Cultural Revolutions

Dreaming Big

Conquerors and intellectuals have dreamt of one big European government for centuries. The goal, as with all such millenarian fantasies, was to transform people's national allegiances (viewed as reactionary and divisive) into larger loyalties to "Europe" (viewed as progressive and cosmopolitan). But they face the barrier even today that there are no "Europeans," but only Frenchmen, Britons, Sicilians, etc.

Those who have pushed for a politically unified Europe hoped this would be their year. But in a surprising vote, the Danes said no to the Maastricht unification treaty, which would have abolished their nation's economic, monetary, and military independence. Many Danes suspected it would also eventually eviscerate their cultural identity and language. To them, the vision of a unified Europe meant the reality of being ruled by an unelected foreign bureaucracy in distant Brussels. "We are a country with an Anglo-Saxon tradition of self-governance by elected laypersons at a low level," said a Danish political scientist. "We are mistrustful of central governments."

Because the treaty requires the approval of all 12 countries in the European Community, the people of Denmark—despite a massive campaign by government, business, media, and labor—have killed it. All the special interests, political and financial, that stood to benefit from the treaty, and have worked so...

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