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Editor's Introduction to "The Sins of the Fathers and the Sins of the Sons: Economic Consequences of a United States of Europe"

David M. Hart*

This bibliographical essay is David Hart's introduction to The Sins of the Fathers and the Sins of the Sons: Economic Consequences of a United States of Europe, by Anthony de Jasay.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We would like to introduce a new feature on the Econlib website "Reflections from Europe" by the France-based political philosopher Anthony de Jasay. Jasay should be known to Econlib readers as the author of the books "The State" (online here at Econlib) and "Justice and its Surroundings" and articles on "Thirty Five Hours" and "Your Dog Owns your House". Both of Jasay's books can be ordered from Liberty Fund's online book catalogue (http://www.libertyfund.org/browse.asp). As "Europe" continues what seems its inexorable march towards expanded membership and deeper political and economic integration Jasay will offer readers his reflections on the political, economic and intellectual significance of these events.

This month Jasay examines the motives for and the political and economic consequences of a "United States of Europe". Over the centuries, the idea of a "united Europe" has taken many forms. Firstly, there is the political dream of a united empire of Europe under the sway of one king or emperor. The Roman Empire was the first and perhaps most successful attempt to "unify" Europe under force of arms but its appeal lasted for centuries as Charlemagne (the Holy Roman Empire) in the 9th century, Napoleon in the 19th century, and Hitler in the 20th century demonstrate. The unity they desired was one based upon conquest, political subordination, and economic autarky.

Secondly, there are dreams of uniting "Europe" under one religious faith, Latin Christendom, which led in the 11th century to a series of crusades fought against the Muslim and Ottoman world but which resulted in utter fragmentation and devastating internal religious wars during the Reformation and the 17th century.

A third dream of unifying "Europe" was based upon the sounder economic notion that a large, internal European-wide market would have enormous benefits for producers, consumers, and tax-hungry princes and kings. One can identify two main schools of thought which supported the unification of Europe on economic grounds. There is the enlightened, classical liberal school which advocated a loose federation of European states linked by bilateral free trade treaties (like the Cobden-Chevalier free trade treaty between France and England of 1860) and multilateral international treaties to limit war and interstate violence. The most notable members of the liberal school includes, Immanuel Kant, Augustin Thierry, Frederic Bastiat, and Richard Cobden in Europe; and the Jeffersonians in America. The second school are the mercantilists who believed in internal free trade for member states but who wanted in addition considerable political centralisation and government directed economic planning behind common external tariffs (like the German Zollverein of 1834). Members of the mercantilist school include Friedrich List, Friedrich Naumann, and Jean Monnet in Europe, and Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln in America.

As Jasay argues in his essay, the push for a "United States of Europe", which is coming from the bureaucrats in Brussels and their powerful political supporters, comes much more from the direction of the mercantilist camp than from the classical liberal camp. Read on...


Recommended Reading

The History of the Idea of Europe, ed. Kevin Wilson and Jan van der Dussen (London and New York: Routledge, 1995).

Norman Davies, Europe: A History (London: Pimlico, 1997).

Nicholas C. Edsall, Chapter 21 "Negotiating a Treaty" in Richard Cobden, Independent Radical (Harvard University Press, 1986).

W.O.Henderson, The Zollverein (London: Frank Cass, 1984).

E.L. Jones, The European Miracle: Environments, Economies and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia (Cambridge University Press, 1987).

Eli Heckscher, Mercantilism (revised edition by E.F. Soederlund) (London: George Allen and Co., 1962).

Margaret Levi, Of Rule and Revenue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).


* David M. Hart is Director of the Online Library of Liberty Project.

For more articles by David M. Hart, see the Archive.
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