A former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, gave a very important lecture to Hillsdale College friends when they were visiting in Germany during a cruise in the Baltic Sea. Klaus described how the European Union was formed because the elites of Western countries believed that the integration of the European countries and the strengthening of supranational institutions would be a positive movement. In the 1950s, they tried to remove all kinds of barriers at the borders of individual countries in order to enable the free movement of goods, services, people and ideas all across the European continent.
Then came the Maastricht Treaty in 1991, which tried to make the continent of Europe into a new superpower. Integration turned into unification; liberalization turned into centralization of legislation and regulations. The sovereignty of individual states was systematically reduced. The European currency, called the euro, was presented as the most important unification achievement. It was intended to promote economic growth. But the euro simply has not worked. Economic growth declined. Budget deficits became larger. The euro weakened democracy and free markets, and did not deliver any positive effects.
Meanwhile, European governments enacted generous social benefits, shortened work hours, encouraged students to spend useless years in school and college, and lowered the retirement age. Europeans learned to prefer leisure to performance, security to risk-taking, government direction to free markets, entitlements to individualism. Freedom dropped to a low priority.
Vaclav Klaus was warning Americans NOT to go down the same road. He ended with the hope that Europe's mistakes will help Americans to choose freedom instead of socialism.
Listen to the radio commentary here: