. How much worse would it have been if we had to deal with 5 or 10? As the 1980s turned into the 1990s Russia’s empire fell apart. It was a dangerous time. Both 20th Century World Wars started in the region that Russia had just given up. In between the wars, many of these countries were given the chance to set up democratic governments. But Democracy is kind of a hard thing to do as a small state in an unfriendly neighborhood, especially when the allegiance of significant minorities in your territory is claimed by neighboring countries.
In the 1920s and 1930s these countries failed miserably. Most of them became dictatorships of one kind or another long before being swallowed up by Stalin and the Nazis. But in the 1990s we had the EU. The formalities for joining were settled in that decade. They required democracy, rule of law, and protection of minorities among many other things. In the next decades a dozen new countries were added, and for the most part they were added peacefully. Looking back this may seem like the natural result, but it might not have happened without the European Union.
The EU is definitely a system of control, but it is different from any other. As historian Tony Judt has pointed out “there are no instruments of coercion: No EU tax collectors, No EU policemen. The European Union thus represents an unusual compromise, international governance undertaken by national governments.”
For the first time in history, Europe is at peace and mostly in agreement about how it should be run. It’s a bit boring, but it’s also an extraordinary accomplishment. We should not let it slip away…
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