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June 29-July 13, 2005

Issue #78

  .....Buffalo's Best Fiend
   

Independence Day
3rd Party Politics for Fun & Profit

 
BAD ART!
Pataki Leads Carge Against the Talentless
by Matt Taibbi
 
Last Best Chance
Dragging our Feet on Nuclear Terror
by Alex Zaitchik
 

Welcome to My Nightmare
Eminent Domain Ruling Leads to Gigantism in B-List Actors

by Ian Murphy

 

Say it Ain't Soda
Revoking the Bottle Deposit is an Asinine Idea

by Christofurious Riordan

 

Reid's United States of Europe
Book Review
by Paul Fallon

 

Just Kill Me
Recruiters are Dying to Talk to Your Kids
by Matt Taibbi

 
Faux-tures

Litigious Idol
Help choose Barnes' new Cellino!

 

Dear Donny
Romantic Advice from the Secretary of Defense

 

Sports

The Sports Blotter
The Week in Sports Crime

Cover Page
Buffalo in Briefs
Page 3
 
Beast-O-Scopes
Kino Korner - Movies
[sic] - Your Letters
 
The BEAST Blog

 

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T.R. Reid's The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
Review by Paul Fallon

On the last page of veteran journalist T.R. Reid’s book, The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy, he states that “Americans should be happy to learn from the example of the United States across the sea.” He quickly warns that to “secure these benefits, though, Americans will have to wake up to the revolution.” Americans wake up? Learn from Europe? I can think of few statements that would engender more derision from America’s mainstream thinkers. For most Americans, American supremacy is an impenetrable myth that Mr. Reid and his facts are unlikely to dent. That’s why this book, and the discussion it should generate, is crucial for our future.

The premise of the book is simple: no matter what we think about Europe, they have got their shit together. The European Union, with its 25 member states, is the richest economy in the world and contains 500,000,000 people. It is bigger and richer, and by most accounts it is leaving us in the dust. Reid candidly informs us that the EU is a new superpower emerging on the world scene, or has already arrived, and it means business. Most people I talk to think China is the next big power, but after reading this book I hope and believe that it is the EU.

This is not a radical book. Its author is a fairly mainstream writer, a Washington Post reporter and a familiar commentator on National Public Radio. Reid discusses what the EU is, how it came into existence and why it is important that Americans recognize the primacy of building a solid relationship with it.

The notion of Europe as a superpower began to evolve immediately after WWII, with Winston Churchill envisioning what he called “The United States of Europe.” The process of consolidating Europe started slowly and expanded on many fronts through the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. It was always a predominant goal of many in Europe, but the defining moment was the introduction of the Euro and its acceptance as the only currency throughout Europe in 2002.

Business thrives in Europe, though there are higher taxes than in the United States. This is not something Europeans decry, because it affords them comprehensive social programs: Europeans have free health care, free schooling through college, ample unemployment benefits, a system of roads and public transportation that are the envy of the world, and they work a lot less than your average American. The dogma familiar to Americans is that these social programs are too costly, but this is an affront to the European mind, reflected by the statement of a British student: “Protecting our welfare state is probably the most important job the government has.”

In Europe, if you have a child, the government pays you to stay home from work, because they realize that raising a child is work, work that benefits society. In America, we talk about family values, but in Europe they do more than talk; they put their money where their mouths are. European employees are paid more, work shorter weeks and have much more vacation time. The hated French, for instance, have a 35-hour workweek and a minimum of 25 paid holidays per year. Compare this to the average of 10 holidays we get in the US. All employees have health care because it is paid for by the state (a benefit businesses are quick to acknowledge benefits them), and to the average European the notion of socialized medicine is the closest thing they have to religion. No politician would ever dare to suggest that this be taken away or limited.

Another aspect to European life is that of rights. The EU charter lists basic human rights, such as health care, free education, union membership, the right to strike, have limited working hours, paid vacations, paid parental leave and free job placement services. In addition, they have strict laws protecting one’s right to privacy, protecting the environment, consumer protection and preventing governmental intrusion. Add to this a justice system that seems to work, and you get an idea of why Europeans think Americans are nuts. The death penalty alone is a mystery to them. According to one law professor, “I wish you could see the students, how perplexed they are, how amazed they are, that the US permits this barbarous deed.”

There is no War on Drugs in Europe, except for trafficking. Another thing they don’t have in Europe is huge military expenditures. It is for this reason that some, especially Americans, think that Europe will not be a true superpower. The Europeans see this notion as outdated, and think that the future will belong to those who have the most economic power and can make strong, peaceful alliances throughout the world. The EU has been, for many years, building relations with countries by providing them foreign aid on a scale three times that of the US.

If we were honest with ourselves, or we had a media that was honest with us, what is going on in the EU would have been big news long ago. It should have been earth-shattering news when, led by the people of Europe, the world stood up against the US invasion of Iraq. Even though the invasion of Iraq was not stopped, in retrospect I think most Americans wish we had listened to the rest of the world.

Of course, most Americans don’t have the faintest idea what has been going on in Europe for the past forty years, or whether it is a revolution or not. America is a land where Europhobes are applauded for bashing quaint European customs and their ‘sissy’ desire for peace, freedom and equality. They don’t realize that the Europeans have been working had to surpass us since WWII because they see a need for balance in world affairs, and they see their way of life as better than ours.

The Europeans have also decided to turn their backs on religion. Their society is secular and the thought that a politician would say something like God Bless Europe to them would be absurd. The EU constitution doesn’t mention God or faith once. They also have grown away from marriage, but they have far fewer one-parent households than the US. The European is more suspicious of government and propaganda than Americans. They are cautiously distrustful of innovations such as genetically modified food. The German author Gunter Grass explains: “The proper response to the lusty appeals of progress is melancholy. In contrast to the American conception of happiness embodied in the say-cheese smile, the European is more comfortable with the knowledge that engenders disgust.”

If Americans knew more about Europe, I think they would find its detractors disingenuous. But they don’t, so we’re back at the end of Reid’s book, asking ourselves how to get there from here. This is not unlike the story of the Soviet Union, where people believed in their system and that they had achieved a level of society unmatched elsewhere. The fact of the matter was that the rest of the world was kept from them, and they fell because the truth eventually got out that a better life was possible. It’s unlikely that the American elite will let the rest of us know that the Europeans are living a lot better.

One way they are going to find out is that Europe is forcing America to change, by demanding any products sold or business done in Europe has to conform to their way of doing things. The regulatory scheme of the EU dictates to America how to operate precisely by the strength of its market. The more America is forced to conform to the EU, the more likely the way Europeans live is going to be known, and envied, by average Americans. It’s going to happen sooner or later; let’s hope that it is sooner. Maybe Reid’s book will help increase the flow of knowledge to the American people, from a trickle to a torrent, sweeping in a new wave of prosperity not just for Europe but for Americans and the rest of the world.

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