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Vital Signs

Reviving the West: The Case for Europe

In the early years of the current century, confident predictions about the inevitable rise of Europe to a position of world power and influence filled the air over the Atlantic.  The recent travails of the European Union have undermined that confidence.  The apparent and impending economic collapse of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) has not only challenged the economic viability of the euro as a common currency but has raised fundamental questions about the long-term prospects of European economic and political integration.  The collapse of the euro, or even of the European Union itself, is still unlikely in the immediate term.  Nevertheless, the current crises have shown that the European Union, for all its layers of organization, is at heart still a fair-weather union.  The arduous and ultimately joyless compromises that have allowed its members to paper over the cracks and put together bailout packages for Greece and Ireland still leave Brussels facing an existential crisis.  Europe has a long way to go before it can respond effectively as a unit to the challenges of the future.

One could hope that the current problems will inspire both further discussion of the concrete political weaknesses of Europe and interest in the historical development of European institutions that have brought us to where we are today.  Any such discussion, though, will have to begin with the simplest of questions:...

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