Okay, I’m going to advocate one of those bigthink political ideas that has absolutely no possibility of becoming reality (see, e.g., Foreign Affairs).
The United States should join the European Union.
Commentators are concerned that the world may be breaking into competing trade blocks, with North America and Europe being the most contentious. Both are constantly at odds over their respective agricultural subsidies. The U.S. engages the E.U in an epic battle at the WTO over its banana import regime. European antitrust czar Mario Monti vetoes the merger of General Electric and Honeywell and finds Microsoft €497 million for anticompetitive practices after the U.S. gives both a free pass. Both countries have strategically critical airplane manufacturers, Boeing and AirBus. The U.S. complains that AirBus is E.U. subsidized. The E.U. retorts that the U.S. hides its subsidies of Boeing in the Department of Defense budget. Why not take all these high-stakes squabbles out of the indeterminate realm of international disputes and bring them under the more normal procedures of federal politics?
In denial of its complete impracticality, the United States and Great Britain have already experienced a considerable amount of political harmonization — which I take to be the prerequisite to political union. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan ushered in simultaneous conservative revolutions in each country. Both were followed by short-lived toadies in the persons of John Major and George Bush, Sr.
But it doesn’t stop at Britain. Much of mainland Europe seems to be on a nearly synchronized political periodicity. As Thatcher and Reagan were putting their revolutions in place, French President François Mitterrand was backing off from his socialist program to become one of that country’s historic liberalizers. Germany was also headed by the conservative Helmut Kohl in the 1980s, to be followed by the third-way Gerhard Schröder in 1998. Indeed the trio of like-minded politicians Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder seemed quite a phenomenon at the time.
The United States already has a treaty of military alliance with Europe in the form of NATO. At the WTO the U.S. and the E.U. form a more or less unified negotiating block against the G-20 group of developing nations and Mercosur.
There is much idol discussion of a league of democracies so supplement or maybe supplant the United Nations. A U.S.-E.U. union would get us most of the way there. Throw in the British Commonwealth of Nations — Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and so on — and what more is left?
If we’re on the way to one world government, but convergence is what is required, this seems like the next most logical step.
Finally, there is a persistent, nagging, Spenglerian fret over the decline of the West. Call it civilizational status anxiety. If the United States is serious about the idea of the West and defending it, why not make it official. Instead of the West being an idea from books or a lose political affiliation, make it a real political entity.
On the downside, it would really get us well on the way to Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia and would reify the clash of civilizations.