The European Union’s failure by its own standards

The 2011 Legatum Prosperity Index includes a number of insights. The fourth article is “The European Crisis: Time to Rethink Integration?”

In a sidebar, the author explains that the average confidence in a European Government is 12% lower than the Index average. Legatum suggests that European electorates feel increasingly excluded as national parliaments have ceded more power to the Union, opening up a gap between the process of European integration and public opinion.


The main article begins:

The Prosperity Index findings suggest that top-down political integration by European policymakers has done little to equalise economic or institutional differences among European countries. The income gap between the richest and poorest EU member states remains vast. Countries in the Mediterranean area report high levels of corruption, low rates of social trust, low levels of rule of law, and inefficient public sectors. European integration also seems to fail to raise institutional quality in these countries, as indicated by low public opinion regarding the quality of the court system and fewer reported instances of citizens voicing their concerns to officials.

And they write:

For decades, European policymakers have relied on top-down measures to encourage convergence on a whole range of economic, political, and social policies. The Prosperity Index reinforces the widespread impression that such convergence, as presently understood, has not occurred. This suggests that more top-down integration is unlikely to solve Europe’s crisis.

There are so many questions to ask, about whether convergence necessarily raises standards, about whether convergence promotes systemic failure, about the nature of diversity and plurality and whether people should be allowed the dignity of making their own choices, but these are for other days. For the moment, it simply appears that the EU is a failure by its own standards.

What Europe needs is not absolute homogeneity – its diversity is its joy – but peace, free trade and essential liberties. Adam Smith’s easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice may be left to the nation states.

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