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The United States of Europe (T.R.Reid)

2006-04-29 2 min read Books marco

Being a European (still), I just couldn’t resist the temptation of buying this book. Mr. Reid obviously knew something I didn’t, his title suggesting that Europe was on its way to equal the United States (of America) in global power, no less.

Turns out that the book could have been titled: “The European Union, A Force Not to Be Neglected Any Longer.” Not as catchy, of course, and the whole tone of the book is sensationalized to attract readers to a fairly dull subject matter.

Fact is that Americans know very little of Europe, and hold on to the impression that the nations composing the virtual continent are eternally divide, constantly on the brink of self-destruction, and in general vaguely poor. They seem to have vast welfare states and huge taxes, and there seems to be a transfer of wealth from the rich and healthy to the poor and sick that would enrage any American.

The book is factually quite accurate and proves the point that anyone living between the United States and the European Union notices a series of discrepancies that the inhabitants of each “block” seem not to witness. So, for instance, Mr. Rumsfeld’s assertion that there was Old Europe (opposed to the Iraq war) and New Europe (supporting it) is clearly demonstrated as rubbish: the population of the continent as a whole abhorred the war, while the governments’ position reflected their political stance in general towards the U.S.

If the book limited itself at proving that there is an increasing sense of Europeanness in Europe’s youth, a few success stories in the realm of economics and a lot of them in the arts – it would have been a rather dull, but accurate book. Instead, there is a lot of emphasis on the institutions that are being built, as a counterweight to the might of America.

Fact is, the relationship with America is probably secondary to most Europeans. Their struggles have nothing to do with the distant continent, whose culture they do not understand, but certainly reject where they have a chance (except in the arts, for some odd reason). The need to stand up to America is really just pragmatic, not ideological – why pay more for gas than you have to, that kind of thing.

Ultimately, I believe a good book about America and Europe for an American audience needs to be written by a European. Maybe Mr. Reid should have written a book about America for Europeans?