George Will

WASHINGTON -- When Chancellor Angela Merkel decided that Germany would pay part of Greece's bills, voters punished her party in elections in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. How appropriate.

The 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War, ratified Europe's emerging system of nation-states. Since the end of the Thirty-One Years' War (1914-1945), European elites have worked at neutering Europe's nationalities. Greece's debt crisis reveals this project's intractable contradictions, and the fragility of Western Europe's postwar social model -- omniprovident welfare states lacking limiting principles.

Greece represents a perverse aspiration -- a society with (in the words of Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan) "more takers than makers," more people taking benefits from government than there are people making goods and services that produce the social surplus that funds government. By socializing the consequences of Greece's misgovernment, Europe has become the world's leading producer of a toxic product -- moral hazard. The dishonesty and indiscipline of a nation with 2.6 percent of the eurozone's economic product have moved nations with the other 97.4 percent -- and the United States and the International Monetary Fund -- to say, essentially: The consequences of such vices cannot be quarantined, so we are all hostages to one another and hence no nation will be allowed to sink beneath the weight of its recklessness.

Recklessness will proliferate.

"The coining of money," said William Blackstone more than two centuries ago, "is in all states the act of the sovereign power."

But the EU is neither a state nor sovereign enough to enforce its rules: No eurozone nation is complying with the EU requirement that deficits not exceed 3 percent of GDP.

The EU has a flag no one salutes, an anthem no one sings, a president no one can name, a parliament (in Strasbourg) no one other than its members wants to have power (which must subtract from the powers of national legislatures), a capital (Brussels) of coagulated bureaucracy no one admires or controls, a currency that presupposes what neither does nor should nor soon will exist (a European central government), and rules of fiscal behavior that no member has been penalized for ignoring. The euro currency both presupposes and promotes a fiction -- that "Europe" has somehow become, against the wishes of most Europeans, a political rather than a merely geographic expression.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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