Winston Churchill’s dream is fulfilled: a former “coal-and-steel trading arrangement” has grown from common market into globally powerful international community.
By many measures, writes Washington Post Rocky Mountain bureau chief Reid (Confucius Lives Next Door, 1999, etc.), the 25 states of the European Union outstrip the United States of America: they have more people, more money, more trade, more class. They have better food and wine; they have better health care, better social welfare, better public housing, better architecture. About the only thing they don’t have better is a military, which suits them just fine as long as the US picks on Arabs and Afghanis and picks up the tab of empire. Most of those nations used to like us pretty well, writes Reid, until George W. Bush came along; whereas in 1998, he writes, “78 percent of Germans had a favorable view of the United States . . . in the wake of the war in Iraq, only 38 percent had a positive feeling,” a trend echoed by public-opinion surveys in France, Italy, and even England. Though Europeans like us for our pop culture, Reid writes, they despise us for our lack of worldliness, our bluster, our devotion to capital punishment (which they esteem a particular barbarism). With the rise of Eurovision and its shiny blond pop singers (or its latest phenomenon, a Russian “techno lezpop duo”), they may not even need our pop culture much longer. In any event, Reid ably demonstrates, Europeans are charting their own course and are making impressive economic progress in the bargain: his case studies of the rise of Airbus, Nokia, and other firms make must-reading for business analysts, and his account of how the euro came to be universally accepted overnight (and, incidentally, how the euro symbol came into being) is an altogether fine piece of reporting.
Salutary arguments abound here for those tired of homegrown complainers about high taxes and states’ rights. A sturdy companion to Will Hutton’s Declaration of Interdependence (2003), written with an eye to an American audience.